Genova 1981-1983 is the first monograph by Italian photographer Antonio Amato. More than hundred images guide us through the Genoa punk scene of those years, telling about the attitude, habits and gestures of the people who were part of and created the scene.
At the end of the Seventies, Genoa was one of the main industrial centers of northern Italy, a city rich in contradictions and tensions, but also full of boredom. The music scene was clear: on one side, the so-called school of songwriters led by Fabrizio De Andrè, Gino Paoli and Bruno Lauzi; on the other, a legion of prog bands (Latte e Miele, New Trolls, Garybaldi) characterized by and intellectual and elitist attitude.
But in those years, Genoa was also home to one of the most important pillars of the Red Brigades (in Italian, Brigate Rosse, often abbreviated BR) that, at least up to the murder of Guido Rossa, trade unionist at Italsider, could count on a dense grey area of consensus, especially among younger people. It was here that in 1974 the BR operated the first real attack at the heart of the State by kidnapping judge Mario Sossi (April 18th) and it was still here that the first murder signed by the five-pointed star took place: the killing of judge Francesco Coco and his bodyguards, on June 8th, 1976.
Again, in Genoa, the great decline of BR started with the murder of blue-collar worker and trade unionist at Italsider Guido Rossa (January 24th, 1979), who had denounced his colleague Francesco Berardi, caught hiding a mimeograph of the terrorist group in a drink vending machine. The killing of Rossa created the first major split between the organization and the grey area of sympathizers and external supporters. However, the death of the Brigades experience in Genoa came only a year later, on March 28th, 1980, with the raid operated by General Carlo Alberto Dalla Chiesa and his men in the hideout in via Fracchia, which beheaded the BR group in town and put an end to the times of terrorism.
But it was not only the Red Brigades phenomenon that connoted a city full of inner turmoil: in the late Seventies and early Eighties, the use of heroin was largely widespread, and the extra-parliamentary left wing that rejected the State and terrorism garnered a lot of success among member of the new generation, who no longer identified themselves with the Communism of their fathers. We were in the middle of the ’77 movement that challenged the Communist Party and the trade unions, the road was a space for clash and guerrilla between communists and fascists, there were shootings everywhere. The parish oratories in some popular areas were among the few places where young people could socialize and great workers’ demonstrations with thousands of participants, that blocked the city for days, followed one another. In the background, the building speculation devoured the hills and the city suburbs.
Genoa, which at the time had over 800 thousand inhabitants (today it does not even get to 600 thousand), was ruled by the Socialist town council led by mayor Fulvio Cerofolini (1975-1985). It was a city double-locked by the state government through a number of big public companies – the so-called state holdings – that proliferated from the west side to the center of the city.
Italsider (today Ilva), Ansaldo and IRI were the cornerstone of this system, into which the workers lived the factory as a place for ideological training and a school of social struggle. The imposing industrial apparatus of Genoa from 30-40 years ago – now very difficult to imagine – also included large private establishments such as Miralanza, Saiwa and Verrina; factories that back then employed thousands of people and that today, in many cases, appear as industrial archeology. Even the shipyards and the harbor, the centerpiece of the city economy, in the late Seventies and early Eighties entered in a slow and inexorable crisis that continues to this day.
It was in such a jagged, tense context, that in Genoa, between 1978 and 1979, that punk made its entrance. As it happened to many girls and boys in the whole peninsula, the teenagers in Genoa made their first acquaintance with this movement thanks to the RAI television programs broadcasted at the end of ’77 on Odeon and Altra Domenica: a real bomb exploding in every Italian home, although with a delayed effect. As Monica Torre, one of the first punks in the city, told me a year ago in an interview for the magazine Sottoterra, “the Genoese scene was founded in 1980 and in 1981 it was already dramatically different: first, each of us was punk on his own account, then we started to meet in the street and recognize each other. In 1985, however, it was already over. And we came back to being punk on our owns”. Four or five years, when everything happened in Genoa – even if there are practically no testimonies of that scene which was so alive, rich and throbbing, made of bands, venues and even “dedicated” clubs as the Psycho Club in vico Carmangola. The only official Genoese punk record released at that time was the 45s titled Rosa Shocking by Dirty Actions, published in February 1980 by Cramps Records for the series Rock 80. And Dirty Actions were also the most important band of the first wave of Genoese punk, a period that we could circumscribe to the years 1979 to 1982.
