The entrance is triumphant. September 1979, the Arena of Verona lights up for the Festivalbar. “I came through the door in a sand colored Rolls Royce convertible. It belonged to a friend of mine who had just bought a lot of paintings and he had packed them all in the car.
Surely they weren’t scabs picked up at the flea market.
“No, but they weren’t mine. But the appearance was scenographic, madness mixed with exhibitionism”. Alan Sorrenti with whom Festivalbar won it You are the only woman for me. These were his crazy golden years. Cutting his long hair, shaving his beard and ditching hippie clothes for the elegant white suits designed by Gianni Versace, the half-Neapolitan and half-Welsh twenty-nine-year-old broke the charts (not just Italian) with his singing emblematic falsetto: We’re star kids / no ageless story, heroes of a dream; or wondering with emotion: I don’t know what I would give / to stop time. Rise, fall and rebirth of a man who lived between England, Italy and the United States. And that today, at 71, opens another chapter of his life with an album, Beyond the Safety Zoneand a visit.
Its story begins in Italy.
“From Naples, where I was born and where I grew up in part. There, I felt like a foreigner, a Welsh mother, Gwendoline, called Gwen, and a Neapolitan father, Francesco. I wore jeans and a fur coat to gather my souls. In this city, I wanted to stay as little as possible. Fortunately, I often visited my grandparents in Wales. And then my mother worked at Nato di Bagnoli, there was the smell of sweets, the music that came from the offices… when I crossed those borders I found America. When I was 16, to help me learn English well, he enrolled me in a private school. At Folkestone, on the English Channel”.
Again: another life.
“I plunged into another reality. One of my rather rebellious comrades had found a way, that evening, to seize the director’s car. He was going down towards the city, and I was following him. When the pub doors opened, I listened to the velvet voice of Otis Redding and the songs of the Beatles. One night outside a concert hall I saw an amazing line, I managed to get in and there were three guys on stage playing. At the end of the concert, I knew it was Cream with Eric Clapton. These are the waves that made me vibrate.
Was he a rebel?
“Yes, but I managed to contain myself until I was 18. When I came back from Folkestone to Naples, I played with I Volti Senza Nome. We were going strong. In London, I had seen concerts family. At one point, the singer picked up the mic stand and threw it at the cheering audience. I copied it, actually it worked.”
You know about accidents…
“Not a single one. The spectators and the owner loved us. A little less the Hearts of Stone, the band that played before us and lent us the instruments. When they saw me, they were terrified but they didn’t tell me. never said no.
Were his parents happy with this subversive son?
“For me, they would have wanted more. So much so that I enrolled in medicine. One exam, passed with flying colors. I wanted to show him that I wasn’t stupid. But they let me free, thanks to my mother and her democratic spirit. Only one thing upset her.
“She was terrified that I would lose my English accent and start speaking American.”
“Employee of the tram company and draftsman, he was more rigid, but he did not have a strong character… he let himself be done. Moreover, young, he also sang, he recorded a disc. When, during the Second World War, he was imprisoned in England, they put him on display. But the end of the conflict reduced his ambitions. I believe that music is part of the family DNA: my sister Jenny sings and my mother too, in college, during the end-of-year party, when the prom queen is elected, she goes on stage.
Is it true that he offered a joint to Nino Manfredi?
“I really don’t remember this one. And it seems strange to me that he did it, he didn’t support me so much.
“For a few years I was engaged to your daughter Roberta. Manfredi was at the height of his career, he had done a movie like By grace received, I was a twenty year old who played. I get it, my visits to his home broke his concentration. His wife Erminia said that my music was therapeutic”.
Naples in the 70s was a river of creativity. Who knows how many meetings.
“With Tony Esposito, we played in my father’s stove warehouse, who always thought of working. Unlike me. And then the New Popular Song Company, Roberto De Simone, Peppe Barra, Eugenio and Edoardo Bennato. The stories intertwined. Pino was in the district of Sanità, more moving than Vomero, where I lived”.
