Shouldn't Have To be Like That - Fra Lippo Lippi - 80sneverend

A destiny in the name

Fra Lippo Lippi – Shouldn’t Have To be Like That

#quotefromthe80s
And even if it takes a lifetime of trust
To build something strong, what happens to us
With all our faith buried inside, somewhere
Shouldn't have to be like that
#FraLippoLippi #ShouldntHaveToBeLikeThat

In the pop world of the 80s many artists and groups had bizarre names. Aside from completely invented names, many artists took inspiration, for example, from particular or unusual places, such as Picnic at the Whitehouse singing We Need Protection, or Hong Kong Syndikat with their beautiful Too Much. Even very famous groups took their names from some places, such as Chicago, Manhattan Transfer, Gloria Estefan’s Miami Sound Machine singing Dr. Beat, or even Berlin, with the awesome Teri Nunn singing Take My Breath Away directly from Top Gun soundtrack.

We also had three continents, with You can Do Magic sung by America, Heat of the Moment sung by Asia, and of course The Final Countdown sung by Europe. If you look carefully, we also had Afrika Bambaataa, who sang Reckless with UB40. But just to stay in the Berlin area, I would say that the most famous group that took its name from a place was probably Spandau Ballet. Spandau is one of the boroughs of Berlin, but in the 1980s it was best known for Spandau Prison, built to detain Nazi criminals, which remained in operation to hold the last surviving prisoner, Rudolf Hess, and was demolished in 1987 upon the death of the criminal.

Less common were the groups that took inspiration from historical figures: Shakespear’s Sisters come to mind, composed by Marcella Detroit and Siobhan Fahey, former member of Bananarama and then wife of Eurythmics’ Dave Stewart. They sang the sensual You’re History, but I would say that the group with the most historic, evocative and original name, at the edge of credibility, was Fra Lippo Lippi, a Norwegian group who during the eighties were sometimes a quartet, a trio, and even a duo, depending on who went out and who came in.

Filippo Lippi was a painter of the fifteenth century born in Florence who actually took vows in his youth, but when he was fifty in a monastery in Tuscany he met a nun who acted as his model and with whom he fell in love, so they had to dissolve their vows, but they regularized their union and had two children, one of whom was also a famous painter, Filippino Lippi. Hence, Fra Lippo Lippi was the father of Filippino Lippi.

I don’t think Norwegian guys had done an in-depth study of renaissance to choose who to take inspiration from, more likely, once they heard this name, they would have been fascinated by its playful and curious sound. It must be said that they were probably not directly inspired by the historical figure, but by a poem of the same name by the English poet Robert Browning, dedicated to Filippo Lippi.

In reality Fra Lippo Lippi were not at all a glamorous group in the style of Duran Duran or Wham! for example. And until 1985 their fame was confined to Norway and partially to England, but without sensational successes, so they attempted one last move before eventually disbanding the group. At that time they were a group of four, and after the first two albums they had left the record company and had self-produced their third album Songs, which had actually achieved some success.

Two of the members, however, keyboardist Øyvind Kvalnes and drummer and founder of the group Morten Sjøberg, decided to leave the group and return to their every day jobs, and so the group was left with only two members, bassist and founder Rune Kristoffersen and singer Per Sørensen, when they managed to get a contract from Virgin.

Rather than produce a new album, Virgin decided to re-record Songs with more professional sounds and relaunch it, and this proved to be a winning choice, due mostly to a couple of songs, including Shouldn’t Have to Be Like That, which even reached the English top ten charts.

Released in the first part of January 1986, the song could fall within the existentialism trend of the 80s, because it deals with the difficulty of communicating one’s emotions to the closest people, despite of a life lived almost mechanically, without space for emotions. A trend that would then be taken up again the following year by Black’s melancholic Wonderful Life, for example. and which is also demonstrated by the almost funereal setting of the video, directed by the English director Sam Hodgkin.

The video features the two members of the group with a girl, in a park with funerary monuments. It was not filmed in a cemetery, but in the garden of a bizarre English residence on the western outskirts of London which was inspired by classical buildings, Chiswick House, which however in fact also contains memorials and funerary monuments. In particular, some frames show us a slab with a funerary inscription in Latin, in which there is a not very Latin name: Lilly. Well, it is probably the owners’ puppy, who was buried there and whose canine virtues are extolled on the plaque. This plaque is still visible today near the so-called “Ionic temple”, a small circular pavilion in Chiswick Gardens.

In short, the song was certainly catchy, and supported by the video and perhaps also by the bizarre name of the group, it managed to revive the band’s fortunes, even if they were never able to find successes like this again. Actually, in addition to their Norway, England and the some European countries, there was one country where Fra Lippo Lippi achieved resounding success: the Philippines! Don’t ask me why, but it’s a fact that in those islands they were real stars, and held tours and concerts that were always sold out! Could it be a sign of destiny, given that the group took its name from a Philip who called his son Filippino?

However, it must be said that Fra Lippo Lippi, despite a thousand ordeals, continued to play until 2002, when Kristofferson also decided to dedicate himself to personal projects, thus leaving singer Per Sørensen alone. Who still takes care of bringing the group’s music to concerts today, and do you know where? Of course in the Philippines! Indeed, in 2015 Sørensen opened the Manila leg of Spandau Ballet’s tour, in 2018 he played with the Manila Philharmonic Orchestra, and again in June 2023 the tickets for his concerts in that country were sold out.

In short, the name Fra Lippo Lippi was certainly bizarre, but it was certainly prophetic for the success of the band!

Fra Lippo Lippi on Wikipedia

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