THE SPAGHETTI WESTERN SONGBOOK.

As a follow up to the article about the spaghetti western soundtracks on compact disc, I thought it might be an idea to give collectors an insight into the vocalists who performed so many of the title songs for those Italian produced movies. Often the song from a Italian western would be released onto a 45rpm single record with a picture cover either showing a scene or poster from the movie in question or a picture of the vocalist wearing cowboy outfit. I suppose this in the early days was also a way of promoting the movie and its soundtrack, some of the songs from the movies even entering the hit parade as it was then called. The singles were mainly released in Italy, France, and Germany as in the beginning there was it seemed limited interest in the songs from the movies outside of those countries. Artists such as Maurizio Graf, Peter Tevis, Christy, Peter Boom and others often achieving fairly high chart positions with the performances and in Italy particularly appearing on TV.

Many collectors in the UK never latched onto the Italian western theme song until RCA released Il Western by Ennio Morricone, which included songs from movies such as Gunfight at Red Sands, Bullets Don’t Argue, A Pistol for Ringo, Return of Ringo etc.

After this release many Italian western fans began to take more notice of songs from the movies, and were drawn to composers such as De Angelis, De Masi, Lavagnino, Ferrio, Nicolai etc, all of whom at some point included a vocal performance on their soundtracks. One of the most popular and enduring is surprisingly not by Morricone, but by Francesco De Masi.

His soundtrack for Quella Sporca Storia Nel West (The Dirtiest Story of The West-aka-Johnny Hamlet) opened with the pop slanted song Find a Man, which was co-written by Alessandro Alessandroni who also provided the infectious guitar riff that opened the song.

Quella Sporca Storia Nel West. (excerpt).

Find a man who never killed

not even for the love of gold

Find a man who never lied

and offer him your soul.

Find a man who never stole

from any man a woman’s love

Find a man who never lied

and never let him go

The vocals were courtesy of Maurizio Graf who was supported by members of Il Cantori Moderni and an upbeat orchestral backing, that sounded more like American Surf music and UK pop a’lla the Tornadoes rather than music for a western.

The twangy guitar solo that was woven throughout the vocal was an instant hit and the soundtrack also included an instrumental version of the tune. Graf’s performance was a strong one and surprisingly it was also easy to understand every word, which was not always the case with vocals from Italian soundtracks.  Many suffering because of the individual vocalist’s pronunciation of the English lyrics, of course they did at times also record the song in Italian, which for me personally always sounded far more powerful and expressive which was certainly the case with the title song for the Sergio Corbucci movie Django (1966) as scored by Luis Enriquez Bacalov, which seemed to become instantly more commanding and had a better flow to it. This genre classic vocal was performed in Italian by the singer/actor Roberto Fia, with an alternate English version being sung by Rocky Roberts.

Roberts was an American vocalist and went onto work with composer Bacalov on a handful of other songs which included Can Be Done from the western Si Pio Fare…Amigo.  The English version of Django was given a new lease of life more recently in Quentin Tarantino’s Django Unchained.

Django. (excerpt)

Django!

Django, have you always been alone?

Django!

Django, have you never loved again?

Love will live on, oh oh oh…

Life must go on, oh oh oh…

For you cannot spend your life regretting

Django!

Django, you must face another day.

But back to Maurizio Graf, who also worked with Morricone, on the songs for the Giuliano Gemma westerns A Pistol for Ringo and The Return of Ringo. His unique vocal performances on both added much to the overall sound of Morricone’s score and via the vocals also made Morricone’s music even more popular. The first which was entitled Angel Face was a lyrical and melodic affair, even if the lyrics themselves did contain mention of rivers of blood etc, Morricone added his own distinctive sound with soaring strings, choir and guitar which were supported by a familiar Italian pop vibe.

Angel Face from A Pistol for Ringo. (excerpt)

Countries, that know only the springtime
And your green fields, with your scentin’ of hay
Know Ringo, with his angel face
And a woman, who was waitin’ for his return
Cross the canyons he laughed
Down the valley the death
And he left behind a river of blood.

Whereas The Return of Ringo was a little more edgy and had to it a dramatic near operatic style within the arrangement.

The Return of Ringo. (First verse)

I kiss at last the beloved ground of my land. That I left one day with my hard heart full of pain. I have looked in the faces of my old friends. But nobody looked at me as my old friends. And now what happens you must, you must tell me.

Before scoring the two Ringo movies Morricone worked on two other westerns, Gunfight at Red Sands (1963) and Bullets Don’t Argue, (1964) both soundtracks contained songs, Gunfight at Red Sands had the title song A Gringo Like Me and Bullets don’t Argue contained the haunting ballad Lonesome Billy, both songs were performed by Peter Tevis.

