Once upon a time in Paris, I happened to be in town during the summer when the Cinematheque ran their vampire series. I took this opportunity to catch on the big screen several films that a) I would probably never get an opportunity to see on the big screen again and b) see some movies that were missing from my viewing resume. So I finally got to see The Hunger, Al Adamson’s Dracula vs. Frankenstein (great title sequence), and Vampyros Lesbos (that’s right, on the silver screen!)!!! I’m still kicking myself for missing the Jean Rollin double feature!
You may not know this but the horror genre is basically lacking in French fantasy. So I jumped at the chance to catch a film in the series called Spermula. My French isn’t that great and I got lost pretty quickly as to what the hell this movie was about. Something to do with aliens from another planet coming to earth to suck the essential essence from men. Following the narrative didn’t really matter the visuals were nutty, sexy and fantastic. It also had Udo Kier in it and I have a fetish for watching film stock from the late 60s through the 70s.
But the highlight for me was during a party sequence when the camera was panning among the party guests. “Wait, who is that…what the… THAT’S NINO FERRER!” I had to nudge my friend and tell him. Suffice to say that he wasn’t as interested as I was.
Nino Ferrer gave us some great music and is responsible for a song that EVERY FRENCH PERSON KNOWS. They may not know who sang it, or all the words, or what the name of the song is but you start singing the chorus to the 1966 megahit “Le téléfon” and they’ll start singing it with you.
Not only is Nino and his then girlfriend Radiah in the movie, he also has two songs he wrote in it! The hunt was on. I had to have these songs. Many record conventions, internet searches and blank stares from vendors later, I am happy to announce that victory is mine and your’s too! You’ll find the link to the better of the two songs at the bottom of this post. And you’ll definitely be hearing it tonight at Bardot A Go Go.
Here’s a clip from Spermula. You can find the American dubbed version pretty easily but it doesn’t have the clip of Nino at the party. So I’m looking for the French version which is naughtier as well. But this scene has Radiah. I apologize for the use of the word midget.
There are a couple bare bottoms in this clip and it’s so bizarre let’s play it safe and label it NOT SAFE FOR WORK
Did you ever wonder where the magazine Salut les copains! got it’s name? Well from it’s predecessor radio show, that’s where. And the radio show got it’s name from a song by Gilbert Becaud. Salut les copains was first broadcast in 1958 and was the idea of media mogul Daniel Filipacchi who wanted to recreate in France what he saw going on in U.S.A. with the programs like American Bandstand.
I hear you smarty pants, yes 1958 pre-dates Johnny, Françoise and Sheila. Before those vedettes (star, idol) hit the scene the growing youth market swooned over the likes of Gilbert Becaud. Becaud’s famous nickname Monsieur 100,000 volts came from a newspaper headline referring to a concert where he brought the house down. Becaud’s performance during a matinee show at L’Oympia stirred the teenage audience into a frenzy and they tore the place apart. In the ensuing years he would be replaced by Johnny Hallyday and le genération yé-yé.
Unfortunately, I couldn’t find any video of early Becaud performances. His energy and performance were charismatic and engaging.
I was always simultaneously repulsed and attracted to Red Sovine’s ballad weeper Teddy Bear. If you’re not familiar, it’s a classic CB era country tune about “a young paraplegic boy whose semitrailer truck-driving father had been killed in a road accident, and is left with a CB radio to keep him company.” (Source Wikipedia.) While at a Salon de disque in Paris, I ran across the French version! I once did a radio show where I alternated between French songs and various Americana, mostly country, songs as an experiment in tolerance for the listener and as a challenge to see if I could make the two go together. If only I owned this 45 back then.
Not a whole lot of information to find on the “singer” Jacques Hourdeaux. It appears that he penned several tunes for the likes of Brassens, Sacha Distel, Dalida and Sheila. More info on him if I find it.
The other plus is that it is on the Pink Elephant record label.
One of the challenges I face in making the documentary is illustrating the pleasure derived from the lyrics of French Pop songs. For years my DJ focus was on enjoyable music that didn’t require a comprehension of the language since my audience primarily didn’t know French. As I got better at speaking and understanding the language a new depth of enjoyment opened-up. Some artists have both great lyrics and great music. Gainsbourg for starters. Here’s a little title theme ditty he wrote for a television program called Dents de lait, dents de loup.
(Notice that the cameraman doesn’t quite know who to focus on!)
Dents de lait… aired on January 11, 1967 and is a sort of French American Bandstand except that it was a one time deal with only a single episode. The line-up is jaw dropping – Gainsbourg, France Gall, Françoise Hardy, Eddy Mitchel, Clo-Clo, Sylvie Vartan, The Zombies (actually playing their instruments! almost everyone else lip synchs), The Walker Brothers, a high Marianne Faithful, and a few more Euro pop stars. It was hosted by Annick Beauchamps and Le President Rosko who was an American who made a career DJing on pirate radio (they actually were on a boat on the English Channel broadcasting from “international waters” to the mainland) before he came to Radio Luxembourg and did a show for a French audience.
The term dents de lait (milk teeth) means baby teeth and dents de loup means wolf teeth. So the lyric goes “You, you’re only a baby; nothing but a baby wolf. You have the baby teeth; not the teeth of a wolf.” To which France Gall responds “Yes, I have the baby teeth;I’m nothing but a baby wolf; Yes, I have the baby teeth; the baby teeth of a wolf!”
It’s cute, simple, emblematic of the time and makes more sense in French than in English.
It’s never been released in any form whatsoever, but here is an MP3 nonetheless.