Strange Italo Cover versions

Since I started collecting music, I have been fascinated by multiple versions existing of the same song and the differences between them.

When I later became interested (obsessed) with Italo-disco, I noticed there were a lot of these Italo cover versions around, the best known being Mr Flagio’s Take a Chance, an album cut originally recorded by Material (Bill Laswell and Michael Beinhorn).

My understanding of why so many of these covers exist, besides the immediate benefit of a recognizable song, is that a certain amount of DJ’s records needed to be “SIAE stamped”, meaning produced and pressed in Italy. The local (and often highly prolific) Italian producers would make cover versions of popular songs at the time. This practice also saved the Italian distributors considerable time and money on importing records from outside Italy.

Here are seven of the more remarkable but perhaps less-known offerings (either good or bad).

Floyd Parson – Shine On You Crazy Diamond (1984)

Most Italo medleys are kitsch in the extreme, but this medley of two Pink Floyd songs is quite beautiful and melancholic.

A.P.O. – O Superman (Slow Dance Version)” (1982)
Mostly a faithful cover of Laurie Anderson’s hit, which adds a simple drum beat and vocodered male voice. It requires some patience and, like the original, an acquired taste, but for me this “Slow Dance Version” is excellent.

Demode Boulevard “Height Of The Fighting”
Perfect update of the Heaven 17 track with the unmistakable vocals of Dario Dell’Aere (“Eagles in the Night”)

Cicciolina Russians (1988)
Cicciolina’s fragile and untrained voice works perfectly on this melancholic Sting cover. In my opinion, far more enjoyable than the original.

Max-Him – “Roadhouse Blues (Psychotic Version)” (1983)
A legitimately great and hard-rocking cover of The Doors’ classic. Jim Morrison would be proud.

Cockroach – “Get Back” (1983)
One of my least favorite Beatles songs gets an energetic and (thankfully) disrespectful workout, I love the overpowered synth bass, pounding Simmons drum solo and totally unnecessary space effects. Vocals are by Dora Carofiglio (the real voice of Valerie Dore).

Bonino – “Smoke Gets In Your Eyes” (1984)
Totally nuts and bizarre version of The Platters’ 50s RnB classic with too many weird elements to describe here… must be heard at least once!

Further listening:

(Vol .2 coming soon!)