Sunday, March 27, 2011

Pierre Noles

While Pierre Noles has had a long and interesting career in Quebecois music, and someone should certainly write a whole history of it, I am not sure if now is that time or I am that guy. But, I will attempt to do a brief run down. (Note: I am not stealing that photo, please click on the "Pierre Noles" hyperlink above and get a very cool and wonderful rundown of his various 60's productions courtesy of

The history of the last 50 years of the Montreal music scene tends to lay itself out in a way that certain trends and archetypes reappear again and again. There were only so many "players" in this game and in order to make a decent living, one had to be willing to work within whatever particular style of music that was selling at the time. So, you have people like Gerry Bribosia who started out playing fierce garage rock with Les Miserables and ended up making novelty Dracula Disco records. This is a pretty common Quebecois musical arc as both garage rock and disco were big trends in Quebec. What's relatively unique and interesting about this story is that the same people were making both of the above records. These guys were lifers. There were enough studios and enough of a market that if you were cagey enough, you could make a decent living jumping from scene to scene for decades. So, perhaps it's very telling that one of Pierre Noles' first productions was a French version of "Kookie, Kookie, Let Me Your Comb."

Pierre Noles was actually more multifaceted than most of his contemporaries (which certainly benefits his status of being "French Canada's leading producer-arranger-composer"). While he was producing some of the most infamous garage rock ever with the Sinners, he was also making orchestral novelty dance records aimed at the parents of the kids who were buying those Sinners records. Hit to every field, keep every base covered, uh, never steal third with two outs... They weren't quite "Sing Along With Mitch" level of squareness, but they certainly weren't hip. They were dance records, ("Avec l'orchestre de Strict Tempo") with the dance style for each song noted after the title. Perhaps something is lost in the translation, but though I grasp what a Foxtrot, Cha Cha, or Merengue (saucy!) is, I am confused as to what constitutes a "Triple Swing? Or are we back at baseball metaphors?

He cranked out these records. Many of the bigger arrangers/producers in Montreal did these records. They probably took a weekend to do and were easy money. While they are mostly tame, there are some dance numbers on some of the 60's ones that definitely have an interest to the retro 60's/bachelor pad music/swinging playboys sort of music fan. In fact, Noles was so skilled at churning out these dance craze records, some were even picked up by US labels:

I am picking one of my favorite songs from these records to highlight: the Pierre Noles Orchestra version of "Paint It Black" by the Rolling Stones. It's a little too wild to imagine Madame and Monsieur "Moral Majority" du Quebec circ. 1966 frugging it up to it, but maybe that's the point? A walk on the wild side, a decadent stroll w/ M. Jagger and his stroppy bunch; their
faux Indian swagger filtered through expansive horn arrangements. Anyways, this song is a hit with ME and I hope it fills up all your go-go's and swinging soirees.

Pierre Noles- Paint It Black


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