Friday, 21 May 2021

LINER NOTES: THE WONDERFUL AND FRIGHTENING WORLD OF THE FALL - VOLUME 2 [1984-88]




 

    1.     Lay of the Land
    2.     2 x 4
    3.     C.R.E.E.P.
    4.     Slang King
    5.     Craigness
    6.     Bombast
    7.     Barmy
    8.     Gut of the Quantifier
    9.     My New House
    10. Cruiser’s Creek [Peel Session]
    11. R.O.D.
    12. Dktr. Faustus
    13. Shoulder Pads #1
    14. Living Too Late
    15. Terry Waite Sez
    16. Riddler
    17. Entitled
    18. There’s a Ghost in My House
    19. Frenz
    20. Athlete Cured
    21. Guest Informant
    22. Big New Prinz


For anyone unknowing who wishes to familiarise themselves with The Fall’s ‘second phase’, The Wonderful and Frightening World of… is a good place to start. If you decide to follow this line of enquiry then I advise you pick up the version I did in 1994, entitled Escape Route from the Wonderful and Frightening World of The Fall, which includes the tunes found on the Call for Escape Route EP and the singles C.R.E.E.P. and Oh! Brother. This will be the edition you will most likely encounter anyhow: on Spotify, on CD or on the repackaged double LP that came out in 2015. Having said all that, I have included just one track on this compilation that wasn’t featured on the original  C.R.E.E.P.
The reason why this album is a good place to start is not because it’s one of The Fall’s best – although I wouldn’t take you to task if you decided that it was – but because, in journalistic parlance, it might be their most accessible. This can be attributed, at least in part, to the fact that Brix Smith was by now a fully paid-up member of the band. Slang King, C.R.E.E.P, Lay of the Land and 2 x 4 are all her tunes, as is the breezily tuneful Disney’s Dream Debased. It’s doubtful she had a hand in Craigness, which points the way towards the slow-tempo melancholy found Living Too Late and Frenz. In any case, it is Steve Hanley’s bass that tends to predominate on a lot of these songs regardless of who wrote it, which is not always clear anyway.
 



The Fall’s next album – 1985’s This Nation’s Saving Grace – is a very different proposition. The record is at once more repetitive, the sound more direct. It is as if Brix had taken the time to go over older material, or had been studying Craig Scanlon, and suddenly got that The Fall were almost a kind of funk band and as tight a group as a simile like that demands.
There had also been another change in personnel. Paul Hanley, who as well as playing drums had contributed the bouncy keys on The Wonderful and Frightening World of… , had departed, and ‘he of classical music training’ Simon Rogers had been drafted in on bass to cover for Steve Hanley, who was on a sabbatical. By the time Steve returned to the fold most of This Nation’s Saving Grace had been written, although there was still time for him to contribute one of its best tracks: Bombast. (Check out the footage on YouTube of them playing it at the 1985 W.O.M.A.D. Festival.) If pushed, I’d say that This Nation’s Saving Grace is The Fall’s strongest work, or certainly their most consistent. Again, more recent iterations include the singles issued the same year, Cruiser’s Creek being the most vital. (The Peel Session is better but can only be found on The Complete Peel Sessions 1978–2004.)
 
Released in 1986, Bend Sinister was the group’s first album to be released on compact disc. Like the cassette, which I purchased from Notting Hill Record & Tape Exchange in 1993, the CD included two tracks that weren’t on the LP: Living Too Late and Auto-Tech Pilot. The former was a single in its own right whereas the latter appeared on the B-side to Mr. Pharmacist. (The cassette also appended a live recording of City Hobgoblins – renamed Town And Country Hobgoblins to distinguish it from the 1980 original.) Living Too Late is a particularly strong tune. Written from the perspective of a jaded, middle-aged man, I’d always assumed it was autobiographical, but according to Smith it wasn’t.
It became customary in interviews for Mark E Smith to be critical of Bend Sinister and of John Leckie's production in particular. Music journalists tended to agree, although nowadays you’ll struggle to find a bad word said against it. Yet Bend Sinister might be The Fall's strangest record. It is at once more convoluted and less direct than its predecessor, and Smith's vocals more nuanced and less prevalent. The tracks of greater duration bear this out – Gross Chapel - British Grenadiers, Bournemouth Runner and Riddler! – and the opening track too: the oppressive R.O.D.. On the other hand,  Dktr. Faustus is cut from the same cloth as Cruiser’s Creek, albeit with a Brechtian twist, while Shoulder Pads wouldn’t feel out of place on The Wonderful and Frightening World of… .
The Fall followed up Bend Sinister with three singles, none of which were indicative of what came before or immediately after. Hey! Luciani sounds like The Fall masquerading as a C86 band, and isn’t great, but the B-side, entitled Entitled, is a very pretty tune. A solid cover of R. Dean Taylor’s There's a Ghost in My House came next, apparently on the recommendation of someone working in A&R at Beggar’s Banquet (see Steve Hanley’s excellent book The Big Midweek). Finally, Hit the North, which sounds like an outtake from 1990's Extricate.
 



