Gianna Nannini: soul music is in the soul

Gianna Nannini, “Fotoromanza” and that hilarious one hosted by Mike

“And now gentlemen, let’s move on to the last issue of the evening, which as usual will fill our studio with electricity, if we may say so. Because wherever Gianna Nannini shows up, something always happens,” he says Mike Bongiorno in front of the cameras of “Superflash”, the television quiz show that he hosts every Thursday in prime time on Canale 5. It is theApril 1984. Gianna Nannini returned from Italy after the triumphant success of the album “Latin lover” in Germany. She just released a new single, “Photoromance”: it is the first preview of an album, “Puzzle”, which the 30-year-old Sienese rocker will ship to stores a few months later, in November.

The singer-songwriter, surrounded by the members of her band, who pretend to play but who she still wanted with her in the “Superquiz” studio (after all, we are in the middle of the 80s and playback reigns supreme), presents herself in front of the viewers with the energy and determination that distinguish her and begins to sing: “.If you don’t go out in the evening / prepare a sandwich while watching TV / do you too? / do you fall asleep with someone / who in the light of day you no longer know / too?”.

“Fotoromanza”, of which the great Michelangelo Antonioni also signed a video clip that is somewhere between brilliant and crazy, in which without any particular twists he simply stages the images described in the verses of the text (starting from the telephone of “mi telephone or no?”), has just begun its climb up the charts: in a handful of weeks, thanks to a huge chorus (“This love is a gas chamber”), will become the hit of the summer of 1984so much that triumph at the Festivalbar defeating the competition of “Self Control” by Raf, “People from Ibiza” by Sandy Marton and “Cigarettes and coffee” by Scialpi.

“.Did you bring her a cake?”, Bongiorno asks the rocker, to break the ice at the beginning of the interview, alluding to the pastry shop that the singer-songwriter’s parents have in the historic center of Siena. “No, no, there wasn’t time,” she says, shyly. “But how? Aren’t you a master pastry chef?”. “No, not me, I’m a singer”, replies Gianna. “Yes, but you were born into a family of pastry chefs,” insists Bongiorno. “And in fact I am a very sweet girl.” The back and forth is hilarious in its own way – of course, not like the one that a couple of months before the Nannini guest had seen Mike Bongiorno interact, again in the “Superflash” studio, with Vasco Rossi, “a self-made boy” – but in the end one way or another we end up talking about music: “In fact, I found you very sweet in this song”, reflects the host. “I have always had this sweetness. The impression is that many haven’t discovered it,” replies the star. “Well, because you make aggressive music, when you rock and go to these big concerts”, tries to urge Bongiorno. But Gianna enters with a straight leg: “You’re not very well informed on this topic – she says, while Bongiorno frowns and looks at her annoyed – but in fact these two characteristics are part of me and I’m happy to show them”.

Bongiorno would like to liquidate it as soon as possible and so he starts reading the album sheet that the Dischi Ricordi promoters sent to the program editorial team: “‘Puzzle’ is your most advanced album, the most musical and the most lyrical, the most thoughtful and the most controlled, in its underlying madness. Did it take you long to do it?”. “Eh, a mess of time”, Gianna replies. “What?!”, Bongiorno’s eyes widen. “A lot of time,” she repeats. “Eh… What a word! Well, this is a girl who travels the world and who, in short, doesn’t mince her words”.

Not even the cover of the album is shown, simply because the album doesn’t exist yet. On the other hand, Gianna Nannini introduces the members of the band with which she recorded “Fotoromanza” and the other songs of “Puzzle”: “.They are called Primadonna”, explains the rocker. “But it seems to me that they are all nice little boys”, replies Bongiorno, perplexed. “But Primadonna is a name without sex”, smiles Gianna. Among these there is also Freedy Steady of Krokus, a heavy metal band originating from the German part of Switzerland, which Nannini had met during his German period. Combining her Italian soul with her more rock one: this is the mission that the Sienese rocker decides to follow when she starts working on the songs of “Puzzle”, supported by musicians like Hans Baar, Rüdiger Braune, Conny Plank (who had also joined her in “Latin Lover” and who before her had worked with – among others – Eurythmics, Ultravox, Devo) and also that Claudio Golinelli that Vasco had enlisted in his band three years earlier, when during the rehearsals of a Gianna Nannini concert he had listened to that bass line on which he had written “Sono solo noi”.

“Puzzle” was released on November 27, 1984: it is the album that definitively consecrates Gianna Nannini as a star of Italian rock after “America”, “Ragazzo dell’Europa” and “Fotoromanza”, opening that cycle carried forward in the years following the album’s release by iconic hits such as “Bello e Impossible”, “Profumo”, “I Males”, “Notti Magiche”. And to think that until shortly before the release of “Fotoromanza” the record companies were not so convinced of Gianna’s artistic choices: “They wanted to replace me with someone else because they said I no longer worked. It was expected that at thirty I wouldn’t be good anymore, I was old to be rocking: they advised me to lower my age by a couple of years, to go on for another two and finish ‘Fotoromanza’. The pressure of success creates a state of mind that unsettles you, then they gave me something, I don’t know what, and I lost knowledge of myself in that moment.

I never told it again because I was someone else – she would tell forty years later in an interview with Vanity Fair -.I didn’t answer any more than I did for twenty, thirty days, I no longer knew who I was, a crisis that left me with the fear of falling back for a while, then I died and was born again. I was like two different people in the same body: one left forever in 1983. I don’t even know how I got out of it”.