One, two, three... hold your breath during the next forty minutes for a peregrination through a special kind of pop music "made in France," a mix of ribaldry, flashes of brilliance and adventurous twists on familiar sounds. We will plunge into French-style pop, unapologetic and defiant; Blue-White-and-Red pop that does not take itself seriously, not particularly displeasing its "yéyé" contemporaries, themselves lacking inspiration as they listened to the boring, commercial teenage music that predominated in France at that time. It is pop music fueled by creativity – though not always well focused – with peculiar arrangements, inspired compositions and precarious production... but oh, it's so tasty!
WIZZZ 3 spotlights French artists who dared to try, to experiment…
BERNARD CHABERT – Helga Selzer (1970) / Sur une plage bordée de cocotiers (1969)
"Those who don't believe in Chabert, are the same who in seventeen hundred and some peanuts, didn't believe in WOLFGANG A. MOZART," according to the notes on the back of his first 45. Public acclaim has been slow to arrive, yet we must agree with the liner notes, because his four limited-edition 45s are truly amazing.
Chabbert's father was a pilot for Aéropostale (a pioneering French airline) and his mother, Rose-Marie Capelli, was a writer, following in the tradition of her Italian family. The family lived in Madagascar, where Bernard learned to fly airplanes at the age of 15. He was on his way to becoming an airline pilot, but poor eyesight forced him to change his career plans.
Instead, he became a journalist. Studying for a career in radio at the OCORA in Maisons-Laffitte (west of Paris), one of his instructors was Patrice Blanc Francart. This turned out to be a crucial encounter: although Bernard was already listening to rock 'n' roll and tinkering with a few songs on the piano, he never suspected that he was on the verge of making records.
In fact, Blanc Francart had just been hired by Pathé Marconi (a large media conglomerate) as the A&R man for their rock 'n' roll catalog. He called Bernard and convinced him to collaborate on a record. Temporarily rebaptized "Chabert" (with a single "b"), he put out a first EP entitled "Sur une plage bordée de cocotiers (On a beach lined with coconut trees)" (1968), whose vulgarity was suicidal in the conservative-minded France of that era. Bernard enjoyed himself in his own way with this provocative track concerning the advent of the culture of sunlight, relaxation and tanning, particularly based on the rise of Club Med. Having spent his bored youth on the beaches of Madagascar, he wanted to let people know the truth!
Two other discs followed, both rather good (the Tramway 7B EP and the "Easy Lazie Lizzy" single), but no more successful commercially.
Bernard met a whole new family at Pathé. In addition to Hubert Rostaing, who produced all the 45s, Bernard hung out with Isabelle de Funès (the niece of actor Louis de Funès; she made several excellent bossa nova records) and Michel Berger, who was in the midst of his "Puzzle" period.
He wrote all his own lyrics, which was unusual then. His fourth and final 45 was the explosive "Helga Selzer." At the time, he was hanging out with Maya, a top model adrift from Chanel; she inspired the song, which was recorded in two days. Bernard played the guitar parts. For the vocals, he sang into a telephone, giving the track its unusual sound. On the flip side, Hubert Rostaing brought in the Variations to accompany an uninspired cover of "Neanderthal Man" by Hotlegs (pre-10cc).
Like many artists of the time, Bernard did not play live; novices like him had great difficulties getting a backing band and booking dates. However, he made a few TV appearances. For example, he sang "Tramway 7B" on September 5, 1969, on the Tous en scène TV show, hosted by the Charlots (a jokey pop group), and was on several programs with the legendary Jean-Christophe Averty.
Nevertheless, Bernard was overwhelmed by frustration, left behind in the promo game and disappointed that he couldn't play live concerts. Seeking to change careers, he tried to get back into journalism.
He got a job at the "Europe 1" radio station, where he was briefly in charge of traffic reports and coverage of holiday weekend traffic jams.
