Thursday, 18 February 2010

45. French pop

19th February 2010. Contrary to what the UK media would have you believe, French pop music does exist and it comes in flavours other than Johnny Hallyday..! On the BBC, there is a constant drip drip of negativity towards any music emanating from across the channel. I remember when Andrea Bocelli (Italian I know) had a well-deserved hit across Europe with "Time to say good-bye" and some insular idiot on BBC Radio 2 introduced it by saying, "This has topped all the European charts over the last few weeks which means it's going to be a flop here.." (ye godfathers..)
Despite that introduction, it was a smash in the UK too. Johnny Hallyday is not rated at all by the UK pop music cognescenti either.. He's been around almost as long as Cliff Richard but that's where any similarity stops. Johnny puts on a dynamic stage show - he's got presence and power in spades and some great songs. He attracts an audience of all ages while anodyne old Cliff is the favourite of the mums & grannies.

Here he is with one of his greatest hits Que je t'aime.. (with a very Darth Vader-ish intro! - "Feel the force, Johnny!") (hard to see where he keeps his pension book in that suit!) This is how to make an entrance!
There are a couple of good gizmos available for listening to French radio via a PC. RFM plays a mix of English language hits from the 80s and contemporary French songs with minimal blah-blah between them. (If you like it, right click on the RFM logo to create a shortcut to it on your desktop). We used to tune into RFM on the long drive south from Calais to the Pays Basque each summer and it wasn’t too long before we worked out what the ‘summer song’ for that year was as they seem to have a limited play list.

A classic summer song in 1971 (seems like yesterday!) that you couldn't escape from even if you wanted to was Michel Delpech's monster hit Pour Un Flirt. It still receives lots of air time even today. It's one of those annoyingly catchy tunes (aaagghh - those trumpets..!) that you can't stop yourself singing along to.
One that I would have liked to escape from would have been Tanita Tikaram's 1988 hit "Twist in my Sobriety" - played to death by RFM.

My only major gripe at RFM is that they do insist on playing James Blunt.. He should cut out the middleman and call the Samaritans direct thus sparing us from the misery of listening to his songs..

So who are the French pop music ‘greats’..? There’s the so-stylish and enigmatic Françoise Hardy – all cheekbones, hair, eyes and.. steady! She had a whole stream of hits in France – some of which she translated into English for the UK & US markets. And, although not a favourite of mine, let's not forget the evergreen Mireille Mathieu – never has the Marseillaise been sung with such passion and fervour as in her rendition. Liane Foly too is an extremely under-rated song stylist as well as being a very funny lady. See what you think of her intriguing and exotic sounding Au fur et à mesure..

Michel Fugain had a great deal of success (in 1972..) with this oh-so-French summer song:
Radio TSF Jazz broadcasts on FM in the Paris area and it plays cool jazz non-stop. 

That's enough to be going on with..! Apologies in advance if you start humming Pour Un Flirt all day!

And now for something completely different - the late great John Candy in "Trains, Planes & Automobiles".. If you haven't seen it, you've missed a very very funny film..

I know this has got nothing to do with the Pays basque but this is one funny film.. take a look at the trailer:

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