Angry Robot


In 1970-ish, “The Italian Elvis” Adriano Celentano recorded a song called “Prisencolinensinainciusol”. To the Italian ear it sounds like English, but to the English ear it sounds like gibberish, which is what it is. If the Joycean slurry of near-meanings wasn’t awesome enough on its own, it’s set to a stripped down, crazy-funky droning four-on-the-floor arrangement so that the whole setup prefigures both rap and disco. (That said, I think James Brown and Bob Dylan are the real influences, and there’s nothing magical about the song’s foreknowledge, but that doesn’t make it any less thrilling). Add to that the boss dancing, and you have a timeless classic on your hands.

I tried to figure out how the internets learned about this, but I can only trace back so far. There’s this, announcing an edit of the song, and giving a bit of history. (Here’s the mp3 of Greg Wilson’s edit BTW.) There’s this, which gives us the black and white original:

Which is then picked up by Sasha Frere Jones, then Metafilter, then BoingBoing, and then years later, your unreliable narrator stumbles into the whole mess via an Easter egg in the game Glitch. Anyway, the important part is when you search Youtube for Prisencolinensinainciusol and uncover gems like these versions with different sets of subtitles, all set to a mashup of the two videos:

Precinct Calling Ace Vantuso / Prison Colon ends in I choose all / Freezing culmination I choose all.
hope something / poke something / awesome babe!

It’s amazing to see how we project meanings onto sounds. It’s worth adding that in Celentano’s words, from the intro to the TV show staging, the theme of the song is incommunicability, that “we don’t understand anything anymore”, and prisencolinensinainciusol means “universal love”. I also love this karaoke staging of the song for drunken Portlandians, which seems to sum it all up.

Let me just say that when I added the song to iTunes, I chose the genre “heaven”.