“He. A little smaller than me, I passed him on the stairs of my house. I went up and he came down, a boy with a large mass of black hair. He was going to play with my sister. A few months before his death he invited me to one of his concerts in Naples. I was happy to embrace him again after so many years. A person full of enthusiasm and projects. Behind the scenes he confessed to me that he wanted to recreate Neapolitan power.”
How did he end up in America?
“I went with producer Corrado Bacchelli to record my third album. It was a daring journey. We had no money, so we flew from Rome to Luxembourg, then stopped in Brussels, from there to Reykjavik, Iceland, where it was snowing so hard that we got stuck for a day. Eventually we managed to fly to New York. It moved me, it looked like Naples with skyscrapers. We slept at the Chelsea Hotel, the one frequented by Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen and Janis Joplin. The impact was unusual and spectacular: I found myself face to face with the great jazzman Sun Ra. He was with his tribe, a crowd of people. I said to myself: it comes from another world”.
In San Francisco, she finds herself in the same room as Santana.
“For a two-person interview: those were the years when she wore white, we talked about spirituality. He was standing on top of a mountain. I below”.
He then arrived in Los Angeles.
“The world I was looking for, another dimension. I realized this as soon as the plane door opened and I saw the palm trees. In my pocket I had the contact of Jay Graydon, the producer of Toto, Manhattan Transfer, Al Jarreau. My sound engineer in San Francisco gave it to me before I found myself lying on the console with alcohol problems. ‘
What atmosphere was there?
“When we weren’t working, we went to clubs. I once met Stevie Wonder’s sound engineer who was going crazy because the great Stevie was even calling him in the middle of the night. I often slept in Humphrey Bogart’s old house, which was bought by my producer at the time, Greg Mathieson. An empty villa because he and his wife, with their six punk children, didn’t have the money to put it back together. These were incredible, over-the-top and unexpected years. Sometimes you wake up in the morning and you don’t know where you are. I remember the Chinese manager of a girl who had spent the night with me, was waiting outside the door all the time. As the Eagles sang: Life at high speed sure makes you lose your mind.”
In 77 he wrote sons of stars.
“It didn’t happen suddenly, but the inspiration came from America. I was in the stars not only in the physical sense, I took several planes, but also for the energy and the magic that Los Angeles transmitted. That year George Lucas’ Star Wars came out, I stood in line at a movie theater, Sunset Boulevard was a constant twinkle. In Italy, I introduced him for the first time to Divina in Milan, a gay club. That evening, Grace Jones was also singing La Vie en Rose. For me this song remains a revelation, I am still a child of the stars”.
Has success destroyed your existence?
“I wanted to manage my life and I couldn’t take it anymore. In the beginning, fame is a fun game, a good movie in which you are the protagonist. After coming out of a self-destructing madness you start to get so messed up and finished that you can no longer create what you want”.
In 1983, her ex-wife accused her of drug use and trafficking. There was the trial, the sentence.
“Mistakes are made in life. But after the void, in 1988, I started a human revolution, I became a Buddhist for the Soka Gakkai International. From that moment, there is another Alan”.
A mistake he wouldn’t make again?
“I would not marry.” He laughs and adds: “Now I would do it with my magic light, my partner Barbel: a special ceremony, nothing civil or religious”
You called your son Sky. The cosmos returns.
“Sky Julian Markus, he is 19, has two passports and two surnames. He pushed me to record the new album”.
He titled it Beyond the Safety Zone. Why?
“We are entering a new, unknown and mysterious phase where certain references have faded away. We find ourselves facing challenges that lead us to exceed our limits”.
When did you pass yours?
“A lot of times. I remember a trip to Hawaii: I launched myself with a pulley on a tight rope over a precipice. But my son intervened and I followed him. Experiments to try. I’m using my life to the fullest,” Bowie said.
October 13, 2022 (change October 13, 2022 | 9:55 PM)
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