Tonight marks the 16th anniversary of An Taobh Tuathail, RTÉ Raidió na Gaeltachta’s specialist underground show and to celebrate presenter Cian Ó Cíobháin will be spinning both his and the listeners’ favourite Italo disco records of all time. Kicking off at 10pm, it’s sure to be a joyous affair for a Friday night. As part of the An Taobh Tuathail at 16 weekend, Cian will appear in The Courthouse, Dingle, Co. Kerry tomorrow in conversation with Philip King, presenter of The South Wind Blows on RTE Radio 1, but to get you in the mood we asked him to pick us five tracks from the genre….
Savage – Don’t Cry Tonight
This song wasn’t on my radar until Simon Conway unleashed his peerless Italo mix Mixed Up In The Head on the nation back in 2003. Conway’s essential selection to the genre opened up the nation’s ears to the sounds and influence of 1980’s Italo-disco in much the same way that I-F’s Mixed Up In The Hague mix brought worldwide (in music-loving circles, at least) attention to the same epoch a few years before. I could pick almost any track off Mr Conway’s compilation, but this one has gone on to make a huge impression on me. I would go as far as to say that it’s up there as one of my favourite tracks of all time – like all the finest Italo – seamlessly merging the cheesy with the sublime.
Brian Ice – Talking To The Night
Fabrizio Rizzolo is an actor, who has starred in many movies in his native Italy over the past decade but back in the eighties, he scored a number of Italo disco hits under his Brian Ice alias for Memory Records. Any time I hear this, I think that that it’s such a shame that it wasn’t used on the Beverly Hills Cop soundtrack. It’s simply the perfect tune to accompany Axel Foley as he drives through the city’s boulevards in his battered two-tone, sky-blue 1970s Chevy. Twenty years after recording this track, the man who made this record starred as Daddy Warbucks in a production of Annie.
Sabrina – Boys (Summertime Love)
I almost short-circuited when Top Of The Pops aired a clip of singer Sabrina cavorting around the swimming pool of the Florida Hotel in Jesolo, Italy one Thursday evening back in the spring of 1987. The clip was from the video of this track that went on to become one of the defining summer summer tracks of that year (‘La Isla Bonita’ by Madonna was another one. And ‘Nothing’s Gonna Change My Love For You’ by Glenn Medeiros). To my pre-teen ears, the music seemed like an exceptionally catchy pop hit, but little did I know then that this song was to prove to become my entry point into a style of disco peculiar to Italy that had developed over the previous decade, a style that can be traced back to the early Giorgio Moroder productions.
New Order – Bizarre Love Triangle (Shep Pettibone 12” Remix)
I won’t go the trouble of pointing you towards interviews where giants of 80s synth-pop such as New Order, Pet Shop Boys & Erasure extol their love of Italo, but to anyone who listens to their mid to late 80s oeuvre of these bands, it’s apparent that Italy’s early eighties disco culture hugely influenced their sound. Not to mention the words. Italo disco is unashamedly heartfelt, so singer Bernard Sumner’s earnest indie background shines through in his deliciously-imperfect vocal.
Westbam feat Nena – Oldschool Baby (Piano Mix)
Although not strictly an Italo track, there is no doubting the Italian influence on this joyful anthem. Some folk first heard it courtesy of Michael Mayer’s ‘Fabric’ mix, but anyone who went to Love Parade over a decade ago, or has danced in the Panoramabar in Berlin, or was lucky enough to squeeze into the Sub-Club in Glasgow for the last night in Optimo’s weekly long-running Sunday night residency back in April 2010 will be familiar with the drive & euphoria of this wonderful record. And yes, the record does feature the same Nena that sang ’99 Red Balloons’.