The Fall’s tenth studio album, The Frenz Experiment, in some ways feels like a step backwards. It starts promisingly enough with the solemn Frenz, wherein Smith claims to have no more than five friends. Thereafter, Carry Bag Man and Get a Hotel are Fall-by-numbers. The cover of Victoria by the Kinks is pretty good, and then Athlete Cured, which borrows, quite blatantly, from Tonight I'm Gonna Rock You Tonight by Spinal Tap (much to Simon Rogers' horror). Athlete Cured tells of a German athletic star who was continually ill. Turns out his brother, Gert, is responsible: he’s been parking his Volkswagen, at the end of the day, willy-nilly in the driveway, usually the wrong way round, so that the exhaust fumes would flow upwards right through the open windows of the athletic star's upstairs bedroom. Problem solved, Gert patriotically volunteers to be sent on a labour beautification course of the countryside north-west of Dresden. And never seen again.
Simon Rogers, who was by now producing alongside Grant Showbiz, needn't have fretted because Athlete Cured is the best track on the album. Why Guest Informant was left off the LP (it features on the CD and cassette) is mystifying. Instead, we get seven whole minutes of Bremen Nacht (The ‘alternative’ version comes in at over nine, so perhaps we get off lightly) and the dirge that is Oswald Defence Lawyer.
 
I’ve never bothered with I Am Kurious Oranj on account of the fact that it was the soundtrack to the accompanying ballet, I am Curious, Orange, first and an album by The Fall second. Potentially my loss. You don’t get away with compiling Fall compilations without including New Big Prinz, so I’ve tacked on at the end, just to show it’s appreciated.


[This compilation can be listened to here.]

Thursday, 1 April 2021

THE SARTORIAL ELEGANCE OF SERIE A: VICENZA CALCIO, 1995-97






Vicenza Calcio was founded in 1902 by Professor Tito Buy and Antonio Libero Scarpa, the dean and gymnastics teacher at the Liceo Scientifico Paolo Lioy. Known then as Associazione Del Calcio In Vicenza (abbreviated as ACIVI), they played in red and white stripes from the off. The club’s coat-of-arms consisted of a (Swiss) shield encompassing a white cross on the left – in recognition of the city’s heraldry – and a pallet of red and white stripes to the right, with a white ‘chief’ bearing the script A.C. VICENZA in red. Like most teams in Italy, they were confined to playing provincially; only clubs from Piedmont, Liguria and Lombardy were eligible to contend Italy’s Prima Categoria, while Vicenza competed in the Terza Categoria Veneto Championship.
In 1908, ACIVI joined up with a team called Olympia and changed their name, albeit inappreciably, to Associazione Del Calcio Di Vicenza. At around the same time the FIGC restructured the Prima Categoria to the detriment of the clubs that fielded non-Italian nationals. They did this by organising two separate competitions: an Italian Championship in which only Italian players could compete, and a secondary Federal Championship open to all (assuming Italian residency). Genoa, Torino and Milan consequently boycotted both tournaments, won by Pro Vercelli and Juventus respectively.
The following season the dissenting associations – including Pro Vercelli – chose a different tack, withdrawing from only the Italian Championship in an attempt to legitimise the Federal one. Meanwhile, the FIGC looked to fill the void. As winners of 1907/08’s Terza Categoria, Vicenza was invited to take part in the Italian championship (won by Juventus) while second placed Venezia was granted entry into the Federal event (won by Pro Vercelli). Both Venetian teams proved to be out of their depth.
In 1909 the FIGC conceded and recognised the Federal Championship as the legitimate title (meaning that Pro Vercelli was crowned Campioni d'Italia for a consecutive season). The return to a single-league format in 1909/10 meant there was no room for clubs outside of Italy’s ‘industrial triangle’. Instead, Vicenza, Venezia and Padova were allocated their own Seconda Categoria.
The pressure remained to expand Italian football beyond its traditional borders, so in 1910/11 a separate Venetian-Emilian Prima Catergoria was established, comprising Hellas Verona, Venezia, Bologna and Vicenza. The winner of this division would then face the winner of the Northwestern league to determine the overall champion. Vicenza qualified for the final, which they lost to Pro Vercelli 1-5 on aggregate.
Over the succeeding years the championship was expanded and tweaked to accommodate teams from the peninsula. Vincenza did all right, coming top of their section in 1913 and 1914, before the First World War happened, arresting their progress.
 
By 1923 Vicenza was playing in Group C of the third division. In 1928 they merged with another local team (Circolo Cotonificio Rossi) and renamed themselves Associazione Calcio Vicenza, sporting white shirts with a horizontal red band around the middle – or vice versa – paired with red shorts and socks. In 1932 they were made to change their name to Associazione Fascista Calcio Vicenza and removed the red band from the jerseys, leaving them white.
A period of recovery ensued culminating in promotion to Serie B in 1939/40 and Serie A in 1941/42. After the Second World War the club reverted to its previous name and to wearing their traditional red and white stripes. In 1948 Vicenza dropped back into Serie B, embracing mediocrity and struggling financially. Then in 1953 the textile firm Lanerossi bought the club out and rechristened it Associazione Calcio Lanerossi Vicenza. More than a mere sponsorship, the team became part of the Lanerossi business, to the extent that it even took on the company logo – a knotted letter R. The partnership got off to a flying start and within two seasons Vicenza were back in Serie A, where they would remain for the next twenty years.


