Raffaella Carra – Chissa’ Chi Sei
RCA Italiana – PM 3581 1971
Track 1: Chissa’ Chi Sei
Here is a real fire cracker from Raffaella Carrà! After losing her just a short time ago (on 5 July 2021), I thought this would be a good time to post what I think is one of her best tracks! Shine on Raffaella!
Raffaella was definitely NOT obscure or unknown by any means, especially in Italy where she was adored for a lifetime. She oozed that Italian sassy-ness and bravado and was always a glamorous shining light whether singing on stage or on the screens as an actress or presenter. She was also appearing and performing up until a couple of years before her death, so there is plenty content on line about this wonderful woman, but here’s a brief run down I think you may find interesting.
Carrà was born on 18 June 1943 in Bologna to Raffaele Pelloni and Angela Iris Dell’Utri, her parents, however, separated shortly and Carrà spent most of her childhood between her mother’s bar and the ice cream shop in Bellaria – Igea Marina. She grew up watching the television programme Il Musichiere, a game show that required guests to sing, learning by heart the most popular songs. When she was only eight years old, she left the Romagna Riviera to continue her studies directly in Rome at the National Academy of Dance. At the age of 9, while walking with her mother in Rome and through a family friend, she met the director Mario Bonnard who cast her in his film Tormento del passato, in which she played the very young character of Graziella. At the age of 14 she dropped out of ballet classes.In 1952 she began her studies at the Centro Sperimentale di Cinematografia to study the art and technique of cinematography and film, until she graduated in 1960. Carrà landed a few smaller roles in a couple of films in 1958 and 59, but she really made her debut as a recognized actress in 1960 in the film Long Night in 1943.
SWORDS AND SANDALS: Carra’s film roles would follow with a handful of “swords and sandals” films, an Italian film genre also know as peplum films, a sub-genre of largely Italian-made historical, mythological, or Biblical epics, that attempted to emulate the big-budget Hollywood historical epics of the time, such as Ben-Hur, Spartacus and The Ten Commandments.
She would appeared in films, including Fury of the Pagans (1960), Atlas in the Land of the Cyclops (1961), Mole Men Against the Son of Hercules (1961) as Princess Salirah, Ulysses Against the Son of Hercules (1962), Pontius Pilate (1962) (with the dashing Cocteau star Jean Marais as Ponzio Pilato) and Caesar the Conqueror (1962) with Dominique Wilms as Queen Astrid. There’s not a lot of public images around, with Carrà in these roles for some reason. Maybe she didn’t look at this early stage of her career as her best work? I did not know about this path of Raffaella! Most these films are available on line and look like so much fun! I’ve booked marked them all and so looking forward to watching them!
MUSICALS, COMEDIES AND ACTION THRILLER FILMS:
Carrà soon landed opportunities to play more popular roles, in a few comedies, musicals and action films, such as 5 Marines Per 100 Ragazze (1961), The Terrorist (1963), The Organizer (I Compagni) directed by Mario Monicelli and starring Marcello Mastroianni (1963) and La Celestina P… R… (1965).
In 1965, Carrà moved to Hollywood after signing a contract with 20th Century Fox, following in the footsteps of her fellow artists Gina Lollobrigida, Sophia Loren and Virna Lisi, Carrà. She appeared in the film Von Ryan’s Express alongside Frank Sinatra, Edward Mulhare and Trevor Howard. But feeling homesick and not liking life in Los Angeles, she decided to return to Italy that same year, and would star in more “local” productions such as the french film Le Saint prend l’affût (1966), Il Vostro Super Agente Flit, an Our Man Flint parody (1966), Why Did I Ever Say Yes Twice? (1969), and the french thriller Cran d’arrêt (1970).
1970’S AND THE MUSIC: In 1970 Carrà participated as a guest actress on Io, Agata e tu, a TV show hosted by the great Nino Ferrer. It was here where she could really show off her singing and dancing talents, which rocketed onwards!
She also presented the musical contest Canzonissima 71, which featured some pretty glamorous fashion, some back breaking dance moves on amazing sets, and a incredibly talented and dynamic house band that played some wild compositions just as “out there”! Here she would she release her hit single “Ma che musica Maestro“. She would also host the Canzonissima 74 edition.
After her success on the Italian market, in 1975 Carrà made her first appearance in Spain when she performed in the variety show Señoras y señores. During these years Carrà concentrated more on her singing career, achieving success in countries including Spain, Germany, France, Holland, Belgium, England, Greece, and in particular Latin American countries.The world was becoming well aware of Carra! And there was no stopping her!
Carrà would release a good number of LP’s and singles in the seventies and did well out of them. Her first LP simply titled Raffaella, I’m just discovering is a rare beauty, and also includes this featured single, Chissa Chi Sei (Sookie Sookie). Many would recognise this immediately, as a cover of Steppenwolf’s “Sookie Sookie” from the first their self-titled studio album Steppenwolf, released in January 1968. And it likely is the most well know version. But in truth, the original version is from Don Covay & The Goodtimers, released in 1966 (later released in March 1967 just credited and released by Don Covay).
