During the 60s and 70s, three distinguished old gentlemen who had built their careers playing "made in France" exotic jazz – Roger Roger, Nino Nardini and Eddie Warner – met every evening in the Ganaro recording studio, playing like kids with their new toys: souped-up keyboards that looked more like prototypes of spaceships to explore the Milky Way. Flying high on whimsical and joyful inspiration, the improbable trio used their strange instruments to sketch out the beginnings of something that, at that time, resembled the future of music. Let's take a trip with them toward a pop, light-hearted and electronic future.
At the dawn of the twentieth century, Roger Roger and Georges Achille Teperino entered the world. Roger was born in 1911 in Rouen; Teperino the year after in Paris. They followed in their parents' footsteps. Roger's mother was a singer, and his father conducted the orchestra at the Opera. Teperino was taught music by his father, an Italian violinist and composer. Roger and Georges met in secondary school in 1927 and became the very best of friends, to the extent that Roger's first wife was Teperino's mother, making the latter his son-in-law. They formed a band called Les Diables Rouges (The Red Devils) that played halls and nightclubs where people would swing dance. For the band, Teperino adopted a nickname that made him famous: Nino Nardini. After World War II, he formed the Nino Nardini orchestra, specializing in "exotic" musical styles. They set the dance floors on fire in the clubs where young people, when not flirting, would twirl to the paso doble, foxtrot, calypso, slow rock, cha-cha and tango. At the same time, he conducted an orchestra for Radio Luxembourg, and one in a traveling circus, providing closely-tailored accompaniment for acrobats, clowns and lion tamers. For his part, Roger Roger (his real name) also worked as a conductor at Radio Luxembourg and accompanied Edith Piaf, Maurice Chevalier, Jean Sablon and Charles Trenet on stage. Radio France asked him to record some of his compositions as production music for its programs. These melodies attracted the attention of Chappell & Co., a music publisher in London that had just opened a department specializing in library music, which they sold "by the ton" to radio, television and cinema. Roger thus made his debut in production music. He was to become an emblematic figure in this domain, for the profusion and eclecticism of his productions, but, above all, his pronounced taste for experimentation. Nardini soon joined him in what appeared to be a new Eldorado. Together the pair made a clean break with rigid French traditions, via compositions featuring unexpected instruments like the harpsichord, marimba and Ondioline. Later, when the first analog synthesizers, oscillators and other electronic keyboards appeared, they were adopted as well. Always seeking innovative sounds, Nardini got deeply into concrete music in the early 60s, as put forward by Pierre Schaeffer (who had just founded the GRM, Groupe de recherches musicales), popularized by Pierre Henry and twisted by the whimsical Jean-Jacques Perrey. Seeking independence, Roger and Nardini decided to create their own studio in Jouy-en-Josas, southwest of Paris. They handled the creative side, while Francis Gastambie took care of the business end. The studio was named "Ganaro," an acronym of the first two letters of their respective family names. It became the scene of magical nightly sessions of experimentation, in the company of their friend Eddie Warner. The acquisition of a Moog synthesizer brought these pioneers of electronic music to a new level. Roger Roger manufactured his own punch cards to invent new sounds. Then, in 1969, under the pseudonym of Cecil Leuter, he published the albums Pop Electronique and TVMusic 101 (with Nardini), two truly avant-garde "100% electronic" disks that anticipate the hegemony of machines in pop music, from space disco in the late 70s to the electro funk of the early 80s. With a Stakhanovite output of production music, the duo composed more than 40 albums (including the incredible Informatic 2000) for specialized labels: Chappell Music, Southern Library of Recorded Music, Neuilly, IM (Eddie and Hannelore Warner's label, which published, notably, The Strange World of Bernard Fèvre in 77) Mondiophone, Hachette, Musax and Crea Sound Ltd. A veritable Atlantis of electronic music, rediscovered at the turn of the 21st century by electronic artists like Barry 7 of Add N to (X), with his Connectors series, or Luke Vibert, with the Nuggets compilation. Jess and Alexis Le Tan contributed a bit as well, digging up a few gems from "Ganaro's Nights," tracks composed with joy and humility by a merry trio of sixty-somethings for whom making music was always a source of amusement and wonder. Nino Nardini passed on in 1994; Roger Roger in 1995. Eddie Warner (the fortunate composer of the theme song for the TV game show "Des chiffres et des lettres") had died a few years earlier. In her villa in Neuilly, a posh Paris suburb, his widow Hannelore Warner evoked the memory of her husband and his friends.
How did you meet Eddie Warner?
We were both born in Germany. I was studying literary translation in Paris. We met in 1965 on the Champs Elysées at a cinema. The film was called "Rencontre" (Encounter) and the adventure continued afterward...
Tell us about your husband's life.
