The industry of ready made commercial soundtracks of the ’70s and early ’80s thrived in Europe, but composers in Italy were in a world of their own.
The alluring mystique of “library music” shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise. Small-batch pressings have made original copies highly collectable, and they commonly carry the quintessential mood of bygone eras. These records were made exclusively for the shelves of commercial marketing agencies to use as plug and play soundtracks for ads and movies. Composers knew fame was out of the question, since their goal was to make music that was heard but not listened to. Nevertheless there are some especially stand out gems from the vast catalogs.
Italy had a particularly interesting renaissance of library music in the ‘70’s and early ‘80’s, and this lucrative field was home to self-taught jazz players and musicians experimenting with psychedelic sounds. This exploratory environment happened concurrently with the introduction of modern electronics such as synths, which quickly made their way into recording studios in Milan. For those unfamiliar with this period in Italy, these ten records are emblematic of the sonic wanderings of the capitalist imagination.
Rocchi – Godi – Chiarosi – Pop-Paraphrenia (1972)
Long considered a holy grail, this recently reissued record offers jazz-funk perfection.
Stefano Liberati – Young Feeling (1979)
It’s hard to imagine an advertisement that would accompany this funky record filled to the brim with wah-wahs. A ‘70s urban crime drama is more like it.
Città Orientale – Oriente oggi Prima (1973)
You’ll find library records with a focus on space travel and life underwater. On this record Rino De Filippi explores traditional instruments of India and China, and the result is a lounge-worthy album.
Franco Chiari – Rio Tu Ed Io (1973)
Think space-age housewife with this library classic. The synth melody is the star here, with a haunting depth that’s thick with reverb.
Metropolis Notte – Freedom Power (1976)
The slithering beat on this track is smooth and seductive, with a horn section that stays in the pocket.
Oscar Rocchi’s Orchestra – Video Dance (1981)
Whether or not Paul Hardcastle borrowed a track or two off this record remains a question, but the opposite is possible, too. Often library composers made their own versions of popular songs — changing the melodies just enough to keep themselves out of court for copyright infringement.
Nino Rapicavoli – Divagazioni (1975)
This record is refined with a certain je ne sais quoi, and has an air of glamor.
Remigio Ducros – Lo Sport (1971)
This ultra-rare holy grail is filled with tracks meant as background music for sports films/documentaries and news segments. With songs titled “Rugby” and “Moto Cross,” it’s a library classic that’s a perfect reflection of the emotional worlds that composers could creat.
Roberto Pregadio – Un “Drink” Al Tennis Club (1972)
Each track off this record has a cheeky title. The songs themselves are equally playful.
Remigio Ducros & Massimo Catalano – Terapia della Fatica (1972)
The title “Fatigue Therapy” speaks to the relaxed listlessness of this track, one that has a surprisingly enchanting grip.