Terribly funny and clever at the same time, at times foul in their lyrics and extremely gifted technically, Elio e le Storie Tese are not only a comedy act, but an extremely talented band, often compared to Frank Zappa for their irreverent blend of styles and sounds -- in other words, one of the most original Italian bands ever.
The origins of Elio e le Storie Tese date back to the end of the '70s in Milan, where future vocalist and flutist Stefano "Elio" Belisari, Luca Mangoni, and soon-to-become manager Marco Conforti attended the same school. After recruiting some other musicians, the band's first gig took place in 1980. By 1985 the lineup consolidated around Belisari, Sergio "Rocco Tanica" Conforti on keyboards and drum machine, Nicola "Faso" Fasani on bass, Davide "Cesareo" Civaschi on guitar, and -- later on -- Paolo "Feiez" Panigada on saxophone, with Mangoni in the role of comic counterpart to Belisari and unlikely dancer (just like an ironic version of the Happy Mondays' Bez). Year after year the band built up a strong fan base, especially in Milan, and its fame became even wider after some appearances in cult TV programs such as L'Araba Fenice and Lupo Solitario.
Including classics of Elio e le Storie Tese's repertoire such as "Cassonetto Differenziato per il Frutto del Peccato," "Cara Ti Amo," and "John Holmes (Una Vita per il Cinema)," dedicated to the eponymous porn actor, the debut album Elio Samaga Hukapan Karijana Turu, released in 1989, ended up selling more than 100,000 copies. The EP Los Sri Lanka Parakramabahu Brothers Featuring Elio e le Storie Tese followed in 1990, but the real breakthrough arrived with 1992's Italyan, Rum Casusu Cikty, in which the band -- now with Christian Meyer on drums -- showed all its crazy and irreverent creativity, both arrangement-wise and in the lyrics, capable as the bandmembers were of quoting Led Zeppelin, TV commercials, 1970s TV show Mork & Mindy, and Italian poet Ugo Foscolo with equal ease. Tracks like "Servi della Gleba," "Il Vitello dai Piedi di Balsa," and "Supergiovane" were examples of a nearly limitless creativity and an extremely personal comical view of the world, and guests such as Riccardo Fogli, Enrico Ruggeri, actor Diego Abatantuono, and Le Mystère des Voix Bulgares (on the single "Pipppero") made their songs even more interesting.
In the meantime, the band had started important collaborations with radio network Radio DJ and with the comedy trio Gialappa's Band, writing the theme songs for their various shows. In 1993 Elio e le Storie Tese released Esco dal Mio Corpo e Ho Molta Paura, an anthology of unreleased tracks spanning from 1979 to 1986, followed in 1996 by Eat the Phikis. The latter album's leading track, "La Terra dei Cachi," presented in that year's edition of the Sanremo Music Festival (where it finished second), reached the first notch of the Italian charts, where it stayed for eight weeks, turning Elio e le Storie Tese into an actual cultural (and mass) phenomenon. In the following years the band embarked on a long Italian tour, and released the Del Meglio del Nostro Meglio, Vol. 1 in 1997. But on December 23, 1998, Panigada died of a brain hemorrhage while playing on-stage with his jazz side project, Biba Band. Craccracriccrecr was dedicated to the saxophonist and released in 1999; however, the album was deemed by some to be not as brilliant as its predecessors.
In the meantime, the lineup of the band had expanded to include second keyboardist Antonello "Jantoman" Aguzzi. In 1999 Elio e le Storie Tese also released the soundtrack to the Gialappa's Band movie Tutti gli Uomini del Deficiente, strongly influenced by 1970s sounds from disco to prog. The double CD Made in Japan -- recorded, in spite of its title, in Milan -- and Cicciput followed, respectively, in 2001 and 2003, the latter including the song "Litfiba Tornate Insieme," dedicated to the Italian band Litfiba and the frictions between its guitarist, Ghigo Renzulli, and former singer Piero Pelù. For its next tour the band started a new project called CD Brulé, making it possible after every show to buy a CD including the first hour of that night's set. The best of those recordings would later be officially released within the live anthologies Il Meglio di Ho Fatto 2 Etti e Mezzo Lascio? (2004) and Il Meglio di Grazie per la Splendida Serata (2005). Preceded by the single "Parco Lambro," Studentessi saw the light in 2008. ~ Aurelio Pasini, Rovi