The song was co-written by Covay alongside Steve “The Colonel” Cropper, who was a big co writer for Stax and Atlantic, co-writing classic songs such as Knock On Wood, The Dock Of The Bay and In the Midnight Hour. This early version is gritty soul and tight, and a real dance floor number, and apparently Cropper plays guitar on the track. The Goodtimers had an incredible line up including Bernard Purdie on drums and Buddy Lucas on tenor saxophone!
Carra’s version is an absolute banger! Why? Well for starters it has Carrà singing it in Italian with her undeniable Carrà determination! Her energy along with the fiery production takes this song onto a far bigger dance floor! Great percussion throughout, with big horns and Hammond organs (sounding very Brian Auger-ish), this is the best version in my book! The great Paolo Ormi E La Sua Orchestra takes the credit for the arrangement, and if you’re into Italian big beat-psycho beat records of the seventies, you will recognize Paolo Ormi’s name associated with tracks like Spiaggia Libera, Cocco Secco and No No No, and also the rare LP releases of P.O.X. Sound 2 and Tastiere.
The LP also includes and amazing version of Foot Prints In The Moon by Johnny Harris Orchestra, titled Conta Su Di Me. This blew my mind! I have never heard a vocal version of this and I’m assuming Carrà wrote the lyrics. Although after a quick Google translate, I was a little disappointed the lyrics weren’t about anything to do with the moon, nor any space travel concepts. Composers Francis Lai and Liberace (I’m not kidding) would both release beautiful versions of the track also in the early seventies.
While many albums followed, and were very successful for Carrà….not a lot of tracks are to my taste to be honest. But she is fun to dig on line for, as there’s some pretty great performances, especially the live clips. She’s a joy to watch and had some great outfits! One absolute amazing performance is her pairing up with Adriano Celentano, singing the great Prisencolinensinainciuso, likely in 1972 or 73! There’s also a great clip of her singing Superman from her 1974 album Felicità Tà Tà, and I also suggest the great Italo disco track Dreamin’ Of You.
Carrà would continue to work in TV for many years, as an actress and presenter, well into the 80’s, 90’s and the 2000’s. She’d continue with her music path as well, and would appear again on euro vision, would do support benefit gigs and kept releasing records up until 2021. In October 2020, the musical film Explota Explota, based on Carrà’s songs and directed by Uruguayan Nacho Álvarez, was released in Spanish cinemas, a country where she was very much love by for a big part of her life. Carrà died in Rome on 5 July 2021, at the age of 78
Other notable Sooki Sooki covers (all pretty great)…
Roy Thompson 1966
The Primitives 1967
Ricardo Ray Orchestra 1968
Davy Jones and the Voodoo Funk Machine 1968
Tina Britt 1969
Etta James- from her Come A Little Closer 1974
Here’s some great clips from Canzonissima 1971
And here she is doing Chissà chi sei…
Sylvie Vartan – Ne T’en Vas Pas
RCA Victor 86.019 France Year 1963
Prolific French ye ye singer Sylvie Vartan, who is actually Bulgarian, really does a nice swinging beat cover of the classic Comin’ Home Baby. Although it was originally recorded by the Bob Dorough Quartet in 1961 on Two Feet in the Gutter (Epic BA 17021) and composed by Ben Tucker (Bailey’s Pianist), it’s the ultra cool and hip Mel Torme version that most people know and love. Bob Dorough of School House Rock Fame added lyrics to the song and the vocal version became a Top 40 hit for the American jazz man, but I find Vartan’s more obscure version which was released in ’63, even more exciting!
Sylvie started her professional singing career while still at school, in her late teens, firstly with the hit song “Panne d’essence” (1961) alongside French rocker Frankie Jordan. Dubbed by journalists as “la collégienne du twist” (the twisting schoolgirl) she quickly started attracting a lot of attention, and it was only a matter of time that this young self confessed jazz/rock n’ roll fanatic, got signed up and began her illustrious recording career. In 1963, Paul Anka offered her “I’m watching”, her first international hit (Japan, Korea) which is the opening B side track of this EP. It’s adorably sweet and quirky with her broken English vocals, and holds a pretty respectful beat! That same year her dreams of being an aspiring actress came true, starring in the movie D’où viens-tu, Johnny? alongside french rock legend Johnny Hallyday, who she toured with in France and ended up marrying in 1965. Six of her thirty-one songs released in 1962/1963 became top 20 European hits and she became the darling of teen magazines and TV, so suffice to say this was an exciting and pivotal moment in her early career!
So back to Ne T’en Vas Pas! The back beat is strong and mean, as it should be, although I do wish it was pushed up in the mix a bit more as with the driving bass (you dj’s will be doing just that on your mixer) and I love the high energy modish Hammond solo. I have to say I always find French female vocal translations of standards or other, so much more attractive and desirable (this is not open for debate!) and Vartan’s approach on this makes it so ultra sexy and worthy! As far as I can tell, it doesn’t look like this recording was ever released on any other 7″ format other than the picture RCA EP. Maybe some foreign presses were released? Not too difficult to find and highly recommended!
Also check out Sergio Mendes’ great Latin instrumental version of Comin’ home baby (Atlantic 45 2572) and Vartan’s great “Gimme some lovin'” cover Donne Moi Ton Amour!