Sound SHOCK: Goblin, Frizzi and Brezza

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Italo-horror gods Goblin & Fabio Frizzi unite in this soundtrack rarity from 1976.

In the mid-70s, composer Fabio Frizzi, soon to be known for his work with gorelord emeritus Lucio Fulci, teamed up with Goblin, soon to be chart toppers in Italy with their score to Dario Argento’s giallo magnifico PROFONDO ROSSO, to record the luscious score to a road-to-ruin drug scare flick, PERCHÉ SI UCCIDONO. This soundtrack gem remains a bit of an obscurity, mostly because PERCHÉ SI UCCIDONO isn’t much of a genre film, was never released outside of Italy, and the soundtrack is credited to some band you’ve never heard of (Il Reale Impero Britannico, with compositions by Willy Brezza). For me personally, it’s also one of those unusual cases of a soundtrack album that has been in my regular rotation for maybe 10 years despite never actually having seen the film, until now. Though the movie is an interesting oddity but not essential viewing, the real revelation is that this highly recommended soundtrack LP (on Cinevox) and the score are two completely different beings.

Frizzi and the members of Goblin, Claudio Simonetti (keys), Massimo Morante (guitar), Fabio Pignatelli (bass), and Walter Martion (drums) – but not yet including Maurizio Gaurani (also keys), who recently popped up on a Toronto stage during Fabio Frizzi’s 2015 Frizzi 2 Fulci tour for a run through the theme from ZOMBIE – were still session guns for hire rather than headline acts. Though the film was released in 1976, the music was recorded earlier when Goblin were in the process of un-becoming prog band Cherry Five, and establishing a new identity. Cherry Five singer Tony Tartarini rears up just once on the soundtrack and in most remarkable fashion (we’ll get to that later).

Confounding things is that during the opening titles, only Willy Brezza is credited for the music, even though Frizzi/Goblin compositions make up the entire side one of the LP (with four tracks credited to the ensemble and one to Frizzi alone: “Kalu”, the silkiest, funkiest number). Brezza recorded scores from the 1960s to the early 80s, mostly comedies and westerns, including numerous features for writer/director Bruno Corbucci (brother of DJANGO director Sergio Corbucci), and two early films by future CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST provocateur Ruggero Deodato, MAN ONLY CRIES FOR LOVE and VACANZE SULLA COSTA SMERALDA, both released in 1968.

PERCHÉ SI UCCIDONO is the lone credited directorial feature film effort of Mauro Macario. The title translates roughly as WHY KILL, and is subtitled La Merde in the onscreen titles (!!). IMDB lists the film as PERCY IS KILLED, which is almost certainly someone’s lazy work using Google Translate as it makes no sense whatsoever. The film is somewhat difficult to find: the version I saw was a torrented rip of a fuzzy and cropped, but watchable, TV dub with a TeleItalia burn-in in the bottom right corner. The fan subs (very well done) title the film WHY THEY KILL THEMSELVES, which is appropriate given the drug addiction subject matter.

The heavy-handed plot centres around Andrea Viotti (Marco Reims, a hulking brute of an actor who gives it his all), son of a wealthy tycoon and always ready to try out some new kicks. Cocky, belligerent and regularly alienating his family and only real friend, Luca (Maurice Ronet), a long time employer of Andrea’s father – a fact Andrea persistently rubs in Luca’s face – Andrea is generally insufferable but gets away with it because of his family’s stature, and their wishful thinking that he’ll get it together some day. When Andrea’s very attractive girlfriend Anna (Leonora Fani, who stared in Denis Héroux’s NAKED MASSACRE the same year!), ditches him to dedicate more time to her heroin dependency, Andrea decides to follow suit and try the needle as an ill-thought act of solidarity. Surprisingly this doesn’t work!

Thus begins a somewhat predictable descent into desperation, callousness, despair, hallucinations and eventually murder, with Luca and the family trying to reign in the wayward son as his outrages escalate and threaten to destroy everyone in his orbit. It’s a classic road-to-ruin film that bridges on psychedelia and Italian crime thrillers but fails to deliver the usual goodies euro trash fans normally hope for, aside from a bit of sleazy, leering nudity, drugged out junkies flopped in a car graveyard and a corny cloaked and masked Satanic ritual involving a sacrificial woman being hot-branded in her bush. The biggest highlight is sweaty character actor Luciano Rossi as a sleazebag drug pusher, who, after a few doobie tokes, reveals some unreciprocated queer intentions for our leading man, as the two men stare lustily at Andrea’s own sister getting hot and heavy with another woman! Rossi, who becomes Andrea’s enabler, is such a standout weirdo (his character is actually named “Judas”!) that noted author and film programmer Kier-La Janisse (House of Psychotic Women) even wrote a whole book about him called A Violent Professional.

