Premiata Forneria Marconi (PFM)
(translation: Award-winning Marconi Bakery
) is an Italian progressive rock band. They were the first Italian group to have success abroad, entering both the British and American charts. Between 1973 and 1977 they released five albums with English lyrics. They also had several successful European and American tours, playing at the popular Reading Festival in England and on a very popular national television programme in the U.S.A.PFM introduced new sounds, such as the synthesizer, to the Italian musical world. They were also among the first to combine symphonic classical and traditional Italian musical influences in a pop music context. Such innovations and their longevity have made them among the most important bands in the international Progressive rock genre.1966–1970The original core members of PFM (Mussida, Di Cioccio, Premoli, and Piazza) came together in the mid 1960's while playing together as backup musicians for many different Italian pop, rock and folk singers such as Lucio Battisti, Mina, Adriano Celentano and Fabrizio De André. They appeared on many recordings for other artists during this period and quickly established themselves as top players on the Italian rock and pop scene. Mussida, Premoli, Piazza and Di Cioccio then formed the group "I quelli" (English translation "Them", or "Those Guys") in 1968. I quelli released one album and some successful Italian singles.Premiata Forneria Marconi was officially formed in Milan in 1970 when the members of I quelli met Mauro Pagani from the group Dalton. Pagani helped the group expand their sound to include violin and flute. By this time they were already highly experienced musicians and easily able to play the kind of complex progressive heavy rock played by the leading English and American groups. Their early live performances included covers by groups such as King Crimson and Jethro Tull. Other early influences included Chicago, Ekseption, and The Flock.They had a long name, as Italian progressive bands tended to have back then, and so were usually referred to as "La Premiata", and later "PFM". After rejecting Isotta-Fraschini (an Italian car maker) the group finally settled on Pagani's suggestion, "Forneria Marconi" (meaning "Marconi Bakery"), borrowed from the sign of a shop in the small town of Chiari, near Brescia. However, record producer and friend Alessandro Colombini suggested the name was not strong enough, so the title "Premiata" (award-winning) was added. Some objected that "Premiata Forneria Marconi" was too long a name, but the group's philosophy stated that the more difficult to remember a band's name, the more difficult to forget it.
Italian and international success (1971–1975)
In June 1971, PFM were invited at the first "Festival d'Avanguardia e Nuove Tendenze" in Viareggio, which they won, along with Osanna and Mia Martini. Later in 1971 the group signed with the Numero Uno division of RCA Records in Italy, and released their first single, "Impressioni di settembre"/"La carrozza di Hans". It was a success and received wide recognition as the first Italian hit record to feature the sound of an electronic music synthesizer. Both songs are still regularly performed by the group. Flavio Premoli also did a special demonstration of the capabilities of the Minimoog during a PFM television performance broadcast by RAI.In early 1972, PFM released their first album, Storia di un minuto
. The album topped the Italian charts in its first week and was the first by an Italian rock group to achieve this kind of success. It contained re-recorded versions of songs from the first single, as well as "È Festa" and "Dove... Quando..." which continue to be essential parts of their live concerts.Later in 1972 saw the release of their second LP, Per un amico
. This album opened the way to broader audience recognition all across Europe. It featured a more sophisticated 16-track production and allowed the group to refine their Italian progressive rock sound.PFM came to the attention of Greg Lake of Emerson, Lake & Palmer while ELP was on an Italian tour and PFM were signed to Manticore Records. The first album on Manticore, Photos of Ghosts
was released all across Europe, Japan, and North America and was first time an Italian rock band found success in foreign markets. It was also one of the first recordings by a European rock group to have chart success in the USA, peaking at No. 180 on the Billboard 200 albums chart in November 1973. The album contained mostly re-recordings of songs from Per un amico
in English. New lyrics (not translations) were written by former King Crimson member Peter Sinfield, who helped produce the new recording and mixing at Advision Studios in London. Sinfield also suggested that the band's name be abbreviated to PFM starting with this album. Songs included "Celebration", (a remake of "È Festa") which received considerable airplay on album-oriented rock stations in the U.S.A and Canada.Following the release of Photos of Ghosts
