Scarlatine

When it comes to electro-pop, Canada has a great tradition, ranging from TransX to Mitsou to Fanny Bloom. Montreal-bases Scarlatine (nom de plume of Judith Brodeur-Rowe) paints a very moody picture, with several shades of black and grey. No wonder one of her tracks is called ‘Noir’. But Navire is the one to dive in to, building like a big wave, giving you the chills and make you want to get wet some more.

Dusty Springfield

I never turn down a guestpost, especially when it’s about Dusty. Adrian, take it away:

One of the great joys in life is being bowled over by a song that comes at you out of the blue, especially one that you’ve never heard before from an artist you love. Thanks to Joe Belock’s Three Chord Monte show on the mighty US radio station WFMU, I had one of those experiences this week.
9808-english-pop-singer-dusty-springfield-0x375-2It’s hard to believe that Summer Is Over by Dusty Springfield was consigned to the B-side of Losing You when it was first released in the UK in 1964. It’s quintessentially Dusty: a huge, barnstorming song that rises and falls, made even more thrilling by Ivor Raymonde’s sweeping arrangements. It was written by her brother Dion, under his Tom Springfield monicker, and Clive Westlake.
At this moment, giddy as I am, I feel it might be the greatest song ever recorded (even if it does rhyme ‘green’ with, er, ‘green’).
But, and here’s the thing, like many of her songs, and similar to other Brit girls of the 60s, she also recorded it in French. L’été est fini, with new lyrics by André Salvet, takes the English version and adds something of a softness to it, maybe because she was singing it phonetically in the studio. It was released in France on a four-track EP, simply called Dusty Springfield. The EP appeared in the UK, renamed, marvellously, Mademoiselle Dusty. Turn your speakers up, crank out both versions and wave summer goodbye.

Dusty Springfield – L’été est fini (Summer is over)
Dusty Springfield – Je Ne Peux Pas T’En Vouloir (Losing You)

Martini Ad of the Week

pinkcoverOf course they are as much an American band as Grand Funk once were. Nonetheless Portland, Oregon’s »little orchestra« Pink Martini will always be identified with their postmodernist faux French smash hit Sympathique, also known as Je ne veux pas travailler, which sold a few million copies around the globe. On their brand new album Get Happy, they broaden their ‘ollywood swing nostalgia world music style with lyrics in Japanese, Turkish, Mandarin and Romanian; they even start with a German lingo opener. You might’ve already guessed there’s also a wink and a smile towards France: Je ne t’aime plus is finest understated Gallic bossa easy listening. Even better, it features neo-chanson legend and enfant terrible Philippe Katerine on vocals, and goodness gracious, it doesn’t sound faux at all.

Pink Martini – Je ne t’aime plus

La Jeanne video

You know Zaz. Now try La Jeanne. Don’t be fooled by the song title, it’s a French song.

Moodoïd

Moodoid-770Bring out the tie-dye-shirts, it’s psychedelica-time again. Parisian Pablo Padovani, guitarplayer for Melody’s Echo Chamber, has his own outfit called Moodoïd. Their first EP is just out, and features playful, uplifting (in every sense of the word) psych-pop with lots of lovely pixie voices. Kevin Parker of Tame Impale sat on the producer’s chair (like he did for MEC). Try this 7-minute workout, below. Or this great video.

Sheila

Guestposter Mark looks back 45 years to the fabled events of 1968 in France and the counter-revolutionary role of a popular song:
-l-ecole-est-finie-de-sheila1969100-
‘Les évènements’ of 1968 in France, 45 years ago, took place against the anglophone sounds of the Beatles, Bob Dylan and Joan Baez. ‘The times they are a’changin’ sung the soixante-huitards. Françoise Hardy and Sylvie Vartan, at the height of their yé-yé fame, were not the student rebels’ symbols ; ‘Salut les copains’ was to them a commercial rag. Despite some attempts by Leo Ferré, a supporter of the students, no memorable song in French has celebrated the occupation of the universities or the Paris street battles with the CRS (in which, historians remind us, no one lost their life).

