Sunday, 7 August 2011

The Ben Cotta-Al Bergo AllStars

Nobody today remembers this legendary Italian band which, for a brief scintillating moment, encapsulated the zeitgeist of the world-changing musical revolution that swept the southern European avant garde in 1967.  Drawing on sources as diversely esoteric as The Flowerpot Men and The New Vaudeville Band, whilst unafraid to flirt with ‘popular culture’ (Brian Poole and the Tremoloes were a particular influence), the AllStars won a cult following in locales such as downtown Piacenza, the dockland areas of Portofino and the secret fleshpots of San Gimignano. 

The band’s personnel is hard to nail down, shifting as it did in response to physical and mental circumstances, casual invitations to ‘sit in’, and of course the match or otherwise between the availability of musical instruments and people capable of playing them.  But the core membership seems to have been: Ben Cotta, woodwind and air guitar; Al Bergo, cornetto; Sty Zitter, banjo, angklung; Con Limony, bass; Franco Bollo, banging things; Terry Motta, banging other things or sometimes the same ones as Bollo, including each other; Frank Cooler, very high-pitched calming noises; and of course the delightfully clad Bella Feager on occasional vocals.

Quite what contributed to the AllStars’ eventual demise, and the ongoing lawsuits, is difficult to discern.  It has been suggested that ‘lack of musical differences, or similarities’ may have been a contributory factor, but it seems equally likely that the members’ growing amaretto habit, sometimes involving post-gig binge sessions until one or two in the morning, would have tipped the balance between success and ignominious collapse. 

Sadly, no recordings of the AllStars have survived.  Nor, apart from an undated entry in a mouldy old exercise book of mine, does there appear to be any documentary evidence that they ever actually existed.


  1. Hoping he would rescue them, they took on Al Niente for a few gigs, but it came to nothing. And nothing followed after 'Dead' Segue, either.

  2. Wasn't Ben's brother Terry Cotta one of the Flowerpot Men.