Ciao Massimo

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Hi everyone! First of all, apologies if the subject of this particular blog might seem a bit obscure or not really your thing. But it was something I wanted to write. There’ll be more about Angels of Venice and signing sessions in the next few days, promise…

I often listen to music whilst writing – much of The Venetian Masquerade was written with the Monteverdi Vespers on continuous loop – but I find that words, particularly in English, get in the way of mine. So I listen to a lot of soundtracks, particularly Italian – Ennio Morricone, Bruno Nicolai and Stelvio Cipriani amongst others. And, as many of you know, I also have something of a Goblin obsession.

I don’t remember when I first came across their music, but it must have been the first time I saw Suspiria. Which means it must be many years ago now. Like the film itself, the soundtrack is not something on which people have no opinion. You either find it a masterpiece, or you find it unlistenable. I’m firmly in the “imperishable work of art” camp. Caroline, by contrast, has only seen/heard the first fifteen minutes…

The band made their name with their soundtrack to Dario Argento’s Profondo Rosso, the original composer Giorgio Gaslini having fallen out with the director. The main theme, with its memorable acoustic guitar / keyboard riff was a number one single in Italy. The soundtrack album, selling over a million copies, similarly hit number one in the album charts. It led to further collaborations with Argento, and beyond, in the Golden Age of Italian Progressive Rock and, perhaps, of Italian film music.

Goblin are often seen as being Claudio Simonetti’s band, but that, I think, is not quite the whole story. Yes, keyboards often seem to dominate, but listen more closely and you soon realise how much the others contributed in the classic lineup of Simonetti-Pignatelli-Morante-Marangolo. Profondo Rosso is unthinkable without Fabio Pignatelli’s bass, and his work on Tenebre is nothing short of amazing.

Morante, likewise, was a highly accomplished and versatile musician. Just listen to his needle-sharp riffing on Profondo Rosso or his use of bouzouki on Suspiria. Perhaps my favourite work by him, however, is the title theme to La via della droga , a bluesy, almost Hendrixy piece that sounds wonderfully 1970s. In a good way.

The band fell apart in the early 80s. The Tenebre soundtrack was credited to Simonetti-Pignatelli-Morante (a legal dispute meant they couldn’t use the name Goblin without Marangolo). Simonetti and Pignatelli were back, this time credited as Goblin, for 1985’s Phenomena, but, by 1989, only Pignatelli remained for La Chiesa. Morante, in the meantime, seemed happy pursuing a solo career.

The four of them reunited for one final collaboration with Argento, 2000’s Nonhosonno / Sleepless. It’s an excellent soundtrack, but the experience was an unhappy one. Old enmities quickly resurfaced, and – in his autobiography Il ragazzo d’argento – Simonetti recounts how he would record in one studio with Morante, whilst Pignatelli and drummer Agostino Marangolo would use another. Various versions of the band – New Goblin, Goblin Rebirth, Back to the Goblin, Claudio Simonetti’s Goblin (yes, there were a lot of Goblins) – continued and still continue to this day, but this, effectively, was the end.

Massimo Morante died on 23rd June, 2022. He was just 69 years old.

There is one less Goblin in the world now. And that saddens me. Ciao Massimo.

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