Friday, November 7, 2014

Le nuvole:
    Ottocento - The Eighteen Hundreds

Cantami di questo tempo
l'astio e il malcontento
di chi è sottovento
e non vuol sentir l'odore
di questo motor
che ci porta avanti
quasi tutti quanti
maschi , femmine e cantanti
su un tappeto di contanti
nel cielo blu

Figlia della mia famiglia
sei la meraviglia
già matura e ancora pura
come la verdura di papà

Figlio bello e audace
bronzo di Versace
figlio sempre più capace
di giocare in borsa
di stuprare in corsa e tu
moglie dalle larghe maglie
dalle molte voglie
esperta di anticaglie
scatole d'argento ti regalerò

Ottocento
Novecento
Millecinquecento scatole d'argento
Fine Settecento ti regalerò

Quanti pezzi di ricambio
quante meraviglie
quanti articoli di scambio
quante belle figlie da sposar
e quante belle valvole e pistoni
fegati e polmoni
e quante belle biglie a rotolar
e quante belle triglie nel mar

Figlio figlio
povero figlio
eri bello bianco e vermiglio
quale intruglio ti ha perduto nel Naviglio
figlio figlio
unico sbaglio
annegato come un coniglio
per ferirmi , pugnalarmi nell'orgoglio
a me a me
che ti trattavo come un figlio
povero me
domani andrà meglio

Eine kleine pinzimonie
wunder matrimonie
krauten und erbeeren
und patellen und arsellen
fischen Zanzibar
und einige krapfen
früer vor schlafen
und erwachen mit der walzer
und die Alka-Seltzer für
dimenticar

Quanti pezzi di ricambio
quante meraviglie
quanti articoli di scambio
quante belle figlie da giocar
e quante belle valvole e pistoni
fegati e polmoni
e quante belle biglie a rotolar
e quante belle triglie nel mar.

Ottocento © 1990 Fabrizio De André/Mauro Pagani

In "Ottocento," De André sings in the style of opera buffa and the song ends with Tyrolean yodeling, the idea being to describe 20th century society in 19th century style. He explains that "it's a style of singing falsely cultured, an approach suggested to me by the pomposity of a character who, more than a man, is a vacuum cleaner: he breathes in sweet sentiments, affections, vital organs and objects in front of him to which he displays a single mental attitude: the possibility of buying and selling them. . . . Here is painted a portrait of the bourgeoisie, in the exact moment of its affirmation of power: the world of the protagonist is dominated by money and by huge quantities of merchandise." The phrase "bronze of Versace" calls to mind the Riace Bronzes, a nice contrast between the superficial and fleeting beauty that pop culture craves and the more enduring beauty of past treasures of art.




A live excerpt of "Ottocento" from a 1991 tour starts at 2:40.
Sing to me about this time,
the hatred and the discontent
of whoever is downwind
and doesn’t want to smell the odor
of this engine
that carries us forward,
almost everyone -
males, females and singers -
on a carpet of cash
in the blue sky.

Daughter of my family,
you are a marvel,
already mature and still pure
like papa’s vegetables.

Bold and handsome son,
bronze of Versace,
son ever more capable
of playing in the markets,
of raping while in motion, and you,
wife of big sweaters,
of many desires,
expert in old junk,
silver boxes I will give to you.

The eighteen hundreds,
the nineteen hundreds,
fifteen hundred fine silver boxes
of the late seventeen hundreds I'll give to you.

How many spare parts,
how many marvels,
how many articles of exchange,
how many beautiful daughters to marry,
and how many good valves and pistons,
livers and lungs!
And how many pretty marbles to roll,
and how many fine mullet fish in the sea!

Son, son,
poor son,
you were handsome white and vermilion.
Which shady business lost you in the waterway?
Son, son,
only mistake,
drowned like a rabbit
to hurt me, to stab my pride,
to me, to me,
who treated you like a son,
poor me,
tomorrow will go better.

A little pinzimonio,
wonderful marriage,
sauerkraut and strawberries
and limpets and clams,
Zanzibar fishes
and some donut
early before sleeping,
and waking up with the waltz
and the Alka-Seltzer for
forgetting.

How many replacement parts,
how many marvels,
how many articles of exchange,
how many beautiful daughters for playing,
and how many good valves and pistons,
livers and lungs!
And how many pretty marbles to roll,
and how many fine mullet fish in the sea!

English translation © 2014 Dennis Criteser


It took six years after the tremendous success of Creuza de mä for De André to release his next studio album, Le nuvole (The Clouds). In the meantime, he and Mauro Pagani explored several avenues of musical collaboration which did not come to fruition. De André had this to say about Le nuvole: "I realized that people are just pissed off, and since Le nuvole is a symbol of this dissatisfaction, the transference, the intermediary for this general discontent, I would say that the album was welcomed almost as a banner, like an emblem of the anger in the face of a nation that is going to the dogs, and certainly not through any fault of the citizens." Additionally, Mauro Pagani said the album was a fantastic description of Italy in the 1980s, with parallels to Europe in the early 1800s: "Italy in the early 1980s was like Europe in 1815: the Congress of Vienna, the fall of the Napoleonic empire, the sharing of the goods among the winning powers, social classes built on wealth instead of aristocracy, a society of fake Christianity . . ." The title of and inspiration for the album came from the comedy of the same name by Aristophanes, whom De André greatly admired.
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