Goblin-1977_da-sinistra-Marangolo-Morante-Pignatelli-e-Simonetti (immagine in evidenza)

Goblin. The music of fear in four acts

Goblin-1977_da-sinistra-Marangolo-Morante-Pignatelli-e-Simonetti-goblin-the-music-of-fear-in-four-acts

The Goblin in 1977: from left to right, Marangolo, Morante, Pignatelli and Simonetti

 

The 1970s: years of rock. A creative and turbulent decade, in which many musical genres came to light, some of which are so representative that they identify the very essence of that period. This is the case with “progressive rock”, a form of rock “progressing” towards a high level of melodic, compositional and narrative complexity and variety, achieved through constant reference to classical music and the use of innovative electronic instruments, such as the “mellotron” or the “moog”. The genre was especially popular in the first half of the decade, when a new generation of composers, who often saw cinema as a frontier for experimentation, was born.

 

The group

The band was born out of the friendship between Claudio Simonetti and Massimo Morante, two enterprising musicians in the Rome of the early ‘70s, captivated by the dazzling explosion of British “progressive rock” by Genesis (From Genesis to Revelation, 1969), Yes (Yes, 1969) and Emerson, Lake & Palmer (Emerson, Lake & Palmer, 1970). Simonetti, son of art, has a classical background, having studied piano at the Conservatory of Santa Cecilia, whereas Morante began playing guitar following avant-garde artists such as Jimi Hendrix. In 1971 they went to London, where they recorded some pieces and called themselves “Oliver”. Bassist Fabio Pignatelli and drummer Carlo Bordini also joined them. The English experience didn’t last long, but once back in Rome, they didn’t give up; Walter Martino appeared on drums, later replaced by Agostino Marangolo, and the name was changed to “Goblin”, a term as enchanted as it is gloomy. It was at this point that Dario Argento appeared: the famous soundtrack to “Deep Red” (Profondo Rosso in Italian, 1974) was a real launch pad, as well as the genesis of a long and fruitful artistic partnership. In the meantime, the Italian “prog” scene was enriched with excellent names, such as P.F.M. (Storia di un minuto, 1972), Battiato (Pollution, 1972), Cocciante (Mu, 1972), Le Orme (Felona e Sorona, 1973), Pooh (Parsifal, 1973) and the New Trolls (Concerto Grosso n. 2, 1976), whereas a new decade, much more electronic and metallic than the previous one, was just around the corner.

 

First act: Deep Red (Profondo Rosso)

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Profondo Rosso, LP Cover (1975)

 

Legend has it that Daria Nicolodi, Dario Argento’s wife and collaborator, was the one who suggested the name Goblin to her husband. The director, in fact, was dissatisfied with the pieces already created by composer and jazz musician Giorgio Gaslini, initially chosen for the job. Officially, however, it was publisher Carlo Bixio who introduced the group to Dario Argento. The fact is that Goblin rearranged Gaslini’s music and, above all, composed the legendary “main theme”, inspired by Mike Oldfield’s “Tubular Bells”, the soundtrack to William Friedkin’s masterpiece “The Exorcist” (1973). Legend has it that this pieces was born out of an intuition of Pignatelli’s, but the whole group is in some way responsible for its realisation. The theme underlines all the salient episodes of the film and imposes itself obsessively thanks to the obstinate arpeggio and sharp notes, where synthesiser, bass, organ and drums chase each other creating a tight and penetrating rhythm.
With this track the Goblin achieve worldwide success and enter the collective imagination, but it is the entire soundtrack of “Deep Red” that is studded with musical gems, starting with another neurotic and obstinate track, namely “Mad Puppet”, up to the disturbing childish chant of “School at night”, where, among other things, an ingenious use of the “carillon-like” vibraphone can be noticed.

