Fans of the peculiar charms of French-born songstress and actress Claudine Longet may know the beguiling 'Electric Moon' from her 1971 album, We've Only Just Begun. The song was written by Donovan – whose brilliance and versatility as a songwriter tends to be seriously underrated, in my opinion – and produced and arranged by Nick DeCaro. Assigned by A&M Records to work on Longet's music in 1966, DeCaro was the chief architect behind her brand of lush easy-listening, arranging and/or producing seven of her eight albums (including 1974's Sugar Me, which remained unissued until 1993). Andy Williams, Longet's then-husband, liked DeCaro's work so much, he hired him to work on his own records.
- Claudine Longet - Electric Moon (1971)
- Claudine Longet - Como la luna (1971)
Longet also released a Spanish language cover of 'Electric Moon' as 'Como la luna'. She appeared on a show called Estudio Abertio on Spain's TVE around early October 1971, performing this and the B-side 'Mucho tiempo mas', a cover of Linda Ronstadt's 'Long, Long Time'.
Donovan never released a version himself but, according to this EIL listing, did record a demo acetate for Longet. The only recording of Donovan performing the song to have surfaced is in a 1970 film called There Is An Ocean, which was unreleased until its inclusion in the 2005 box set, To Try For The Sun.
Like so many, I am angry, confounded, saddened by the state of the world. 2016 just keeps kicking us in the arse. I won't spill any trite words about the power of music in troubled times. I don't even think making ourselves feel better is entirely the point. I'm wary of self-tranquilising to the point of becoming numbed or complacent; we need that sense of horror and anger to foster meaningful action. Anger, I think, is not something to be afraid of if it is not hateful or violent or self-destructive. That said, I'm aware good people need to draw strength from where they can – to be inspired, to experience catharsis, to feel soothed, to preserve their mental health – in order to be effective, to go on, to heal. And that's where music can come in. What I like to turn to runs the gamut from angry and cynical, to inspiring and thought-provoking, to calming and reassuring. Here are a few songs I thought I'd share.
Starting at the angry, cynical end of things, Jarvis Cocker's blunt song 'Running The World' from 2006 pulled no punches in describing exactly who has the power in the world, and is unfortunately truer than ever. The song is an incisive, darkly funny critique of capitalism and politics.
Barry McGuire's classic scathing protest song, 'Eve Of Destruction', perfectly captured the countercultural mood of its day. Written by nineteen-year-old P.F. Sloan, it was a number one hit for McGuire in 1965, and it's hard to imagine anyone spitting out these lyrics of disgust and frustration better than he does in his blistering growl. Many of the lyrics are, obviously, specific to political circumstances of the time, but much of it still resonates and could apply as readily today. Particularly potent is McGuire's delivery of the line about religious hypocrisy: "Hate your next-door neighbour / but don't forget to say grace." Also, message aside, I am a fan of the fact the word 'coagulating' is incorporated into a rhyme.
It's interesting when a work of art's message feels relevant again and you find its meaning becomes clearer than before. I guess I always saw this as a somewhat fatalistic song about impending doom in an age of atomic fear, but now it's hitting me as a rebuke against complacency, against refusing to see potential catastrophe, and against the normalisation of things that should rightly invoke alarm. Sloan saw it as "a love song to and for humanity" and "a prayer" and hoped it would help "open a dialogue", but instead he and McGuire were ousted from the music industry.
"This is a cold war, you better know what you're fighting for" sings Janelle Monáe so powerfully on 'Cold War', from her 2010 Afrofuturist pop masterpiece, The ArchAndroid. The line 'I was made to believe there was something wrong with me' always chokes me up, and now more than ever, too many are afraid of their children growing up to feel like this. Monáe has said of this and other songs of hers: "I try to create songs that are uplifting because this world can drive you insane". 'Cold War', though it faces a sense of pain and injustice head-on, is not a bitter resignation; it ultimately uplifts:
So long, Leonard. Thank you for the achingly beautiful words and music.
A mix for Halloween featuring music from 70s European horror soundtracks, eerie vintage folk-pop, contemporary pop noir and more. Last year, I made a devil-themed mix drawing from a similar range of artists, but where that one was skin-crawlingly creepy, this is more softly unnerving, with undercurrents of romance and sensuality. It makes me vaguely picture an imaginary classic horror film where a beautiful heroine is lured into a haunted forest by an irresistible but diabolical lover. Amid the prettily haunting sounds, there are still some genuinely terrifying moments – Goblin's bloodcurdling 'Sighs', from Suspiria, for example – should this ominous realm start to feel too cosy.
The mix image is Elsa Martinelli in Roger Vadim's 1960 vampire flick, Et mourir de plaisir (aka Blood and Roses).
Tracklist (Show details)
- François De Roubaix - Les Lèvres Rouges (1971)
From the Les Lèvres Rouges (Daughters of Darkness) soundtrack.
- Beautify Junkyards - Longo Amanhã (2015)
From The Beast Shouted Love.
- Ennio Morricone - Astratto IV (1971)
From the Veruschka - poesia di una donna soundtrack.
- Marianne Faithfull - Oh Look Around You (1965)
From her self-titled debut album.