[Lanerossi Vicenza, 1976/77]

Lanerossi Vicenza was relegated in 1975. After narrowly avoiding a successive relegation in 1976, new coach Giovanni Fabbri had the idea of redeploying the promising young right-winger Paulo Rossi as a centre-forward. The move reaped immediate rewards. Rossi’s 21 goals sent the club back into the Italian first division, winning Serie B in the process, with the knotted R coloured blue, enlivening what might have otherwise been an uninspiring shirt.
Vincenza’s return to top flight exceeded expectations. They finished the season in second place with Paulo Rossi scoring 24 times, but their success was to be short-lived. The next season Lanerossi was relegated and by 1981 were back playing in Serie C.
The decade that followed was a volatile one: victory in the Serie C Cup, promotion to Serie B, a revoked promotion to Serie A, relegation back into Serie C, the professional debut of Roberto Baggio, and a rotating cast of presidents. Lanerossi sold their stake in the company in 1989 and the club re-registered itself Vicenza Calcio. A new badge was commissioned, designed by Antonio Toni Vedù, incorporating a white (French) shield with a red border encapsulating a double-lined, red V with a horizontal break on one side delineating a white cross. The words VICENZA CALCIO 1902 were printed above in red.
After a few false starts, Vicenza got their act together and was promoted into Serie B in 1993 and Serie A in 1995. In 1997 they won the Coppa Italia and in ‘98 made it to the semi-finals of the European Cup Winners’ Cup, losing narrowly to the eventual winners, Chelsea.

From 1992 to 1995, Vicenza’s kit was made by Virma and sponsored by men’s clothing manufacturer Pal Zileri. Ahead of their return to Serie A they hooked with sports’ firm Biemme (Pal Zileri remained as commercial sponsor). The new shirt was barely discernible from the last: the collar and pop-stud neck opening were the same, as was the dye-sublimated crest, and both firms employed a thinner stripe, although not as narrow thin as in the club’s very early days. Biemme’s shirt was, however micropatterned. Vicenza finished the season in ninth place.
In 1996, Biemme made a few subtle, but significant, alterations. First, they widened the stripes, which meant that the manufacturer’s logo and the club’s badge were now set against a white background. Second, the trim around the collar and cuffs was changed from a motif based upon Biemme’s insignia to something resembling a series of comets travelling in the same direction. Finally, Vicenza’s badge was embroidered and given a yellow border. Overall, the shirt was an improvement on the last. That it was also the top in which Vicenza won the Coppa Italia is fortuitous.
 



In 1997 Lotto succeeded Biemme as supplier. The most striking disparity between the new shirt and the last was the addition of the coccarda. Other modifications included a less intricate micropattern, an elasticated collar and neckline, and more conventional trim. What really sets the two jerseys apart, though, are the emblems of the companies that made them. Biemme don’t use it anymore but back then it amounted to a stylised letter B filled in with the colours of the Italian tricolour, framed within a white square with rounded corners. Lotto’s logo was, and is, bland by comparison.

Tuesday, 16 March 2021

LINER NOTES: THE WONDERFUL AND FRIGHTENING WORLD OF THE FALL - VOLUME 1 [1978-83]

 




1.     Various Times
2.     A Figure Walks
3.     Printhead
4.     Flat of Angles
5.     Fiery Jack
6.     New Face in Hell
7.     The NWRA
8.     Fit and Working Again
9.     Leave the Capitol
10.   Lie Dream of a Casino Soul
11.   Fantastic Life
12.   Jawbone and the Air-Rifle
13.   Winter (Hostel-Maxi)
14.   Just Step S’ways
15.   Who Makes the Nazis? [Peel Session]
16.   I’m Into C.B.
17.   Hard Life in Country
18.   The Man Whose Head Expanded
19.   Wings
20.   Eat Y’self Fitter
21.   Hotel Bloedel
22.   I Feel Voxish


I discovered The Fall by way of BBC Radio 1, broadcasting live from Sheffield Sound City, in April 1993. The track that caught my ear was Glam Racket, and I remember waiting for the actual singing to kick in, which it never did. I’d spent the previous five years listening exclusively to hip hop so wasn’t in awe of this, but I was intrigued.
Some months later I made an acquaintance with a guy who owned the album Extricate. I shall not discuss this revelation in any detail here, suffice to say that I soon began to amass Fall records at quite a rate. I turned my attention first to the tapes that immediately proceeded it: Shift-Work, Code: Selfish and The Infotainment Scan. Thereafter I worked backwards: The Frenz Experiment, Bend Sinister, The Wonderful and Frightening World Of... and This Nation’s Saving Grace (disregarding I Am Kurious Oranj). I purchased Middle Class Revolt on its release in May ’94 and also picked up copies of Live at the Witch Trials, Hip Priest and Kamerads and a 12” version of the single Hey! Luciani.
A small alteration of the past can turn time into space. If I hadn’t bought Live at the Witch Trials I would have doubtless continued with my excavation of The Fall’s back catalogue. As it was, the crisp production that permeates the group’s first LP did not appeal, and I desisted. This was a mistake because The Fall’s early ‘80s output is equal to their best – maybe is their best.
It was after being gifted The Complete Peel Sessions 1978–2004 for my 30th birthday that my enthusiasm for The Fall was revitalised. Deprived of the means by which to play them, I initially set about replacing my existing cassettes with CDs. The reason why I was buying CDs as opposed to records was to enable the transfer of content onto an MP3 player by way of a computer. My aim was not to upload whole albums but to assemble an anthology. When it came to it, the playlist I devised was too long, and rather than edit it down I divided it into two. By the time I’d added Perverted by Language, Grotesque (After the Gramme), Slates and Hex Enduction Hour to my collection I was faced with the same problem, and so ended up splitting it three ways.
 