Finally, in 1970, he became a reporter. It was the space age, and Jean Gorini, the news director, assigned him to cover the end of the Apollo program in Houston (Apollo 14, 15, 16 and 17), and then Skylab 1, 2 and 3, the STS (Space Shuttle) and the beginnings of manned flights in the USSR with French participation. On his many trips to Houston (the training center for American astronauts), his discovery of the local nightlife left a strong impression. There, he saw the Moving Sidewalks, a wild, cult garage punk group that years later became ZZ Top.
At the same time, in the 1970s, he became a writer for major aeronautical publications such as Aviasport in France, and a correspondent for the English magazine Pilot. In 1972, he joined the "Amicale Jean-Baptiste Salis," an association based in La Ferté-Alais concerned with historic airplanes. He has written articles in the press concerning their annual Pentecost meeting every year since 1974. In 1991, Jean Marie Dupont, director of the France 3 Aquitaine television channel, gave him a program: Pégase. He was the producer and host; Bernard Besnier was director. This show, based in Bordeaux, was the equivalent of the famous "Thalassa" show on the same channel, with in-depth reports on particular subjects, but applied to the world of aviation. In 2003, he relaunched Pégase on the Internet, together with Philippe Guillon.
If young Joël, aka Évariste, wears a sweater with the Princeton University insignia, there's a good reason for it. Sent there to pursue his research on "particle mass and interpretation of mass patterns observed as the consequences of a wave" (in case you manage to understand that), he arrived in the United States at the height of the war in Vietnam. At the time, Robert McNamara, US Secretary of Defense, was looking for an alternative to nuclear weapons and asked the brightest minds in the country to take on this challenge. This gave rise to a "reorientation of funds" within the university, a diplomatic formula meaning that those who did not want to work on these government projects were asked to leave. Joël was under the supervision of a rather non-conformist physics professor, and was therefore shown the door. He remained enrolled in prestigious seminars at the Institute for Advanced Study, run by Robert Oppenheimer, creator of the atomic bomb.
No doubt galvanized by the hippie movement and its music, Joël bought a guitar and set up in Washington Square (New York), since, after all, Bob Dylan started there too. He cheerfully skipped Oppenheimer's classes and received a warm (while astonished) welcome from a crowd that did not understand a word of French. One day, the aging physicist came to ask Joël about his repeated absences. Explaining how much he was attracted to the music, Joël emphasized that he mainly saw it as a way to make some money to finance his research in an independent manner. Évariste recounts that he saw this sick man, his face ravaged by remorse over Hiroshima, light up in response to this explanation and exclaim, "Oh! You should certainly do it, I encourage you! If I were young, that is absolutely what I would do." The student perceived this as presaging his destiny, just what he needed to convince him to take the plunge. He packed his bags and headed back to Paris.
A journalist friend whom he often ran into near the Sorbonne introduced him to the head of A&R at Disques AZ. From there, his tapes came to the attention of Lucien Morisse, the head of the label, who was also program director for Europe 1. Morisse thought the music was brilliant… and signed Évariste immediately! This was in 1966, and the Antoine phenomenon (on Vogue records) was resonating throughout France. The two singers have similar profiles: both were trained as scientists, and composed highly-original lyrics. This was a godsend for the two record labels, which instantly identified a lucrative business strategy. They were portrayed as rivals, but Évariste denies it to this day, saying that it was just a lot of gossip in magazines for teenage girls. Évariste quickly had a hit record and got to work on a second one. A few months later, the civil unrest of May 1968 broke out in France. Everything was in upheaval.
Évariste wrote a series of politically-committed songs and quickly sent them to Morisse. But, when Morisse (husband of pop singer Dalida and creator of the popular but mainstream Salut Les Copains radio show) heard La révolution, which portrays a dialogue between a father and son, he flipped out. "AZ can't put out a record like that! Impossible!" Morisse thus made a momentous decision in the history of French music. Regretful that he could not officially produce the record, he proposed that Évariste put it out himself, but with Morisse's tacit support. He called the record pressing plant and asked them to charge the same rates for Évariste as for AZ. The singer and his band recorded in the same studio as the previous disc, playing for free pending the profits from sales. The 45 of "La révolution / La faute à Nanterre" was sold illicitly on and around boulevard Saint-Michel. It sold out very, very quickly... and the profits followed.
