Rolling Stone Italy: "The daring story of the Smiths' only Italian concert"

Interesting interview with Paolo Bedini, the promoter who organised The Smiths' only ever concert in Italy on May 14, 1985 at the Tendastrisce in Rome. Sounds like it certainly wasn't an easy task to negotiate in the age of telex. And from Sarzana of all places...

Highlight from the article (translated via Google because my Italian is far too rusty and unreliable):

"I read that they came to Rome at the behest of Morrissey who, having seen a postcard of the city, specifically asked to play there: is it true?
This is what their agent confided to me, but I don't know if it was true or not. What is certain is that the concert was really special: they weren't on tour, they weren't around, so it was a unique event. And it is also difficult today to explain how peculiar it was. Today the concerts are scheduled a year earlier: I found myself putting up a Smiths live [ show ] in a week."

They also accidentally mixed up The Smiths' technical sheet with New Order's due to a translation error.

Link to article in Italian:

Transcript of Google translation in English:

The daring story of the Smiths' only Italian concert

The negotiations conducted with a payphone and with the telex of a post office, the wrong data sheet, the whims of Morrissey, the escape from Discoring: this is how it went in 1985 at the Tendastrisce in Rome

The Smiths are very popular in Italy, yet they have only played one real concert in our country. The performance of May 14, 1985 at the Tendastrisce Theater in Rome has therefore entered the annals and has remained firmly in the memory of the fans. To find out how things went we had a long and amusing telephone chat with the promoter of that concert, Paolo Bedini. The story he told us is truly from another time, full of details that sound almost incredible, so much so that it seems a miracle that the concert took place.

What were you doing in the spring of 1985?

For about a couple of years, as TNT Productions I had started bringing foreign artists directly to Italy - in practice I had stopped being a local promoter and had become a kind of promoter-agent, so I was selling the dates to some clubs, like the Piper in Rome, or others in Milan, the Slego in Emilia Romagna, Le Macabre in Piedmont. I had created my own circuit. Our business was in some ways pioneering, because some of the artists we brought were unknown, but then they grew a lot. I'm talking about people like Nick Cave, Gun Club, Polyrock, Virgin Prunes, Violent Femmes… the only ones a little better known were Nico, Richard Hell and the Lotus Eaters. I was considered a niche band, while the Smiths were a top UK chart band.

I know that in 1984 you had already tried to bring them to Italy
I had to make a virtue of necessity and anticipate others, bringing bands and artists to Italy just before they became famous. I always tried to keep myself informed about everything that was new and from time to time we went to London to speak directly with the agencies we worked with. When we were there, they offered us a series of artists, perhaps not the most famous, but still names of a certain level, and they also gave us promo discs or took us to clubs. One of the two agencies I worked with the most was All Trade Booking, an offshoot of Rough Trade, the Smiths label. They gave me the single What Difference Does It Make?. I liked it a lot, I asked the opinion of reporters and club managers and everyone agreed that the band had potential. So I tried to take them to Italy.

And how did things go?
I didn't succeed because I ran into two obstacles: the first was that there was a rumor - I don't know if it was true - that they were still fumbling live and therefore did few concerts. The second was that as I moved and tried to combine, they became more and more famous, so in a short time they became a name beyond my reach. And so a year later, in the spring of 1985, I didn't even think about organizing the Smiths anymore, but evidently the agency remembered my interest and knowing that the band wanted to do very few targeted concerts, decided to propose it to me.

I read that they came to Rome at the behest of Morrissey who, having seen a postcard of the city, specifically asked to play there: is it true?

This is what their agent confided to me, but I don't know if it was true or not. What is certain is that the concert was really special: they weren't on tour, they weren't around, so it was a unique event. And it is also difficult today to explain how peculiar it was. Today the concerts are scheduled a year earlier: I found myself putting up a Smiths live in a week.

I know that the organizational practical aspect was very troubled
There were no cell phones, e-mails, faxes, navigators. Going around meant looking for places on maps. The problems arose when you started working professionally with foreign countries, because there the business was going at another speed. English agencies worked mainly with telex, which in Italy was not common: only large companies had it and it cost a lot to install it. So it was necessary to rely on the post offices that provided a public telex service. In my case, since I lived in Sarzana, I had to go to La Spezia because the post office in my town did not have a telex: I drove 20 kilometers by car, I queued, I gave the text of my telex to the employee, she sent it . But then the answers didn't come right away, so you had to come back, queue up and pick up the answer. Employees weren't allowed to read you anything over the phone. Sometimes I would come back the next day and find an answer that just said: "We are evaluating".

And how did you manage to do it all in one week?

I was negotiating with the agency an Everything but the Girl concert for a festival in Nettuno. It was a Tuesday and I had gone to the post office to collect a telex. The British agency, among other things, asked me if I was still interested in making the Smiths, but only in Rome and on a specific, non-negotiable date: May 14, seven days later. I immediately began the negotiation, which was also complicated: after a bit of travel between Sarzana and Spezia, in practice I camped on the steps of the La Spezia post office in Piazza Verdi waiting for the telexes to arrive to reply. Since I was not in the office, I had my nice pile of telephone tokens to call my collaborators from a public telephone and ask for the information that I needed gradually. At a certain time it seemed that the thing had fallen or at least postponed to the next day, so I went home. I found a message on the answering machine: it was the post office clerk telling me that there was an important telex, so it was better if I went to get it and she would also wait for me in case I arrived after hours. I ran: it was the confirmation of the concert.

