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Sandro Tamburi during the performance Elettricità, feb. 1978, Photo by Paolo Atzeni, Courtesy of B. Casini

Rock Renaissance in 80s Florence: the Casini archive

From experimental theatre and underground fashion shows, to mingling with Vivienne Westwood, Talking Heads, Litfiba and Neon, Italian collector and authority on youth culture, Bruno Casini, has seen it all. Now the owner of the largest private archive of records and memorabilia from Florence’s 1980s music scene, Casini sits down with MAG_BTM to share the best stories from his extensive career as band manager, Banana Moon club founder, art director and journalist.

Bruno Casini in June 1980, Photo by Luciano Morini, Courtesy of B. Casini

  1. Florence’s musical scene was very diverse and vibrant, living off a constant exchange with culture, art and fashion. How was that possible, and why Florence?

    Florence is quite small, a city of 400,000, a sort of global village! Everyone knew each other and this nearness was what allowed this amazing “art fauna” to come together – to use Pier Vittorio Tondelli’s expression. It was a bestiary of creatives, where fashion designers dressed musicians, bands made music soundtracks for plays, those working in theatre went to gigs and everybody hung out in nightclubs like Manila, Tenax, Casablanca and Rokkoteca Brighton. The experimental theatre factory Magazzini Criminali discovered Brian Eno in these clubs, another theatre company called Krypton chose Litfiba to write the music for their multimedia play of the Aeneid. Florence was an experimental workshop.

    Litfiba, Eneide by Krypton signed by Piero Pelù. Photo courtesy of B. Casini

  1. How was the nightlife and clubbing scene?

    The ‘80s club scene was amazing, and it was not just about what happened at night! In the words of Tondelli, Florence had its own “postmodern weekends;” a whimsical tour of night and day clubbing that would never let you rest! During the day, we went to writers’ presentations, exhibitions, boutiques and video bars where you could have a drink and view screenings of literally anything, from Walt Disney to the post-punk band Killing Joke. There was an incredible night nomadism, with different routes you could choose according to your taste: dark and rock clubs, jazz clubs, gay clubs…the classic rock/new wave clubbing tour usually started at the Tenax, then moved to the Manila and Salt Peanuts club – which was one of the most borderline places I’ve ever been to. Around 1986, Stefano Bonamici started the Tokyo Productions after parties in a gay leather club called Dildo. When the other clubs closed around 3.30 am he opened the gates and Stefano himself or a DJ would spin records until noon. His talent was making people dance to everything, from Nina Simone to Neapolitan tammuriate or children songs. The club was small though, and as this underground event became popular more and more were left at the door, which meant Tokyo Productions moved to bigger venues like Monnalisa and Tenax and gathered over 1000 a night.

    Original Tokyo Productions party invite: fur, leather, and a complementary condom. Photo courtesy of B. Casini

  1. Do you have any memorable moments to share from your experience as a Westuff editor?

    For Issue 1, I interviewed Piero Pelù and Federico Fiumani and I asked them both as a closing question if they would ever play a concert for the Hare Krishna’s. It was a recurring joke among us, because the Hare Krishnas’ center was very close to the recording studio in Via dei Bardi; they used to pass by singing over the bands while they were recording all the time. Federico was very serious about it, “not for all the gold in the world” he said, while Piero answered: “Of course I would, it would be pyrotechnical! But I guess they would regret it.”

    Westuff, Issue 1, Photo by MAG_BTM

  1. Below, Bruno Casini delves deeper into the stories behind his 8,900 strong album collection:

    Bruno Casini in his studio, Photo by MAG_BTM

  1. Firenze sogna! (Itinerari musicali 1976-1983), Materiali Sonori 1993

    If I had to choose a soundtrack to my archive, it would be Firenze sogna!, a double album I produced with Bigazzi and De Pascale, collating music tracks recorded between 1976 and 1983. All Florence’s music scene of that era is here: from bands like Litfiba, Diaframma, Café Caracas, Rinf and Neon, to the experimental theater company Magazzini Criminali and the work of Alexander Robotnick, the eclectic visual and electronic artist behind the Florentine version of Warhol’s New York Factory called Giovanotti Mondani Meccanici. By the way, Alexander Robotnick, aged 71, still fills dancefloors with astonishing DJ sets worldwide!

    Firenze sogna! (Itinerari musicali 1976-1983), Materiali Sonori 1993

  2. Litfiba, 17 Re, IRA Records 1986

    This double vinyl released by IRA records is Litfiba’s second album, which I consider their most complete work. It’s their darkest and the most poetic. At the time, Litfiba were going through an amazingly creative moment, and in this record, you can hear them moving freely from etno-wave to acid folk to a dark and almost cursed songwriting. It took almost nine months to complete this album – like giving birth! The cover’s artwork is their iconic symbol, a thorny crown heart. At this stage in their career, they were a well-established band, but this record reminds me of their success journey, of the early days when I used to be their manager and of the great parties and shows we had. A memorable one was the Postmodern New Year’s Eve party in 1981 and the mephistophelean carnival performance of 1982 called Mefistofesta, where Piero (the frontman) arose on stage from an empty coffin…their shows where just incredible, and Florence’s thriving dark scene couldn’t have asked for better!