Live at the Witch Trials is not a bad record but neither is it indicative of the canon. Within the context of post-punk, there’s not much that sets it apart musically from what was going on at that time. Mark E Smith’s verse obviously raises an eyebrow, but this is not enough – The Fall are more than merely Smith’s vocal intonation.
I like my anthologies to chart a band’s progress from its beginnings, and to do so chronologically. Fortunately, The Fall put out two records prior to Witch Trials: the EP Bingo-Master's Break-Out! in August 1978 and the single It's the New Thing a few months after. Among of all this is the first indicator of a distinctive sound that is unmistakably The Fall, and it is the B-side to the single, entitled Various Times.
The lo-fi production manifest on Various Times resurfaces on The Fall’s second album, Dragnet. Dragnet sees Mark E Smith literally finding his voice, but there are significant developments throughout. A Figure Walks offers particular surprises: the drums, played by Mike Leigh, are looser than we would come to expect – tom-toms and crashing cymbals – and the guitar is let off on an unusually long and psychedelic leash. Printhead is less transgressive, although no worse for it, whereas Flat of Angles is comprised of odd, jerky rhythms fused with guitar licks reminiscent of the Faces.
The Fall followed Dragnet with four singles – Rowche Rumble, Fiery Jack, How I Wrote ‘Elastic Man’ and Totally Wired – all released within a year of each other. How I Wrote ‘Elastic Man’ and Totally Wired are overrated; Rowche Rumble and Fiery Jack are not. Only Fiery Jack features here, providing a satisfying bridge between Flat of Angles and New Face in Hell.




Grotesque (After the Gramme) isn’t The Fall’s best album, yet it accomplishes much. First, on The NWRA we’re introduced to the ‘song within a song’ format that would be repeated on tracks such as Middle Mass, Jawbone and the Air-Rifle and The Man Whose Head Expanded. “Shift,” exclaims Smith, and the group starts to play something else entirely before returning to the original structure a minute or so later.
Second, on New Face in Hell, Mark E Smith hones his talent for telling stories, depicting the plight of an unfortunate ‘wireless enthusiast’ framed for the murder of his neighbour. (Smith would apply this third-person narrative technique only sporadically – Spectre Vs Rector, Jawbone and the Air-Rifle, Wings – and seemed to give up on it entirely after 1988’s Athlete Cured.)
In 1981 The Fall released the EP Slates, which in many respects carries on where Grotesque left off. At same time, it’s more accessible. Where previously repetition had been the order of the day, Fit and Working Again and Leave the Capitol, for want of a better word, rock. The single Lie Dream of a Casino Soul moves in the same direction, demonstrating that The Fall developed a pop sensibility way before Brix came along, while the B-side, Fantastic Life, wouldn’t feel out of place on either The Wonderful and Frightening World Of... or This Nation’s Saving Grace.
 
The received wisdom is that Hex Enduction Hour is The Fall’s best work, but for me its highlight is the track least typical of it: Just Step S’ways.
 The strength of this tune is derived in part from the pulsating dual-drummer line-up of Karl Burns and Paul Hanley, as well as the riff itself. It’s also very funny. Hex is a gloomy record generally, yet it’s not without humour, which is something Mark E Smith isn’t always given credit for.
In any case, the decision I was faced with when putting this playlist together was not which tracks to include but which versions – the original takes or the Peel sessions? While either version of Winter will do – I’ve gone with the abbreviated Hostel-Maxi – the Peel rendition of Who Makes the Nazis? probably edges it. [Hip Priest will be conspicuous by its absence to anyone familiar with The Fall, its omission based upon the fact that I need to be in the mood for it.]
I’m into C.B.! and Hard Life in Country appear on Hip Priest and Kamerads, which is a great compilation for anyone tying up loose ends. I’m into C.B.! is the B-side to the single Look, Know, a song that had been recorded in Iceland along with a few others that ended up on Hex, but it didn’t make the cut. Hard Life in Country is taken from the album Room to Live, which I do not have, and describes a parochial nightmare.
 



The Man Whose Head Expanded was released in 1983. Another single, Kicker Conspiracy, ensued, which wasn’t as good (file alongside How I Wrote ‘Elastic Man’ and Totally Wired). The Man Whose Head Expanded is the primary exponent of the ‘song within a song’ scheme, giving way to one of Scanlon/Hanley’s finest grooves. The B-side to Kicker Conspiracy is even better. Everything about Wings is perfect: the drums, the bassline, the guitar, Mark’s enunciation, the subject, the video. If the group had seen fit to break with tradition and include these two tunes on their forthcoming LP then Perverted by Language would be my favourite Fall album (although they were included on the remastered, expanded editions).
With or without them, whether this record constitutes The Fall’s first phase is debatable. Brix, who joined the band that year, would certainly have an effect on The Fall sound but most of the album had been recorded before her impact could be felt (Hotel Bloedel being the obvious, and gratifying, exception). Eat Y’self Fitter is classic, repetitive Fall, whereas I Feel Voxish follows in the vein of up-tempo grooves like Leave the Capitol and Just Step S’ways. Conversely, there’s a heavier sound to the tracks Smile and Tempo House that seems to anticipate what was to come.


