Saturday, August 22, 2009

Jacques Dutronc

In the 1960's, rock and roll was still a novelty for the majority of the French public. And listening to their homegrown product, it's hard to blame them. There is something about rock and roll that your average French pop singer of the day just didn't get. He either takes it too seriously and sounds like he has a hernia, or regards rock and roll as children's music and doesn't take it seriously at all.

Either way, it doesn't sound cool, which is sort of ironic, as in the countries where the musicians COULD rock, like America and England, French celebrities like Brigid Bardot and Jean-Paul Belmondo were held up as examples of continental cool that was simply unobtainable.

Yet, there was one French singer of the late 60's who could genuinely sing rock and roll in a manner that was both unforced and impeccably stylish. I am speaking of Jacques Dutronc. Dutronc could sing rock and roll as good as anyone on either side of the Atlantic, yet always with a Gaulic cool.

His first song "Et Moi, Et Moi, Et Moi" was written as a dig at French folksinger Antoine, who was studiously copying Bob Dylan's self involved Folk Rock period. The lyrics go as follows:

Seven hundred million Chinese
And me, and me and me
With my life, my little home
My headache, my Persian cat
I think about it and then I forget
That’s life, that’s life

Dutronc has quite a few early songs where he seems very influenced by Bob Dylan's phrasing himself. He doesn't go imitate Dylan as slavishly as Antoine did, but there is no doubt where his cadences were coming from.

After his first LP, the ersatz Dylanisms faded away, and Dutronc came into his own. Don't let me mislead you though, Dutronc was making solid, original music from the beginning.

In this day and age, his most well known song is probably, "Les Responsable", which has been comped numerous times and is a DJ favorite of mod/go go nights worldwide. It's easy to see why, as Dutronc's performance on this song is amazing. His swagger matches Mick Jagger's and his timing is impeccable.

My personal Dutronc favorite is "Restons Francais, Soyons Gaulois", a hard, heavy, groovy number. I won't babble on to much about the track, but it is funky rock in the best 60's sense of the term. I was overjoyed when I discovered there was a Scopitone for it, but it's fairly bland. Dutronc does look like a pimp in the country estate, though. Too bad the video quality is so poor. Anyone with a high quality rip, please get at me.


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