It’s not too long for me to wait until I begin to spend sizeable chunks of my summer traversing the French autoroute network, so allow me (if you will) to indulge myself a little and spend the next few moments reminiscing about some of my favourite cross-channel musical moments. So why not grab a quick glass of rosé, a crusty baguette and a healthy helping of morbier before sitting back and imagining yourself topping up the driver’s tan…
1. Nino Ferrer – La Rua Madureira
Nino Ferrer was a French-Italian singer who shot to fame in the late sixties on the back of a number of bossa-nova inspired singles. The street in the title can be found in the centre of Rio De Janeiro and the lyrics contain other references to the area which inspired the music itself.
2. Sebastien Tellier – La Ritournelle
Sebastien Tellier is most famous in France for his 2008 entry into the Eurovision song contest, Divine. The song caused much controversy in his home nation as the lyrics were predominantly in English. The song eventually totalled a mere 47 points in the competition although I would consider that as something of a badge of honour!
3. Air – La Femme D’Argent
No gallic playlist could be complete without something from arguably France’s most sucessful modern musical export to the UK. The video here is an alternative version of the song featured on their Moon Safari album and contains a number of interesting snippets about its conception.
4. Jacques Dutronc – Les Cactus
Jacques Dutronc rose to prominence in the 60s but still works in both music and films today. Les Cactus is one of his earlier efforts and has been covered by a number of artists since including Vanessa Paradis who was clearly seduced by the simple sentiment at it’s heart; “The whole world is a cactus, it is impossible to sit down.”
5. Arthur H – Le Chercheur d’Or
I suspect a strong diet of Gitanes was essential to cultivating such a unique vocal, and the jacket in the video really should be a fundamental part of anyone’s wardrobe. The song (the gold miner) is an enlightening tale of gangrene, lost limbs and misery (but with a cheerful delivery at least)!
6. Toma – Facile
I don’t know an awful lot about either this song or the artist, other than to say that I came across it via Nova Tunes 0.9. Nova Tunes is a bi-annual compilation from independent French radio station, Radio Nova, that is largely responsible for introducing me to number of new sounds. So, if you’re anywhere near Le Mans, Nantes, Montpellier, Paris, Brest, Boulogne , Beauvais, Melun, Agen, Limoges, Pau, Avignon or Clermonot Ferrand (phew!) then I would encourage you to check it out!
7. Maurice Ravel – Pavane Pour Une Infante Defunte
Joseph-Maurice Ravel was a French composer who rose to prominence in the early twentieth century. He is perhaps best known for his orchestral work, Bolero. Ravel, however, was not at all enamoured with his work, and once refered to it sneeringly as a “piece for orchestra without music”. This piece, (‘Pavane for a Dead Princess’) was written as an evocation of a pavane (a slow processional dance) that a little princess might have danced in a Spanish court.
8. Louise Attaque – Les Nuits Parisiènnes
9. Troublemakers – Get Misunderstood
Despite the anglophone name and lyrics, the Troublemakers are an innovative electro group from the backstreets of Marseilles. Whilst the beginning of this track sounds like they were having a lunchtime chat with the microphones turned on, it adds to the charm!
10. Serge Gainsbourg and Jane Birkin – Je t’aime…moi non plus
Hmm, no introduction required I guess!