The film is smothered in music throughout, which is fantastic for Italo soundtrack fans, though it does seem a ploy to make up for deficiencies in the plot, acting and directing, rather than organized intent. Not the typical score you might expect from such esteemed horror pros, the soundtrack is funky, beautiful, subtle, drenched in keyboard and guitar licks and unusually packed with complete songs rather than short cues of mood. There are similarities to Goblin’s non-soundtrack LP Roller or Frizzi’s more psych rock work with Franco Bixio and Vince Tempera, such as the track “With You” from SEVEN NOTES IN BLACK. It’s a gorgeous collection of music, and I like it so much I was considering using “Ammoniaca” as my wedding anthem.

After a brief intro with Andrea and Luca on a raceway track, the two pals mount a couple of speedsters and zoom past the camera, accompanied by the glorious groove of the track that opens the LP’s side two. This unexpected piano-cookin’ rocker with a vocal lead by Cherry Five’s Tony Tartarini singing in English with a very heavy accent (maybe a phonetic reading?), must be heard to be believed. Very catchy, very funny, and very entertaining, in my opinion this tune is a top fiver for ridiculous Euro rock lyrics sung by a non-native speaker. It rivals the title theme from Dick Maas’ AMSTERDAMNED by Dutch rockers Loïs Lane, or even Goblin alumnus Claudio Simonetti’s “Don’t Answer the Telephone” from Ruggero Deodato’s DIAL HELP.

Originally, I thought the song was about a woman named “Michelle”, because that’s what Tartarini seems to be singing in the chorus: “My Michelle, my deeeear Michelle.”

But oh boy, was my ear corrected when I read the title on the back cover, and finally confirmed by the film’s subtitle of La Merde. The chorus is actually: “’Cause you’re all my shit, my dammmmmmned shit. I am only a little fish into your net.” What?!

As I mentioned before, I have loved and enjoyed the soundtrack album for years but always considered this lone vocal track to be the odd black sheep. So I was surprised and delighted to find it’s actually PERCHÉ SI UCCIDONO’s centerpiece! Numerous instrumental-only versions of “My Damned Shit” both at a quick pace and moodier, slow renditions continue to spring up throughout the film. Some have a flavour more akin to THE GODFATHER or THE SICILIAN CLAN; nostalgic, vaguely menacing, the undercurrent of crime. When those vocals are removed and the melody is plucked or plinked, it suddenly becomes intoxicating. There’s even a version with just reverb-drenched vibraphones and flute. Best yet, one of Andrea’s drug hallucinations features both Andrea’s father and a woman Andrea’s been lusting for dressed in Victorian garb and white wigs, playing cellos and harps as Andrea imitates an orchestra conductor. A naked black male rises from the floor and plays trumpet (still naked!). The faux-renaissance tune morphs into yet another rendition of “My Damned Shit”!

And not ONE of these alternate cuts are featured on the CD or LP release, despite the rest of side two being rounded out by Willy Brezza-penned material, including “Dodici e un quarto”, a pretty but obvious lift from “Whiter Shade of Pale”. Honestly, “My Damned Shit” completely dominates the score and amply justifies Willy Brezza’s lone credit, but the variants on this theme could have formed a complete EP of their own. Likewise, other great music is prominent in the film but not featured on the LP, including a very heavy pummeling bass riff during a firing squad hallucination and a chase scene. Excitingly distinct from every other cut, I can’t for the life of me understand why it didn’t make the track list. Meanwhile, the LP I know and love is full of superb tracks that are absent from the film or only heard only in snippets, all of them Frizzi/Goblin compositions.

The soundtrack was originally released in limited numbers by Cinevox, but reissued in the 90s and onwards. I first heard a rip from an Italian Cinevox CD, and later purchased an LP reissue from the fabulous Aux 33 Tours record store in Montreal. Naturally, the album by Il Reale Impero Britannico had arrived in shop with a bundle of more recognized Italian releases, and no one knew what the hell it was.

Double LP mega-reissue please!