The other day I went out to buy some clothes. I am useless at buying clothes and have little confidence in my own tastes, so in Marks And Spencers hunting for a jumper I found myself drifting to the rack with the reassuring sign ‘ITALIAN’. Isabel took one look at the shapeless thing I held up for her and shook her head emphatically.
Blame the Emperor Claudius, or Lord Byron, or the bloke who started Pizza Express, but Britain has a history of occasional cringing envy when it comes to Italy and its culture that generally leads to further embarrassment. My impulse when buying a jumper was to go for the supposedly Italian one because Italians know about clothes and I don’t. I assume that the exact same impulse was what motivated David Whitfield to record “Cara Mia” and anyone at all to buy it. Because, after all, the Italians know about sophistication and romance and the best way to access a bit of Meditteranean class is to stick a cushion up your shirt and pretend you’re an opera singer. Either that or Whitfield was troubled by prophetic visions of the 70s Cornetto adverts and had to exorcise them on record.
“Cara Mia” is the first British song by a British artist to top the charts, according to my well-thumbed Guinness book of pop facts. It is entirely awful, except for the twinking backing vocals, but this minor claim to fame is a suitable one: clodhopping nods to the continent have been an occasional feature of the Top 10 ever since.