[This compilation can be listened to here.]

Tuesday, 2 March 2021

THE SARTORIAL ELEGANCE OF SERIE A: A.C. MILAN, 1984/85







Anyone who attended a British school during the 1980s might recall the hell that was a nylon football shirt. Those who don’t will have worn jerseys made of polyester – or rather, polyester and cotton mixed. If you are Italian then your memories are more than likely made of acrylic. I base this assumption on the fact that school sportswear, of the sort you used to buy from department stores, reflected what actual sportspeople wore. This was certainly true in England, although I couldn’t honestly say whether the same applied in Italy. Regardless, in the 1980s Italian football shirts tended to be made from acrylic.
Pure polyester would prevail, which is not to say it is the superior fabric. Polyester is lighter and stronger, but acrylic is softer and warmer, although not so much in the wet. It has been reported that when Ennerre began using polyester, some players complained and demanded their old jersey back. (Ennerre are supposed to have devised their own compound called lanetta – ‘lana’ being Italian for wool – but their labels invariably read ‘100 % Acrylic’.)
Acrylic also colours well, which is one of the reasons why the Italian football strips of the 1980s looked as good as they did. Another is that the names and emblems of sponsors – both commercial and technical – started appearing on the tops of almost every professional team, freed from the constraints previously imposed upon them by the FIGC. Up until 1981 many clubs hadn't even bothered appending a badge. That’s probably how people liked it – maybe in deference towards the scudetto and the coccarda – but there’s a lot to be said for well-designed insignia and congenial fonts.
 



Many of the technical sponsors from this period no longer exist in the same capacity, if they exist at all: firms such as Mec Sport, Tiko Sport, Linea Time, Rolly Go, Ennerre. Before A.C. Milan went full-on polyester in 1986, they teamed up with, respectively, Linea Milan, Ennerre, Rolly Go, and Gianni Rivera. Linea Milan re-introduced a wider gauge of stripe not utilised since the early sixties. There was no commercial sponsor just yet, but they did incorporate a badge (designed by Zeta di Milano). This logo simplistically depicted the devil, in homage to Milan’s epithet – Il Diavolo. The following season Pooh Jeans came on board as patron and Linea Milan introduced red shorts, which wasn’t a great look.
When Ennerre took over from Linea in 1982 they reverted to tradition and narrowed the stripes. A.C. Milan remained with Ennerre for two seasons, sponsored first by Hitachi and then Cuore, wearing white shorts with black socks and looking all the better for it. Unbelievably, Milan were playing in Serie B at the time, but by the end of Ennerre’s tenure they were back in Serie A, having been promoted as winners of Serie B in 1983.
In 1985, just as Ray Wilkins and Mark Hateley signed for the club, Rolly Go succeeded Ennerre and carried on where their predecessor left off. The only discernible difference to the shirt was the sponsor, Oscar Mondadori. Established in 1965, Oscar Mondadori was the name given to a catalogue of affordable paperbacks published by Arnoldo Mondadori Editore, to be sold through newsagents, as opposed to bookshops. (Fittingly, the first book they published was A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway). Quite apart from the democratising nature of its mission, Oscar Mondadori possessed a distinctive imprint that complimented the red and black stripes of Milan’s shirt. Stamp-printed in a white, curved, lowercase font, the word Oscar predominated, with its enlarged O encompassing the statuette of the same name. Rolly Go’s hexagonal ‘double arrow’ trademark and the five-pointed gold star denoting Milan’s ten championships rounded off the ensemble nicely.
A.C. Milan had a relatively good year, finishing fifth in Serie A and reaching the finals of the Coppa Italia, losing to Sampdoria 1-3 on aggregate. Unfortunately the deals with both Oscar Mondadori and Rolly Go only ran for a season. Gianni Rivera made a good go of it in 1985/86, but the bar had been set too high.
 



In 1986, Silvio Berlusconi completed his takeover of A.C. Milan. At the same time, Kappa stepped in as technical supplier. Kappa – a subsidiary of Maglificio Calzificio Torinese – had a limited presence in football, but a significant one, providing kit for Juventus. In what could be seen as something of a coup, in which Berlusconi himself may have played a part, Kappa furnished Milan with shirts made from polyester while continuing to dress Juventus in acrylic. And yet what will the fans who remember Mark Hateley’s headed goal against Inter in October 1984 have cared for the material the shirt was now made of?
 
 
[A quality replica of this shirt can be purchased from GOLAZZO! AS WORN BY LEGENDS.]

