Ciro Perrino

Ciro Perrino was born in Sanremo, Liguria, Italy in 1950.
"I was born in Sanremo, in 1950. What I do remember about the 50s comes from the curiosity of the child I was at that time. Th e War was over for five years, and the signs were still evident, even if that part of Liguria—the region in which I was born and raised—was not so brutally bombed. Th ere was, at that time, a great desire from the people to be born again, and they wanted to forget and to keep going to live a normal life after five years of loss and pain. I was born in a family not wealthy, but hard-working, and I didn’t miss anything. My father was a bank employee, my mother a housewife and my two grandparents from my mother’s side were living with us. I had a pleasant childhood with no

"My introduction to music started very early. When I was three years old I sang hit songs of that period played on the radio. At four, I received my first drum, but I left it in a corner because I was not interested in it. Few years later I would become a drummer! In my family, my grandfather from my mother’s side had been a musician when he was young, and he played eight wind instruments. He came from a very large family where everybody played different instruments. He knew by memory all the operas by Giuseppe Verdi and Giacomo Puccini. He often sang them to me. At school, we had a very good music teacher, and she used to say that I had the ‘la’ (A) best tuned among all the classes. At the time, I had private lessons; drumming came first, then piano. I almost got a diploma with flute and oboe. I continued my study with piano and as an orchestra conductor."

“I used to listen to band music. My grandfather on my father’s side played bass drum in the band of his town. Then I listened to folk and classic music played on the radio. I listened to many operas too. My dentist used to let me listen to Beethoven’s music when I went to his office. There, I discovered
the healing power of music. I remember the first 45rpm I bought. It was ‘Mr. Tambourine Man’ played by The Byrds. After that, my personal collection of 45s and LPs grew to a thousand in a few years. I started with British Rock— Th e Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Who, The Kinks, The Small Faces—and then I turned my attention to the USA. I can say that I owned and listened to all the most important musical works from 1964 till the 70s, even rare pieces too that only few people knew about. Many bands had their first success in Italy (Genesis, VdGG) and then they were discovered in their country of origin. The Rolling Stones’ Aftermath (in particular the track ‘Think’) gave me the very strong desire to dedicate my life to music and become a musician.”

Ciro describes his early experiences in a band, and how Il Sistemi came about.
“My first band played beat [music] and only covers, especially from the British repertoire, and a few things from America. I remember ‘Crimson and Clover’ by Tommy James and the Shondells, ‘Simon Says’ by 1910 Fruitgum Co. and ‘Sookie Sookie’ by Steppenwolf. I started to write my music. What I was writing I kept for myself because it was not suitable to the type of the bands I used to play with. Anyhow, I’ve always felt that one day I would dedicate myself only to my music. In the 1960s, I was still studying at school and I lived with my parents. I was shifting from studying law at the university to studying music and playing with Il Sistema. I think that, just at that time with Il Sistema and then with Celeste, I decided that I would just be a musician.”

“Luciano Cavanna called me to form a band with the organist who played with me in a beat band. We would create a quartet together, with a guitar player who was playing with him. The idea was to play classical music, covers and our compositions. We all agreed, and we soon started to rehearse. The story of Il Sistema lasted two years. We had concerts in clubs and many ideas. We came closer to our first record; but then, all was over. Some CDs and LPs were later released, with some live rehearsal recordings. Soon BTF will release an LP with the last recordings of Il Sistema that I’ve recently
found. We had been invited to play in many festivals, but we never went there. We won the only festival planned in Liguria in 1971, where the most important Italian bands were present.”

Ciro provides some perspective on Italy—and in particular, his native Sanremo.
“Since 1951, Sanremo was a very special place for music, as it was the home of the Sanremo Music Festival. At that time there were about 50,000 residents, and there were hundreds of young music bands! Many important groups of Italian Prog played for their fi rst time in Sanremo. I believe that
British bands had a great importance for the development of Italian ones, but I believe that British bands have taken inspiration from the typical Mediterranean melody too. We must not forget the importance of classical music in the world of progressive rock. Italy has always had a great tradition
of lyricists; for example, many famous Italian librettists worked with Mozart. The text for all opera is written in Italian. Finally, at that time, Italian people didn’t speak the English language very well. I remember that in some groups I played with, they say it was best not to sing in another language because of our bad pronunciation of it.”

“In Italy, the ground was fertile. Th e culture of art and music have always been important. Musical tradition comes from long ago. Guido d’Arezzo invented staff notation more than 1,000 years ago. Claudio Monteverdi has been not only for me, the first real and great musician of the Modern Age,
more than fi ve hundred years ago. Even the creators of baroque music, such as Corelli and Vivaldi in 1600-1700, thought that. All the great composers from Bach onwards took their inspiration from these Italians. And we cannot forget the great period of opera in 1800-1900. The typical suites of prog rock come from the great operas by Verdi, Puccini, Donizzetti and Leoncavallo. For me, Italy was ready to create new masterpieces. And many musicians and composers from the more famous Italian prog bands had a classical background from having studied at a conservatory.”

“I believe my generation had the big chance to see many things happening live, at that moment; for example, to discover a new band from its very first album. I discovered and followed hundreds of artists from their beginnings: The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Doors, Procol Harum, Jimi Hendrix, Cream and then all the progressive rock bands; and labels such as Vertigo and Island, from their first LPs until their last. It was a very special time. All the world was speaking the same musical language. It was amazing!”