bass player Giorgio Piazza left the group, being replaced by Patrick Djivas, who has remained with the group ever since. The next PFM album release in Italy was L'isola di niente
in 1974. Highlights of the album include "Dolcissima Maria" (English title: "Just Look Away") and the instrumental "Via Lumiere" (English title: "Have Your Cake and Beat It".) Again a similar English language version of the album was released by Manticore as The World Became the World
. The English album included another re-recording of "Impressioni di settembre" as the title track. This was their last collaboration with Peter Sinfield, as the group were not entirely pleased with the content of his English lyrics.On the 1974 U.S. tour PFM played concerts with Little Feat, The Beach Boys, The Allman Brothers Band, Aerosmith, ZZ Top, and Peter Frampton. They were a victim of theft just before the concert with Santana on July 25 at the Paramount Theatre in Seattle. Among the loot: a 1969 Gibson Les Paul and a Gibson ES-335 (with three pickups in which was engraved "Altaloma") as well as two bass guitars.Concerts were recorded in Cleveland, Ohio and Toronto, Canada (Convocation Hall). These recordings were released in the U.S. as PFM's final album for Manticore, titled, Cook
. The album spent 8 weeks on the Billboard 200 chart, and peaked at No. 154 in January 1975. The same recordings were used with different artwork for the next European album titled Live in USA
. PFM reached their biggest American audience when they appeared on NBC's Midnight Special program on February 21, 1975. Their nationally televised performance included "Celebration" and the instrumental "Alta Loma Nine Till Five".
The lack of a strong lead vocalist had always been considered PFM's biggest liability so, for this reason, they enrolled Bernardo Lanzetti, who was previously with the group Acqua Fragile. While a college student Lanzetti had lived in Austin, Texas for a few years. But most importantly he had a powerful and distinctive voice and could speak fluent English.The first release by the six-piece band was Chocolate Kings
in 1975. Featuring a harder rock sound, it had modest success at home but was their least popular album in Italy so far. The same album was released with different cover art by Manticore in the U.K. and by Asylum Records in the U.S. The controversial U.S./U.K. cover showed a chocolate bar in a partially peeled Stars and Stripes wrapper on the front, along with the crumpled and discarded wrapper on the back. PFM appeared on the BBC television show The Old Grey Whistle Test in 1976 performing the title track to the album. The album reached the U.K. Top 20 but was less successful internationally. Mauro Pagani left the group following Chocolate Kings
to pursue a solo career.Lanzetti also appeared on Jet Lag
(1977), an album highly influenced by the Jazz-fusion movement which was recorded in Los Angeles. This was their last album with English lyrics and their last attempt to reach the international progressive rock audience. It was also their last album released in the U.S., also on Asylum. Violinist Gregory Bloch, previously with the group It's a Beautiful Day, replaced Mauro Pagani and recorded one album.For Passpartù
(1978) PFM added 2 new percussion players and shifted stylistic direction once again. The album contains seven songs in Italian and one instrumental, characterized by an international pop music style; an early example of what today is known as "Worldbeat". The album contains mostly acoustic guitar (rather than electric) and draws from Italian folk and Latin music as well as Jazz-Pop styles, somewhat like Steely Dan. This was the last album to feature Lanzetti, who then left to pursue a solo career.
In 1979, PFM once again played as the backup group for Fabrizio De André. The group contributed new arrangements for De André's songs and the ensemble toured Italy to packed concert halls. De André and PFM released two highly successful albums during this period, entitled In Concerto - Arrangiamenti PFM
(1979), and In Concerto - Arrangiamenti PFM, Volume 2
(1980).During the 1980s PFM enjoyed continued success at home while concentrating on commercial rock music for the mainstream Italian audience. In 1980 Flavio Premoli left the group and built a successful career writing and performing music for Italian films and television. Multi-instrumentalist Lucio Fabbri joined adding skills on violin, keyboards, and rhythm guitar. Albums during this period were Suonare Suonare
(1980), Come ti va in riva alla città
(1981), and PFM? PFM!