Saturday, 20 February 2021

THE SARTORIAL ELEGANCE OF SERIE A: GENOA C.F.C. 1990-94

 





Genoa Cricket and Football Club is the oldest surviving football club in Italy. Founded in 1893 by a consortium of British businessmen, it was originally known as Genoa Cricket and Athletic Club. Football was a mere sideline initially, played at the Piazza d'Armi del Campasso on Saturdays against whichever group of British merchant sailors happened to be in town. Shirts were white to reflect the organisation’s English heritage.
In 1886 an English doctor named James Richardson Spensley arrived in Genoa to provide medical care for those same sailors passing through the Mediterranean, by way of the Suez Canal, to and from India. Prior to his emigration, he’d been employed as a medical advisor for a maritime insurance company in Sunderland, and in between offshore assignments had put together a football team with players drawn from his father’s congregation. Spensley played in goal and would later qualify as a referee, all the time fostering more obscure interests, such as studying oriental religion or learning Sanskrit.
This background was of great benefit when Spensley joined the Genoa Cricket and Athletic Club and set about persuading its conservative membership into taking football more seriously. He successfully petitioned the board to allow ‘foreigners’ in on the act – local Italians, as well as Swiss and Austrian expatriates – and within a couple of years Spensley’s cosmopolitan outfit was competing against teams from Turin in the first ever Campionato Italiano di Football. What’s more, they were victorious. Buoyed by their success, the club renamed itself the Genoa Cricket and Football Club and changed its colours to blue and white vertical stripes. Genoa won the Campionato again in 1899 and 1900 before losing the final to Milan in 1901. At this point, Genoa CFC took on the red and dark blue halved shirts they wear to this day.
It’s worth going over all of this because there appears to be no reason why Genoa decided upon the colours that they did. The intermediate blue and white stripes may have been a nod to Genovese’s coastal prominence but could also have been symbolic of Spensley’s effort to de-Anglicise the institution. The red and dark blue configuration adopted in 1901 might equally have been an attempt to reconcile the two. After all, Genoa’s badge made no secret of its Anglo-Saxon origins.
 



Notwithstanding the club’s resurgence during the 1920s, Genoa have never met with the level of success they experienced in those halcyon days prior to the First World War. Their last trophy of note was 1937’s Coppa Italia, although it would be another twenty years before the rot really set in. The 1960s and ‘70s were generally spent playing in Serie B, with a brief incursion into Serie C in 1970/71. Promotion in 1981 preceded a three year spell in Serie A, followed by five consecutive seasons occupying Italian football’s second tier.
In 1988/89, Genoa won Serie B and thus promotion back into Serie A. They did this wearing gear manufactured by Errea, breaking a six year association with Adidas. Adidas had good form producing shirts for Italian teams (Torino, Hellas Verona, Bari) but the strip they provided for Genoa came up short. In truth, the shirts that the newly signed captain Gianluca Signorini and his squad wore in 1988/89 weren’t much better. Errea replaced the iconic Adidas stripes running down the arms with their own interpretation, incorporating their logo repeated in red set against a white background, but it looked dated and clashed with the overly stylised typeface of the sponsor (hosiery manufacturer Levante).
Ahead of Genoa’s return to the top flight, they brought in three Uruguayans: midfielders Rubén Paz and José Perdomo, and the accomplished forward Carlos Aguilera. Meanwhile, Mita took over as sponsor, dispensing a more modest, albeit italicised font more suited to the shirt. Genoa finished the season in 11th place, just two points clear of the relegation zone.
In 1990, Errea ditched the white trim, incorporated micro-patterned pinstripes, and suddenly Genoa looked the business. Osvaldo Bagnoli replaced Francesco Scoglio as coach and brought in Brazilian defender Branco, Czech striker Tomáš Skuhravý, and Italian midfielder Mario Bortolazzi who would stay with the club for next eight years. Genoa finished fourth in the league, qualifying for the UEFA Cup, with Aguilera and Skuhravý scoring 15 goals apiece.
1991/92’s shirt remained much the same, save for alterations to the collar and badge. Genoa’s existent crest consisted of a (modern French) shield depicting a golden griffin against a red and blue background surmounted by the cross of St. George – no text. The redesigned badge featured a more intricately drawn griffin against a blue background, flanked by two draping flags breaking the sides of the (heater-shaped) shield with ‘GENOA’ printed along the curved, upper edge and ‘1893’ towards the shield’s apex. The club ended their campaign in a disappointing 14th place, although they did make it to the semi-finals of the UEFA Cup, bowing out honourably to Ajax who then went on to beat Torino in the final.
For the next season, SAIWA (Società Accomandita Industria Wafer Affini) replaced Mita as sponsor. This probably wouldn’t have made too much difference to the jersey if Errea hadn’t decided to tamper with the micropattern. The new motif could be described as kaleidoscopic, and the sturdier, upper-case font used by SAIWA was more conducive. Meanwhile, Bagnoli moved to Inter, Aguilera was sold to Torino, John van't Schip joined from Ajax, and Genoa finished in 13th place.
For 1993/94, Genoa wore the same shirt save for a small emblem attached to the left arm celebrating the club’s centenary. They improved upon the previous season’s performance, finishing eleventh. Thereafter, Kenwood replaced SAIWA as club patron, Errea added superfluous white trim to the sleeves and collar, and Genoa were relegated.
 



It took more than ten years for Genoa to claw their way back into Serie A. When they finally made it, Errea were still supplying the kit and had reverted to using the club's traditional insignia. At the time of writing, Genoa wear Kappa, bringing to an end a seven-year affiliation with Lotto.
 

