Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Diane Dufresne: "Un Jour Il Viendra Mon Amour"


Last week I was visiting my parents and went to the movies with my mom. We saw a new movie from Quebec called Sarah préfère la course, which had been screened at the Cannes Film Festival in 2013. I didn't think too much of it; it's one of those indie movies where not a lot happens and there are long long pauses between every line of dialogue and you can't tell if this is because the director thinks this is how people really speak or if they are creating some terrible artifice.


Sarah is a middle distance runner at a high school in Quebec City who wants to continue running at MacGill College, but doesn't have much money. Her co-worker Antoine suggests they get married and move to Montreal together to take advantage of a government program that gives financial aid to young married students.  They do so, with Sarah looking at it purely as an arrangement of convenience and Antoine having other ideas. Somewhat confusingly, Sarah's old high school track rival is from Montreal and is also on the MacGill track team. There is some tension between them that turns very sexual, no more so than in a karaoke scene at a party.




Zoey, Sarah's rival, is called to sing. She replies she will, but there's only one song she'll sing. Her friends groan, either because they are sick of hearing that song or because it's the type of tune that will bring down the party. She then gets up and sings "Un Jour Il Viendra Mon Amour" by Diane Dufrense.




I will admit, despite my friend Simon featuring the song in a post on his blog, I did not recognize it.  I had to wait until the end of the movie and read the credits to try to figure out which song it was out of the 20 or so in the movie (not to pat myself on the back too hard, but when I saw the name Francois Cousineau listed, I knew that had to be the song). Anyways, Zoey sings this great romantic 60's ballad and it basically gives Sarah a panic attack, because I am guessing that is the moment she realizes she might be a lesbian. This scene was by far the best in the movie, and not just because the song is so good.



It's an interesting choice for the scene, because the song is not a huge classic. This is not Scarlet Johansson singing "Brass In Pocket" to Bill Murray.  If Zoey's peers at the party know this song, it is because it's her personal favorite. Although Diane Dufresne became a big star in Quebec in the early 70's, she was relatively unknown when she recorded this track in 1969. I believe it was her first released vocal; she did not have tracks released under her own name until a year or two later.



In fact, the song is from the soundtrack for a softcore porn movie called L'initiation. Here's a (dubbed) PG rated clip to give you an idea.  There was also a 45 released, as the picture at the top of the page shows.  Judging from current price and availability, the 45 sold more than the soundtrack LP.  I wish I could find some old radio charts to see exactly how big the song was back in the day. There is some great footage on Dailymotion of Dufresne performing the song in 1970, and it certainly gets some applause of recognition.






I am actually more curious how the song found its way into this movie. Perhaps there was a hip musical supervisor working, perhaps it was the director's mother's favorite song, or perhaps they saw it on Simon's blog? Who knows?  In any case, it's exciting to see great old songs being featured so prominently in new movies. At least one of the Youtube comments on the video of "Un Jour Il Viendra Mon Amour" mentions they were listening to the song because of Sarah préfère la course. You know what? Me too.


The song itself is one of those great orchestrated mid-tempo 60's ballads that just sounds better in French. People like Sandie Shaw, Dusty Springfield, or even the Walker Brothers have material that has that Continental vibe, but it somehow is missing something. Want proof? Check out the English version, "Here and Now":




Somehow it's not nearly as cool, sultry, or sophisticated in English... 

Monday, December 2, 2013

Drum Breaks: Quebec Style pt 3- Les Mersey's



In the the 1999 book, Ego Trip's Book Of  Rap Lists, there is a list of "A Few Of Biz Markie's Favorite Things," meaning things he owns. In between the mundane (his collection of Rock 'Em Sock 'Em Robots) and the mythical (his 12" copy of "Take Me To Mardi Gras" by Bob James that has no bells on the drum intro), he lists "my collection of every version of 'Get Out My Life, Woman.'"

"Get Out Of My Life, Woman" was written by Allen Toussaint and originally recorded by Lee Dorsey in 1966. It starts out with a monster drum break. The drum break seems so important to the feel of the song, you can't really cover the song effectively without it. So, someone buying records for breakbeats would probably buy every version of "Get Out Of My Life, Woman" they could get their hands on, from Iron Butterfly to Bill Cosby.





However, I am going to bet that Biz didn't have Les Mersey's version back in 1999. I have never heard anyone else talk about it, and since there is no indication by its French title as to what song it is, it would most likely evade a label reading beat digger back in the day.

