February 16, 2018
Have you ever found yourself in a situation where you attempt to imitate a character in your favourite Nordic crime drama but realise you don’t actually know any Norwegian, Danish or Swedish? Or perhaps you’ve attempted a French oral exam without revising and think that speaking gibberish in a vaguely French accented will see you through? If so, this is the fact for you!
Have you ever heard of the English word, ‘Prisencolinensinainciusol’? No, we didn’t think so. If you’re Italian though, you may well know the song as a curious tune from the early 1970s, which reached number 5 in the charts in 1974 and was the 14th best-selling song of the year. But what’s so interesting about that? Many songs are written and recorded each year and recordings that have charted at far higher entries more recently than the seventies have also been lost to time. What makes Prisencolinensinainciusol so special?
Composed by Adriano Celentano - a man credited with bringing rock and roll to Italy - and his wife Claudia Mori, the song is sang by Celentano and is meant to sound like English to Italian ears. In truth, it’s complete gibberish with the exception of the words that we can understand – ‘all right’. But why write a song in this manner? Why not record a song in English or Italian instead?
Celentano’s intention with the song was to explore communication barriers. He noted, “Ever since I started singing, I was very influenced by American music and everything Americans did. So at a certain point, because I like American slang – which, for a singer, is much easier to sing than Italian – I thought that I would write a song which would only have as its theme the inability to communicate. And to do this, I had to write a song where the lyrics didn’t mean anything.”
Since its release, it has become something of a cult hit. On its initial release, it charted in the top 10 in Belgium, France and the Netherlands as well as its home country, and multiple versions have been recorded in the years hence. Celentano recorded a new version of the song with Italian lyrics and a hip hop melody(which some might say defies the initial point of the song) in 1994. In 2016 he rereleased the song once again, this time with the initial lyrics, but featuring music from popular Italian musicians Benny Benassi and Mina. Interestingly the different versions aren’t limited to Italy either. In 2017, American rock group Tub Ring released a cover of Prisencolinensinainciusol on their album, ‘A Choice of Catastrophes’, which we hope doesn’t refer to the song’s quality.
If you’re interested in hearing the song for yourself, have a listen to the video below.
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By Henry Fosdike