Saturday, 26 December 2020

THE SARTORIAL ELEGANCE OF SERIE A: HELLAS VERONA, 1992-95







Associazione Calcio Hellas was named in honour of the Hellenic Republic at the suggestion of Professor Decio Corubolo, who taught Greek at the Liceo ginnasio statale Scipione Maffei. Rather than wearing the colours that this association implied, the club opted for black and white halved shirts. The year this happened – 1903 – football was only played professionally within the regions of Piedmont, Lombardy and Liguria, and so A.C. Hellas had to content itself with friendly games against local sides. By the time they found themselves competing in the Prima Categoria (Emilia-Veneto division) in 1910, they were sporting the colours of the city of Verona, derived from the municipality’s coat of arms – a yellow cross against a blue background.
In 1919 A.C. Hellas merged with F.C. Verona to become Football Club Hellas Verona. Ten years later, at the behest of the fascist regime, two more teams were assimilated: Bentegodi and Scaligera. The resulting enterprise was retitled Associazione Calcio Verona, which may or may not have been intended as an anti-Greco gesture (by 1940 Italy and Greece would be at war with each other). Unfortunately, Hellas Verona had just finished Group B of the Divisione Nazionale in 13th place, thus failing to qualify for Serie A’s inaugural season.
World War II saw A.C. Verona relegated to Serie C, although they were back in Serie B by the end of it. In the meantime they experimented with a number of configurations – such as grey shirts with a horizontal blue and yellow band around the middle in 1946/47 – before settling for yellow shirts and blue shorts.
After coming close in 1948, Verona were promoted to Serie A in 1956. To celebrate they adopted to a kit resembling that of Boca Juniors, but were subsequently relegated. The following year Verona absorbed yet another local team, by the name of A.S. Hellas. Sensing an opportunity to connect with its past, the club rechristened itself Associazione Calcio Hellas Verona. Another change or colours: blue shorts, white jerseys with blue sleeves, and hint of yellow adorning the neckline. It’s uncertain how long they persisted with this arrangement but it appears that by the end of the decade their shirts were once again yellow.
Hellas Verona returned to Serie A in 1968 wearing blue and yellow vertically striped jerseys paired with black shorts – had been since 1964. The team’s second spell in Italy’s top flight was relatively successful, lasting six consecutive seasons. In 1970 they reverted to yellow shirts with blue trim, before switching to blue shirts with yellow trim the following year. Shorts were by now generally white.


[1967/68: Courtesy Hellastory.net.]

The strip Verona wore during their title winning campaign of 1984/85 is considered to be one of their best. Manufactured by Adidas and sponsored by Canon, it differed slightly from previous kits in that the shorts were also blue while the shirts incorporated yellow pinstripes. Ricoh replaced Canon in 1986, then Hummel took over from Adidas in 1987. The partnership with Hummel lasted three years, culminating in relegation. Adidas stepped back into the fold, the club were immediately promoted, whereafter Verona hooked up with German firm Uhlsport.
Verona’s kit for 1991/92 was mediocre. All blue with a yellow collar and yellow rectangles running down the outside edge of the arms, the sponsor, Rana, printed in a white, rounded uppercase font, it looked cheap. Predictably, the away kit was a mere inversion of the home. However, there existed a superfluous third shirt comprising the same yellow and blue stripes that had been worn during the second half of the 1960s. Relegation ensued, but the jersey was reappropriated for home use the following season.
The shirt itself adhered to the same template Uhlsport were using for U.S. Cremonese. The stripes were of roughly the same gauge, the fabric was micropatterned in the same manner, both had collars, and the manufacturer’s logo and club’s badge were sewn on, except the sponsor’s name was black. The badge is of particular interest. In 1984, club president Ferdinando Chiampan had commissioned the advertising agency Orti Manara to come up with a new insignia. The chosen design included two mastiffs facing away from each other, joined in the middle by a staircase/ladder – symbols relating to the local heraldry – to form a stylised V, encapsulated within a sort of rhombus. The first iteration had the mastiffs and the edging rendered in yellow. Uhlsport inverted the colour scheme and added the colours of the Italian flag within the top-left border and ‘Verona F.C.’ in the one diametrically opposite.




The Uhlsport years were ineffectual. The reason the word ‘Hellas’ had been omitted from the revamped badge was because in February 1991 the club had to re-register under a different name to avoid bankruptcy. In 1995 they got their old name back, swapped Uhlsport for Errea, were promoted and then relegated again. It would get worse before it got better, and Hellas Verona are currently enjoying a second consecutive season in Serie A, their kit supplied by Macron. 