    Litfiba, 17 Re, IRA Records 1986

  3. Neon, Rituals, Kindergarten Records 1985

    This album is a perfect example of a Florentine band with an incredibly international sound. Neon, whom I managed for a few years in the early ‘80s, gifted this record to me. It doesn’t come with any dedication because it was not customary to sign albums then. I remember helping Neon when they were still a duo, I used to put up the light show for them during gigs. Their shows were strongly visual, they performed on a dark stage enlightened by nothing but the slides projections I screened for them. You could see images of electrical circuits, macro photography, industrial landscapes or plain colour blocks. This is the record that marks the passage from that experimental stage of their work to a more mature electronic wave sound.

    Neon, Rituals, Kindergarten Records 1985

  4. Scudocrow, Kindergarten Records 1987

    Scudocrow was a musical project in which Neon’s Roberto Federighi and Pankow’s Maurizio Fasolo worked together in the late ‘80s. Issued in 1987 with the Florentine indie label Kindergarten, this rare album is a real gem. Not only because it is the only record Scudocrow ever released with very few copies, but also because of the amazing vocals by African singer Irene N’Jie. She had a small figure, but her voice was incredibly powerful. This is a truly international piece of work, and to me it strongly anticipates the ‘90s electronic music.

    Scudocrow, Kindergarten Records 1987

  5. Sandro Tamburi, Tam Tam Tamburi, Kindergarten Records 1982

    Tam Tam Tamburi is another great Kindergarten’s album which I treasure. To me it is the very first Italian gay record. Sandro Tamburi came out very openly and strongly with his lyrics, which are explicit in this piece of work. The album speaks directly to Florence’s strong leather clubbing scene of the ‘80s. As I am also actively involved in Florence’s Queer Film Festival, this is my rainbow flag record!

    Sandro Tamburi, Tam Tam Tamburi, Kindergarten Records 1982

  6. The Smiths, The Smiths, Rough Trade 1984

    I could not leave The Smiths out: they are my absolute passion. I still remember the first time I heard them; it was a night on the Manila club’s dancefloor. It was 1984, and after a whole set of higher tempo tracks the DJ suddenly put on Please Please Please Let Me Get What I Want, it was just like time stopped and the whole crowd fell silent. Those were three floating minutes. Then the dance music started over and everybody went back dancing, but at the end of the night we were all queueing to ask the DJ whose record that was. It was love at first listen! I remember that my friend and fashion editor Stefano Tonchi – who was very fast at grasping onto trends – showed up the following weekend with a bunch of gladiolus flowers in his jeans’ back pocket, just like Morrisey. Florence’s clubbing scene was very responsive to everything fashionable – my most treasured Smiths’ albums are Hand In Glove (1983), The Smiths (1984) and Shoplifters Of The World Unite (1987).

    The Smiths, The Smiths, Rough Trade 1984

  7. Killing Joke, Killing Joke, Malicious Damage 1980

    Killing Joke were my favourite post-punk band in my late 20s, their tune War Dance was a dancefloor opening track for years in Florence’s clubs. The band often came to Florence, and I remember buying this album at Contempo Records’ store in 1981. They once played at the famous music club Tenax, where I also managed to sneak in and see them rehearsing. Their performances where very intense, especially because their singer Jaz had a very physical relationship with the audience. He used to sing taking his clothes off, covered in sweat and with his face painted with mud – which he thought would bring him fortune and good vibes. He had this whole personal religious concept, which was somewhere between magical, anthropological and blasphemous. Despite the stage persona, he was extremely nice. I met him once on a bus, quietly sitting on his way to the Flog club where he had a gig that night. I was so nervous to meet him that I forgot to ask for an autograph!

    Killing Joke, Killing Joke, Malicious Damage 1980

  8. Gaznevada, Sick Soundtrack, Italian Records 1980

    Gaznevada where a post-punk/new wave band from Bologna whom I brought to the Banana Moon club. I am very fond of them as I witnessed their musical journey. They started as a movementist punk band named Centro D’Urlo Metropolitano with a single track called Mamma dammi la benza – aka “Mum give me gasoline”, a clear allusion to drugs. From that starting point, they organically grew both lyrically and musically, taking inspiration from American crime novels. Not by chance, their new name “Gaznevada” seems to be inspired by a Raymond Chandler short story called Nevada Gas. Gaznevada were also the first band I saw touring with a consistent fanbase. No matter where they played, at least 40 kids from all over Italy followed them everywhere – it was like a crazy bus gang. In the ‘80s, it wasn’t customary for local bands to have kids queueing outside of the venue the whole afternoon before the show, but Gaznevada’s fans did. And it definitely struck me!

    Gaznevada, Sick Soundtrack, Italian Records 1980