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I’ve begun to assemble the music that happens in the third ‘Moss Reid’ mystery. It makes a pleasant break from researching how to fake passports or working out the decomposition rates of dead bodies.

Without giving much away, some of the book’s action takes place on the Continent. So the provisional music playlist already has a retro French/Italian feel.

To kick off, here’s Mina – Italy’s most celebrated and most popular female pop singer. At her height (and she’s seriously tall) she was a sensation who dominated the country’s charts for 15 years.

My all-time favourite Mina song is Se telefonando (“If Over the Phone”) from 1966. Apologies for the dark B&W footage, but listen to that music…

The lyrics are by Maurizio Costanzo and Ghigo De Chiara, and the music by the legendary Ennio Morricone. Apparently his main motif was inspired by the sound of police sirens in Marseille. See? Police sirens. Perfect for crime fiction.

This is ultra-sophisticated Europop here, with a clever song structure, brilliant orchestration (as you’d expect from Morricone) and that voice. I can’t believe the song only made number seven in the Italian charts that year.

It’s so absolutely perfect that even a French version that very same year by Françoise Hardy (Je changerais d’avis) sounds lame tame by comparison.

A quick Mina biography

Mina was born Mina Anna Maria Mazzini in 1940. When her singing career took off in the 1960s she was dubbed “the queen of the screamers”, and “the Tiger of Cremona” because, well, I’m not sure really, but she has this amazingly expressive and sensual style, a huge vocal range and an ability to elongate her syllabic diction in any song.

In 1963 she was banned from TV and radio in a scandal that almost sounds like a film script: unmarried young woman has affair with married actor and becomes pregnant. Catholic Italy, single mums. Due to public demand, though, they had to lift the broadcasting ban the following year.

She retired from public appearances in 1978 and went into “voluntary exile” for the best part of two decades. But she still goes on making albums, recording prolifically – and being sampled profusely. Check out Elvis Costello’s spooky sample from her song “Un bacio è troppo poco” on his 2001 album “When I Was Cruel“.

Mina from Sixties mag Mina with mad Sixties hair do Another Mina magazine cover

There is something of the David Bowie about Mina: the frequently changing musical styles and looks, the dodgy or classic hair styles, the clever musical arrangements, the mad frocks.

What more do you want? A brilliant voice, an emancipated woman during darker times, a pop chameleon and the star of no fewer than ten Barilla pasta commercials.

For more Mina music, check out the videos on her official website.

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