Premiata Forneria Marconi
Infobox musical artist
Name = Premiata Forneria Marconi
Img_capt = "Premiata Forneria Marconi" performing live during the "Notte Per Te" festival in August, 2007.
Landscape = yes
Background = group_or_band
Years_active = 1970 - present
Current_members = Franco Mussida
Franz Di Cioccio
Premiata Forneria Marconi (PFM) is an Italian
progressive rockband that achieved a high level of popularity in the 1970s, with success in both the British and American charts. They were the first Italian band to have success abroad. Between 1973 and 1977 they released 5 albums with English lyrics for the international market. They also had several successful European and American tours, even playing at the popular Reading Festivalin Englandand appearing on a very popular national television program in the U.S.A.
Early History 1966-1970
The original core members of PFM (Mussida, Di Cioccio, Premoli, and Piazza) came together in the mid 1960's while playing together as backup musicians for many different Italian pop, rock and folk singers such as
Lucio Battisti, Mina, Adriano Celentanoand Fabrizio De André. They appeared on many recordings for other artists during this period and quickly established themselves as top players on the Italian rock and pop scene. Mussida, Premoli, Piazza and Di Cioccio then formed the group "Quelli" in 1968. Quelli released one album and some successful Italian singles.
Premiata Forneria Marconi was officially formed in
Milanin 1970 when the members of Quelli met Mauro Paganifrom the group Dalton. Pagani helped the group expand their sound to include violin and flute. By this time they were already highly experienced musicians and easily able to play the kind of complex progressive heavy rock played by the leading English and American groups. Their early live performances included covers by groups such as King Crimsonand Jethro Tull. Other early influences included Chicago, Ekseption, and The Flock.
They had a long name, as Italian progressive bands tended to have back then, and so were usually referred to as "La Premiata", and later "PFM". Choosing a name was not an easy task. After rejecting
Isotta-Fraschini(an Italian car) the group finally settled on Pagani's suggestion,"Forneria Marconi" (meaning, Marconi Bakery), borrowed from the sign of a shop in the small town of Chiari, near Brescia. However, producer and friend Alessandro Colombini suggested the name lacked something, so the title "Premiata" (award-winning) was added. Some objected that "Premiata Forneria Marconi" was too long a name, but the group's philosophy was clear: the more difficult to remember a band's name, the more difficult to forget it.
Italian and International Success 1971-1975
In June 1971, PFM were invited at the first "Festival d'Avanguardia e Nuove Tendenze" in
Viareggio, in which they won, along with Osannaand Mia Martini. Later in 1971 the group signed with the Numero Unodivision of RCA Recordsin Italy and released their first single, " Impressioni di settembre" b/w " La carrozza di Hans". It caused a sensation on the Italian charts and received wide recognition as the first Italian hit record to feature the sound of an electronic music synthesizer. Both songs are still regularly performed by the group. Flavio Premoli also did a special demonstration of the capabilities of the Minimoogduring a PFM television performance broadcast by RAI.
In early 1972, PFM released their first album, "
Storia di un minuto". The album topped the Italian charts after only one week and was the first album by an Italian rock group to achieve this kind of success. It contained re-recorded versions of songs from the first single, as well as " É Festa" and " Dove... Quando..." which continue to be essential parts of their live concerts.
Later in 1972 saw the release of their second LP, "
Per un amico". This album opened the way to broader audience recognition all across Europe. It featured much better production and allowed the group continue to refine their special combination of symphonic classical and traditional Italian musical influences in a rock context. It is still one of their strongest albums. Many Progressive rock fans prefer the original Italian performances to the later re-recorded and re-mixed English languageversions.
