Saturday, December 2, 2006

Jean Ferrat

One of the advantages of coming into French music from a foreign perspective is not knowing which way is up, so you don’t know which way is down either. Outside of a few known names, you end up working without preconceived notions.
Jean Ferrat is a good example of this. First off, please note he looks like a lunatic. His reputation in France is that of an old school, left wing chanteur; sort of like Pete Seeger mixed with a cabaret act. Just as Serge Gainsbourg oozed sleaze, Ferrat oozed sincerity. If you tell people he’s got some funky records, you’ll get some looks.
However, the majority of his records are arranged by Alain Goraguer, who is mostly known outside France for his work with Gainsbourg, France Gall and for the soundtrack for Le Planete Sauvage.
For the most part, it’s hard to connect the dots between the man who made that trippy and funky film soundtrack with the restrained and traditional chanson material that fills Ferrat’s LP’s. But, there are a few exceptions to the rule, a handful of songs where Goraguar unleashes some of the wildness he’s revered for.
"Intox" is one such song. A mind numbing wash of electric sitar, synthesizer howls, pounding drums, and wackjob vocals, it definitely lives up to its title, with the arty psychedelia of the music being used to conjure up feelings of disorientation, and, yes, intoxication. The title is a sort of double entendre with “intox” meaning both drunk and poisoned. The lyrics are actually on a “Television, drug of the nation” type vibe, with Ferrat singing:
                                              Intox intox intoxiqué
                                              Opium opium televise
Or, as my best friend Babelfish tells me:  
                                              Intox intox poisoned 
                                              Opium televised opium
When interviewed recently, Ferrat was asked (again, Babelfish): 
A few years ago, you sang about the TV “intox, poisoned. Televised opium”. Which glance do you relate overall to the TV of today?
To which he replied:
At the time, the Ministry for Information controlled all the television news, as well as the programs. It was the voice of France, and it censure was of setting. All that hardly changed. But today, the TV is under the cut of another form of being able: tradesmen. Television became a machine to make sell products. The consumer, with large C, replaces the citizen
To read the interview in French, click here:

Intox- Jean Ferrat


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