I have no real knowledge of what the Italian Milan based Fonola label was all about, and given they seem to have specialised in cover versions of local folk tunes, saucy ballads, sentimental love songs and anything they thought might sell to an older more conservative market in the swinging Sixties, it’s not anything I would normally seek out, except…
Fonola released dozens of singles, starting around 1962. The lowest number I have is 1229 and the highest 2097, which if my maths is OK suggests that by the early Seventies they had issued around 800+ of these 45s, all in colour sleeves.
And it is the strange amateur and sometimes downright primitive art on the sleeves which catches the eye today. I found a wedge of them in a charity shop not long ago, and couldn’t resist the covers. Illustrated by some barely capable painter (I cannot decipher the name but it could be Fait Camillo), they are almost all done in a sort of naive style.
Many depict idealised buxom Italian women running around the countryside in scenes vaguely relating to the song title, so must have been painted specially for the label. It’s not as if Italian labels shied away from photographic nudes on their sleeves, you only have to check out Fausto Papetti’s jazz covers, but clearly Fonola didn’t quite want to go that far.
There are variations from the rural idyll; a few grim war scenes, someone hanging from a lamp-post (no I’m not even going there!), street urchins, and so on. They even issued a few singles in photo covers, but for the most part the painted glamour art wins out. Some show comedic scenes, verging on the seaside postcard art beloved of Bamforth, albeit not nearly so well executed, while others remind me a little of the early Mills & Boon romance paperback painted covers.
The back of each 45 lists the artist, and includes a catalogue of ‘altri dischi della serie’ to collect. I’ve scanned my covers and added a few found on the web. There are four shown here and a full gallery on the site if you can’t resist seeing more!
If there are any Italian collectors out there who can throw more light on the label’s early output or have more of these please get in touch. The label is still going, albeit just issuing trad music on CD these days.