The dance music we make is like a shell, it can provide a home to R&B, funk and rock’n’roll, with one simple common thread - a four to the floor structure.
Our dance music is like a vehicle. You can follow alone or in a group. There are no rules. This vehicle is Italian in spirit; open minded and ready to embrace all cultures. It could be transporting the Venus de Milo or some gravel, it doesn’t matter.
This is what we understood and what we sold to the world. Dance music produced by us has always been like drawing a moustache on the Mona Lisa.
Mauro Malavasi - Italian pianist, songwriter and producer
Born from the ashes of a nation under the influence of heroin and terrorist attacks of the '70s, Italo Disco became the symbol of ‘80s Italy. It was a decade where discotheques, DJs and exhilarating musical productions collided with fashion, drugsand thrill seekers making Italy’s new hedonistic attitude the envy of the world.
While the elders struggled to deal with the political upheaval as a result of conflicting views from the left wing Brigate Rosse and the more secretive Gladio on the right, the younger disgruntled generation were hungry for escapism and longed for something to call their own. Out went the heroin and punk-rock of the ‘70s, as cocaine, synth pop and fantasy living became the good time currency of the ‘80s. It was a Do It Yourself movement born out of frustration as disco kids embodied a passion for American disco music, whichcoupled with British New Wave became the propeller of the incoming Italo Disco scene.
These decadent times gave birth to infamous Italo Disco labels like Baby Records, DiscoMagic and Discotto. Leading the pack were important public figures such as Cecchetto, Turatti, La Bionda and Simonetti, while clubs like Baia degli Angeli and Typhoon gave the music and movement the platform to shine from.
Stylistically the music was simple; an electronic beat made by a drum machine (usually a Roland), mixed with an American disco and funk bass, a keyboard riff and a memorable vocal. This blend paved the way for a plethora of famous artists who would steal the limelight for the next twenty years to come and send disco balls shimmering across the world. A perfect example was To Meet Me by Dan Harrow, masterminded by former punk-rock band members including Turatti and Ruggieri, where an 808 drum machine, a simple bass line and a sequencer came together to form an uber catchy melody.
As an excited younger generation left the countryside and headed into the city in search of work opportunities and a better life, Milan officially became the business capital of the country and expanded franticly. Brand new areas were created to house the large immigration from the South generating thousands of new jobs – hedonism was in full force. Italy fast became one of the strongest economies in Europe and soundtracking it all was the carefree and colourful sound of Italo Disco.
Giorgio Moroder was held up as the poster boy for a generation of music lovers with his use of futuristic devises and music knowhow to create intoxicating beats. It was this music that helped track Italy’s flamboyant rise to a better future full of parties, drugs, economical growth and put Italy firmly on the map as the undisputed leader of fashion.
For those living the dream in Milan, Saturday nights out dancing while dressed in designer brands was what they lived for. It was a chance for them to express themselves and rebel against the restrictions a backward society had imposed on them. The music went hand in hand with the fashion. Names like Valentino, Armani in haute couture, Fiorucci and Benetton in pret a porter - provided the wardrobe of the Italo Disco generation. Milan was heaving with club goers and music lovers dressed head to toe in gaudy Moncler bombers, Emporio Armani denim and expensive Timberland shoes, the uniform of the Paninaro generation.
Milan-based labels like Baby Records and DiscoMagic flourished thanks to famous acts like Gazebo, Albert One, La Bionda, Ryan Paris, Lee Marrow and Sabrina Salerno amongst others. While German based ZYX and American Goody Music also helped encourage the global reach of the sound. Radio stations like Claudio Cecchetto's Radio Deejay and TV shows such as Deejay Televisions and Smile (on Berlusconi's TV channels), also played a major part in moving the movement forward.
As we entered the ‘90s Italo Disco morphed into Italo House. Famous acts like Black Box, Fargetta, Datura, Sueño Latino and Robert Miles incorporated the Italian DNA into house music, becoming household names in the process. This Italo House movement spread from the big cities of Milan, Florence and Rome to all over the country. Cities like Rimini, Neaples, Genoa and the Tuscan coasts enjoyed asudden surge of new discotheques. Clubs like Hyppodrome, Garden, Sandokan, Insomnia, Cesar Palace and many others stood shoulder to shoulder with the big guns like Baia degli Angeli and Typhoon in educating a generation of club goers.
This is the milieu that the Red Gallery wants to explore and showcase with the exhibition XYZ. It hopes to recreate the golden years of Italo Disco through the personal experience of the people who lived through it. The Red Gallery has always been at the forefront of archiving and documenting the subcultural phenomena of the underground music scene, with a broad and wide focus on the European countries – like the British, Spanish and German sein und zeit.
Still to come… The Red Gallery will continue its journey of documenting other seminal musical movements, such as the Paris Techno scene, La Movida in Madrid and the counterculture in the ex Soviet Union. Watch this space…
3rd until Sunday 6th November
This exhibition is being put together by Red Gallery and Lorenzo Cibrario.