Evariste continued to sing in Nanterre, with "la bande à Jussieu" (the Jussieu gang), including "le jeune Renaud, le p'tit gavroche (young Renaud, the little street urchin)," as he called him. (Renaud Séchan became a very popular singer-songwriter.) One guy from the gang was a relative of the satirical cartoonist Wolinski, and introduced them. The two got along famously and Wolinski drew the record cover for "La révolution."
When director Claude Confortès decided to adapt a series of Wolinski's drawings entitled Je ne veux pas mourir idiot (I don't want to die stupid), he asked Évariste to compose the soundtrack. Wolinski, by then a cartoonist for Hara-Kiri Hebdo (a satirical weekly), often promoted Évariste under his policy of "spécial copinage" (shameless promotion). Despite his success, Évariste's career was nearing its end. In the 70s, he made a major breakthrough linking science and music. At that point, he abandoned the world of self-produced music and leftist magazines to focus on his research. Keeping Oppenheimer's encouragement in mind, he now had the resources to continue his work independently, with the revenues from his records.
Joël realized that decoding protein sequences reveals corresponding musical sequences, which humans can recognize. He called them protéodies. If a person, listening to a protéodie, finds the sounds beautiful, this means he has a deficiency of the corresponding protein. This singular "music" could therefore benefit people's health. The history of music could be rewritten in light of the protein deficit of a certain artist, or a majority of the public.
You always thought that hysterical fans, who passionately throw their panties and faint in front of the stage, had appeared suddenly because they had never seen anything as wonderful as the Beatles? Wrong! According to Évariste, everything is explained by the protein-perturbing introduction to their first hit, Love Me Do, which corresponds to dopamine, the neurotransmitter that also triggers compulsive buying. An intro like that could not fail to whip up the fans, victims of fashion and biology.
His records sold very well, their revenues bringing him the long-term financial autonomy to which he aspired back when he spoke to Oppenheimer. Joël the scientist was able to carry out his research free of institutional constraints. He devoted himself to studying protéodies at the Université Européenne de la Recherche, just down the street from the Sorbonne he knew so well. Évariste was no more. Joël took back the helm of this strange and amusing beast.
LONG CHRIS (1967)
Long Chris was born Christian Blondieau in Paris on 26 January 1942. In 1962, with his group Les Daltons, Long Chris would become one of the pioneers of rock 'n' roll in France. Although his group never had the success of the Chaussettes Noires or Chats Sauvages, Long Chris finished with no fewer than 10 EPs to his credit on the Philips label. The song "Névralgie Particulière" on this compilation comes from his only album, "Chansons bizarres pour gens étranges (bizarre songs for strange people)" (1966).
While his performing career met with only modest success, Long Chris would receive the recognition he deserves for his work as a songwriter. A childhood friend of Johnny Halliday, he wrote numerous hits for France's preeminent rock 'n' roll star, all throughout his career, including La génération perdue, Je suis né dans la rue, Gabrielle and Joue pas de rock'n'roll pour moi.
Christian Blondieau is now a specialist in military antiques and the author of numerous historical works. He has an antique shop in the Village Suisse area of Paris and is retained by auctioneers for expert advice concerning their public sales.
JOANNA – Hold up inusité (1969)
What, it bugs you that Joanna is from Belgium? Come on, you don't make that much of a fuss about Johnny, Jacques Brel, Adamo or Annie Cordy!
