A return ticket

By Massimo D'Angelo

Like it or not, the tome with the letter “L” from the Italian Contemporary History of Music belongs to Ligabue. Luciano Ligabue. Beyond fanaticism on the one hand, and critics on the other, that the Correggio boy (Reggio Emilia, 1960) has breathed fresh air into the Italian rock scene is undisputable. He has written beautiful pages - as if it were a  book - with notes, verses and choruses that, at one time or another, we have all heard, whistled, learned, sang, or shouted to the heavens.      

And, as what happens with books, you know whether you like it or not from the first chapter. In Ligabue’s case, the first chapter of this imaginary book was written between 1990 and 1993, and inevitably brings with it images of the clandestines that the 30-year-old Ligabue chose as travel mates for the recording of his first three albums - almost 20 by now, between the studio, live shows, and recompilations -. Gigi Cavalli Cocchi on drums, Luciano Ghezzi on bass, and Massimiliano “Max” Cottafavi on guitar, formed this Clan Destino that accompanied the country boy with dreams of rock ‘n roll until he saw his name on the charts, and to take him around the country on the Never Ending Tour that got them to be the front band for Bono, The Edge, and company.    

But we’re not here to talk about “El Liga”. Nor to speak of the hypothetic  “premiere Ligabue”  from the “second”, “third” and maybe how many more still; a subject, much liked by the collective imagination of some Italian music critics, in love with labels, value judgements, of “he is always like that” or of  “he is full of himself”...
We’re here to tell you about an interview with a guitarist which has been a pleasure to talk to about music, sound, memories, and guitars, on a rainy afternoon last December, in a provincial town from the Padana grasslands, where we spent a few hours in the company of a little rock star with a big heart.     


Thanks to the collaboration and help of Gianluca La Boria, founder of GLB Sound, Max Cottafavi opened the studio doors for us, and embraced us with a smile, as if we were old friends. We went over  his story, from the dream of being a tennis player, to traveling the world, - guitar on his shoulder - beside the most famous rocker in Italy.

Max lives with his feet firmly on the ground: he knows what it means to have a return ticket in his hands. But over the years he has learned to enjoy all that the 6-string has afforded him in the past, and is giving him in the present. A present that has begun to spin again in Luciano Ligabue’s orbit. And we - impossible to deny - like seeing them together again, as in the beginning, as it was 25 years ago, when they showed us how to dance on the top of the world to new sounds that now form a part of the soundtrack of our lives.

Cottafavi has a special taste for tone and the quality of sound (it’s not by luck that he uses a GLB amp) and he gave us a live sample right there. From strictly a guitarist's point of view, we’re not talking about a virtuoso of speed, but a guitarist with feeling, who knows how to put notes and chords, arpeggios and solos in their proper place. Comfortable in his role as guitarist, Max transmits with passion what us, guitar lovers, look for in a song at that precise moment, when the singer leaves space for the music: emotions.   

Our wish is to be able to live many more emotions with Max and his 6-string, while Luciano carries on writing pages of the tome with the letter “L” we spoke of at the start. We like what we’ve read so far. Very much.

Video interview Part I
Video Intervies Part II

(All images: © Maurizio Beucci - www.mauriziobeucci.com)