Monday, July 12, 2010


Regine's life story is probably more interesting than her singing, which is utterly average. Her voice is flat, unaffected, and anonymous. But, this so-so cabaret singer survived a childhood spent as a Jew during World War II in Paris to become the Queen of the Nightclubs.

Regine was one of the pioneers of the modern discoteque formula. When she became manager of Paris' "Whiskey A Go Go" nightclub at the age of 24 in 1953 (working her way up from coatcheck girl, naturally), she took out the jukebox and brought in dual turntables in order to facilitate seamless music.

"I laid down a linoleum dance-floor - like in a kitchen - put in coloured lights, and removed the juke-box. The trouble with the juke-box was that when the music stopped you could hear kissing in the corners. It killed the atmosphere. Instead I installed two turntables so there was no gap in the music. I was barmaid, doorman, bathroom attendant, hostess - and I also put on the records. It was the first ever discotheque and I was the first ever club disc-jockey.

For those who don''t know, this set of "Two Turntables and a Mixer" has been the basic DJ set up to this day (although not becoming particularly well known until the beginging of disco in the early 70's). Clubs like Regine's were essentially the dawn of the modern nightclub era. The idea of a DJ providing music, as opposed to live entertainment, was revolutionary. Regine's became a hangout for the international jet scene, and the people who went there brought the idea of a "discoteque" with them back to where ever they came from.

"Everybody, just everybody, knew Regine from these incredibly decadent nights in Paris, which was considered the height of chic by New Yorkers those days," says jeweler Kenneth Jay Lane. "We would dance until dawn to music that wasn't around here back then -- rumbas, tangos, merengues -- and then there you were, heart open and gay, stepping into a waiting limousine in Paris at sunrise."

Oddly enough, many of these "unheard musics" were native to New York, but chances are your average upperclass jetsetter wasn't going to social clubs in Spanish Harlem to dance the merengue or the twist.

Regine's clientele in the early 60's was rich, well traveled, urbane. She claims her first nightclub (of many) under her own name was financed by a Rothschild heir. Eventually, this cosmopolitan, international vibe enabled Regine to open 25 eponymous nightclubs worldwide. It is worth noting that to cater to this monied crowd, Regine also invented the idea of bottle service, back in the 50's!

It would be natural that the Parisian Queen of Nightclubs would cross paths with Serge Gainsbourg, although I am not sure when or how. All I know is that Regine ultimately recorded a handful of Gainsbourg's songs. From the mid 60's on, it seems like her albums always have a song or two by Gainsbourg on them. Maybe Gainsbourg was captivated by her charm and talent or maybe he figured a donation of a song or two would get him a better table?

The song I picked, "Tic Tac Toe" is from 1978. It sounds comparable to Gainsbourg's own disco era material, albeit sligtly more cheesy and less sleazy!

Today, the nightclubs are gone, but Regine is still making music and apparently has plans to open a piano bar.

Tic Tac Toe- Regine


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