"The San Francisco hippies are no longer alone; their movement has crossed the Atlantic, and has swept onto our beaches. The first to claim a connection was a painter from Montmartre called 'Papy.' He sang 'Toi le Shazam,' the name of the high priest of the hippies. His lifestyle can be summarized in three phrases:
Do what you want, when you want, where you want."
Quite a program, indeed! It is detailed on the back cover of the second 45 (Vogue - 1967) of this mysterious artist, surely portrayed against his own wishes as the king of the "made in France" hippies by the opportunistic businessmen at Vogue records. Aside from this, Papy (real name François Papi) was a painter, living in the heights of Montmartre. He cranked out paintings of street urchins to sell to tourists. He collaborated with Claude Perraudin on this 45, as well as on a later one that includes the excellent track "Machine." At Born Bad Records, we are big fans of Claude Perraudin, who also worked with Gainsbourg, Claude François and Jacques Dutronc, and composed numerous albums of production music, including the highly recommended "Mutation 24." In 1984, Papy put out his last 45, "On revient toujours au pays."
PIERRE, PAUL OU JACQUES (1967)
This was another project from the whimsical imagination of Richard Bennet (aka William Benett), bold and daring A&R man at Barclay records, who discovered Nino Ferrer, among others. As usual, he was the recording engineer for this strange disk by Pierre, Paul ou Jacques. His favorite group was les Piteuls, led by Serge Koolenn and Richard Dewitt; both later played in the group "Il était une fois." We recall that Richard had already entrusted them to make the terrifying, LSD-soaked 45 of the Papyvores (cf. WIZZZ Vol. 1) and Buddy Badge Montezuma.
The instrumental track of "Je suis turc" would be recycled once again on the outrageous "Ma ceinture Papa, j'ai peur Maman" on the only 45 made by Patrick Bernard. As a reminder, notably for those not lucky enough to own WIZZZ Vol. 2, these are the same Piteuls who later mutated into Bain Didonc (who made the terrifying "Quatre cheveux dans le vent") and then into Jelly Roll ("Je travaille à la caisse").
JEAN-BERNARD DE LIBREVILLE – La juxtaposition 210 (1966)
Germinal Tenas, A&R man at Vogue, was behind the ambitious Jean-Bernard de Libreville EP that he produced in 1968: a conceptual meeting of punk – before it existed – dandyism and surrealism. This visionary record, trashy, mad and eccentric, was adored by those in the music biz, but not by a public that remained autistic and conservative. The Jean-Bernard de Libreville record remains to this day one of the finest musical flying saucers to ever land in France.
Fleeing the war in Algeria, Chaib Bouri was five years old when he and his parents arrived at the Bel-Air public housing projects in Montreuil-sous-Bois (93), just east of Paris. For his 10th birthday, his mother gave him a guitar and, self-taught, he already began to compose a few quirky songs while listening to the Beatles, the Rolling Stones and Bob Dylan. Five years later, Chaib went to audition at Vogue records. Christian Fechner and Germinal Tenas, the A&R men at the label, liked what they heard. Tenas, himself cutting an eccentric figure with a monkey on his shoulder, a flowered shirt and cigar, signed Chaib to Vogue with a contract to make four 45s.
Tenas dubbed him Jean-Bernard de Libreville – to be more chic – and quickly brought him into the studio to make his first record (1966).
Based on Chaib's lyrics and music, Germinal experimented, letting his unbridled creativity go wild: tapes running backwards, cacophonous rhythms, odd, repetitive music that Germinal baptized "hyperno-music." This record, unique in its genre, is truly an aberration compared to what was coming out at the time.
To complete this conceptual, avant-gardist disk, Germinal needed an individual as deranged as the music. Chaib was therefore to incarnate a completely fabricated character: an enigmatic dandy with a very sophisticated look (Victorian frock coat, ascot tie, silver-tipped cane, wearing sunglasses rain or shine).
