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Quietus Mix 17: Fujiya & Miyagi's French Obsession
Luke Turner , March 24th, 2011 09:08

This week, Fujiya & Miyagi's David Best pops across La Manche Anglaise for his top ten French pop singles PLUS a guide to the French LPs you must own

Says David Best: "My first introduction to French music was through Serge Gainsbourg. I had heard a compilation containing all his late 60s singles which I thought was great, but it wasn't until I discovered L'Histoire de Melody Nelson that my interest turned to an obsession. It was probably around eight or nine years ago. I then started collecting everything he had ever recorded and also found English translations of his lyrics which were incredible. Then, I found out about other French records from the yeye, freakbeat and psych era. As a non-French speaker the records sound far more mysterious than those of UK and US groups and singers from the same period. This is just a taster, as once you delve into the music created in France from this period you'll unearth loads of other treasures. Recently I've been listening to the other French groups from the 70s like Heldon, Lard Free, Melmoth and Pole, but I haven't included them in this list as it's a whole other thing."

Scroll down after the Mixcloud (where, of course, you should hit play) for David Best's explanation of his choices and essential ten French LPs.

Richard De Bordeaux & Daniel Beretta – 'Psychose'

There are two excellent compilations called Wizzz! Psychorama Francais Volume 1 & 2. This is from the first volume. Just before the chorus, there is a delicious section where the singer does a drum roll with his mouth. It goes digga digga digga.

Dominique Webb – 'Hypnose'

This is early Jean Michel Jarre. He did a bunch of singles under different names, including the synth punk ramblings of Samuel Hobo which has to be heard to be believed. It's about as far away from extravagant lightshows over docklands as you could wish for. This is pretty laidback sounding, with spoken vocals over early synths.

Brigitte Bardot – 'Contact'

This is another Serge song, recently excellently covered by the Wooden Shjips. I like songs that stay on the same chord and the same groove, which this does to hypnotic effect.

Brigitte Fontaine – 'Il Pleut'

This is another song with Jean-Claude Vannier's fingerprints on it. I like her records with the Art Ensemble of Chicago and Areski too.

Danyel Gerard – 'Sexologie'

As you could guess from the title, this is a little less subtle than the previous Brigitte Fontaine song. Again, I found this on the Wizzz! Compilations. It's a good example of French freakbeat.

Jean-Pierre Ferland – 'Le Chat du Cafe des Artistes'

Charlotte Gainsbourg covered this on her record IRM. I hadn't heard of it before then. It's got great orchestration, a children's choir, brass and great sounding drums.

Jacqueline Taieb – '7h Du Matin/ 7 am'

If you haven't heard the English version, I would suggest you do, purely for her describing her families different coloured toothbrushes.

Bainc Didonc – 'Cheveux Dans Le Vent'

More freakbeat. It's slightly creepy sounding, with guitar scraps and keys swelling all over the shop.

Max Berlin – 'Elle et Moi'

This sounds pretty sleazy. It's from a bit later than the other songs, maybe 1978 or something like that. If you put Serge Gainsbourg and Augustus Pablo into a Parisian discotheque and got them to sing and play melodic over what was already playing it might have sounded like this.

Serge Gainsbourg – 'Requiem pour un Con'

Possibly the greatest French single of them all, this is Serge at his most dismissive, backed by a groove that is insistent and taut. It's from the film La Pacha, which has footage of Serge re-enacting the recording of the song, drenched in Gitanes fumes.

...and the Top Ten French LPs

Serge Gainsbourg - L'Homme a Tete De Chou

This is Serge at his most psychedelic, and his second concept LP, the first being Melody Nelson. It tells the story of a man who falls in love with a hairdresser named Marilou, who he then murders with a fire extinguisher. It ends with him being locked up in a lunatic asylum. It contains, in my opinion, the greatest of all Serge songs, 'Variations sur Marilou'.

Jacky Chalard – Je suis vivant, mais j'ai peur de Gilbert Deflez

I only heard this last year, when Finders Keepers released it. He was the singer in the group Dynastie Crisis who did a great song called 'Faust 1972' which is worth tracking down if you haven't heard it already. It has some similarities with L'Homme a Tete De Chou specifically the instrumentation and the spoken vocal style. It's a little unhinged.

Michel Polnareff – Polnareff's

This is his second LP and has more in common with the symphonic aspects of Melody Nelson, but sounds jauntier and far more pop. 'Ne Dans Un Ice-cream' is a highlight, and for some inexplicable reason, seems to sample 'The Intro And The Outroi by the Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band.

Philippe Nicaud – Erotico... Nicaud

I believe he was better known as a comedian or an actor than a singer. The cover wouldn't look out of place on a living room wall in 1973. It contains the song 'Cuisses nues, Bottes De Cuir', which translates as 'naked legs, leather boots'.

Bernard Estardy – La Formule du Baron

Another concept LP from the late 60s, but I don't know what the concept of it is. My favourite song on this is the percussive vocal chant of 'cha tatch ka'. This is has more in common with Nicaud as it is far less menacing than Monsieur Gainsbourg.

William Sheller – Lux Aeterna

This is a fantastic record. Sheller was in the great popera cosmic before he made this in 1972. It relies heavily on choirs and again has a large symphonic rock feel to it.

Jean-Claude Vannier – L'Enfant Assassin Des Mouches

JCV is probably best known for his string arrangements on Serge Gainsbourg and Brigitte Fontaine LPs. This LP is incredible, and very hard to sum up in a few lines as it jumps all over the place.

Francoise Hardy – La Question

This is unlike any other Francoise Hardy record that I've heard. 'Bati mon Nid' and 'Viens' are the two highlights for me. It's a very understated record, and a very beautiful one.

Bernard Lavilliers – Le Stephanois

I first heard him through a compilation called Dirty French Psychedelics. 'Les Aventures Extroadinaires D'Un Billet De Banque' and 'La Verite' are the standout songs. Again, I haven't got a clue what he's on about.

Jane Birkin – Di Doo Dah

There are so many records that I could have chosen. Nino Ferrer , JP Massiera, Gerard Manset, Jean Le Fennec, Catherine Ribeiro & Alpes. The list could go on and on. But it's not going to, so this is the last LP. Jean-Claude Vannier did the string arrangements and Serge Gainsbourg wrote the songs, but just as important is the way Jane Birkin sings those songs. I love her voice. Kawasaki and Encore Lui are ace.

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