Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Claudio Simonetti at the Disco

Last year, as I was working on putting together a Goblin compilation - which looks as if it will never be released - I discovered that in 1978 keyboardist/composer Claudio Simonetti (b. 1952) left the influential Italian prog-rock combo known for scoring such Dario Argento films as Profondo Rosso/Deep Red and Suspiria to pursue a growing interest in disco music.

My Goblin collection focused more on the group's jazz and dance songs rather than all the hits that usually crop up on the average Goblin set, so this fact - previously unknown to me - was of great interest.

Together with producer Giancarlo Meo, Simonetti pretty much pioneered disco music in Italy, even though, by 1978, they both arrived at the party fairly late in the evening. But the noise they made was worth getting down to. Their first great success was the out-and-out gay group Easy Going, which scored several dance-floor hits with "Gay Time Latin Lover," "Do It Again," "Baby I Love You," "Fear" and "I Strip You."

The gay thing was probably a publicity stunt aimed at disco's most profitable patrons. But in that heady time, there must have been great intoxication among gay men and women hearing anything good about being "gay" or what it's like to be gay in a song with a booty-shaking beat.

Several of the Easy Going album covers have to be seen to be believed. The first, Easy Going (Banana, 1978), pictures two naked S&M types graphically involved in male-on-male sex. The group's second - and probably best - album, Fear (Banana, 1979), looks like the soundtrack to some sci-fi horror film with an illustration of an alien whose crotch is emitting some sort of starlight.

Simonetti went on to do much other great work in disco, from (Meo's girlfriend and sexy Playboy Bunny) Vivien Vee's intoxicating "Give Me A Break" (Banana, 1979), "Remember" (Banana, 1980) and many others to Kasso's "Kasso" (1980), "One More Round" (1980), "Walkman" (1982), "Dig It" (1984) and "I Love The Piano" (1984, also released in the U.S. on Salsoul Records under Simonetti's own name).

There was also the Capricorn song called "Capricorn" (1980) and, perhaps best of all, Capricorn's Simonetti-composed "I Need Love" (1982 - check out how it compares to "Flashing" from Simonetti-Morante-Pignatelli's 1982 score to Argento's Tenebre). The electronic classic "I Need Love" was probably the single greatest highlight of all of Simonetti's disco work, with the composer himself (probably) singing his own words with a conviction that he knew how to do it all except get a little love.

Simonetti stayed at it for two more years, deciding to "return to rock" in 1984 - when disco was pretty clearly dead. At this point, he made the occasional solo recording and, like his father, Enrico Simonetti (1924-78), began to devote more time and energy to film scores, beginning with Argento's 1984 film, Phenomena.

He's since scored many other films and, most significantly, many of Argento's films, including the recent catastrophe, Mother of Tears (his scores for Argento's recent Masters of Horror installments, Jenifer and, especially, Pelts, on the other hand, are quite wonderful and now seem to be available on a CD, via his web site).

Oddly, very, very few of Simonetti's disco records seem to have found their way on to an official CD release of any kind. And that's just wrong. Are there any Italian labels reading?

A serious study of Claudio Simonetti's lost disco years (1978-84) on CD would make for an ideal release. Not only would it be a great addition to a disco encyclopedia dominated by too many American clich├ęs, it would be an essential document of Italian disco and the significance the music has had in the canon of the time.


Anonymous said...
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Unknown said...

Would very much appreciate a compilation of his disco music, or at LEAST the ability to download it until there is an official release. So much great music languishing in obscurity...

izgoblin said...

I have a soft spot for a lot of Simonetti's disco music and have collected it just as much as I collect Goblin's records.

The song "Capricorn" by Capricorn is probably my favorite of all of his disco-flavored works. It's too bad there never was a Capricorn LP, although my failing memory tells me that I read/heard from Simonetti that they did create one but it was never released.

The LP "The Best of Easy Going" is highly recommendable, IMO, as it contains short, remixed versions of the best songs in a non-stop mix along with snippets of other Simonetti/Meo productions.

Also, if it isn't obvious, Easy Going, Capricorn and Kasso weren't real groups or artists, as they were essentially made up by Simonetti and Meo. The music for all of these (along with Vivien Vee) was performed by Simonetti with session musicians, sometimes even former members of Goblin, Fabio Pignatelli, Walter Martino and Derek Wilson.

In fact, even Vivien Vee was a bit of a ruse. As I recall, the girl on the LP jackets was Meo's girlfriend, but she was not the singer on the records.