(1984). The title track of their 1987 album Miss Baker
was written in honor of the American dancer Josephine Baker. Though PFM stopped performing in 1987 they never officially broke up.
Recent recordings by the group have successfully integrated their mainstream Italian and Progressive rock styles. In 1997 Flavio Premoli reunited with three other core members (DiCioccio, Djivas, Mussida) and released the comeback album Ulisse
. Though not as progressive as some of their 1970s work it has been widely regarded by fans. The success of Ulisse
helped to bring PFM back to the attention of the international Progressive rock audience. Ulisse
(Italian for Odysseus
) is a Song cycle based on the Odyssey
legend by Homer, with the contributions of noted Italian lyricist Vincenzo Incenzo. A 2 disc live album www.pfmpfm.it
was recorded with two additional musicians on their sellout Italian tour the next year.Serendipity
(2001) is strong studio collection of new songs in Italian, though this time there was no concept linking the songs. Live In Japan 2002
was released in both a 2 CD and DVD edition. The 2 CD edition contains 2 new studio tracks including a collaboration with Peter Hammill of Van der Graaf Generator. Hammill wrote lyrics and sings on the group's first recording in English since 1977, titled Sea of Memory
.Piazza del Campo
(2005) was released in both a single CD and CD+DVD edition. It captures PFM's performance with the one time only return of Mauro Pagani, filmed outdoors in the title's main square of Siena. Italian rock star Piero Pelù also appears on the live DVD.Due to health concerns keyboard player Flavio Premoli left the group for a second time in early 2005. PFM then returned to the USA for the first time since 1977 to play the Progressive Arts Showcase at Bethlehem, Pennsylvania on July 8, 2005. This concert was held in conjunction with the 7th annual NEARfest Progressive Rock event. Other shows on this tour included dates in Canada, Brazil, Mexico, Panama, and Venezuela. Premoli's last work with the group, Dracula
, was released late in the year. It is an original Rock opera based on the Dracula legend.Stati di Immaginazione
(2006) is an entirely instrumental effort and has an accompanying DVD of video images made for each song. As is typical for PFM, the music alternates serene and calming sections of acoustic guitar with blistering balls to the wall rock. The video content ranges from fantasy style vignettes made with computer graphics to archival black and white historic films. PFM was the first confirmed act for the NEARfest 2009 festival which was held June 20–21.In 2010 PFM released their new album A.D. 2010 La Buona Novella
, a reworking of the Fabrizio de Andre album La Buona Novella. The group included sections of their own music within the original De Andre songs, often adding significant instrumental passages. The album differs in style to the original, sounding more like a progressive rock record. Unlike their previous album, Stati di Immaginazione
, this album was not an instrumental album and featured vocals, the first PFM studio recording to do so since 2005's Dracula
.In 2011 PFM were scheduled to play live in London, giving their first concert in Britain in a number of years, but the concert was cancelled. The group, however, are continuing to perform across Italy where their live performances remain popular. In the same year PFM also performed at the San Remo Festival, duetting with Roberto Vecchioni. The duet hinted at further collaboration in the future, a rumour that the group did nothing to discourage, however no material has been released thus far. This was the second appearance by the band at the festival, having previously performed in 2009. 2011 also saw the group release Amico Faber
, a box set containing the live album PFM canta De Andre
and A.D. 2010 - La buona novella
, as well as a 16 page booklet, dedicated to Fabrizio de Andre. As with most PFM releases, the album is not widely available outside Italy. The album I Quelli
, the first release of the band of the same name that contained many of the members of the original PFM lineup, was also re-released in Italy in 2011.