Thu. Dec. 13, 2018

Club Music in France: from the top to below zero

Club Music in France: from the top to below zeroClub Music in France: from the top to below zero… I can hear some of you askin’… Has this ever been a tradition of serious makin’ in terms of Club Music in France? And to this, I will respond Yes & No. Even though I’d rather say Yes then No as a matter of fact. So Yes, we’ve always seen now and then artists makin’ themselves a reputation. Then No because of them being too rare. Not to mention the fact that, unlike Britain or America, music has simply never occupied a comparable place in French people’s daily life. With the reasons for that being countless such as expressed thereafter…

Prolog…
Let’s go straight to the point. French people in their big majority has never had a particular ear for music. Something one could instantly realize when comin’ to hear them speakin’ a foreign language. A reality which could aptly find its origins in the fact that French sounding in itself has never had the harmony of other languages such as Italian, Brazilian Portuguese or English for instance. Therefore, no wonder why they most likely focussed their attention on lyrics, with music comin’ up as a simple accompaniment in the background. Meanwhile, they would most likely dance at balls until the mid-70’s. With live musicians playing variety stuff from things dating from the 50’s to French adaptations of 60’s Rock hits. All in all sayin’ it all as to what the French musical culture is about… still nowadays!

Club Music in France: the happy days…
Strangely enough France managed to have it heydays. With Paris eventually becoming one of the world capitals in terms of nightclubbing in the second half of the 70’s. New York City had the Studio 54, The Paradise Garage, The Loft or The Limelight. Paris would have Le Palace, Chez Régine, L’Elysées-Matignon and other La Main Jaune. Meanwhile a whole bunch of clubs would see the light, even in the most unexpected places all over the country at the time. With many DJ’s playing some of the hottest grooves you could ever think of.

Surprising? Not that much at the end. Mind you, don’t you ever forget that Disco is nothing but a diminutive of “discothèque”. With the latter being a French word, as a matter of fact. And how could we ever forget the consistant contribution of French artists and/or producers to the global Disco movement. With some of them makin’ themselves quite a name at the time. From Cerrone, even though of an Italian descent. To Patrick Juvet, himself hailing from Switzerland, who scored his biggest success with French producers Jacques Morali and Henri Belolo. The same who produced Village People and Eartha Kitt. And how about Voyage who delivered the memorable ‘Souvenirs’ on T.K. Disco? Or Space whose magnetic ‘Carry On, Turn Me On’ has found further echo on the repertoire of many artists. From Martha Cinader to Arnold Jarvis or Moodymann

Of course, we could also add Sheila. A French Pop starlette who, while teaming with Chic productionwise, reached the international recognition with ‘Spacer’ along with B. Devotion. If not Patrick Hernandez with ‘Born To Be Alive’. Originally a Californian Rock song which no record label wanted to sign at the time. Meanwhile transforming it into the Disco smash we know 3 years later.

As a matter of fact, France has never been groovin’ more than by this short period of time. With the Disco/Club vibes almost getting into the mainstream with the support of the leading radio stations at the time. From François Diwo who, back in September 1977, presented ‘Disco 1000’ on Europe 1. The first ever Disco show on a radio station which, from 07:30pm until 09:00pm, would allow listeners to win up to 1024 records while guessing the chart of a French club. To the late Bernard Schu who was in charge of the ‘Disco Show’ then the ‘Hit des Clubs’ from 1978 until 1983 on RTL.

Alas, the arrival of the 80’s would mark the beginning of the end for Disco Music in America and, in the meantime for the Club Music in France for cultural reasons on both sides of the Atlantic. In America, because of the so to say White resistance in front of a reputedly Black phenomenon that was takin’ everything back storm. And therefore was seen as a threat by Rock fans. Remember the fatal Disco Demolition Night which occured back on Jul. 12, 1979 at Comiskey Park in Chicago, IL. And in France, because of variety artists who, seekin’ to make fast money, had jumped on the wagon, delivering vulgar pastiches one after another…

Club Music in France: back to below zero…
In addition to this, a main political event in the history of France would have such unsupsected consequences musically speakin’. In other words, the election of President François Mitterrand. An event synonymous with the liberalization of the FM band and the arrival of new operators. Meant to offer more diversity, it would progressively result in the exact contrary. This with the establishment of franchises and, in the meantime, a dominant top 50 format inherited from French TV pay per view channel Canal+. Itself resulting in music aired nowadays upon publishing deals between the major record companies and the radio stations. Something that looks like nothing but an institutionalized workaround of the American Payola at the end. A system which started being prosecuted by the early 50’s in America. Speaking of which obviously few are those in France who’ve ever heard of…

As a result, a quick listen to what’s heard in the French clubs pathetically speaks for itself. With the so called local DJ’s reproducing what’s currently aired on the radio stations. And the beat shit goes on and on. It just goes on the way it has been going during the last 30 years or so. Keeping a big majority of people away from the roots of Club Music and, by that, its contemporary translations.

You have no idea as to how often I’ve been asked about the local scene. And, in the meantime, the opportunities it may offer for a foreign DJ or an artist to perform. With, sadly enough, my embarrasment remaining the same along with time, hardly quoting more than a handful of potential venues for them to contact.

Of course and big ups to them for this, there has always been a bunch of activists now and then to get us believing in a possible brighter future. But what could they do facing the mass around? As many people who, like Robert Levy-Provençal (Radio 7, Skyrock) or Dimitri from Paris (NRJ), established themselves as the ambassadors of a quality alternative. And how no to think of radio stations such as Mercure 104 and its weekly ‘Manhattan Show’ hosted by the late Jean-Michel Doué from 1981 until 1985? Of Fréquence Nord in the early 80’s??? Not to mention the transient Maxximum which ended up going banned from airing for political reasons from a disagreement between France and Luxembourg??? Meanwhile we could also add Radio Nova if not Couleur 3 even though the latter is based in Switzerland…

Club Music in France: the French Touch!
After a long period of scarcity, the 90’s saw the arrival of a so to say new wave. With the first names comin’ to mind being those of St Germain and Shazz (L’N S). But also Daft Punk, Bob Sinclar, Pépé Bradock or DJ Gregory to name a few. With most of them bringin’ a breath of fresh air. Meanwhile one could feel some real deepness in the productions of artists such as Franck Roger, Playin’ 4 The City and Next Evidence. Alas, the (underground) club scene happened to be too divided to establish itself as a solid flight deck for its activists. And this, most likely because of jealousy. A typical personality trait in France that sees many envying those who (might) succeed in this country.

As for nowadays’ Club Music in France, I feel like left with nuttin’ else but LMFAO…

Editorials: Club Music in France: from the top to below zero

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