Friday, 20 November 2020

THE SARTORIAL ELEGANCE OF SERIE A: U.S. CREMONESE, 1992-95

 





As is often the case, Cremonese haven’t always worn their current colours. In 1903, the year the club came together, they wore white shirts adorned with a lilac collar, paired with black shorts and socks. Cremonese was a mere sporting association back then, and it’s not even certain they played any football. This changed in 1910, around the time they changed their name to Unione Sportiva Cremonese. Football was catching on, and the following year the team appointed a coach by the name of Nino Gandelli, with aim of playing the sport competitively. It seems he took the role seriously enough, recruiting the best local talent he could find, and by 1912 they'd signed up with the Federazione Italiana Giuoco Calcio (FICG).
Ahead of the 1913/14 Promozione, U.S. Cremonese merged with the recently formed Associazione Calcio Cremona. A new strip was in order, and it was towards the city’s heraldry that they looked for inspiration. Cremona’s coat of arms consists of a shield split down the middle, with silver and red horizontal stripes on one side and on the other a depiction of an arm holding aloft a golden ball. For now, the colours would do: grey shirts with red trim, to be worn with white shorts.
Cremonese’s first season was a success, winning promotion into the Prima Categoria at the first attempt. The following year’s campaign was mediocre, and when Italy joined The Great War in 1915 so did many of their players (most notably goalkeeper Giovanni Zini, who served as a stretcher-bearer but died in Cividale del Friuli in 1915 after contracting typhus).
In 1919, Cremonese assimilated another local team by the name of Football Club Aurora. Despite bolstering their ranks the club finished bottom of their six-team group, which ordinarily would have resulted in relegation back to the Promozione. The Prima Categoria was in effect a qualifying round whereby teams competed in regional divisions to gain entry into the national semi-finals. The regional committees operated with complete autonomy, determining how many teams over however many leagues were allowed to take part. Ahead of the 1920/21 season, rather than reduce the number of entrants, as the FICG and a few of the bigger clubs were keen to do, Lombardia elected to move from three groups of six to six groups of four, making room for Cremonese.
The next five years were spent playing in a restructured Prima Divisione. Then in 1926 tensions between the FICG and Confederazione Calcistica Italiana (CCI) finally gave way to the establishment of a national league, under the auspices of the (Fascist) Direttorio Divisioni Superiori (DDS). At the same time Cremonese embellished their grey shirts with a red cross, only to finish their group in ninth place. Once more, this should have been low enough to see them relegated, but an enforced merger between Sampierdarenese and Andrea Doria (albeit a temporary one) freed up and extra space.
In 1928 Cremonese tinkered with their strip for a third time, exchanging the cross for a horizontal stripe wrapped around the chest. Seventh place was enough to qualify for the preceding season’s inaugural single-group format – in other words, Serie A – from which they were immediately relegated. They continued to play in Serie B up until 1938, whereupon they dropped down into Serie C. In 1942 Cremonese returned to Serie B but were again relegated in 1951. For their 50th anniversary, they wore grey and red quartered shirts before finally settling for the stripes worn to this day.
 



The 1960s were spent playing in Serie C with the occasional foray into Serie D. The 1970s saw some improvement, culminating in promotion to Serie B in 1977 – the same season that saw Cremonese decked out in red shirts with a single grey stripe descending vertically from left shoulder. Relegation swiftly followed, but by 1981 they were back playing in Serie B.
In 1984 Cremonese finally made a return to Serie A after a 54 year absence. Unfortunately, the man who scored most of the goals that got them there – a certain Gianluca Vialli – was subsequently sold to Sampdoria. His replacement, the Brazilian forward Juary, made little impact and the club finished bottom of the table. But Cremonese appeared to have turned a corner and over the course of the next decade were promoted to Serie A on four separate occasions, oscillating between the top two tiers of Italian football. In the first instance their gear had been supplied by Puma. The second time around it was ABM (1988/89) and then Patrick (1990/91). For 1992/93’s successful push for promotion the kit was supplied by German sports manufacturer Uhlsport.

Uhlsport made shirts for a number of Italian football teams in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, most notably Inter and Bologna, as well as Verona and Brescia. They all came with collars, as did most shirts tailored towards the Italian market at that time. In truth, the jersey Uhlsport came up with was not so different to the ones that ABM and Patrick had provided before them. There were, however, a few compelling disparities.
First off, ABM and Patrick never bothered with appending the club’s crest. In ABM’s case, this may have come down to financial expediency, given that ABM were attaching crests to the shirts of Fiorentina, Torino, Pescara, Palermo. In any case, the absence of a badge cheapened the jersey. Moreover, Cremonese had redesigned their crest in 1985, and it was worthy of attachment: a simplified rendering of a golden ball held aloft, as depicted in the city’s coat of arms, with a diagonal red and grey bend (sinister) behind it. (When Uhlsport handed over to Puma in 1997, the club reverted to its traditional emblem.)
Second, the team’s sponsors during Patrick and ABM’s tenures did not present as nicely as the one that adorned the Uhlsport shirts – local retailer Moncart. It’s not that the company name was written in a particularly distinctive font, just that the simplicity of Moncart’s sans-serif, uppercase lettering worked well in this instance.
Finally, Uhlsport had recently discovered the art of micro-patterning. To be fair, this was a relatively recent phenomenon, and it’s debatable whether Inter’s shirt would have benefitted from it, but in the case of Cremonese it combined well with the colours, muting them slightly.
 



In 1995/96 cured-meat specialist Negroni took over sponsorship from Moncart, Enrico Chiesa returned to his parent-club, Sampdoria, and U.S. Cremonese were relegated. But I Grigiorossi had survived three consecutive seasons in Serie A, a feat not bettered by them before or since, and they did it wearing a shirt of some distinction.