Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Lulu Gainsbourg and Scarlett Johansson: Bonnie and Clyde

Given that with the filming of Scarlett Johansson's new film in this part of the world makes her practically Scottish, I thought that was as good a reason as any to feature another track from the "From Gainsbourg to Lulu" album.

While filming Under the Skin she's been spotted in Nice n Sleazy, a key Glasgow music scene bar and been filmed buying petrol in Lanarkshire while she also celebrated her 27th birthday in a Port Glasgow housing scheme.

Who says life as a Hollywood A-lister isn't all glamour?

Anyway, she's always had a music side, and it's been one that's been surprisingly tasteful. She performed with the Jesus and Mary Chain at Coachella in 2007 and released an album in 2008 Anywhere I Lay My Head, featuring principally covers of Tom Waits songs, and has recorded a Jeff Buckley song.

She also worked with Peter Yorn on the 2009 album Break Up, which was inspired by Gainsbourg's duets with Brigitte Bardot.

Debate will no doubt rage among Gainsbourg fans about the merits of the cover in contrast with the original, but I reckon it's pretty good and I'm sure if Gainsbourg was around he'd only be too happy to collaborate with Scarlett.

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Rétro: The Clash in France

With the word that French actress Julie Delpy is planning to make a biopic of Joe Strummer from the Clash, I thought it as good an excuse as any to run some historic footage of the Clash playing in France.

As original pioneers of the punk movement, the Clash were there at the very beginning, and that included events like the 100 Club punk festival in '76, when they played the day before France's Stinky Toys made their historic show.

The band played the Mont-de-Marsan European Punk festival in '77, an event organised by Marc Zermati, a hugely influential figure in the development of punk in France and its subsequent influence over bands from the UK and beyond.

It was the second time the event had been held, the previous year it had featured Bijou, Il Biarits, Shakin' Street and the Damned, whose appearance at the event was only their fifth gig.

The event was held the following year in the town's bullring in August 1977, this time the line up features the Damned and the Clash, as well as Eddie and the Hot Rods and - much further down the bill - The Police.

There's footage of the Damned from the show, but I've not been able to track down any video from the Clash, although audio recordings circulate and there was a bootleg LP of their set issued.

This clip is from French TV in 1977, with a very young Clash showing their style.

Friday, 18 November 2011

Rétro: Alain Bashung - Gaby oh Gaby

I featured the posthumous Alaim Baschung release earlier, so I though it worth a mention of the song that made him a star.

The song Gaby oh! Gaby was a massive hit for Alain Bashung in 1980, establishing him as a major figure in the French music scene. He had released other songs before, but nothing had enjoyed the level of success that this song would achive

Its quite a different style for those more familiar with his later, darker work.

There's a sound that's almost like what an 80s new wave band would sound like if they were fronted by a Dylan obsessive, which probably isn't far from the reality if the song C'est la faute à Dylan from his 1979 album Roulette Russe was anything to go by.

It reminds me of bands like The Cars, very much of its era but a great song nonetheless.

The song Gaby oh Gaby was a product of Bashung's working with Boris Bergman, which would prove to be a hugely commercially successful period for Bashung, Gaby oh Gaby reaching number two in the French charts with Vertige de l'amour a number one hit the following year, as was the album Pizza.

Following the success of Gaby oh Gaby his Roulette Russe album was reissued with the song on it

You have to love the 80s stylings in the video.

Cascadeur: Walker

one of this things I love about this blog is that it gives me the opportunity to hear amazing music that I normally would not stumble across.

The track Walker by Cascadeur being the perfect example.

The track comes from the album The Human Octopus, which came out in March 2011.

Cascadeur, with a mask or a helmet shielding his face, first came to widespread attantion after winning the CQFD (Ceux qu'il faut découvrir) prize organised by Les Inrockuptibles magazine in 2008.

He signed to Casablanca records for his major label debut, which saw him shortlisted for the Prix Constantin which was eventually won by Selah Sue in October.

It's as haunting as some of the work of Anthony and the Johnsons and Yann Tiersen, with the sophistication of Radiohead.

Cascadeur is playing some dates in France in early December.

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

New: Emilie Simon - Mon Chevalier

French singer Emilie Simon releases her new album Franky Knight next month, ahead of which the video for the traeck Mon Chevalier has been released.

Several of the songs are to be featured on the new Audrey Tautou film La Délicatesse, due out at the end of December. The film stars Tautou and Francois Damiens and is basedon the book by David Foenkinos.

Its a great single, and while its cutting-edge production values locate it somewhere in the area inhabited by artists like Bjork, it's also classic song.

She's no stranger to film soundtracks, having recorded the (French) soundtrack for March of the Penguins in 2005, which won her a second Victoire de la Musique award for Best Film Soundtrack. It was also nominated for a César award.

Emilie Simon's self-titled debut album was released in 2003, winning her a Victoires de la Musique award the following year for Best Electronic Album. Her March of the Penguins soundtrack was released in 2005.

