San Remo Song Festival
The Happenings were invited to perform at San Remo in 1967
and given the song "Quando Vedro" to learn and
sing in the competition. We flew into Rome about ten days
before the actual start of rehearsals and did some sight
seeing, then took a train to San Remo on the Italian
Riviera. It was absolutely spectacular there! We had some
time so we drove to Nice, France and even played some
table games at the Monte-Carlo Casino in Monaco.
Rehearsals started around 1/24/67 and the show started
The San Remo Song Festival
was held each year in San Remo Italy at the San Remo
Casino until 1971. Now it's called the Eurovision Song
Festival and it's held in different European cities each
year. It's really a song contest show. They invite artists
from different countries to come and sing one or two songs
in Italian and a native Italian artist also sings the same
song for the judges and the theater audience. It was shown
live all over Europe on Eurovision. Artists are eliminated
or not each night for about three or four nights. Finally
the last man, woman or group standing wins! I think you
get a free Calzone or something!
Actually, it's a very
prestigious thing to be invited and quite an honor. I
don't know what you
win because we didn't!
Here is a list of most of
the artists that appeared there in 1967 with us:
Sonny & Cher
Claudio Villa ( sang "Non pensare a me" and he
won the song festival that year)
Los Marcellos (this group sang the same song as we did but
I never heard them do it).
Luigi Tenco: I made friends with an Italian singer, song
writer named Luigi Tenco during sound check and
rehearsals. He was friendly, but intensely focused on
winning this contest. He said this meant very much to him
and winning was everything for his career. On January 26,
1967 the contest began! We sang our song "Quando
Vedro" and it came off okay. Then Luigi sang his song
and was eliminated that first night. He was crushed!
The next day (January 27, 1967) Luigi was found dead in
his hotel room with a single gunshot to the head. It was
just hours after learning that his song had been
eliminated. A note they found there said this was a
protest against the members who voted against him. Wow!
Talk about passionate.
The Happenings: I spent months learning "Quando Vedro"
and "See You in September" in Italian. I was
pissed because the other guys (my guys) only had to learn
ooh's and ah's and I had to learn another freakin
language! We used the San Remo orchestra there and it
sounded okay. Not great! It was over so quickly, but we
lasted two nights. Then we were eliminated too, along with
the Hollies, Bobby Goldsboro and a few others. I was
disappointed, but not enough to shoot myself! I was
nervous because of the language thing and didn't really
feel connected to the music, but it was exciting and a lot
Sonny & Cher: I never got to talk to Sonny, but I did
speak with Cher. She was so sweet and down to earth and
they were at that time huge international stars. She was
very nervous about performing the song "Ma
Piano" in Italian. She hadn't had time to learn it
really with her schedule, so she wrote the words on her
palm. That night I watched from back stage and on the TV
monitors as all of Europe could see her hand coming up to
cue the next set of words. But no one seemed to care! It
was Cher for God's sake! Besides, her voice sounded
amazing! Sonny was not on stage at all and didn't
sing, he conducted the orchestra. They did do another song
together where they both sang in Italian and that song was
"ll Cammino Di Ogni Speranza". They were
Marianne Faithfull: I never spoke with her, but she seemed
very quiet and shy. Maybe she was just nervous too, like
all of us singing in a different language. Everyone knew
she was going with Mick Jagger at the time and we kept
looking for him to show up. He never did. I guess he was
with some underworld spy or the wife of a close friend,
wife of a close friend!
Domenico Mudugno: He was like an Italian God in Italy at
that time. In 1958 he had maybe the biggest international
hit of all time with "Nel Blu Dipinto Di
Blu"(Volare) and now he was in the movies too. Later,
he would even become a member of the Italian Parliament.
It goes to show you the kind of qualifications you need
for Italian government positions. You've got to know how
to sing that's all! Even with all his clout he didn't win
either. It's a song contest!
Gene Pitney: I always loved his voice and the hits he had.
He was very popular in Europe and I think he had a home in
Italy or France. Always a gentleman and we also did a bus
tour with him, the Buckinghams and the Easybeats later
that year in 1967. He never missed a high note. He was
like a Roy Orbison or Johnny Maestro. I never heard any
one of them miss a high note. Even when Johnny got sick he
never missed a note. Pitney had done the festival many
other times and had finished second twice before. Many
don't know what a great writer he was too. He wrote
"Hello Mary Lou" for Rick Nelson and "He's
a Rebel" for The Crystals.
Bobby Goldsboro: He sang the song "Un Ragazzo"
He was a very funny guy and always joking around. We later
in that year worked with him again several times in the
Claudio Villa: I'd never heard of him before, but he had
sold a lot of records in Italy and was more of an opera
singer than a pop singer. He had a great voice and a great
song that year called "Non Pensare A Me". He was
the last man standing in the competition in 1967. He not
only won in 1967, but also won in 1955, 1957, 1962 and it
didn't hurt that he was good friends with Pavarotti.
I never saw or heard Connie Francis or Dionne Warwick.
They must have performed at different days or times than
we did. All in all it was an exciting experience for us.
We got to see our own popularity in a different country
and made some new friends too! We loved Italy and France.
Thank You San Remo!