Even more than making up alliterations I love making good music finds at flea markets. A while ago, I got pretty lucky in the countryside of northern France.
The “brocante” took place on a long residential street in some tiny village and the stuff on sale was mostly kid’s toys, clothes etc. But I was only on the hunt for little 7” vinyl records. I love those 45s – and in my experience, there’s more often something good hiding in those shoe boxes than in crates with albums and 12” maxi singles. Plus they’re cheap.
Since I’ve been going to France for most of my life, I also have a soft spot for French music. Even though I would never call myself an expert on the sounds of La Grande Nation, I know a few things about musicians and bands from different eras. So, while digging through the dusty boxes at that market, I went for names, labels and covers.
Soon I realized there wouldn’t be any Gainsbourg gems on offer. Everything pointed to the mostly pop and chart oriented buying habits of everyday “peuple” who were kids and teenagers in the late 70s and all through the 80s. But still, with the “45 tours” as the most important format of that era, there was an impressive variety to sort through.
After about an hour and eight different stands, I had 29 little records at 50 cents each. Now that I’ve listened to them all, I have to say there’s bad ones (got not love for the bossa pop outfit Niagara, and Stacey Q – what was I thinking?!), pretty cool ones, and some true digs. Out of the latter, here’s the five French ones that are worth a few more words.
Les Rita Mitsouko – Andy
Let’s start with something relatively known. Les Rita Mitsouko were a really wild and fun duo back in the day, kind of like the anti-Roxette. And they had hits, even in Germany and the US, such as the huge dance tune “Marcia Baila” or “C’est Comme Ca” and “Andy” from their second album “The No Comprendo” in 1986 – which was produced by none other than Tony Visconti, the man behind many Bowie hits. “Andy” is a proper little Prince homage, with a real song about a difficult dude being twisted into a cumbersome funk number. This was actually the one tune I totally expected to find at that flea market.
Black Soul – Disco Music
With THE most generic band and song titles of all times and a bunch of black men circling the Random White Dude (most probably the producer?) on the cover, this had to be good, right?! Right – it’s two cuts of beautiful upbeat disco with great horns and vocals from 1977. The internet doesn’t hold much on them, the band has ties to Africa and France, and they seem to have existed from ’75 to ’81. I will look for more records by them in the future. The single carries the stylish Vogue logo – the label was founded as Jazz outlet Disques Vogue in the 50s and released a lot of seminal pop, punk and indie records in the 70s and 80s. Out of the five records presented here, three are from Vogue.
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Le Club – Un Fait Divers Et Rien De Plus
This one I bought for the band name – you don’t call yourself “Le Club” for nothing – and the Vogue label and the cool cover and the fact that someone had scribbled DANCE on it. It turned out to be a real gem! A well-produced electronic funk tune from 1982, it’s clearly influenced by early rap and electro from the US but the result is something truly original. The vocalist doesn’t try to rap, it’s more singing – and if you don’t like that, there’s always the instrumental remix on the B-side. Altogether a tune that wouldn’t be out of place in a Dam-Funk DJ set. Obviously the single sold half a million copies at the time. To quote Catherine Deneuve in the introduction to the video clip: “C’est intéressant!”
Lio – Banana Split
Back when I started writing for music mags I did an interview with Jay Alanski, who at the time had just started his ambient project A Reminiscent Drive. A really nice, positive guy who at some point talked about having worked with the singer Lio. So I instantly recognized his name on the cover and bagged this “Banana Split”. It’s a somewhat typical French (actually Belgian) pop moment – once again from the A&R dons at Vogue – that sold one million (!) copies: A teenage girl singing a double-entendre text, accompanied by a hectic Yé-Yé arrangement. It’s way too fast for my taste, so I play the record at 33 rpm (and a +8 pitch) and it magically becomes a pumping 123 BPM tech-house number with a bored guy singing. It might probably go down very well at a Kompakt party.
Indochine – Tes Yeux Noirs
Indochine were a huge band in 1980s France, I remember them being called the French Cure, but I never really knew any of their songs. And then this turns up and I’m instantly intrigued by the cover which was shot by Pierre et Gilles – although this is a toned down example of their work. The song itself is a catchy pop tune that will most definitely be played by yours truly at some future festival for some sunset-hands-up-and-hugs moments. And now I urge you to watch this totally insane video clip for the song from 1985, directed by – no, really! – Serge Gainsbourg. The smoking grandmaître even appears in it himself for a proper little “Fremdscham” cameo. Ah, la France!