Tu Fais Chanter Mon Coeur

Originally published September 2017

One of the many bands and musicians Chrissie Hynde hung around with before she formed The Pretenders was a Power Pop group from Yorkshire called Strangeways. They only released a couple of singles before they broke up but a few years ago a compilation album of unreleased material came out which featured this terrific French version of “Wild Thing” they recorded with Chrissie on vocals in 1978.

If you think the idea of Chrissie Hynde singing in French sounds sexy as hell, you’d be right.

Download: Chose Sauvage – Chrissie Hynde & Strangeways (mp3)

Photo from Paula Yates’ book Rock Stars In Their Underpants.


Back To The Future

Originally published July 2009

The future used to look like such a brilliant place to live when I was a kid, all sleek and shiny surfaces, rockets, hover cars, robots and talking computers. But now that we’re actually living in what I considered “the future” back then — 2001 was eight 18 years ago! — it doesn’t seem half as exciting and the long-term outlook is a bit grim. Given the choice I’d rather live in the future of Gerry Anderson’s 1970 TV series UFO which had all the usual science fiction gizmos and vehicles, but was also a groovy-looking world of mod interiors and futuristic babes in cat suits and silver mini skirts.

I was a huge fan of the show when it was first broadcast — I even made my own SHADO badge out of cardboard — but as I was only 8 at the time I was more interested in the Interceptors and Ed Straker’s car than all the space-age dolly birds lounging around on modular furniture. But even I took notice of the girls stationed on the Moonbase who wore tight sparkly uniforms and purple wigs (the function of which has never been explained but who cares), especially Lt. Gay Ellis played by the lovely Gabrielle Drake (top) whose forceful command of “Interceptors! Immediate launch!” in that posh Head-Girl voice of hers conjured up all sorts of, um, thoughts.

Innocent though I was, I definitely had the feeling that there was more going on in the show than I understood (it had “adult” themes — ooooh) and scenes like this left a long-lasting mark on my impressionable young mind. Gabrielle, as you probably know, was the older sister of Nick Drake, though in that outfit she looks more like she’s related to David Bowie.

Unfortunately we don’t have this sexy future to look forward to as the show was set in 1980 which, far as I remember, didn’t look anything like that. Though with all the silver outfits and purple hair I like to think it predicted the look of Glam Rock.

Like all Gerry Anderson shows it had cracking theme music.

Download: UFO (Main Theme) – Barry Gray (mp3)

Oooh Betty

Originally published August 2010

One of the pleasures of living in a big city is the cosmopolitan cultural pleasures it offers and when I was a fresh-from-college designer working in London in the late 1980s I took full advantage and went through a phase of seeing tons of foreign films. And there were a lot to see too, back then it seemed like every week you’d open Time Out and there’d be a Jean De Florette, Women On The Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, Au Revoir les Enfants, Cinema Paradiso, or Delicatessen that was packing them in at The Lumiere, Screen On The Green, Chelsea Cinema, or the Riverside Studios, and few things made me feel more like a sophisticated boy-about-town really living the metropolitan life than going to see a film with subtitles.

The one that really reminds me of that era and stuck with me ever since (not just for the reasons you might think) was Betty Blue from 1986 which is about the Frenchiest French movie I’ve ever seen. The plot is the classic Gallic cinema story of l’amour fou or “crazy love” with everything turned up to 11: a man living in a state of existential ennui falls for a wild, emotionally-unstable girl given to burning down houses and stabbing people with forks. They spend most of the film bonking the merde out of each other and the affair leads to madness and death — Fin.

It was something of a succés de scandale at the time because of the amount of naked flesh on display and the lusty nature of their rumpy-pumpy — as a friend of mine said at the time about it’s notorious opening scene: “that’s not making love, that’s fucking. But it was also memorable for the explosive performance of the astonishing-looking Beatrice Dalle as Betty.

Betty had to be played by an actress who could make you believe a man would happily follow her to Paris even after she had attacked his boss and set fire to his house, and Dalle was the sort of girl who could make you kill your own mother if she asked you to. I used to wonder if there was a factory in France somewhere that did nothing but turn out pouty nymphettes for their movies as there seemed to be a never-ending stream of them from Bardot onwards and Dalle looked like the model they produced the day they had an excess of parts to use up, giving her the most swollen bee-sting lips and biggest gap-toothed Gallic overbite you’ve ever seen. She looked like she’d just been punched in the face but also almost obscenely sensual as if she was permanently quivering with sex and just one look could melt you to a puddle on the spot.

I was a little obsessed with the film for a while, buying the video, poster, soundtrack album, and the (excellent) novel it was based on. If they made Betty Blue underpants I probably would have bought those too. Several years later while living in Florida I had a fling with a “Betty” of my own too: a dark-haired girl with the same voluptuous lips and big wonky overbite together with the same volcanic emotional ups and downs. Girls like that can be addictive, like Betty’s lover Zorg I put up with all sorts of crazy behaviour and I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t worth it. Men, we’re such idiots sometimes.

Aside from it’s luscious cinematography the other part of the movie that was as gorgeous as Dalle was the superb soundtrack by Gabriel Yared, one of the few scores I can listen to on it’s own as a piece of music, with the best saxaphone theme in a movie since Taxi Driver.

Download: Betty et Zorg – Gabriel Yared (mp3)
Download: C’Est Le Vent, Betty – Gabriel Yared (mp3)

Wilde Thing

Originally published April 2008

The French called Kim Wilde the “Brigitte Bardot of rock” and I guess they should know — about Brigitte Bardot that is, not rock music. But while she had the pouty, bee-sting lips and heavy-lidded, smouldering eyes of a French sex kitten she didn’t have the same sense of volatile emotional danger about her. You didn’t get the feeling that any minute she could explode in a fit of l’amour fou and start throwing plates at you, stub a Gitanes out on your hand, or throw herself off a bridge in passionate despair over some love affair gone wrong. Kim always seemed too sensible, too English for all that, and instead of some sleazy svengali Roger Vadim-type manipulating her behind the scenes, her records were written and produced by her brother and her dad.

All of which which made her a girl-next-door (if you were really lucky) sort of sex symbol, more Smash Hits than French Vogue.

Oh, and her records weren’t all that bad either. This is from her terrific debut album.

Download: Our Town – Kim Wilde (mp3)

Something for the Weekend

Kate was on a lot of TV shows at the start of her career and YouTube is full of clips of her miming songs on all sorts of cheesy music variety programs all over Europe. This one is better than most of them because she’s obviously worked out some choreography with the single camera and it’s like she’s dancing with it.