Tevis was the vocalist on the song Pastures of Plenty (RCA PM45-3115). which was written by Woodie Guthrie and arranged by Morricone, an instrumental reworking of this eventually ended up as the theme for the first in the Sergio Leone Dollar Trilogy of movies A Fistful OF Dollars (1964). Peter Tevis was born 1937, in California, USA, he was an American folk singer but is best remembered for his work on the soundtracks of composer Ennio Morricone. Tevis met Morricone while living in Italy during the 1960s and suggested that they should work together.

A Gringo Like Me. from Gunfight at Red Sands. (excerpt).

Keep your hand on your gun.

Don’t you trust anyone.

There’s just one kind of man that you can trust,

that’s a dead man, or A Gringo Like Me.

Be the first one to fire.

Every man is a liar.

There’s just one kind of man who tells the truth,

that’s a dead man, or A Gringo Like Me.

Don’t be a fool for a smile or a kiss,

or your bullet might miss.

Keep your eye on your goal.

Lonesome Billy from Bullets don’t argue.

Always lonely

Always looking

To get even with the men

Who did him wrong.

That was Billy

Lonesome Billy

Who was quick to think

A gun could make him strong

No one tougher or more daring

Only he and his gun sharing

The great fight to live

And his great love to fight

A rough man who played with danger

To whom trouble was no stranger

Until one day he lay dying

He’d filled his date with destiny.

During the 1970s Tevis produced audio recordings designed to train different families of songbirds to talk. In his last years he suffered from Parkinson’s disease and had almost lost his voice. He died in September 2006 in Washington.

Tevis is also known for his performance of the song A Man Must Fight,  from 7 Dollari Sul Rosso-(Seven Dollars on the Red), which had a score written by Francesco De Masi and was written in the style of many of the songs from American westerns.

Maybe one of the most well-known songs from an Italian western is They Call Me Trinity, the film was scored by Franco Micalizzi and Roberto Pregadio, and the title song was performed by Annibale Giannarelli, under the name of Annibale. The singer was born in Sassalbo, Massa Carrara, Tuscany, Italy on the 9th of May 1948. His career began during the early 1960’s as both a singer and a instrumentalist. He has performed throughout Italy and Australia often at major venues and also has made numerous television appearances. His vocal talents are outstanding and he performs a wide range of songs from traditional Italian and pop through to jazz and classic hits. He performed the song for Franco Micalizzi on the first in the series of the Trinity movies and performed on Ennio Morricone’s soundtrack for Paola and Francesca. The iconic vocal on the comedy western They Call me Trinity was an international hit and is still performed by Franco Micalizzi’s big bubbling band in an instrumental arrangement when they are on tour. The song’s lyrics were by Lally Stott and was basically a send up of the American songs for western movies containing the lyrics.

Lo Chiamavano Trinita (first verse).

He’s the guy who’s the talk of the town
With the restless gun
Don’t you bother to fool him around
Keeps the varmints on the run, boy
Keeps the varmints on the run

You may think he’s a sleepy-type guy
Always takes his time
Soon I know you’ll be changing your mind
When you’ve seen him use a gun, boy
When you’ve seen him use a gun.

Another much loved song from the Italian western genre is The Man From Nowhere, which was penned by Francesco De Masi, and Alessandro Alessandroni for the movie Arizona Colt (1966). The singer on this occasion was Raoul who worked with De Masi on other western songs and collaborated with Alessandroni and his Il Cantori Moderni. Born Ettore Raoul Lovecchio the Italian singer and actor was often called on for solo-singing on soundtracks in the late 1960s. After which he left the genre to become an actor during the 70s. He was also known for being the owner of a boutique for Oriental fashion in Rome.

RAOUL.

He was also known as Raul or Raoul Lo Vecchio. He also sang on other westerns that included. Death Rides a Horse, A Taste of Death, 15 Scaffolds for a Murderer, 7 Winchester per Un Massacro, Quanto Costa Morire, I 4 Inesorabili, Ammazzali Tutti E Trorna Solo, Testa a Croce, Vado L’Amazzo E Torno, and many others. His distinct voice giving the songs an earthy and dramatic feel.

The Man from Nowhere from Arizona Colt. (First verse)

He came out of nowhere with no one beside him, he rode out of the sunrise all alone, a man out of nowhere with no one to love him his one faithful companion was his gun, no one could say just where he came from, no one could say where he was going. Was he a man without a heart, a man with a heart made of stone.