When did the band arrive in Rome?
Virgin - the label that distributed the Smiths in Italy - had placed them in what was the flagship music show at the time, Discoring . The group, therefore, arrived the day before the concert just to make this recording on RAI. There were problems immediately because the hotel near the Pantheon, which we had booked with him in mind - we were told by the agency that he loved history and monuments - did not like Morrissey, who asked for another one. However, apart from the hotel, there was something much more worrying ...

That is?
Just while we were in RAI, we realized that the agency had mistakenly sent a technical sheet with an extra sheet, which concerned the New Order. Who managed the service, reading "New Order", translated "New Order" into Italian, thinking that this was the most updated form, which canceled the previous sheets. When we realized we still had an afternoon and a day to make up for it, but you have to know that usually bands played with their amps, they didn't: they asked for everything to be fixed. Nowadays such a thing can also be normal, but then it was not, also because often some things were difficult to find in Italy and therefore almost everyone preferred to bring their backline. So the situation was not pleasant: we had to find everything on the fly, even paying for it handsomely. And then we know how many concerts Morrissey has canceled in his career, even for less serious reasons. We were very worried.

A Discoring did not go well ...

Things were going for long and at one point I saw Morrissey spoke with Johnny Marr. I didn't understand what he said to him, but immediately afterwards Marr - who was basically acting as a spokesperson, I don't think I had exchanged more than a dozen words in all with Morrissey - came up to me wondering if the driver who took them around was still around. nearby. I said yes and the band got up and left the RAI studios without saying anything. Obviously, a diplomatic case broke out between RAI and Virgin. It is understandable how, with these premises, we were not exactly calm.

In short, it was difficult to deal with them.
In retrospect, I have to say that - although at the time they seemed like a bit of a spoiled band with a capricious singer - they treated us well and did not behave badly, although I am sure they will not remember the concert in Rome as memorable. . During the soundcheck, I saw Morrissey confabulating with Johnny Marr. My first thought was: here, now everything is jumping. Instead what happened was that Morrissey had seen the security men of the Tendastrisce enter - which was run by the Togni family, the famous circus performers - and made us ask Marr if it was possible not to have those bouncers. Preferred if two of us did that kind of service. We only had the driver and one other person, who certainly didn't look like a bouncer, but we realized that maybe we would do the concert, because Morrissey said something like:

What do you remember from the concert?

It was a sold out date and everything went smoothly. It remained a somewhat historic concert. Many, including journalists and insiders, remember it and mention it because the Smiths were really the group of the moment then. I didn't enjoy it, because I was tense and busy. I think that, after playing, the Smiths also stayed to chat with the public for a while. When we got back to the Sheraton, Morrissey immediately disappeared into his room. Marr was with the fiancée who I believe later became his wife. When we were about to leave the drummer and the bassist called us saying: “We hardly talked today, if you like, let's have a beer together”. So we chatted a bit, they asked us what we were doing, it was a very polite and friendly gesture, like a pat on the back that helps you in some way.

I saw the contract you made to arrange the date. The figures do not seem excessive.

Yes, I recently looked at it too and there was talk of 7000 pounds ( in 1985 it was about 18 million lire, ed.). To give you an example, a few months later I made the Cocteau Twins and they cost £ 10,000. That of the Smiths was a fairly low figure, although they were already quite famous. Of course, it was a non-standard situation: they were with a small agency, they recorded for Rough Trade, they weren't on tour, all elements that made the matter particular.

How did you manage to advertise live in such a tight time frame?

In practice, the only thing we did in the press was a small paid advertisement in Repubblica or Il Messaggero , now I don't remember. Then we lean on the radios. However filling the place was not a problem, there was a lot of word of mouth. I don't remember the capacity of the Tendastrisce, but still there could be 3 or 4000 people. And if we had had a bigger location we would have done even higher numbers.

Did you happen to work with any of the Smiths afterwards?

No, no. A couple of years later the Smiths were about to do a tour and they had to come to Italy too, but it wasn't me who managed it. Anyway, it all jumped over Morrissey's problems, he said he had received threats. They like Smiths never came to Italy again after the concert in Rome except for a recording in Sanremo, two years later: they interviewed them and then did some playback songs. Also keep in mind that for me that concert represented a bit of a turning point - not so much economically, but in terms of image. I was no longer a niche at that point, because I had done something that was considered, by some, to be important. So from there I started to manage bigger and bigger things. Then, from the early 90s, I moved on to deal with Italian bands: I had CSI, Yo Yo Mundi, later on Baustelle.

joe frady

Vile Refusenik
Probably both.

Is it not fairly unusual to have male fans determined to get close to a male singer????

Miranda Sawyer seemed raging about it in TIOBM - like she suspected men were misbehaving but she wasn't sure how or why. :paranoid:

She seemed queerly insistent that it was ALWAYS boys. As if that proved...something? And something that vexed her terribly.

If it had been indie boys flinging themselves at Barney {:ha-no:} she would have penned a yard of liner notes on it pronto.

í remember laughing at the time of broadcast and thinking í wish í could introduce La Sawyer to a phalanx of females who might argue different...


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