On 26 May, 2013 Italo-Disco star Ken Laszlo is coming to Orange County. On that date he and
fellow Italo performer Fred Ventura will descend upon Avec Nightclub in Huntington Beach, thanks to Keep On Music. The event will be hosted by TQ and DJed by DJ BPM. Tickets are $20 in advance (from Bleu Nightclub in Westminster) or $25 at the door.
Ken Laszlo is the primary nom de guerre of singer Gianni Coraini. In European pop – especially Italian pop of the 1980s – it has long been the common practice to hire one or more singers to provide vocals for producer-driven music projects (often credited to imaginary performers with vaguely Anglo-sounding names) whose faces on album covers, videos, live performances, &c was usually that of a dancing and lipsynching model. Despite usually singing in English, most of these acts have found limited success in the Anglosphere (although there have been notable exceptions like the German Milli Vanilli and the Belgian Technotronic). Coraini has been a very prolific clandestini and sorting out which “singers” he’s been the voice of is rather time-consuming and hair-graying so please leave corrections and/or additions in the comments!
Gianni Coraini was born in 18 July, 1954 in Mantua (or Florence according to some accounts). As a child Coraini sang in his church choir. He also learned to play flute, keyboards, as well as saxophone and graduated from music school. When he was fifteen he began playing with a band in clubs and discos. It was the early 1970s and Coraini’s taste at the time apparently leaned toward progressive rock bands like Genesis and Jethro Tull as well as the art rock of David Bowie. When the ‘70s passed into the ‘80s, Coraini’s tastes grew to include Depeche Mode, Level 42, and Michael Jackson.
Coraini chose the stage name “Ken Laszlo” as a reference to the character “Victor Laszlo,” the Czech resistance leader from the film Casablanca. Though seemingly a cheeky reference to Coraini’s secret identity as anonymous vocalist, almost from the beginning Coraini would also be the face of Laszlo instead of relying on the services of a model. Lazlo’s musical backdrop was created by Gino Caria and Sandro Oliva. Caria was a prolific producer who worked for Time and later ABeatC (and other labels) who passed away in 1999. Oliva is a prolific writer, arranger and producer who set up Go Go’s Music with Alessandra Gatti in 2006 and continued, at least until recently, to work in the Italian music industry.
The debut Ken Laszlo single was 1984’s “Hey Hey Guy,” one of the earliest releases on Memory Records, which had been founded the previous year by Alessandro Zanni and Stefano Cundari. An early “live” performance featured model Ezio Zanassi (aka De Gama – who died in a car crash in 1987) miming the vocals but his role as Laszlo’s face quickly ended. The song was massively popular in much of Asia, Europe, and South America. Ken Laszlo wasn’t the only pseudonym that featured Coraini’s vocals that year. As Chris Lang he released “Disco Island” on Crash and as Jaco he released “Spanish Run” on Sensation.
The following year Ken Laszlo scored a Top 20 hit in The Netherlands and Sweden with “Tonight.” From that year (1987) on, he was also the uncredited vocalist behind Ricky Maltese’s singles (“All the Night,” “Warrior,” “Mama,” and “Rainy Day”). In 1986 he released, again as Ken Laszlo, “Don’t Cry,” which was a number thirteen hit in Sweden. In 1987, Laszlo released “1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8” and “Glasses Man.” His debut, the self-titled Ken Laszlo (1987-Memory), included remixes of the preceding singles as well as “Let Me Try,” “Talkin,”
In 1988 he released “Red Man” b/w “Black Pearl” (the latter taken from the debut). Italo Disco’s golden age ended as the 1980s drew to a close and in the decade’s final year, Laszlo released “Everybody is Dancing,” and “Madame” b/w “Let Me Try” The latter single was one of Memory’s final releases and the Italo label ended its run within months of the single’s release. It was also the last of Laszlo’s collaborations with Caria and Oliva.
The next phase of Coraini’s career was dominated by singing uncredited vocals on a huge number of projects. After releasing “Hey Hey Guy For Tonight” as Laszlo & Innocence in 1989, Lazslo provided uncredited vocals for Mark Tower & Co. (1989-1990). In 1991 Coraini began collaborating with Giuliano Crivellente and Mauro Farina and sang on several of their projects – most prominently providing Danny Keith’s vocals from 1990-1995 (Keith’s vocals in the ‘80s had been sung by Farina). Coraini also leant uncredited vocals to Coy McCoy (1990), De Niro (1990), Max & Co. (1990), Malcolm J. Hill (1990-1992), Coo Coo (1990-1992), Angelo Maria Morales (1990), Body Power (1991), Moreno (1991), Mr. Beat (1991), Maltese (1991-1996), Dave Cole (1992), Michael Dream (1992), Nick Kaye (1992), Mike Freeman (1992-1995), DJ NRG (1992-1996), Jean Corraine (1992-1996), Ric Fellini (1993-1998), Tony B. Walters (1993-2004), Ken Hunter (1994-1995), Billy the Butcher (1996), Jean Mix (1996), Remy Panther (1996), Live Music Gang (1996), Gordon Jim (1996), Leit-Motiv (1996), Jungle Bill (1996-1998), Spencer (1996-1998), Lucky Boy (1997), Beat Unlimited (1997), Franz Tornado (1997), Jeff Driller (1997), Francis Cooper (1997-1998), Mr. Bean (1998), Alvin (1998), Tommie B (1998), Bibi (1998), Roby & Sara (1998), Asia Gang (1998), Mister Fly (1999), Jackie O’ (2000), Otello (2000-2008), Boys Band (2001), Max Ducati (2004), Captain America (2005-2008), The Falco (2008), Frog A’ Billy (2008), and Maxx Valentino (2008).
In 1995, Coraini again employed the Ken Laszlo name, recording a series of duets with Clara Moroni as Ken Laszlo duet with Jenny until 2003. In 1998 Coraini recorded and released Dr Ken & Mr Laszlo (S.A.I.F.A.M.), an album which compiled of previously-released material, re-recorded singles and cover versions. It wasn’t until 2007, twenty years after his debut, that Ken Laszlo released a proper sophomore release, Future Is Now (Azzura Music), the product of collaboration with a new group of musicians – specifically Alan Farrington, Carlo Cantini, and Fiorenzo Delegà.
I believe that the Memorial Day weekend concert will be both Laszlo’s and Ventura’s first live performances in California. Both will be performing several of their hits (including, in Laszlo’s case, “Hey Hey Guy,” “Tonight,” and “Don’t Cry,” “Glasses Man,” and “Mary Ann.”
See you there!
Eric Brightwell is an adventurer, writer, rambler, explorer, cartographer, and guerrilla gardener who is always seeking writing, speaking, traveling, and art opportunities — or salaried work. He is not interested in writing advertorials, clickbait, listicles, or other 21st century variations of spam. Brightwell’s written work has appeared in Amoeblog, diaCRITICS, and KCET Departures. His work has been featured by the American Institute of Architects, the Architecture & Design Museum, the Craft & Folk Art Museum, Form Follows Function, Los Angeles County Store, Skid Row Housing Trust, and 1650 Gallery. Brightwell has been featured in the Los Angeles Times, Huffington Post, Los Angeles Magazine, LAist, Eastsider LA, Boing Boing, Los Angeles, I’m Yours, and on Notebook on Cities and Culture. He has been a guest speaker on KCRW‘s Which Way, LA? and at Emerson College. Art prints of his maps are available from 1650 Gallery and on other products from Cal31. He is currently writing a book about Los Angeles and you can follow him on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.
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