Umberto Eco and the Bunnymen
Umberto Eco and the Bunnymen was an '80s New Wave band during the heyday of Italian New Wave. That there never was a hey day for Italian New Wave did not stop Umberto Eco and the Bunnymen (known to their fans as U Eat B) from actually trying to attract a domestic and international audience for their signature synth pop stylings, best represented by songs like "Foucault's Killing Moon" and "Bring On The Dancing Polymaths".
U Eat B was comprised of a group of semiotic majors led by Umberto Eco (on drum machines), Giuseppe "Stompin' G" Vanelli (on synth guitar), Aquinas Stefani (synth accordion), and DJ Phat Ice Epicurus (jam master, catering). Eco also did lead vocals, with help from his vocoder. Vanelli, Stafani, and Epicurus comprised the backing Bunnymen.
U Eat B began in the early '80s at the
It was over a rather fierce debate regarding the notion that computers were also religions and whether the Apple II was "Catholic" and the Commodore 64 was "Protestant" that the band took fruition. Eco maintained that the Apple II was Catholic, because you could easily pirate the hardware and the C64 was Protestant because Eco didn't like either the C64 or Protestants. Giuseppe "Stompin' G" Vanelli maintained Eco should get a life but noted the C64's SID chip offered certain exciting possibilities vis-à-vis musical applications and, granting Eco's arguments for a moment that computers can map onto religious notions, Vanelli would admit that maybe the C64 was Mormon, in a Mormon Tabernacle Choir sense, and therefore the C64 was kind of a protestant faith although no protestant in America would think of Mormons as a protestant scion. Aquinas Stefani interjected by noting he knew some Italian Mormons once and regardless what their whack ball religion was all about, they sure did seem like nice people.
Everyone, except for Phil Standish (an American expat who
later took the stage name DJ Phat Ice Epicurus), eventually agreed the C64's
SID chip was pretty nifty. After achieving agreement, Italian men did what
Italian men do when there are no women around. They wondered how to make
money in the underground Italian economy. That's when the future Epicurus
announced he owned a TI-99. He claimed he knew how to load this one BASIC
U Eat B started to play the gnocchi house open mike
circuit. Their heavy use of computers, synthesizers, and their increasingly
stylish, gender bending costumes, and lyrics which managed to find no less
than 33 rhymes for "Knights Templar" attracted a somewhat curious
following at first. The band might have broken up, unable to find a 34th
rhyme for "Knights Templar", when Vanelli answered an ad in the
RAI noticed that most of its shows were children shows, which featured sweaty old male hosts and leggy, big breasted models in low-cut top and miniskirts. Despite that these were children's shows, and that children were to be found some place on the stage … some place … demographic research revealed these children shows were heavily watched by teenage boys and married men in their 40s. RAI decided to create a show explicitly for teenage boys. And what do teenage boys like? Certainly not big breasted, leggy models. That was traditional children's fare. Teens liked rock bands, of course. The call went out and U Eat B answered. They aced the RAI audition.
Unfortunately, as it turns out, they did not so much ace the audition because of their musical talent but
because Epicurus had a better idea. Cheeky American. He suggested that a show
about a rock band might work better if it featured leggy models. The
producers might have simply thrown out the members of U Eat B, assuming they
The producers thought a moment. That would mean having to interview hundreds of leggy models in tight t-shirts and the dozen or fifty selected to be on the show would need someone to put fruit plates in their dressing room, at inopportune times. Worked for them.
The show was dubbed Bandolino on the Run and featured Eco and the boys as a happy go lucky Italian synth pop band that lived in an old firehouse and spent most of the show running from leggy women on roller-skates and the Red Brigade. Eco wore a toque on the show.
Fame and Famine
Bandolino on the Run was a disaster, mostly because an urban legend quickly circulated that none of the band members could play their own instruments or sing. In an attempt to dispel these rumors, U Eat B signed up for LiveAid. Before an international audience they would sing live and dispel all doubts about their musical talents.
Unfortunately, Bono went long, singing an extended, extended version of U2's "Bad". U Eat B was bumped for some quick shot of starving Ethiopian kids and the conspicuous absence of any pictures of the camera men handing the starving kids a sandwich.
In the face of mounting political instability, calls to
use mustard gas on Bono, and a plunging Italian Lira which saw a record
devaluation where one American dollar was equal to the yearly economic output
Licensed to Illuminate
A 1980 self published demo cassette later made into an EP. It featured the band's anti-NATO campus radio hit "99 Martin Luthers Go By".
As Pedantic As They Wanna Be
1981 album that presaged the metal/funk fusion embodied by groups like Faith No More. It featured the cut "(Party like it's) 1666" and "Foucault's Killing Moon" (which was voted RAI's Song of the Year). However the LP's B side song "Girls just want to have funiculi funicula" was condemned by the Pope for its obscene lyrics and band from airplay on Radio Vatican Two.
Fear of an Italian Planet
In 1982 hubris was made vinyl with the release of the double LP Fear of an Italian Planet. Each LP side featured a mother of one U Eat B's band members ranting why her son should marry and move out of her home but he should only do so when he meets a good Italian girl and should he even think about marrying an Albanian dog woman he should know she'd sleep between her son and his wife to prevent any children being born with tails.
In the words of the Vermicelli Voice's music editor Vespasian Funacello: "Cornuto! Stronzo! Bambino di un putana! Porcini mushrooms! Fiat!" (Which translates roughly as "Listening to four Italian mothers rage about their lazy sons for two hours makes Metal Machine Music seem like pop artistry. Fix it again, Tony."
Rum, Sabellianism Heresy, and the Lash
Released in 1984. A printer error left the final song
"Logical Train of Thought in Vain" off the album's song list. U Eat
B's record company considered "Logical Train of Thought in Vain" the
album's strongest song in terms of radio play appeal, given its perky R&B
beat and lyrics which outlined the most sensible plan ever devised for the
reform of the Italian Lira. The record company was devastated the printer
forgot to list the song on the dust jacket and the record label. The company
initially considered retribution against the printer in the form of "one
phone call" to the A&R guy's cousin's godfather in
U Eat B gained considerable currency among fans and the Italian music press who up until then considered U Eat B just another chest hair and electric accordion band strutting its stuff.
The printer, for his fortuitous mistake, was only kneecapped with a lead pipe.
Start Making Sense
The sound track version of U Eat B's 1985 concert movie of
the same name. Many Italian critics considered Start Making Sense one
of the most brilliant post-war films ever made in
Gnocchi Jacket Required
A 1986 U Eat B tribute album to Genesis (that is The Book Of... and not the British band Genesis).
An ill-fated 1989 comeback album. U Eat B amped up the electric accordion with a lot of distortion and feedback. One song "We Are Not Men, We Are Deconstructionists" made a minor splash on the Italian pop charts (reaching #6 in the summer of '89).
Meat is Postmodernism
A 1994 Best of U Eat B compilation album, released 5 years after their official breakup. The surviving members of U Eat B (DJ Phat Epicurious was killed after he enlisted in the American military and bought it during Desert Storm) went back into the studio to do a remix of their hit "99 Martin Luthers Go By" (re-titled "99 Martin Luthers Go By 1994"). The lyrics were re-written to express the growing skepticism among the gnocchi house crowd regarding EU membership.
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Copyright 2005 Karl Mamer
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