The French Connection: Part Deux
In Shindig! #81 we served up 10 incredible tracks of obscure Gallic psychedelia, space-rock and jazz-pop that every budding French music fan should try to experience. In this second instalment, ANDREW URE gets in the groove with another 10 tasty morsels from France – rare and delicious, and all guaranteed to delight
LE BAIN DIDONC
4 Cheveux Dans Le Vent
What a year 1966 was. The Velvet Underground and The Jimi Hendrix Experience released their first singles. The Beatles enlightened us with ‘Tomorrow Never Knows’. The Creation were ‘Making Time’. Oh, and Le Bain Didonc dropped their sole EP featuring this dazzling rave up for the ages. Feedback? Oui. Toggling between pick-ups? Oui. Interstellar vibrations? Clattering drums? Oui, oui. Simultaneously looking back to the Gloria days of ’65 while looking ahead to the full-blown psych of ’67, this is up there with the best of a very good year.
In an era when seemingly every obscure ’60s track worth being heard has already been compiled at least once, the description “uncomped” usually means “not that good”. But here’s an exception. Alan Steve was a French outfit, real identities unknown, who recorded this disturbing blast of fuzz at London’s Lansdowne Studios. “Wanna dance baby?” asks a cartoonish foreign-sounding male voice. “No thank you,” comes the female reply, swiftly followed by machine gun sound effects and screams. Charming. Even if you can survive that, the savage lead guitar that dominates the track will slay you.
Jazz pianist Claude Bolling (born 1930) has provided music for over 100 films, and this English sung number comes from the ’70 soundtrack EP for the thriller Qui? Co-written with British journalist Jack Fishman (born ’20!), who also worked with Roy Budd on the Get Carter soundtrack, ‘Strange Music’ is a psych dancer par excellence. Underpinned by briskly strummed acoustic guitar and funky drumming, the coquettish backing vocals and overdriven solo seal the deal. The fact that the songwriters were twice the age of your typical “psychedelic” musicians just makes it that much cooler.
HERBERT LÉONARD, THIERRY VINCENT
La Chanson Provocation
Another psychedelic nugget from a French film soundtrack, this time Les Teenagers, a documentary by Pierre Roustang about the contemporary sexual revolution. With music by Swiss singer Larry Greco and words by seasoned French lyricist Gilles Thibaut (born 1927), ‘Provocation’ starts with an electronic sound effect worthy of Fifty Foot Hose, signalling what’s in store for the next couple of minutes. Heavily effected guitars corkscrew through the mix while the bass pulses away underneath and singer Herbert Léonard, formerly of beat band Les Lionceaux, just keeps on growling. Fairly unknown – totally excellent.
Non Ce N’est Pas Notre Faute
(Disques PDG, 1968)
Admittedly he only has one EP on an obscure label to his name, but it seems like there should be more info out there about Monsieur Moryann. That’s because ‘Non Ce N’est Pas Notre Faute’ (‘No it’s not our fault’) is enthralling from the very first second. The fuzz guitar, urgent drums, incredibly classy horns, and as-French-as-a-baguette backing vocals crystallise into a mod-psych masterpiece. Dany’s voice may take a couple of spins to get used to, but once you’ve done that this track is hard to beat.
LE CHORUS REVERENDUS
Dans Son Euphorie
(Thermidor Organisation Disques, 1967)
A familiar story round these parts: a band with just one release on an obscure label which sank at the time but now goes for a fortune. All four tracks on Le Chorus Reverendus’ EP are excellent, but we’re going with ‘In His Euphoria’ on account of the sheer joy baked in. The first 15 seconds are a real wallop to the senses with horns, some sort of squelching synth-like sound and a flash of extremely gnarly guitar. The rest plays out like The Mamas & The Papas on amphetamines. With bongos.
(LEM Records, 1969)
François Papi was a painter living in Montmartre which, let’s be honest, is about as bohemian as it gets. He released several 45s under the name Papy with ‘Machine’ being the B-side of his third single. Appearing on the tiny LEM label, it’s a perfect slice of space-age psychedelia co-written and arranged by Claude Perraudin, who also worked with giants like Jacques Dutronc and Serge Gainsbourg. An epic kitchen-sink production with dirty guitar, plucky bass, abrupt tempo changes, flute and some truly great drumming. Check out 1967’s ‘Toi Le Shazam’ too for more Perraudin/Papy weirdness.
As we’ve already seen, late ’60s French films are an excellent source of far-out music. The three other tracks on the Delphine soundtrack EP are jazz, but as you’ve probably guessed from its title, this one is right up our psychedelic rue. Roland Vincent is an accomplished pianist, composer and arranger who has written music for dozens of films and worked with such names as Françoise Hardy, Mireille Mathieu and France Gall. ‘L.s.d. Partie’ is a period-perfect instrumental dripping with wah-wah guitar, Hammond organ, and a killer bass sound. Perfect for getting your groove on.
LES FLEURS DE PAVOT
Pourquoi L’amour À Deux
With a band name that translates as The Poppy Flowers, it’s not surprising this sounds a bit druggy. Lifted for a B-side from their incredibly rare self-titled LP (apparently recorded in just one night), ‘Pourquoi L’amour À Deux’ is an organ-soaked gem driven by a mega riff reminiscent of Brian Auger’s yet-to-be-released ‘Indian Rope Man’, with added lysergic sprinkles. The verse/chorus turnaround at the 40-second mark is the musical equivalent of a Möbius strip, inducing giddiness as it momentarily flips your mind inside out then right back again.
Featuring members of the aforementioned Le Bain Didonc, Les Papyvores’ sole EP is a holy grail of French psych, and this track is the reason why. The intro sets the tone nicely with distorted bass, organ and a mod-ish stop/start rhythm. But it’s when lyrics enter with the words ‘Je suis LSD’ that you realise what kind of a trip you’re in for. The track gradually whips itself into a frenzy of distorted guitar, organ and yelping while the incredibly heavy reverb effect on the vocals sounds like a precursor for dub reggae.