PFM came to the attention of
Greg Lakeof Emerson, Lake & Palmerduring an Italian tour and PFM were signed to Manticore Records. The first album on Manticore, " Photos of Ghosts" was released in late 1973. It contained mostly remakes of songs from "Per un amico" in English. New lyrics (not translations) were written for the album by former King Crimsonmember Peter Sinfield, who also helped produce the re-recording and mixing at Advision Studios in London. "Photos of Ghosts" was released all across Europe, Japan, and North America and represented the first real attempt by an Italian rock band to break into foreign markets. It was one of the first recordings by a European rock group to have significant chart success in the USA. The album also contained a new instrumental "Old Rain", one song in Italian, "Il Banchetto" (The Banquet), as well as "Celebration", (a remake of "É Festa") which received considerable airplay on album oriented rock stations in the U.S.A and Canada.Following the release of "Photos of Ghosts" bass player Giorgio Piazza left the group and was replaced by Patrick Djivas, who has remained with the group ever since. The next PFM album release in Italy was " L'isola di niente" in 1974. Highlights of the album include "Dolcisima Maria" (English title: "Just Look Away") and the instrumental "Via Lumiere" (English title: "Have Your Cake and Beat it".) Again a similar English language version of the album was released by Manticore as " The World Became The World". The English album included another remake of "Impressioni di Settembre" as the title track. This would be their last collaboration with Peter Sinfield, as the group were not entirely pleased with the content of his English lyrics. Again, the English album reached the U.S. charts, but was not as successful as its predecessor.
Following the release of "The World Became The World" the group recorded concerts in
Cleveland, Ohioand Toronto, Ontario Canadaon their 1974 North American tour. These recordings were used for their next European album titled " Live In USA". The same recordings were also released in the U.S. and Canada with new cover art as their final U.S. album for Manticore re-titled, "Cook". PFM reached their biggest American audience yet when they appeared on NBC's Midnight Special program on February 21, 1975. Their nationally televised performance included "Celebration" and the instrumental "Alta Loma Nine Till Five".
Continued Progressive Rock Exploration 1975-1978
The lack of a strong lead vocalist was the thing that had always been considered as the biggest liability for PFM, and so, for this reason, they enrolled
Bernado Lanzettiwho was previously with the group Aqua Fragile. Lanzetti had lived in the U.S. and could solve the vocal problems of PFM, due to his very powerful and distinctive voice. He could also sing and speak fluent English. However Lanzetti's somewhat grating vibrato did not appeal to everyone. He was sometimes compared unfavorably to Peter Gabriel, though he actually sounded more like Roger Chapmanof the British group Family.
The first release by the six-piece band was "
Chocolate Kings" in 1975. This had modest success at home but was their least popular album in Italy so far. It contained some very good songs such as the title track and "Out of the Roundabout". Chocolate Kings features a harder rock sound and lost some of their Italian feel, while moving closer to foreign markets' taste. The same album was released with different cover art by Manticore in the U.K. and by Asylum Recordsin the U.S. The controversial U.S./U.K. cover showed a chocolate bar in a partially peeled Stars and Stripes wrapper on the front, along with the crumpled and discarded wrapper on the back. The album reached the U.K. Top 20 but was less successful internationally. Mauro Pagani left the group following "Chocolate Kings" to pursue a solo career.
Lanzetti also appeared on "
Jet Lag" (1977) an album highly influenced by the Jazz-fusionmovement which was recorded in Los Angeles. This was their last album with English lyrics and their last attempt to reach the international Progressive rockaudience. It was also their last album released in the U.S., also on Asylum. Violinist Gregory Bloch, previously with the group It's a Beautiful Day, replaced Mauro Pagani but lasted for only one album.
Paspartù" (1978) added 2 new percussion players and changed direction again toward shorter songs in Italian with a unique and sophisticated international pop music style. The new sound on this album contains mostly acoustic instead of electric guitar and seemed to draw from Italian folk and Latin music as well as Jazz influenced groups like Steely Dan. This was the last album to feature Lanzetti.
Mainstream Popularity in Italy 1979-1987
PFM returned to their roots in 1979, once again playing as the backup group for
Fabrizio De André. The group contributed new arrangements for De André's songs and the ensemble toured Italy to packed houses. De André and PFM released two highly successful albums during this period " In Concerto - Arrangiamenti PFM" (1979), and " In Concerto - Arrangiamenti PFM, Volume 2" (1980.)
During the 1980s PFM enjoyed continued success at home while concentrating on commercial rock music for the mainstream Italian audience. In 1980 Flavio Premoli left the group and built a successful career writing and performing music for Italian films and television. Multi-instrumentalist Lucio Fabbri joined adding skills on violin, keyboards, and rhythm guitar. Albums during this period were "
Suonare Suonare" (1980), " Performance" (1980), " Come ti va in riva alla città" (1981), and " PFM? PFM!" (1984). The group stopped performing in 1987 following the release of " Miss Baker", although they never officially broke up.
Recent recordings by the group have successfully integrated their mainstream Italian and Progressive rock styles. During this period PFM has produced much of their best work.
