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Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Bertoncello meets Bertoncelli

Unfortunately, also if Riccardo Bertoncelli has been my musical mentor – himself and his books and records reviews since early ‘70s introduced me to John Fahey, Ogun and British jazz, Robert Wyatt and many, many more artists and records – as he continues to be up today, we never met.

In pre-Web days, magazines were the source for infos and trivia… Ciao 2001 was the very first: I was a teenager and reading about concertas ion London… The Grateful Dead playing for six… SIX hours in London or Shawn Philips, a full article and pixies after I listened to his "Steel Eyes" at the radio, one afternoon, thanking the late, deeply missed Claudio Rocchi… or dreaming about the vintage Martins’ of David Crosby and Neil Young, again after listening to the newly – at the time – issued Crosby & Nash.

Those were the days, back in the ‘70s… discs were expensive stuffs and radio and radio taping was the only method a student, poor as a church mouse, was able to expand his musical background and knowledge.

When I began working during the summer(s) between school-years, I had some pocket money and every disc was a goal by itself… my first very own 12” was a Christmas' gift I got from my Dad… Le Orme – Collage, second only a couple months after, was Claudio Rocchi’s Volo Magico n. 1, third one was Emerson, Lake and Palmer’s – Picture at  an Exhibition… me and my younger brothers were mostly enjoying the first and the latter, while Rocchi’s was my own private obsession as my mom was worried about those weird atmospheres and I had to listen to it at a lower volume setting… she was asking to me on a daily basis if I was using some dope!

The above mentioned discs were the only I had for the first months of 1971… 

After reading for some years Ciao 2001 mag, I began to read Muzak and Gong magazines…  with Supersonic radio program, Per Voi Giovani, with Claudio Rocchi and Popoff, I began reading Riccardo's discs reviews: he was using a writing style which reminded to me some Gregory Corso, Lawrence Ferlinghetti or Jack Kerouak’s proses…

I was deeply into the common ground readings of my generation - i.e. Hesse’s Siddharta and the Beat Generation and Fernanda Pivano’s translations.

Riccardo Bertoncelli’s reviews intrigued a younger me a lot: his style wasn’t conventional as the music he reviewed… thanking the elusiveness of some – most I’d say – records, I had to contact Carù Dischi in Gallarate, Nannucci in Bologna and Buscemi in Milan to get my hands on these records… orders were made at the phone and delivery was by snail-mail, some 15 o more days were the delivery time, so you can imagine my joy when getting a discs parcel!

Riccardo was a close friend of Paolo Carù and a really good customer for the classic import-shop in Gallarate, Northern Italy… so, most of the time, when ordering a disc, no one knew Bertoncello, but everyone knew Bertoncelli…    

Amusing that for years, I was greeted with a… ciao Riccardo!, followed by a… aehm, I’m Stefano and Bertoncello it’s with final “o”, not “I” on my part… ahhhh, OK, ciao Stefano…  only then this cute ceremony my orders followed…

Later, during my high school days, I had to work for five great summers at “Il 23 Dischi” in Padua to get, first hand, all the import discs I was looking for…

Riccardo Bertoncello… aehm, Bertoncelli was and still is today, an inspiration and a lighthouse to me… I’m reading every evening his last book and from Jefferson Airplane to Tim Buckley to Bob Dylan to The Grateful Dead and many, many, many others, his short essays are always enriching and informative and intriguing.

A chapter on the above mentioned book is dedicated to “L’Avvelenata”, a song by Francesco Guccini, a famous Italian author and singer who got a really bad review of a newly issued disc by Riccardo, decades ago…

Shortly after, Guccini dedicated to Bertoncelli a song where something like that was saying “ … e ci sarà sempre un Bertoncelli o un prete, a sparare cazzate!” (transl. “and we’ll always find a Bertoncelli or a priest to say/write some bullshit”).

This amused me, at first… then, you would say?

My family name, very similar to Riccardo’s, well… for some months, while Guccini’s song got some radio airplay, my friends were fooling at me with the very same above mentioned phrase or so…  “… un Bertoncello un prete a sparare cazzate!”.

It wasn’t amusing.

Fortunately, this only lasted an eye-blinking, life-wise… but, BUT… a few years ago, I met Francesco Guccini at a “Festival della Letteratura” in Mantua… I stopped Guccini – yes! - and introduced me, wishing to thanks him for the long years of great songs which also introduced me to guitar playing … when I told him “Nice to meet you, I’m Stefano”, then, with a “coup de theatre”,  I added : “Please ask me about my family name, Francesco!”

When I told him… well: he stood silent for a long instant and then exclaimed “Ohh, shit!”…

We ended up laughing and laughing at the old “L’Avvelenata” song and Bertoncelli/Bertoncello… and… and…

This memory-lane trip began remembering about the latter, almost forgotten evenience…  due to the book I’m reading these days.

To a much more serious extent, I’d really wish Riccardo Bertoncelli’s book "Paesaggi Immaginari - trent'anni di rock e oltre" - ed. Giunti Bizarre 1998 which is and will remain ‘til the last page on my bedside table, would be translated into English and made available to more and more music lovers, worldwide.

My deepest thanks to Riccardo Bertoncelli for being Riccardo Bertoncelli…

… and… no, I’m not angry for the Guccini-affaire;-)

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