Beppe Maniglia first started playing his guitar in Via Rizzoli in 1980 and fondly remembers, “the people going mad for him.” Eventually though, Maniglia became better known for riding through town like a star in his Harley Davidson, before setting up shop on Piazza Nettuno. “Look at me,” he pointed to photos and newspaper articles of himself online. “I was different. People couldn’t get enough of me… the biggest reporters wrote about me. I was in all the newspapers but now, they throw me out of the city with a kick on the ass.”
He’s presently living in a camping ground just outside the city centre. “I love it here,” he refers to his battered camper. “I have everything I need and it’s comfortable.” It’s a far cry though from his days as a successful and much admired personality. Even his beloved motorbikes are looking very tired and weather worn. But Beppe is nothing but positive and a true fighter. For approximately 40 years fans from far and wide lauded his crazy antics. Critics lambasted his loud music and tasteless style whilst showing off his muscles. In either case, it seems that Maniglia likes nothing more to create a whirlwind of publicity. He still appears on radio and tv when given the chance.
He was one of the first to own the famous American brand motorbike: Harley Davidson. At that time of course, it drew as much attention as his half naked body and tight leather trousers did. This was the beginning of his own branding image and Beppe knew he was onto a sure thing as soon as he began these public appearances.
Not content with one Harley though, Beppe actually created bespoke motorbikes for others and admits to never making any money on them. “I blew so much money on them you wouldn’t believe it. I only sold one but the others I just gave away.” He had his own little factory but never really “wanted to work for a living.” Ironically, he put so much effort into promoting his own style of music he never seems to consider this as ‘work’.
His faithful Harley that he still rides is almost 50 years old. And it looks every bit as weary and tired as Maniglia himself. They have travelled a long road as he’ll admit and at the time cost him a staggering three apartments worth in Via Zamboni. Parked a few metres from the Harley is another one of his most faithful bikes, a Honda. It’s hard to tell what size it is since it too, is covered in a thick layer of grim and dust. He added proudly though that, “I haven’t changed the battery in 40 years on this.”
Beppe travelled the world for years on tour and when he sets his mind on something, he rarely does anything by half measures. On one particular visit to England around the 1980’s he spotted a double decker red bus for sale and decided there and then to buy it, drive it back to Italy and retrofit the whole bus for his world tour. “I needed something big for my whole kit and for all the music I would sell to my fans. I was selling 10,000 cassettes/CD’s a month from that bus. I started immediately, making, printing and selling music by myself.”
In fact, most musicians are quite able these days with the internet to produce and manage their own label but imagine at least 30 years ago when only big names could afford such outlays and investment for tours. Beppe, however, was truly a one-man show and it’s testament to an absolute confidence in his own abilities that when he embarked on such a challenge he saw it through to the end. “Aim big. Don’t go low,” he would constantly advise. It’s a mantra surely any modern day Personal Coach would agree with but one that Maniglia latched on to many a moon ago.
During this brief sojourn in the UK he played in various cities as his by now famous image as a half naked muscular guitarist. And it certainly helped his chances to get noticed because in 1986 he was invited to London by Bob Geldof to play for Sport Aid, whilst the mayor of Birmingham was only too pleased to have his photo taken with the young Italian rebel. “You have to create the ‘person’ (referring to his brand) then the rest follows… Don’t worry about anyone else. Who cares? If you don’t create the image you’re nobody,” he suggests adamantly.
Maniglia is not one to hold back by any means and it’s possible that his popularity was one of the main reasons that led to him being banished from the city. Once feted for his quirky behaviour and surrounded by hundreds of fans, curious onlookers and even critics, he is now a pariah, banished to the city limits –not just in Bologna but in other places such as Rimini and Riccione where he was also frequented spotted playing to the masses.
“I had big plans to clean up Bologna,” he announces proudly. “Firstly, I would have kicked out all the police, even the carabinieri. I had up to 300 people ready to be armed. We would throw out the drug dealers, clean up the streets, any delinquents would be dealt with…” and he describes how catching graffiti artists would have their hands broken. “Not even the trains would escape his clutches. Train companies would be charged 1 euro for passing Bologna and if they refused we would just build a wall to stop them.” Looking back now, his policies may have seemed far-fetched, a little ‘authoritarian’, however, in the present climate of Trump, Orban and Salvini, Beppe Maniglia’s eccentric ideas seem to square up well with twenty first century politics. The only thing he lacks is the energy to begin tossing red meat to his base, which he claims number in their thousands. Watch this space.
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