Instead Soixante-huit is coloured now by a popular song that reflected not the students’ hopes, but the reaction to the May évènements from the Gaullist-leaning population of France. ‘Petit fille de français moyen’, sung by Sheila (Anny Chancel), issued on 25 June 1968, must be the only song to represent counter-revolution that topped a chart. Its melody by Georges Aber and Claude Carrere, claimed to be a ‘Tango’, is rather clunky. The lyrics by Jacques Monty, which are uncomplicated and easy to follow, can be found below this recording with slide-show.

ca685ac7f8c6021323161346808fe3f4d1fe99f7They contrast the world where people like Sheila work for a living with the lives of rich girls who have the wealth to enjoy themselves, spend time dressing, go to see arty films, and discuss ideas. A scopitone video of Sheila in a trouser-suit and other assorted clothes of the time is here.

Sheila is the daughter of a Paris market trader and thus, like Mireille Mathieu, from the small business world of people who supported De Gaulle, in contrast to the socialist and communist-leaning world of intellectuals. The great pro-De Gaulle demonstration in the Champs-Elysées on 30 May 1968, which effectively ended les évènements – the strikes continued but gradually faded away – was full of Sheilas and Mireilles.

As described in ‘Sheila – une histoire d’amour’, some radio producers who had supported the strikes of May refused to play the record until popular pressure forced them to. Les évènements resulted in universities ending their summer terms early, but that meant longer summer holidays, and by the time of la Rentrée, 45 years ago this month, Sheila’s song had done its job in quietening things, while depicting the students, who had rebelled against poor, crowded courses in the Sorbonne and elsewhere, as ‘jeunesse dorée’. This was in fact inaccurate, as the wealthy put their children into the Grandes Ecoles, which did not rebel.

Sheila, typically, is straightforward about it all, just saying, ‘Combien d’arbres coupés pour disserter sur le contenu politique de cette chanson !’.

Sheila was a big winner from 1968. Françoise Hardy ceased live concerts at the end of the year, making more more space for her to reach the top. A decade later Sheila was France’s disco queen, and is remembered for ‘Spacer’, written for her by the Chic talents Nile Rodgers and Bermard Edwards. The soixante-huitards and the student generation after them thus found themselves dancing to the counter-revolutionary Sheila singing in her charmingly-accented English – as we can still do. The 6-minute extended version of ‘Spacer’ with video of Sheila is here.

For an enjoyable encounter between Sheila and the arty left-leaning intellectual Denise Glaser on TV in 1971, see here . There is an entertaining commentary in English below. The French intellectual left which disliked her has faded away, but Sheila has had the last laugh, still recording at 67.

Bâtard Pop XXV: Preparing the Duff

Even a tame mainstream ditty like Duffy’s Warwick Avenue suddenly works when fused with Serge’s Je t’aime. Kleptomaniac: Phil RetroSpector. Art form: Mash-up, of course. Verdict: Perfect crime. Check his site for more.

Perverse Manon, Country Style

volecovThough being one of the finest bands ever to follow the paths of the Byrds and especially Gram Parsons into so many jingle jangle evenings, Motor City’s Volebeats are still virtually unknown even to most country rock aficionados. On their 2004 outing Country Favorites they also proved a surreal kind of humour covering songs by Parliament, Abba, Slayer or Barry White twangy-style. Their version of Serge G’s Manon, erstwhile title song of the stylish Deneuve flick Manon 70, transports the original’s ragged ambiguity clandestinely to the Seen It All Bar – that place where all the pale riders gather when they come to Paris, Texas.

Volebeats – Manon

Bonus: Serge’s original, of course, plus Marina Celeste’s breezy, ultra-sexy Brazil style version from her Cinéma Enchanté album. Hush, hush, sweet Manon.

Serge Gainsbourg – Manon
Marina Celeste – Manon

Extrabonus:
Giovanni Mirabassi – Manon
Lulu Gainsbourg & Marianne Faithfull – Manon

Un uomo di 76 anni

paolo_conteSmoke a dozen packages of Morte Sicuro per day, and maybe you’ll sound like Italian cantautore Paolo Conte someday. The former lawyer with the gravelly voice wrote Italy’s not-all-too secret national anthem Azzurro in 1968 for Adriano Celentano, before he became a superstar himself with Gelato al limon and, of course, Via con me (»s’wonderful, good luck, my babe«) in the early Eighties, combining jazz and cabaret style with melanconia, eleganza, senso and disinvoltura. Occasionally, Conte also sings in French, as on his 2010 album Nelson – a true padrone of chanson.

Paolo Conte w/ Laura Conti – C’est beau
Paolo Conte – Enfant prodige