The career arc of Les Mersey's is very representative of that of Quebecois beat groups as a whole. They formed in 1964, having previously played together in a band called The Blue Men (who I am guessing were an instrumental combo based on The Shadows or the Ventures, though this is purely conjecture on my part). They added a vocalist in 1964 and started playing R&B and British Invasion covers (the name "Les Mersey's" being derived from the Mersey River in Liverpool, and term "Mersey beat," usually applied to the Beatles, Gerry and the Pacemakers, and other Liverpudlian bands). They ended their career around 1970, with their last LP coming out in 1969. It consists mostly of a mix of bubblegum pop covers and originals. However, the last track on the album, "Freakout," is aptly named and you can hear the drummer get his:


I don't own this record, having never come across it cheaply. It sort of pains me to blow up my own spot and post about it before it lies in my hot little hands, but the game is sometimes meant to be told, not sold.

,


Since this post is about giving the drummer some, might as well shine a light on the drummer giving it to us. In this case, it's Richard Tate, who went on to have a long career, playing and recording with Les Sinners, Boule Noire, Michel Pagliaro, Nanette Workman, Johnny Hallyday, and many more.  He also recorded a few records as band leader. The first Tate a tete has more of a rock feel, though there are a wide variety of tracks on the album. I've put two of my favorite tracks from this record "Ce N'est Jamais Mon Tour" and "J'Viens De M'Reveiller" at the bottom of the page.



The 2nd, Richard Tate, is more of a funk record, and was recorded using Muscle Shoals sidemen like Roger Hawkins and David Hood. In fact, Tate doesn't even play drums on it, focusing instead on singing, writing, and arranging. It still has some moments.




Comment Peux-Tu Me Quitter- Les Mersey's (Get Out Of My Life, Woman)

Ce N'est Jamais Mon Tour- Richard Tate

  J'Viens De M'Reveiller- Richard Tate


Monday, January 14, 2013

Sheila: L'Agent Secret (pt 2)



I realize I have not updated in a long time. I haven't had a chance to go to Montreal in a while, so I don't have that many new French records to write about. But, rather than use that as an excuse, I'll try to take advantage of the huge amount of French and Quebecois videos that are on Youtube that weren't when I started this blog!

The song above, "L'Agent Secret" is by Sheila and was one of the first songs I posted about way back in 2007. It is still really awesome. However, the video clip is about 100 times better.

First of all, Sheila looks like a stone fox in that black jumpsuit. The fact that she is also sporting those long pigtails gives both the S&M contingent and schoolgirl fetishists something to enjoy.

As for the video itself, there is literally nothing "modsier" in the world than a girl frugging while doing karate kicks with James Bond cut-outs in the background. And all while lip-synching.

At about two minutes in, there is an extended choreographed fight sequence that even involves someone getting hit over the head with a chair. Jackie Chan would be proud. This is all done to the beat of a fuzz guitar solo/freakout section that is NOT in the version I have on 7" EP. Naturally, this set off a spree of frantic googling to find out if this longer alternative version was on an LP. Turns out it wasn't, but it is available as a CD bonus track. In fact, there are four different versions of "L'Agent Secret" on the bonus CD, including two labeled as TV versions. I curious as to what the other TV version is, as the one in this video sounds the same to me (it is cool to see the fight sequence is the same as well!).



Of course, none of Sheila's versions can hold a candle to the immortal Rene, a man who seems to have a Youtube channel dedicated to him singing along and dancing to Sheila's records in his lavishly modsy apartment.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Drum Breaks: Quebec Style pt 2- Les Lutins



The only thing worse than buying a bad album solely for its drum break is buying a good album solely for its drum break. It's like buying a Mercedes just so you can wear the hood ornament around your neck. And while Les Lutins' second LP, "En Orbite", is not nearly as good as their first, it's still a great album.

It's not as much a garage record as their first. It is both poppier and more psych influenced. The only duff track on the record is the goofy pop tune "Monsieur Le Robot," (yes it has a silly robot voice in it) which, frustratingly enough, was the main single off the record and turns up everywhere. The track with the break, "La Junglomanie" is sort of a mock R&B record, in almost the same way that "The Gift" by the Velvet Underground is a mock Booker T and the MG's record, although this one has no story recited on top of it, just jungle noises. Gotta dig the fuzz bass, too.

I believe this record was known to beat diggers from back in the day just for it's drum break. Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe it was the international psych mafia who coveted it? It did, after all, make an appearance on the Trap Door psych mix CD.

My favorite tune on the record is probably "Girl", a nice raunchy psych rave-up, with a few odd starts and stops.






Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Drum Breaks: Quebec Style pt 1- Marc Hamilton




Do people even care about collecting records with drum breaks anymore? With the decline of sample based hip hop, the ability to rock doubles of any mp3 on Serato, and a large of chunk people simply, well, growing out of that sort of thing, the answer is probably no.

Which is not really a bad thing. Owning a terrible record just because it has a drum break is one of the stupidest things of all time. I have definitely done my share of "burning and dumping" the past few years, which is to say recording the one good song (or just the break) of a 40 minute LP and then getting rid of my physical copy. Even worse than bad records that were collected just for the drum breaks are the decent records that had their prices artificially inflated by beat digging locusts. Mountains of decent rock records suddenly became expensive "wall pieces" in many a record shop because of a 10 second bit of open drums (the Power of Zeus LP jumps immediately to mind).

 

I certainly won't go so far as to group Marc Hamilton's first LP in that "only good for 10 seconds" category, but it definitely isn't a classic LP all the way through. The main hit on the record, "Comme J'ai toujours envie d'aimer," is some "AM gold" business for sure.


 
But, for all his sub-Demis Roussos-type sensitive guy strumming n crooning, Hamilton actually has some roots in real rock n roll. Like, say, Les Monstres.
Yes, this flower child was once a member of a trashy garage rock band that dressed up as horror movie monsters. As far as I can tell their schtick was sort of half Screaming Lord Sutch and half the Munsters, which is NOT A BAD THING!
Anyways, after Les Monstres, Hamilton went solo, although with many ex-Monstres in his band.  The aforementioned "Comme J'ai toujours envie d'aimer" was the monster (ahem) hit that made the album possible, but Hamilton didn't let himself get reined in by the burden of his million selling crooning tune and let his freak flag fly. "Magic Tapis" is very much the song that makes the LP cover have context, as it is a faux Indian pysch tune with some happening electric sitar work:

 

Admittedly, the rest of the album is not that hot, except for the last tune on side 2, yunno the one with THE DRUM BREAK... To be fair, the track would still be hot as hell with out the drum break. Basically it's a Hendrix influenced tune with some really nice guitar and bass work that breaks down to a drum solo into a drum break (for those keeping score)...




Saturday, May 26, 2012

Francoise Hardy pt iv?




The above is one of my favorite Francoise Hardy songs, "Le Temps de L'amour." Devoted readers may recall this post I wrote about it in 2007. I was recently pleasantly surprised to see it featured prominently in the trailer for the new Wes Anderson movie, Moonrise Kingdom:


Between that Dirty Beaches song and this, it seems like there is a recent upswing in interest in Francoise Hardy, which is cool. Wes Anderson always uses really cool 60's music in his films and tends to use more than one song by an artist (like all the Kinks songs from Lola Versus Powerman in Darjeeling Limited), or at least multiple songs from the same era, so I am curious if there are more French pop songs in the film.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Les Alexandrins pt I





Today I realized I haven't posted for a long time and I have also never posted anything about Les Alexandrins. Les Alexandrins are a duo consisting of husband and wife, Luc and Lise Cousineau. They started off in the mid 60's as a kinda square folk rock duo, almost like French Canada's answer to Ian and Sylvia. Their first few records are not that great. They mostly contain a mix of folk and more mainstream pop influences, with the type of traditional showbiz string and horn parts that wouldn't be out of place on a Tom Jones or Dionne Warwick record. They basically sound like young people making records for old people (or pretentious college students).





These records are just ok.


I have not heard this record, but I bet it is a little better than the first 2. This song is on it:



However, like Robert Charlebois, when folk rock began to turn into psychedelia, their records got a lot better. I think leaving Capitol Records for Polydor might also have helped. Double Jeu was their breakthrough record in this new sound. Suddenly instead of sounding like they made their record with Sammy Davis Jr.'s horn section riding shotgun, they sound like they recorded in a cold water flat on Mont Royal with a bunch of hippies sitting around rolling jays and discussing the coming revolution. Which is to say, they finally sound cool and like they are making music for people their own age. Like Charlebois, they also enlisted the talents of the Quatuor de jazz libre du Québec in order to help them make the transition from slick folkies to loose rockers. For a free jazz band, the QJLQ were very adept at playing rock.



This record is great!





After this, they only recorded one more single under the name "Les Alexandrins," and instead changed their name to "Luc Et Lise" for their next LP. The last single they released under their old name was "Angela Mon Amour."



This is one of my favorite Les Alexandrins songs. It still has the the sophisticated vocal melodies of their early stuff, but it sounds like genuine rock and roll, as opposed to pop songs that have rock grafted on to them.



Angela Mon Amour- Les Alexandrins