Sunday, May 15, 2005

Frenchified Bad Rock

I was hanging with a friend of mine at my house the other night, drinking scotch, rapping about the state of the world and listening to some music. At one point, I popped in a psychedelic 60s French rock CD (made reference to it before in this post), and, for the first time, I actually paid close attention to some of the lyrics.

My french is passable, but I have never bothered trying to understand the lyrics of the songs. I was more into the funky music and kitchy cooleness of it. Whenever I have a cocktail gathering at my house, the album sets a nice, hip -- but not too pretentious -- vibe. In addition, I love listening to people singing in foreign languages over interesting music. It makes the experience more sensory and existentialist; you are just digging on the sounds. It is for this reason that I have a pretty extensive collection of 1970s African rock (in which you'll find the two greatest song of all time in Joseph K's opinion: (i) "Yuda" by Dackin Dackino and (ii) "Netsanet" by Mulatu Astatke; unfortunately, the former is a pro-Mobutu Sese Seko song, but I pretend they're singing about another Mobutu, whose a virtuous blacksmith or something) .

Sometimes, not understanding is a good thing. Because the songs on my 60s French rock CD were -- lyrically -- awful. The first song on the CD is a rock out by Johnny Hallyday called "Mal." It was only the other night that it dawned on me that it was a rip-off of Deep Purple's "Hush." Musically anyways. Both songs are about a guy pining away for a lost love. Yet, Hallyday's crooning about how torturous the love was makes him seem especially 1000 times whinier. After paying attention to the lyrics, I felt like slapping him with a glove.

Another re-make that falls well short lyrically is by Eileen, "Ces Bottes Sont Faites Pour Marcher." In the abstract, the notion of a french woman redoing Nancy Sinatra's classic seems cool, and the actually singing -- while somewhat flat -- is haunting. But, it turns out the lyrics are not exactly the same. The chorus of the original is "These boots are made for walkin'/And that's just what they'll do/One of these days these boots are gonna walk all over you." The song is about a woman -- treated wrong by her man -- empowering herself, becoming fierce and strong. In sexy boots.

In Eileen's version, the chorus goes something like this "These boots are made for walkin'/ And you're going to regret it/when I put on these boots to leave you." My response to hearing something like that from a woman, "You know, if you are going to make those types of lame pronouncements, go ahead and beat it. And I never liked those damn boots anyway."

The best song on the album is not a lame remake, but an original song by David Alexandre Winter called "Qu'est-ce Que J'ai Danse!" which loosely translates into "Why Was I Dancing?" I finally paid attention to the lyrics. It's about a guy dreamily recounting how he saw this beautiful woman and somehow ended up dancing the night away with her. He returns home alone, and wonders if was all a dream.

There is absolutely nothing about the song that I can relate to. Here is how this all would have gone if Joseph K had been in the same situation as Winter: Joseph K's at club. Sees attractive woman dancing. Goes to dance with her. At end of evening, they decide to go their separate ways. Joseph K wakes up the next morning, makes some toast and reads the sports page. Joseph K does NOT dreamily recount the dancing the previous evening. Or the evening for that matter. Especially, if Joseph K did not get laid. Joseph K's song about his thoughts and feelings the morning such a night would be titled, "Why Does My Toaster Burn Everything I Put In It?"

Lyrical deficiencies notwithstanding, if you come across "Pop A Paris" in your record story, it's still worth picking it up. Especially if you don't understand French.


Blogger Flavor Dav said...

David Alexandre Winter's "Qu'est-ce que j'ai danse!" is a cover of Archie Bell and The Drells' "I Can't Stop Dancing" ...

3:41 PM  
Blogger Flavor Dav said...

... on the other hand, Gil Now's cover of Dean Parrish's "Skate Pt. 1," "Dis -le moi," on Pop a Paris Vol. 3 indeed holds its own against the original ...

3:44 PM  

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