The ones that committed to punk in that first confused historical phase were absolutely influenced by what came from America and England – nihilism, art schools, Situationism – at the same time, however, they brought with them the ideological experience (although non-political) acquired within the Movement, the working Autonomy, anarchism and squats. Many Genoese punks grew up in the realm of the extra-parliamentary left wing, and it was when they decided to leave politics for this new subculture that the first large fractures (in some cases very violent) with their former fellows begun. Just to be clear, the first Genoese punks were not accepted nor by their companions or by the fascists. And by the police, who did not take kindly to these guys who, in terms of outfits and hairstyles, were absolute aliens; not a day passed without officers stopping and frisking them. Also because, as told by Fabrizio “Fritz” Barile, one of the “historical” member of the Genoese and Italian punk movement, skinhead for over 30 years and record collector, “despite the supposed end of terrorism, at the beginning of the Eighties the social situation in the city was still tense. The bullets were still there and the police did not understand who the punk were and which kind of threat they could pose. So they tormented us .”
The meeting points were piazza De Ferrari, the heart of the city center, very close to the alleys, and piazza della Vittoria, in front of Brignole station, where also metalheads and rockers of all sorts used to gather. Also the Baltimora Gardens – renamed in those years Plastic Gardens – meeting place for drug addicts and stragglers, were a reference point of the scene. Disco Club in via San Vincenzo was the place where to buy records, the most important fanzines of that season were produced: Le Silure D’europe born at the end of ’79 among the Dirty Actions gang and Contrattacco, conceived by the Genoese anarcho-punks to challenge the 1984 War Navy exhibition. The concerts, instead, apart some events held around the city (piazza Matteotti, Teatro Massimo of Sampierdarena or Palasport) took place at Panteca in Principe, Galaxy in via Cecchi and especially at Psycho Club in vico Carmangola, founded by Totò Miggiano in 1980 and closed ten years later; all international punk and new wave icons popped in there, together with all the Genoese alternative scene.
A pit of not even 200 square meters, surrounded by rats, thieves and prostitutes, where virtually all of the punk bands of the city performed. Bands that, faithful to the “no future” slogan, were born and died within a few days, leaving very few traces of their passage. In addition to the aforementioned Dirty Actions, which still remain the most important band of that historical period, there were bands that mixed synthetic and new wave sounds as Scortilla, the eclectic Pleis De Girmi, Alan Lads, the dissonant Establishment, Six Ties, Total Chaos from Savona but immediately absorbed within the Genoese scene, the electronic Kopf Kramps, V5L and Metalbody, the punk-rocker Local Heroes, Tanks and Infexion and a band called Karmelitany Stanky. Amost all of them played on the stage of the festival Ma Che Colpa Abbiamo Noi organized on October 24th and 25th, 1980 at Sala Chiamata in the harbour, and the prize for the most incredible performance of the festival – which many consider one of the peaks of the Genoese punk scene – was won by Dirty Actions. Somebody tells the story, that the singer Johnny Grieco, naked and wearing only a leather jacket, ended the concert by beating a cow’s brain with a stick.
A point of no return for a scene that, from that winter on, started to shed its skin and change radically. Within a year and a half, many of these bands were finished , giving way to a new generation of girls and boys born after 1962 (five or six years younger than their older siblings, who christened the Genovese scene in the late Seventies). It is from that moment on, that we witnessed the birth of the hardcore and the skin scenes, which between ’82 and ’85 reached their peak with bands like Crapping Dogs, reborn from the ashes of the Establishment, Disarmo, Tribù Libera, Nans, Herberts, Uboot, Gangland, Fronte del Porto and Contrattacco.
The first fractions between skinheads and anarchist punks, a current that in Genoa found quite fertile ground, appeared. After Radio Blue in Camogli on the east side of Genoa, which was perhaps the first proper space for the punk scene, the independent radios started to transmit the ‘new rock’ and among the Genoese pioneering broadcasters we must undoubtedly mention Radio Valpolcevera Sound and Radio Cosmo 78, which were home to some punk and new wave music programs. The last throw of the dice of the Genovese scene was undoubtedly the concert by Clash at Palasport on September 10th, 1984. For Genoa, however, it was a big event, complete with a stage take over by the audience. A few hours before the concert, Joe Strummer and Paul Simonon were also spotted wandering around the city on a long tour fed by alcohol and drugs in the alleys of the old town. The Genoese punk-hc scene – like the British and American ones – was by then at a new turning point.
Diego Curcio is an author who lives and works in Italy.
Antonio Amato, Genova 1981–1983
Published by Yard Press