Angel with Drumsticks Reviews

A scathing indictment of the Vatican and its handling of La Messa Dei Giovani, this emotive book chronicles a well-known story from a hitherto silent perspective; the founder of the band Angel and the Brains.

Jennifer Edmonds.  

*****

Fascinating account of a band that became a phenomenon in Italy and were poised for worldwide tour and promotion when it appears the Vatican (who had asked the young men to perform music for a mass in the first instance ) suddenly caused every country to pull out of the tour due to internal debate and pressure around the use of "beat" music.

In the meantime careers and young lives were destroyed with repercussions echoing 50 years later. Although the book is not written "against" the church the reader can clearly see the great injustice done to all these young men who had only ever followed what they had been asked to do.

This book should be heavily promoted in Italy and for anyone who is interested in a memoir outlining a fascinating event and the devastating impact a church can have on individuals that the church has never apologised for or at the very least acknowledge the wrongfulness of their actions. An engaging read for music lovers also.

Jenny Hayworth.

*****

A short interesting read that typifies the struggle of the 60s between youthful freedom and the establishment. In this case the mere mention of the parties involved, a pop (later rock) band and the Vatican, will arouse the reader’s curiosity.

The many photographs interspersed within the text nicely depict the ambience of the ‘beat’ movement in Rome at that time and the main protagonist, the band Angel and the Brains. Those who remember this group should definitely read this chronicle of the injustices inflicted upon them by the Catholic Church.

Nathan Veerasamy.

*****

Angel With Drumsticks
tells the absorbing story of a group of talented young musicians in the1960s who were squashed by the Vatican.

I admit that, before reading Angel With Drumsticks I had never heard of the ‘Rock Mass’, ‘Beat Mass’, or ‘Mass for the Young’ as it was variously called. I had never thought of Italian bands experimenting and working hard to develop an ‘Italian beat’, influenced by the Beatles, but certainly no carbon copy of them.

This was the dream of Angelo Ferrari and the teenage boys who joined him to write and practice songs and hope for performing breaks. They called themselves ‘Angel and the Brains’. As Pamela King says in her preface, they were ‘good Catholic boys who responded to an invitation from a church representative to fulfil the new desires of Vatican II to be more appealing to young people.’

The Mass, performed in a church, and including two groups besides Angelo’s – the Bumpers and the Barrittas - was phenomenally successful in attracting a young audience; but the response of the Vatican hierarchy was as swift as it was unexpected. The band members were excommunicated (though the order was later rescinded). A proposed tour, including playing at the Albert Hall, was cancelled, all sponsors and venues pulling out simultaneously; the small company, Ariel, which had recorded the Mass went broke, and the three bands suddenly discovered that they could not even get gigs in small Italian towns. Those priests who had supported the Mass were moved to remote postings.

‘Angel and the Brains’ played in Tunisia for a while before breaking up, and Angelo’s promising musical career was finished.

King has interviewed Angelo, who emigrated to Australia, and quotes his own thoughts and feelings, still vivid after nearly fifty years. Angel With Drumsticks contains some fascinating photographs and newspaper articles, providing insights into the furore over the rock mass and the way the controversy has continued to re-surface over the years. It is a balanced account and at the same time a very personal one. The force and speed of the Vatican crackdown, when the bands believed the church had initiated the experiment in an endeavour to attract young people, remains a mystery. I highly recommend this book.

Dorothy Johnston.

*****

Angel with Drumsticks is a history of the beginning of Beatles-era rock music in Italy.  Without giving the story away, it recounts how a promising Italian Rock group developed the music originally at the request of the Catholic Church for a new style Catholic Mass that they hoped would encourage more young people to become involved in the Church.  As in many situations, subsequent events did not turn out as expected, for the church or the musicians, and the influence of Italian rock music, compared to the British rock groups for example, was minimized.   The story is well researched and written, and students of the history of rock music should find this an interesting and informative narrative.

Lee Davis.