Celentano, now 74 years old, says that he wanted to break down language barriers and inspire people to communicate more.
"Ever since I started singing, I was very influenced by American music and everything Americans did," he tells Guy Raz, host of weekends on All Things Considered, through interpreter Sim Smiley.
"So at a certain point, because I like American slang — which, for a singer, is much easier to sing than Italian — I thought that I would write a song which would only have as its theme the inability to communicate," he says. "And to do this, I had to write a song where the lyrics didn't mean anything."
"Prisencolinensinainciusol" is so nonsensical that Celentano didn't even write down the lyrics, but instead improvised them over a looped beat. When it was first released in 1972, Celentano says no one noticed it. But that didn't stop him from performing it several years later on Italian television. The second time was the charm: it immediately became No. 1 in Italy, as well as France, Germany and Belgium.
I can't exactly speak to the authenticity of the gibberish words as sounding like English to a non-English speaker. But as an English-speaker, I think it does a pretty damn impressive job.
(Here's a recent remix of the song. Same old gibberish, hot new beat. — Ed.)