When Hitler came to power, my husband, born in 1917, had to leave Germany. As he was very gifted in music, a Jewish organization in Berlin found him a place at the Strasbourg Conservatory in eastern France, where he continued studying piano and trumpet. The situation worsened and he had to flee further west, to Paris, where he was a refugee, just as there are thousands today: undocumented and without work. His brother, father and stepmother joined him there afterward. My husband's mother was an opera singer; his father was the first assistant to Furtwängler, the great German conductor who preceded Karajan. To earn a little money, Eddie, his brother and his father put together a small band to play in bars. Later, his brother moved to a kibbutz in Israel. My husband thus found himself alone in Paris, barely earning his living as a tutor for dancers and singers. He enlisted in the French Foreign Legion until the end of the war, where he became a bugler. After the war he played the piano in Paris nightclubs. There were many American soldiers in these clubs who requested jazz numbers. Since he had a very musical ear, he was able to adopt that style. One day a soldier asked him to play a samba, which led to his next evolution. He created an orchestra to play Latin music from the Caribbean, composed of 17 musicians paid on an annual basis. They played mainly in dance halls. He was obliged to fill his calendar with concert dates and recording sessions because he wanted to retain all the same musicians. That's when he first met Lalo Schifrin, then a refugee touring with a South American band. Eddie hired Lalo as a musician and arranger for his orchestra, while helping him to obtain his papers.
And that's when your husband cut his first records?
Yes, in the 50s, for the Odéon label. In those days, the ORTF (the French national radio) had a few orchestras that they worked with constantly to supply music for their programs. They hired Eddie, and he composed and arranged music for his orchestra. The recordings belonged to the ORTF. He was still touring non-stop with his band. They were playing at dance halls on Saturday nights throughout France, and even in other countries worldwide. They played in Lebanon, North Africa, Germany and Belgium. In Madrid, he met Lionel Hampton. For fun, they took turns conducting each other's orchestra, and then they made a record together for RCA.
How did IM, your production music label, get started?
At one point, live performances and touring were tiring him and getting him down. He had a very serious car accident in North Africa. He had a double fracture of the hip and his right hand was completely broken. Even after a lengthy convalescence, he could not spend long sessions on the piano. He wrote for singers, and sometimes accompanied them. But this was bothering him. He did not want to grow old on stage. So, together, we published production music. That's how IM began, in the early 60s. I took care of business and he handled the artistic side. We also represented the English libraries like KPM: very jazzy, big bands, not at all corresponding to French tastes, so there was something missing. The arrival of electronic instruments, in particular, catalyzed something in Roger Roger's Ganaro studio in Jouy-en-Josas. Roger Roger had been creating library music for a long time. He had been mainly working for the English and he, too, was tired of the big bands. Eddie, Roger and Nardini had known each other for years. The first disks were made for fun, and then things became more serious. It was rather amazing to see these musicians, with a classical background, from families of professional musicians, having the curiosity to get into music that can be programmed on a machine, to play with unusual sonorities, to see how far they could push these new instruments. When we left on vacation with a motorhome, my husband bought a portable piano that ran on batteries and sat on a tripod. At the seaside, he set up his electric piano next to his beach towel and composed.
Were they on the lookout for new instruments that appeared?
Yes, constantly. And they invested a lot of money in them. The first rhythm box cost a fortune, they really insisted on getting all the latest stuff. Their studio was chock full of new instruments, there were wires everywhere, it was pretty scary for me (laughs). They worked mostly at night because it was quiet, there were no telephone calls. They were like big kids, they never stopped, they loved experimentation, discovering the sounds they could get from the electronic instruments they were trying to master. Then, they selected some of the songs they recorded and released them on records.
Were your customers, whether television, radio or cinema, actually looking for these avant-garde sounds?
Yes, because it gave the images a new impact, making them more exciting for the audience. Previously, the music had filled the space too much. Now, we found ourselves immersed in the industrial era, where we had to imitate the sound of machines, of the first robots. I think it was in the collective unconscious that we were living in a modern era, the era of space exploration.
Was the explosion of rock and pop music, during the same period, of interest to your husband?
Yes and no. At first, he did not like the Beatles at all. Later, he recognized the musical quality of the songs, their superb melodies. But they also embodied for him the end of orchestras and dance halls and the appearance of dances where DJs played records. It was the end of one era and the beginning of another. Jazz remained his great passion and he continued to participate in jam sessions. He took off in the evenings to play in jazz clubs with his musician friends.
How did their musical adventure come to an end?
The last records appeared in the late 70s. The genre died out gradually because the tracks that came out later were becoming quite similar to previous ones. They could have gone on, but my husband died in 1982.
How do you explain that, in the context of making production music, which is normally nothing more than a commodity, they created something so free?
Because they were not thinking about the money and they were trying things without ever taking themselves seriously. With this attitude, they managed to capture attention abroad. Their records were distributed in England and the United States, and gave rise to imitators. They truly embodied a breakthrough: the transition from traditional instruments to electronic ones.
released May 1, 2016
selected by Alexis le Tan & Jess
Liner note : Clovis Goux
Trasnlation: Jon Von
Cover : La Boca
Restauration : Norscq