The comeback album "
Ulisse" (1997) was widely regarded as their strongest album since Chocolate Kings. Its success helped to bring PFM back to the attention of the Progressive rockaudience. "Ulisse" is the Italian name for the character known in Greek as " Odysseus" and the album is a Song cyclebased on the " Odyssey" legend by Homer. Lyrics for the album were written by Vincenzo Incenzo. Flavio Premoli returned with the other 3 core members of PFM to produce one of their strongest lineups ever. An excellent 2 disc live album " www.pfmpfm.it" was recorded with additional musicians on their sellout Italian tour the next year.
Since reformation the group has also recorded another strong studio album "
Serendipity" (2001). " Live In Japan 2002" was released in both a 2 CD and DVD edition. The 2 CD edition contains 2 new studio tracks including a collaboration with Peter Hammillof Van der Graaf Generator. Hammill wrote lyrics and sings on the group's first recording in English since 1977, titled " Sea of Memory".
Piazza Del Campo" (2005) was released in both a single CD and CD+DVD edition. Piazza Del Campo captures PFM's historic performance with the one time only return of Mauro Pagani. It was filmed outdoors in the gorgeous main square of Sienabefore thousands of enthusiastic fans. Italian rock star Piero Pelùalso appears on the live DVD. Due to health concerns keyboard player Flavio Premoli left the group for a second time in early 2005. PFM returned to the U.S.A for the first time since 1977 to play the Progressive Arts Showcase at Bethlehem, Pennsylvaniaon July 8, 2005. This concert was held in conjunction with the 7th annual NEARfestProgressive Rock event. Other shows on this tour included dates in Canada, Brazil, Mexico, Panama, and Venezuela. Premoli's last work with the group, "Dracula", was released late in the year. It is an original Rock operabased on the Draculalegend.
Stati di immaginazione" (2006) is an entirely instrumental effort and has an accompanying DVD of video images made for each song. As is typical for PFM, the music alternates serene and calming sections of acoustic guitar with blistering balls to the wall rock. The video content ranges from fantasy style vignettes made with computer graphics to archival black and white historic films.
PFM is the first confirmed act for the
NEARfest2009 festival which will be held June 20-21.
Franco Mussida: acoustic guitar, electric guitar, 12 string guitar, mandolin, vocals (1970 - present] )
Franz Di Cioccio: drums, percussion, lead and backing vocals (1970 - present)
Patrick Djivas: bass, programming (1974 - present)
Lucio Fabbri: violin, keyboards (1979-1987)(2000 - present )
Gianluca Tagliavini: piano, Hammond, Minimoog, other keyboards(2005-present)
Piero Monterisi: additional drums (2006-present)
Flavio Premoli: piano, keyboards, Mellotron, Moog synthesizer, lead vocals (1970 - 1980, 1997 - 2005)
Giorgio Piazza: bass (1970-1974)
Mauro Pagani: flute, piccolo, violin, vocals (1970-1976)
Bernardo Lanzetti: lead vocals, rhythm guitar(1975-1977)
Gregory Bloch: violin(1976-1977)
Walter Calloni: additional drums (1982-1987)
Roberto Gualdi: additional drums (1997-2005)
Storia di un minuto" (1972)
Per un amico" (1972)
L'isola di niente" (1974)
Chocolate kings" (1975)
* "Jet lag" (1977)
Suonare suonare" (1980)
Come ti va in riva alla città" (1981)
P.F.M.? P.F.M.!" (1984)
Miss Baker" (1987)
* "Ulisse" (1997)
* "Serendipity" (2000)
* "Dracula" (2005)
* "Stati di immaginazione" (2006)
Photos of Ghosts" (1973 - version of " Per un amico")
The World Became the World" (1974 - version of " L'isola di niente")
Live in USA" (1974, also known as "Cook")
In Concerto - Arrangiamenti PFM" (1979) (with Fabrizio De André)
In Concerto - Arrangiamenti PFM, Vol 2" (1980) (with Fabrizio De André)
* "Performance" (1981)
* "Live in Japan 2002" (2002)
* "Piazza del Campo" (2005)
* [http://www.pfmpfm.it/ Official site]
* [http://www.progboard.com/en/Premiata-Forneria-Marconi/125 PFM on progboard - biography, reviews and ratings]
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