Friday, July 10, 2009

French Wave

7-10-09 French Wave

I first visited France in 1979. I had taken French while still in school, but I wasn’t very good at it. I got to France to find that my high school French only prevented me from starving. I couldn’t understand much. Fortunately, most of the people I wanted to try and contact spoke at least some English (Merci, Gilles Yepremian!).

I saw lots of exotic stuff – posters everywhere for Serge Gainsbourg – and I did not know who he was – “Je T’Aime…Moi Non Plus” only a distant memory. I think the posters were promoting one of his reggae albums. I saw records by Charlelie Couture and Lio. We were all very into Lio – especially her first album.

A few years later, I visited France again and began to recognize artists – Jacno, Etienne Daho etc. I discovered that British companies like Island and Virgin had set up shop in France – to properly represent the new wave there. Charlelie Couture signed to Island France, Etienne Daho to Virgin France. Then the MTV generation erupted, and I got into Les Rita Mitsouko, Niagara etc. One of my visits to France, I saw Jacques Higelin perform live at Bercy. Another time, I saw Charlelie Couture in Malakoff. (I saw Les Rita Mitsouko play live in Los Angeles!).

My good friend Gilles used to send me music videos from France – first from “Boulevard Des Clip”, then from “M Comme Musique”. I have hundreds of French music videos! Always such great ‘art direction’ etc. Bob G. went to France and discovered L’Affaire Louis’ Trio Merci, Bob-san! I even used to subscribe to “Rock Et Folk”, the big music magazine. When my friend Yael goes back to France, I always ask her to bring me the latest issue of “Rock et Folk”.

From the age of being sent French music videos, I really liked Les Escrocs (“Assedic”), Katerine (“Mon Coeur Balance”), Jean Louis Murat (“Le Col De La Croix Morand”), Mr. Oizo (“Flat Beat”) et al.

Ever listen to any of this stuff? Or do you think that France only produced Yves Montand and Edith Piaf? I guess French ‘rock bands” such as Tahiti 80, Air and Daft Punk get a taken a bit more seriously, these days. I have even found a (British) book about the current wave of French acts, believe it or not. (“French Connections”, I think).

I was really sad when Fred C. of Les Rita Mitsouko passed away recently. Having seen them live, I felt a bit closer to them than some other French acts. I’ve seen Tahiti 80 live a few times, and it does admittedly ‘help’ that they operate mostly in English.

In the new century, I mostly see new French CD’s when I visit Tokyo. French music has always been really popular in Japan. In fact, I’ve found French CD’s in Japan that I could never seem to find, even in France! (Arnold Turboust’s album, for instance).

And I recently got an email from Etienne Daho’s site saying he’s now signed to Capitol Records, and he has either a 45 or CD Single of him having a duet with Katerine

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