She followed this with Végétal in 2006, the same year as The Flower Book, a compilation of her first three releases intended for an English language audience. Végétal would also win another Victoire de la Musique award, for Best Electronic album.

Her forth album The Big Machine was largely an English language album, released in 2009.

More recently, on November 14 she was presented with the 2011 Sacem Grand Prix des musiques électroniques.

The Franky Knight album is due to be release in December and she is playing a few selected dates in France at Aix-en-Provence, Paris and Orléans

Friday, 11 November 2011

Rétro: Black Sabbath in Paris, 1970

With news that Black Sabbath have reformed and are to record a new album with their original line up, I though it worth reflecting on a great piece of archive video of the band in France from 1970 which makes it clear just why the band are so special.

The announcement was made at 11.11, local time in LA on Friday 11/11/11, this clip goes further back - to 1970.

Bearing in mind this was, of course, recorded at a time when most of the rock counterculture was still in a hippy daze following the late 60s.

The clip Was recorded at L'Olympia in December 1970 long before Ozzy was best known as a reality TV star and the band were fresh from the success of Paranoid as a hit single.

It's astonishing to realise that their debut album Black Sabbath was released less than a year before (On Friday the 13th of Feb), and the follow-up Paranoid coming out in October.

The Paranoid album was a number one in the UK and number 12 in the US, Paranoid reaching number four as a single in the UK. Not bad for a song that was essentially written and recorded at the last minute in a period of 25 minutes to make up the running time of the album.

Both albums have been recognised in the decades since as bona fide classics of rock music, inspiring generations of musicians and fans, and establishing the artistic merit of the heavy rock genre.

With Black Sabbath being feted so frequently the sheer quality of their early work is often overlooked

So we have probably the most influential heavy rock band of all time at probably their most creative point of their career, recorded live in Paris.

Enjoy it!

November 11: Armistice Day

A clip from Manau's L'avenir est un long passé, marking November 11, Armistice Day.

The tragedy of war is marked in France as everywhere else in Europe, with the sacrifices made by soldiers, civilians and resistance fighters remembered with pride and sadness.

With the hectares of mass graves and the 'Mort Pour La France' plaques that adorn walls throughout the country the toll of war is impossible to forget in France.

We should always remember and continue to hope for the possibility of peace.

Thursday, 10 November 2011

Alain Bashung: Variations sur Marilou

I love Gainsboug as much as any French music fanatic, but the cover of Variations sur Marilou by Alain Bashung that has been released posthumously on his L'Homme a Tete de Chou album is really exceptional.

The album is a cover version of the Gainsbourg concept album from '76 and it stands as a powerful tribute to two of France's finest musical talents.

The album, which came out on November 7 has finally been released two years after it was used for a contemporary ballet production staged by choreographer Jean-Claude Gallotta staged at Grenoble's MC2 in November 2009. Bashung died of lung cancer in March that year.

The album is a cover of the Serge Gainsbourg album of the same name, released originally by Serge in 76, his final 'rock' album before his reggae phase. I'm probably guilty like many are of not giving this album the credit it deserved on first listen, coming as it did after the notorious Rock Around The Bunker album and his reggae work, but Gainsbourg was at the top of his game when he created it, his instinctive musical sensibilities and his use of poetry combining with his earthy sense of humour.

It was Gainsbourg's second concept album, following his earlier Histoire de Melody Nelson five years earlier.

Bashung had a long career, his first release in 1966 but his major success coming in the 1980s. Albums like Roman Photo in 1977, Roulette Russe in 1979, Pizza in 1981 and Passé le Rio Grande in 1986 confirmed him as one of the most significant voices in French music

His song Gaby, oh Gaby was in the charts for over a year, the follow up Vertige de l'amour also being a huge hit.

Bashung died in March 2009 aged 61, his last public appearance was at the Victoires de la Musique awards that year, where he won three awards following the release of his Bleu Petrole album - best album, best male artist and best live act.

Bashung had been as the most awarded artist in the history of the award, with a total of 11 wins during his lifetime.

His album Fantaisie Militaire was awarded the title of best album of the last 20 years at the ceremony's 20th anniversary and a posthumous 12th award for his 2008 live at L'Olympia DVD.

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Acid Mothers temple - La Nòvia

Off to see a band tonight, Acid Mothers Temple and the Melting Paraiso UFO, which although very much Japanese and of the psychedelic rock persuasion, have a surprisingly strong link to French traditional music.

The band have reguarly referred to themselves as Troubadours, from the ancient Occitan musical tradition, one of their albums actually titled Troubadours from Another Heavenly World, but by far their strongest link is in the use of the traditional Occitan song La Nòvia as one of the centrepieces of their live set, as well as one of their (in my view anyway) best albums.

Their La Nòvia album, with its fake trad occitan original sleeve, came out originally on vinyl in 2000 on the Eclipse records label. It was their fith proper album, and despite their massive back catalogue - they must have about 50 albums over the last ten years including all their spin-off projects and live releases - one of their best works.