Don Powell was a vocalist who regularly appeared on Italian western soundtracks, working with the likes of Marcello Giombini on Tre Pistole Contro Cesare-(Death Walks in Laredo) the title song Laredo was a fast paced affair, with Powell exaggerating the Laredo, to Lareeedo. He also worked with composer Carlo Savina on Pocchi Dollari Per Django (A Few Dollars for Django) 1966 and on Ehi Amigo..sei Morto in 1971. Nevada with Gianni Ferrio also in 1971. The singer collaborated with Angelo Francesco Lavagnino for the title song A Gambling Man on 5000 Dollari sul Asso-(5000 Dollars on the Ace) 1964, And with Spanish composer Anton Garcia Abril on the classic Texas Addio in 1966.  Powell’s voice was at times compared with that of Frank Sinatra, at times having to it a smooth and mellow tone, which can be heard particularly in his vocal for Nevada entitled They call it Gold.

Texas Goodbye.

As a boy
All the thoughts, that filled my mind
Were as a boy
Then, one day
Something in my childish mind
Will be a strain

But as a man
Love and hate
They somehow mean the same
All could blame
To a child which was born into a world of pain.

Fred Bongusto is a name we have seen much of when it comes to Italian film and TV music, he is not only a composer but also a singer and has performed a handful of songs for Italian westerns, Uccidi O Mouori-(Kill or be Killed) being one of them, the song I Must Go is an excellent western song and evokes memories of the song in High Noon (Do Not Forsake Me) the score is by composer Carlo Rustichelli who’s instrumental version of the song is pure spaghetti western, with soaring trumpet solo, electric guitar, and includes Rustichelli’s melodic and classical sounding strings that are enhanced by percussion and organ.  

We return to the power of Morricone for the next two songs, both of which were performed byChristy who is an Italian singer (also known as Cristy). Her real name is Maria Cristina Brancucci. She is famous for the powerful title songs to The Big Gundown and Tepepa. Run Man Run and Al Messico Che Vorrei respectively.

Away from the Spaghetti Western genre she provided the vocals for the Morricone/Nicolai scored Operation Kid Brother and has also recorded Deep, deep Down, which is the title song from Mario Bava’s Diabolik also written by Morricone.

Run Man Run -from- The Big Gundown.

Somewhere there is a land where men do not kill each

Other. Somewhere there is a land where men call a man a brother.

Somewhere you will find a place where men live without

Fear. Somewhere, if you keep on running, someday you’ll be

Free. Never, no never no they’ll never lock you in.

No never, no never, no never let them win.

Go ahead young man, face towards the sun,

Run man, run while you can,

Run man, run man, run.

Running like a hare, like deer, like rabbit,

Danger in the air, coming near, you can feel it,

And you’re panting like hare, like deer like a rabbit,

Running from the snare until fear is a habit.

Hurry on and on and on.

Hurry on and on, hurry on and on

Run and run until you know you’re free,

Run to the end of the world ’til you find a place

Where they never never never

No never no they’ll never lock you in.

Never, no never, no never let them win.

Go ahead young man, face towards the sun,

Run man, run while you can,

Run man, run man, run.

There are obviously many other vocalists who have performed on Italian western soundtracks, The Wilder Brothers for example on The Man With the Golden Pistol for Lavagnino, Gene Roman, on The Continuing Story of Trinity for Guido and Maurizio De Angelis,

Ann Collin on Deaf Smith and Johnny Ears for Daniele Patucchi, and her brilliant vocalising on That Man from Fasthand for Gianni Ferrio, also let’s not forget Nevil Cameron on Ferrio’s Sentenza Di Morte and the moody but excellent rendition of The Last Game. And Let it Rain Let it Pour vocals this time by Stefano Grossman from the movie Amico Stammi Lontano Almeno Un Palmo and Jula De Palmaon Ferrio’s superb score for Find a Place to Die which included two songs, one being Find a Place to Die and Era Una Cowboy.

find a place to die
Era Una Cowboy.

Plus, there is Peter Boom on Corri Uomo Corri by Bruno Nicolai and Marcello Giombini’s The Return of Sabata. John Balfour on The Son of Django for Umiliani.Saverio Moriones on John Il Bastardo for Fidenco and for Fidenco again Gianni Davoli with Forgive but Not Forget from One more for Hell.

And then Fidenco himself on songs such as The Lanky Gunman, from The Taste of Killing, and Texican from Ringo the Texican. Gino from The Hills Run Red for Morricone, with the song Home to My Love, the list is it seems endless. Because of this I know I will have missed names and titles but let’s hope this article might inspire others to discover the vocal side of the Spaghetti Western score.

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