 

Second act: Suspiria

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Suspiria, LP Cover (1977)

 

Dario Argento is now the band’s mentor. In fact, the bond between the director and the band is repeated and strengthened in the masterpiece “Suspiria” (1977), where the futuristic sounds of “Deep Red” are proposed again, but in a darker and more spectral key, in line with the fairy-tale and dreamlike themes of this film. The soundtrack is very rich in musical cues, taking shape as a sum of 1970s’ “progressive rock” and anticipating, at the same time, some sounds of the following decade. In fact, “synth”, “kraft”, “dark”, “tribal” and “folk” elements merge in an avant-garde artistic work.
The rhythmic obsession of “Deep Red” returns in the “main theme”, structured on the counterpoint between guitar and “carillon-like” vibraphone, but in a more disquieting and ritualistic form, in which the demonic whispers and the ingenious addition of the “bouzouki” – a lute of Greek origin – stand out. Other pieces also leave their mark: first and foremost “Sighs”, also the first to be composed, where the “sabbatical” element is particularly evident, with moans accompanying the tight arpeggio of the guitar. Finally, the track “Witch” is probably the most experimental and hammering, where voices and synthesizer are mixed with sound effects that simulate a disorienting atmosphere.

 

Third act: Tenebre

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Tenebre, LP back cover (1983)

 

At the end of the ‘70s, the decline of “progressive rock” also involved Goblin, who actually broke up in 1978. The three historic founders, Simonetti, Morante and Pignatelli, took different paths, also due to some personal differences.
The “reunion” came about, needless to say, thanks to Dario Argento: in 1982, the Roman director pulled another great film out of his hat, which can rightly be considered the pinnacle of Italian giallo with horror tones. The soundtrack of “Tenebre” (1982), released for contractual reasons not under the name of Goblin, but of Simonetti-Pignatelli-Morante, was a great success, marking a turning point towards electronic sounds, in line with the atmosphere of the new decade. Simonetti, after all, is now fully inserted in the Italian synth-pop world.
The “main theme”, sketch out to be a dark and solemn melody, is characterised by the ingenious insertion of the “vocoder”, but the band also finds itself in other tracks; first of all “Flashing”, permeated by the penetrating rhythm of the “drum machine”, the anguished trills of “Slow Circus”, and, finally, the famous melody of the piece “Lesbo”, even paid homage to by the great John Carpenter  in his film “In the mouth of madness” (1994).
Dario Argento put his own spin on the arrangement and editing, so much so that the back of the CD, which contains the tracks for the soundtrack, shows him together with the three musicians, in a cover inspired by that of Queen’s legendary album (Queen II, 1974).

 

Fourth act: Sleepless (Non ho sonno)

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Non ho sonno, CD Cover (2001)

 

Twenty years after their break-up, they had a new “reunion”, again signed by Dario Argento.
This time, however, it is the very last. “Sleepless” (Non ho sonno in Italian, 2000) is the Roman director’s most appreciated film of the last thirty years, both by critics and audiences. Certainly, it does not reach the level of the golden age, but the performance of the actors, first of all the legendary Max Von Sydow, is really of a high level. The soundtrack could not fail to live up to expectations, and so the band goes back to its historic ‘77 line-up, with Marangolo, Morante, Pignatelli and Simonetti.
The result is a sum of the band’s experiences, which have taken shape in a variety of sounds, from the most rock tone to the most electronic. Starting with the “main theme”, where the rock soul is met, represented by Morante’s powerful guitar, and the enchanted melodies of Simonetti’s keyboard. A mixture that also dominates the other tracks, with the pervasive use of Pignatelli’s bass in “Killer on the Train” and Agostino Marangolo’s percussion in “Associated Dead”, up to the nostalgic melody of “Endless Love”.
An excellent result, in which each one expresses their own “legacy”, but, as Simonetti himself will declare, it is perhaps a somewhat “cold” work, which was not born of an inner drive and is the result of a late reunion. A reunion which, however, leaves us with the worthy conclusion of a great artistic and human journey.

 

[Disclaimer]

The images shown in this article come from the following websites: https://stonemusic.it/ and http://www.goblinofficial.com/
These images are protected by copyright and are shown for illustrative purposes only, without any commercial purpose.

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