Acid Mothers guitarist Kawabata Makoto has also been strong advocates of Occitan traditional singer Rosina de Peira, selling copies of her album Gospel d'Oc at Acid Mothers gigs, and it was from Rosina de Peira that the band first heard the song.

The song is performed by the band in the Occitan language, it's lyrics

La nòvia a nau brilhants suu cap
La nòvia a nau brilhants suu cap
Nau brilhants suu cap
L'anèth au dit
Nau brilhants suu cap
L'anèth au dit...

simply translating as "The bride has nine jewels around her head / a ring on her finger" The song traditionally continues with the (occitan) Nine (nau) changed to Eight (uèit) and down to one (un).

AMT of course don't follow the rules too rigorously in the lyrics, despite its lengthy running time, using the melody as a launch pad for a lengthy psychedelic expoloration which still remains true to its ethmomusical roots.

I've seen the band perform the number several times, and its a real highlight of their shows.

Its an extraordinary piece of rock improvisation that combines the dynamics of heavy psychedelic rock with a delicate folk song, often using overtone singing for the vocal sections.

It's not the only long improvisation-based number that they perform, but while numbers like Pink Lady Lemonade are equally impressive workouts, they don't have the jaw-dropping moments when the band come together in delicate vocals that could have come straight from the Middle Ages.

The band released a version of the song that features them performing with Rosina de Peira on their Never Ending Space Ritual - History Of Acid Mothers Temple & The Melting Paraiso U.F.O. DVD that came out in 2008.

A language teacher once told me that a language cannot really be considered endangered while there's still a pop group performing in that language. While the speakers of Occitan may very well be declining, but if a Japanese band making it the centrepiece of their live performace is any measure it's in fine health indeed.

Monday, 7 November 2011

Chart: Moussier Tombola

A number one this week by Moussier Tombola, following the song Logobitombo and associated dance being a huge hit already on YouTube.

While there's not a whole lot to the song other than a feel-good call to the dance floor, it's certainly good to see a song like this at the top of the charts. France is no stranger to rows over racism, and I reckon that songs like this, while not pushing an overtly anti-racist agenda do their bit to help further ethnic harmony more than any well-meaning and well-funded awareness campaign.

While it's obvious that the odd hit single does not necessarily reflect a more racially tolerant society, its certainly a step in the right direction and you can't help but get the impression that the UK is lagging behind when it comes to its popular music reflecting the ethnic diversity of the country.

There's a huge ethnic population in the UK, with the Indian and Pakistani community a huge one as well as communities that have evolved following the country's historical links to Africa and the Caribbean.

But this doesn't seem to be reflected in the popular music of the UK, and while there have been one or two exceptions, popular music remains on the whole an anglo-saxon dominated field, with British and American artists dominating.

There's little sign of any Bhangra in the charts or African music getting widespread commercial exposure and I don't expect that will change anytime soon.

Music can make a difference. Witness how the Two Tone scene in the late 80s evolved to counter the rise of the extreme right in the UK as effectively as any protest group.

So personally, while it might not be my cup of tea, Moussier Tombola is a welcome addition to the French charts.

Top five:

1) Moussier Tombola - Logobitombo
2) Pitbull feat Marc Anthony - Rain over me
3) Mika - Elle me Dit
4) Lucenzo - Danza Kuduro
5) Inna Modja - French cancan

Thursday, 3 November 2011

Rétro- Serge Gainsbourg: L'eau à la Bouche

I thought that following a link to the video of Lulu Gainsbourg's version of L'eau à la Bouche I really had to link to his father's original.

The original a latin influenced jazz number came out in 1960, the title song for a romantic comedy film originally released on a soundtrack EP.

It comes very much from the time in his career when Gainsbourg was more influenced by jazz than by pop, a field he was very soon to dominate for the rest of the decade.

The song is probably better remembered than the film, Serge himself continuing to perform it even in the later days of his career.

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Editorial: November 2011

Another month for Vive le Roq, with October continuing our good run of visitors to the blog.

I thought it might be worth sharing some of the visitor figues to the site, with the last month showing the majority of visitors coming from the USA, followed by the UK (just under half the number for the US) followed closely by France.

Following this, it halves again to Russia and Germany, Mexico, Italy Canada, Belgium and Brazil also coming in with reasonable amounts of visits.

Hello, and I hope you find something that you like!

I'm pleased that the majority of visitors are from the English speaking world, not through any favouritism, but with the intention of the blog being to raise the profile of France in its rightful place in the music world, I guess it means introducing things to the English-speaking audience. I hope I'm doing something right.

Again another busy month ahead, and time permitting many more blog entries and great new things to listen to along the way.

Thanks once again to all who have supported the blog over the last while, and as always I can be contacted on john kilbride AT hotmail DOT Com, without the spaces and with the approproate dot and @

Merci et à bientôt