Nothing was left to chance. The cover of the EP, with a photo by Michel Quennville, husband of cartoonist Claire Bretecher, further reinforced the mysterious aura of Jean-Bernard de Libreville. Appearing majestically arrogant, Chaib is smoking a cigar and holds a child on his lap.
When the record came out, Tenas' colleagues unanimously applauded his audacity. Chaib appeared to have a bright future, and was booked to play at the Olympia, a top-rank concert hall.
Tenas orchestrated and staged a press conference to launch the EP amid much fanfare. It was obliged to be stupendous; the launch needed to be worthy of the character he had invented. Vogue organized an event that was practically a "happening." Surrounded by bodyguards, Chaib arrived triumphantly at a nightclub on the Champs Élysée in a luxurious Jaguar. He jumped out amidst strident, blaring sirens and giant banners marked "Juxtaposition 210," before an audience of dumbfounded journalists. Jean-Bernard was supposed to perform the "trashy dandy" act that he had adeptly prepared with Germinal. Unfortunately, 15-year-old Chaib became overwhelmed, lost his nerve, and Germinal's little party ended in disaster. Jean-Bernard was paralysed by fear, unable to speak.
The prank turned into a nightmare, giving rise to a virulent shouting match between Germinal and Jean-Bernard. Exaspirated by Germinal's manipulations and by being the object of his delusions, Jean-Bernard refused to honor his commitments. He refused to make any more 45s and to continue working with his mentor. The contract was rescinded, the Olympia date canceled, and Jean-Bernard was consigned to showbiz oblivion.
A few years later (1969), Christian Fechner, sacked by Vogue, had just set up his own label. Fechner searched for an artist to do a sophomoric, naughty disc, with the intention of riding the wave of indignation aroused by the release of "Je t'aime... moi non plus" from the Gainsbourg-Birkin duo. Jean-Bernard agreed to come up with this made-to-order album of lewd and bawdy songs. Accompanied for the occasion by the Haricots Rouges (red beans), the recording was quickly finished. Fechner was only moderately enthusiastic about the outcome of these recording sessions, sometimes lacking inspiration, often clumsy. He had just started working on movies with the Charlots (a group of musician-comics) and the project with Jean-Bernard became quite secondary. Fechner gradually lost interest in the record and it never saw the light of day, with the tapes remaining in Jean-Bernard's custody.
A few years later, when Jean-Bernard was in a scrapyard looking for a part to repair his old Rover, he stumbled across Hilary Cus, a former Vogue employee who was now organizing concerts and tours in France for groups from the Caribbean. He had also just set up his own label, called Dayvis. Cus agreed to put out two 45s with four songs from the Fechner recording sessions. The two singles, "Allons y gaiement / Du Miles Davis" and "Sexo-phone / Les Pipes," came out in a limited edition.
Soon afterward, Chaib abandoned his Jean-Bernard de Libreville pseudonym. Difficult times followed. Continuing as best he could, he played frequently in the Métro and put out a few records under different names (Cyril Savine, Chaib).
FATTY NAUTY – A tumba Part 2 (1968)
Bernard Paganotti, born in Oran, Algeria, got together with Christian Vander in 1967 to form the group Chinese, soon renamed Cruciferius Lebonz. In 1968, Paganotti released an EP on Barclay under the name "Fatty Nauty n' Cruciferius Lobonz," including the track "A Tumba Part 2" that appears on this compilation. They played a few dates opening for Ronnie Bird and David Alexandre Winter, but were not well received.
In 1967, Christian Vander left to form Magma. Bernard continued the group with François Bréant, Patrick Meru and Patrick Jean. Under the name Cruciferius, they recorded an album that remains one of the masterpieces of French progressive rock. The group broke up in the early 70s and Bernard joined his friend Vander in Magma. In September 1976, Bernard left Magma to form Weidorie.
His excellent playing made Bernard one of the most sought-after French bassists in the 80s. He recorded with Francis Cabrel, Johnny Halliday, Mylène Farmer and Vanessa Paradis, to name just a few.