- Daniela Casa - Ignoto (1975)
From Società Malata, reissued on Penny Records in 2013, and again on Dagored this year.
- Death and Vanilla - Shadow and Shape (2015)
- Comus - Bitten (1971)
From First Utterance.
- The Paradise Motel - Bad Light (1996)
From Still Life.
- Broadcast - The Sacred Marriage (2013)
From the soundtrack to Peter Strickland's Berberian Sound Studio.
- Jenny Hval - In the Red (2016)
From Blood Bitch.
- Cat's Eyes - Pavane (2015)
From the soundtrack to another Strickland film, The Duke of Burgundy.
- Françoise Hardy - The Rose (1966)
From Hardy's first English language album, In English.
- Piero Umiliani - Nocturne (1973)
From To-Day's Sound, reissued on Easy Tempo in 1997.
- Ennio Morricone - Metamorfosi (1971)
From the La classe operaia va in paradiso.
- Laurence Vanay - Soleil Rouge (1974)
- Espers - Flowery Noontide (2005)
- Cat's Eyes - Black Madonna (2015)
From The Duke of Burgundy.
- Les Maledictus Sound - Heathcliff Y Cry Your Name (1968)
From Attention (or arguably Les Maledictus Sound - I'm uncertain of the correct title), the only release by this band helmed by Jean-Pierre Massiera.
- Keith Seatman - A Slight of Hand (2013)
- Isobel Campbell & Mark Lanegan - The False Husband (2006)
From Ballad Of The Broken Seas.
- Jane Weaver - Parade of Blood Red Sorrows (2013)
- Belbury Poly - Pan's Garden (2006)
From The Owl's Map.
- Spirogyra - Old Boot Wine (1973)
From the 2004 compilation Gather In The Mushrooms – The British Acid Folk Underground 1968-1974. Originally from the album Bells, Boots and Shambles.
- Phillip Lambro / Orriel Smith - Hannah Emerges In the Night (1973)
Originally from the Crypt of the Living Dead soundtrack, this was included as a bonus track on the 2011 digital issue of Smith's 1968 single, 'Tiffany Glass' (which was also written by Lambro).
- Still Corners - Demons (2011)
From Creatures of an Hour.
- Acanthus - Sleeping Beauty (Samba Des Vampires) (1971)
From the soundtrack to Jean Rollin's Le Frisson des vampires, released by Finders Keepers Records in 2010.
- Emil Richards - Opal (October) (1966)
From New Sound Element "Stones", reissued by The Omni Recording Corporation in 2012.
- Lake Ruth - One Night As I Lay On My Bed (2016)
From Actual Entity.
- Colleen - Le Labyrinthe (2007)
- Angelo Badalamenti - Laura's Dark Boogie (1990)
From Twin Peaks: Season Two Music and More (2007).
- Maxine Sullivan - Dark Eyes (1938)
From the 1997 compilation The Chronological Classics: Maxine Sullivan 1937-1938.
- Jean Prodromidès - Carmilla et Léopoldo (1960)
From the Et mourir de plaisir (Blood and Roses) soundtrack.
- Harmonic 33 - Long Shadow (2005)
From Music For Film, Television & Radio, Volume 1.
- Goblin - Sighs (1977)
From the soundtrack to Dario Argento's Suspiria, reissued on Bella Casa's The Awakening box set in 2012.
- Harper / Russe / St. George - Nightwalker (1972)
From Electrosonic, a library music record Don Harper, Delia Derbyshire and Brian Hodgson (the latter two under pseudonyms) made for KPM, reissued by Glo-Spot in 2006.
- Clara Rockmore - Rachmaninoff: Vocalise (1977)
From The Art of the Theremin.
- Ela Orleans - Nocturne (2012)
From Tumult In Clouds.
- Elysian Fields - Black Acres (2000) – Free download available from Epitonic.
From Queen Of The Meadow.
- Luboš Fišer - Blood Red Rose (1972)
From the Morgiana soundtrack, released by Finders Keepers Records in 2013.
- Mono In VCF - We Could've Owned The World (2008)
From Mono In VCF.
