Elvis Costello on the April 1980 issue of Musica 80: including features on Talking Heads, PiL, & Jonathan Richman
From February 1980 through April 1981 Italian fans of cutting-edge music were treated to Musica 80, a monthly magazine with a bold “new wave” aesthetic that kept readers up to date on acts like Nina Hagen, Pere Ubu, XTC, Killing Joke, the Feelies, the B-52s, Siouxsie and the Banshees, Joy Division, and the Cramps, among many others. The covers used a vibrant palette of primary colors somewhat reminiscent of the first wave of releases by the Flying Lizards (themselves the subject of a feature in the October 1980 issue, as it happens).
I’ve never seen a single page from the inside of any of its issues, and I don’t speak Italian anyway, but the savvy editorial hand behind the cover art and the choice of subjects make it quite likely that this was a fairly compelling magazine in its day. Much about Musica 80 is a puzzle, from the perspective of 2016. The magazine was edited by a man named Franco Bolelli, who appropriately enough was in a band called Alphaville that contributed a few brief tracks to a 1981 comp called Matita Emostatica, which is the Italian term for “styptic pencil.” Nowadays, Bolelli is identified on Wikipedia as a “philosopher,” and neither the American nor the Italian version of his bio bothers to mention Musica 80 at all. Unexpectedly, the English Wikipedia page for Bolelli is quite a bit more expansive than the Italian Wikipedia page, noting among other things that “among his philosophical influences he mentions Nietzsche and Taoism along with the game of basketball and rock ’n roll.”
The Italian Wikipedia page for the magazine—also very brief—states that “La veste grafica era poi affidata a membri della casa occupata bolognese Traumfabrik che per l’occasione si chiamò Topographic”—in other words, the visuals for the magazine were “entrusted to” members of an “occupied house” (I think this means a squatters’ collective of some kind) in Bologna “called Traumfabrik, which on this occasion was called Topographic.” Here is a reminiscence on Traumfabrik for those fluent in Italian or adept with online translation tools.
Most of the covers presented on this page are low-quality scans from this Italian blog post, and aside from that scans are very hard to find (I did manage to find a couple others). Judging from the covers alone, Musica 80 covered a pretty impressive swath of territory considering that they weren’t operating out of London or New York.
Perhaps appropriately, given its title, as soon as the year 1980 was over with, the magazine neared its demise as well. The last issue of Musica 80 was its 15th issue, which had a cover date of April 1981. If anyone has any information or especially decent scans from the brief run of Musica 80, please get in touch!
Inaugural issue, February 1980, the Stones in China—which they wouldn’t actually visit until 2006
March 1980: Eno, Zappa, Burroughs, Fripp
April 1980: Nina Hagen, Pere Ubu, B-52s, Ferry, “the ska wave”
May 1980: Robert Wyatt, XTC, Cale, Reich
June 1980: The Residents, the Cramps, Joy Division, Ayler, more Fripp
July 1980: I have no idea what this guy’s deal is. Includes features on John Lydon and Jim Carroll.
August 1980: Heroin and cocaine in New York, Tuxedomoon, Cabaret Voltaire, Chrome
September 1980: Almost certainly the jauntiest piece of Dead Kennedys art ever, plus Ubu, Siouxsie, Ultravox
October 1980: John Lennon, John Cage, Flying Lizards
February 1981: Marianne Faithfull, X, Killing Joke, Lenny Kaye, the Feelies
Previously on Dangerous Minds:
The entire print run of classic punk Slash magazine is now online