BRUNO LEYS – Eve (1968)
You heard him first on WIZZZ Vol. 2 with the explosive "Maintenant je suis un voyou (Now I'm a hoodlum)." Here he is again, with this first class track, never before published.
But, let's go back in time... In early 1967, Bruno was attending medical school in Paris. Driving back to the university with a friend, Bruno sang along nonchalantly with the songs on the radio. His friend was surprised to discover his lovely voice and encouraged him to audition for a group composed of friends from the university who were looking for a singer. Bruno was not selected for the group, but became friends with one of its members, Emmanuel Pairault.
Emmanuel had been studying economics, but decided to enter the music conservatory instead, to learn the drums and the use of the illustrious "ondes Martenot," a primitive electronic musical instrument.
He composed a few solo numbers, remarkable for their use of that instrument. Looking for someone to write lyrics to go with his instrumental tracks, he asked Bruno to try a few. Bruno and Emmanuel thereby put together a small repertoire, with no ambition other than to have fun. Although the details are now forgotten, they worked hard to bring their song to the attention of Nicole Croisille (a singer and actress), who suggested sending the demo to her friend Norbert Saada, who headed a label called La Compagnie.
This unprecedented use of the ondes Martenot in a pop song attracted Saada, who offered to make a record. Emmanuel quickly assembled a small team to make the recording. The sessions took place at Dominique Blanc Francart's studio on rue de la Gaîté in Paris, with Bernard Lubat on percussion, François Rabath on stand-up bass, Jimenez and Jean-Pierre Dariscuren playing guitar, Emmanuel Pairault and Sylvain Gaudelette on the ondes Martenot, not to mention Bruno on vocals. Four tracks were recorded for the EP: "Maintenant je suis un voyou," "Eve," "Hallucinations" and "Galaxie."
With the sessions completed, Bruno left for his obligatory military service and thus lost control over things. Saada pressed a promotional 45 in an attempt to find a licensing deal in Canada, to no avail. A real collector's item, this 45 includes "Maintenant je suis un voyou" and "Galaxie."
Back from his military service, Bruno learned that Saada had gone out of business and sold his catalog, putting an end to any hope of issuing the EP (1969). "Eve" has never before appeared on a record.
NATO – Je t'apprendrai à faire l'amour (1969)
Nato was born in 1944 in Belgium to a middle-class family. His father was a relatively high-ranked government official. His mother was a devout Catholic and he received a very strict religious upbringing. He studied at the Collège de St Luc, a top Belgian fine arts university, and quickly discovered a passion for painting.
His first job after school was as a decorator for the Belgian national airline Sabena. But soon, this non-conformist, still unknown in the art world, felt stifled and quit the job to focus solely on his art, which developed in multiple media. Nato did a bit of everything: painting, performance art, sculpture, music and cinema. He acted in several feature films for his friend Christian Mesnil, including the mysterious "Psychedelissimo."
Quickly, his painting became erotic and sex became central in his work. In 1968, Nato signed with the Riviera label and issued two explosive 45s simultaneously: "L'amour interdit par la loi (illegal love) / Je t'apprendrai à faire l'amour (I'll teach you to make love)" and "Marijuana / Faire l'amour / Tu ne dis pas ça / Le grand voyage" (1969), all too provocative for commercial success.
Clearly hippie-minded and subversive, his songs are all odes to fornication, free love and artificial paradises, which obviously are not everyone's cup of tea.
The records flopped and Nato returned to painting. He organized numerous exhibitions and happenings throughout Belgium.
In 1974, he recorded the album "Actuel Un" (Barclay) together with the Swedish group Lady Pain and moved to Paris with his wife and children. In the years that followed, Nato continued with a regular stream of artistic projects, including the conceptual albums "F.M Acoustic" and "Triple objet créatif de consommation auditive" (1982), which did not have any greater success. Both were also pretty demented, to put it kindly.