A guest mix by Jonathyne Briggs, author of a fascinating and highly recommended book on French pop history, Sounds French: Globalization, Cultural Communities, and Pop Music, 1958-1980 (Oxford University Press, 2015):
1971—the transition. The destruction of Les Halles in Paris began in 1971 in order to make way for a more modern marketplace, and this action symbolizes how the French found themselves in a period of transition. Just prior to the economic and social problems that would emerge with the oil shocks of 1973, the French were still very much enjoying the economic boom of the economic miracle and continued to embrace new ideas and technologies, albeit with some hesitation manifest in the protests against expanded military bases at Larzac. The Events of 1968 and the death of Charles de Gaulle were just a few years past and the centenary of the Commune reminded many of the revolutionary hope symbolized by the student protests and strikes. In the realm of popular music, French audiences continued to fragment with more and more stylistic influences emerging in different subgenres with the appearance of new artists. And yet, established artists began to experiment with new styles and ideas. 1971 in many ways is a watershed moment in French pop, in which the adventurousness of the French underground is echoed in the music of more popular acts and there was a moment of brief harmony of leisure and introspection. – Jonathyne Briggs
- Stone et Charden “L’avventura”
- Serge Lama “Superman”
- Jean-Jacques Perrey “Baroque Hoedown” (1971 rerelease)
- Michel Polnareff “Computer’s Dream”
- Serge Gainbourg “L’hôtel particulier”
- Catharsis “Masq”
- Leo Ferré “La solitude”
- Françoise Hardy “La question”
- Johnny Hallyday “Fils de personne”
- Alan Stivell “Pop Plinn”
- Dalida “Mamy Blue”
- Nino Ferrer “La maison près de la fontaine”
- Claude Nougaro “Un grain de folie”
- Catherine Ribero + Alpes “Diborowska”
- Jacques Higelin “Aujourd’hui Blues”
- Mouloudji “Le Temps des cerises”
Radio Télévision Suisse has an excellent online audiovisual archive which includes a number of videos featuring 1960s French pop stars. You'll find all the big names like Serge Gainsbourg, Françoise Hardy, France Gall, Johnny Hallyday, Sylvie Vartan, Sheila and Jacques Dutronc, as well as some rare clips of more obscure artists. There is much to explore on the site, so here are a few of my picks:
Tucked away twelve minutes into a May 1967 episode of news magazine Carrefour is a performance by yé-yé girl Chantal Kelly (I've clipped out her part above). One of my favourite French pop girls of the era, she remains puzzlingly uncomped and unreissued. I wrote about this nine years ago, mentioning she'd only made it onto a couple of compilations, and nothing has changed since. It's hard to understand, as her songs are as worthy as those of the most beloved and frequently reissued girls. Unlike some singers saddled with tame rehashes of American and British hits, Chantal got to record quality originals by top songwriters (the above song is co-written by André Popp), including some highly inventive songs like 'Caribou'. There is more than a whole LP's worth of material begging to be anthologised – someone make it happen.
The rest of these videos are embedded from the RTS site, so require Flash:
Wow, this is twenty incredible minutes of Françoise Hardy in London in 1965. The footage includes Hardy recording her album L'amitié at Pye studios, and walking around the city with her then-boyfriend, photographer Jean-Marie Périer.
Each episode of the Swiss series Chansons à aimer focused on a single music artist, giving the subject a chance to showcase a handful of their songs and be interviewed at some length. In this 1969 episode, Michel Polnareff performs 'La poupée qui fait non', 'Jour après jour' and 'Pourquoi faut-il se dire adieu'.
You might not expect to find a decent music guide in a 70s teen girl magazine, but that's exactly what I came across in the November 1974 issue of an American publication called The New Ingenue. In "50 Albums You Can't Live Without", the magazine does not condescend to its young female demographic with the usual list of tight-jeaned teenybopper pin-ups, but instead presents a serious guide for fledgling collectors. It was written by Ed Naha, at the time a music journalist who wrote for esteeemed publications like The Village Voice and Rolling Stone, and who later became a science fiction and fantasy author and screenwriter.
The article is not only an interesting snapshot of its era, providing a glimpse into critical tastes as well as the culture of record collecting at the time, it still works as a great starting point for anyone wanting to explore 60s to 70s rock. The list covers a good range of styles, from rhythm and blues to "lofty rock", though for my tastes, it's weighted a little heavily toward hard rock – not surprising given when this was written. While it's filled with staple classic albums like Dark Side Of The Moon and Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, it also has a few more obscure choices that have since fallen off the critical radar. Then there is something like Love's Forever Changes, which was not a success when released, but whose reputation saw it rise to become a cult classic over time. Here we see it beginning to achieve this status, as well as the insight that it "attracted a lot of praise and condemnation" at the time of its release.
The New Ingenue seems to have been trying to do something more progressive and feminist with the medium of the teen girl magazine. Among the usual makeup ads and fashion tips, there are some atypical articles that show they expected intelligence from their audience, like a feature on the juvenile detention system or a technical guide to hi-fi. A subscription ad boasts the magazine has a broad range of content, with "columns on crafts, ecology action and all the occult" (all of it!). Describing their target reader, it says "she isn't under anybody's thumb and she's not up on anyone's pedestal". I bought several issues from the collection of the lovely Dixie Laite, who described The New Ingenue as "sort of a precursor to Sassy in terms of content, attitude and down-to-earthiness."
As part of this approach, the magazine had a particular interest in bringing quality music journalism to young women. I found an advertisement in a December 1974 issue of Billboard magazine which emphasised The New Ingenue's commitment to musical content. It proudly proclaims the magazine's line-up of respected critics, that its music column is "not a monthly gossip column" and that it features "the first and only chart designed by and for the young American woman".
I've made a Spotify playlist featuring one song from each album in the list:
out of print
- February 19 2017
- February 2 2017
- December 24 2016
- December 23 2016
- November 25 2016
- November 19 2016
- November 11 2016
- October 29 2016
- October 7 2016
- September 1 2016
- August 29 2016
- July 30 2016
- July 19 2016
- July 14 2016
- Sat, Jun 25 2005
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