Saturday, August 19, 2017

A precis of Punk Music (including Protopunk)

After the extravagance of 70s pop and disco/funk a popular movement developed which focused on a dramatic return to more simple rock’n’roll. Driven primarily by white youths often untrained they sang about their life as it was. A downturn in global economics meant unemployment and genuine hardship were widespread and a disenfranchised youth vocally rejected materialism and the bourgeoisie. Punk came to represent a movement of anti-establishment and with it came punk fashion, art, poetry and music. The 70s punk era was proceeded by protopunk music which began in the late 60s in some of the backrooms and cellars of trendy clubs in New York. The Dom had been a cellar jazz bar under the trendy Electric Circus and whilst the fashionable gliteratti used this as a favourite watering hole others went to hear the Fugs (a group of poet musicians) at the Dom basement. If discofunk was uptown then protopunk was trash culture underground and the lyrics celebrated the drug and sex culture of the Lower East Side (NY). Andy Warhol took over the management of another Dom favourite Velvet Undeground the group and introduced Nico to their line-up. Soon the Velvets soon were part of Warhol's multi-media avant garde and their reputation spread to other cities.

In Detroit, MC5 were influenced by the Velvet Undeground and the Who and this twining led to some innovative sounds. In 1969 their album Kick Out the Jams contained some classic protopunk. Another Detroit musician, Iggy Pop formed the Stooges with friends who could barely play their instruments but that did not stop them from making an album for Elektra (produced by John Cale - The Velvet underground). The album was poorly conceived and equally poorly met by the critics however by 1973 and their third album produced by David Bowie contained some notable sounds including Search and Destroy.

Protopunk music was crude and shocking with gigs and events heavily promoted through the underground press. Bands rarely stayed together long enough to make albums but their performances were all the more memorable because of their theatrical and outlandish behaviours. John Cale produced the Modern Lovers album in 1971 which caught the public attention but it was the New York Dolls that eventually brought protopunk to a wider listening public when the camp rock band were invited to appear as the opening act for a Rod Stewart concert in the UK. The band were not particularly proficient musician but surprised everyone (including themselves) by putting on an ace performance.

Vivienne Westwood and Malcolm McLaren became closely associated with the New York Dolls and McLaren and Sylvain Sylvain became good friends. Inspired by the protopunk scene of New York McLaren and Westwood changed their fashion line to fetish wears and renamed their Carnaby Street boutique, Sex in 1975. Among those who frequented the shop were members of a band called The Swankers. When the group was looking for a new lead singer, Johnny Rotten joined them and Malcolm McLaren became the band's manager. Renamed the Sex Pistols they were not musicians but where ever the band played it often provoked near-riots. Maclaren was a prime manipulator and wanted to use the potential of a popular band to get up front monies from record companies. This regularly happened when a commercially successful group signed for a new recording company. The upfront monies were used to support the band through the months when they were recording. McLaren cleverly manipulated the press to ensure the Pistols had a promising reputation (notoriety) long before they ever recorded a record. He moved record companies before they recorded to secure maximum release from companies desperate to sign the next teenage sensation. The caper became known as the Great Rock’n’Roll Swindle.

By the early seventies UK bands had their own counter scene with pub rock which revolved around live performances of hard rock, blues and R&B in bars. Dr. Feelgood paved the way for others like The Stranglers and the Clash.

In other cities around the world the punk movement gathered momentum. In Germany, Düsseldorf’s NEU!, were beginning to turn heads and in Japan, Zunō Keisatsu (Brain Police) were playing a mix of garage, psych and folk accompanied with on stage antics to shock. The Saints from Brisbane, Sydney’s Radio Birdman and Perth’s Cheap Nasties were also in the mode. By 1974, Television had become popular and bassist/singer, called Richard Hell regularly appeared on stage with cropped, ragged hair, ripped T-shirts under a black leather jacket. The image was perfect for the raw sound and very quickly was taken on as ‘punk style.’

Patti Smith singer and poet liked what she saw and took the image as her own. She became a regular as part of the Television set and recorded Hey Joe/Piss Factory on her own (do it yourself label).

Soon other punk artists emerged including The Ramones, The Heartbreakers, Richard Hell and The Voidoids, and the Dead Boys, Blondie, Mink DeVille and Talking Heads. The phrase punk rock had been previously used earlier to describe the music of Sam the Sham and the Pharaos(Wooly Bully) but in 1970 the term became synonymous with the New York Fugs.

By 1975, punk was used to describe the new kids on the block with amplified guitars bashing out naïve songs with frank and confrontational lyrics. Not too far from the surface there were many consummate musicians keen to establish themselves in the new counter culture of punk music. There was a similar movement in the fifties and sixties when enlightened teens took to playing makeshift instruments to capture basic rock and and rockabilly. Both the skiffle and garage movements spawned many pop and rock luminaries and in the same way many punk musicians luckily established themselves in the new order of music that followed. At the time The Sex Pistols came to epitomise the Punk movement with a nihilistic attitude and slogan "No Future". The central role in early British punk was to outrage and shock with frequent reference to sex (not love) and drug abuse. Despite its so called reactionary stand point for the 70s Punk rock lyrics dealt with traditional themes of courtship, heartbreak, and hanging out. Punk rockers wore clothing to shock which included for men an androgynous, ragamuffin look referred to as safety-pin aesthetic. Early female punk musicians wore bondage gear or straight-from-the-gutter androgyny. Tattoos, Mohawk or spiked hairstyles, body piercings, and metal-studded and spiked accessories were common elements of punk fashion which eventually became an important part of the modern primitive movement.

Dance was a major part of the Punk revolution despite the lack of conventional dance rhythms kids would pogo (i.e. jump up and down as if on a pogo stick) they would body slam or mosh (sometimes called mashing) each other which inevitably led to a fight and this became part of the Punk style. Sometimes artists would crowd surf (stage dive) by throwing themselves onto the audience. Performers also spat (or gobbed) on the audience and received the same disdain back from the pit.

Top UK punk bands included The Damned, The Police, Ian Dury and the Blockheads, The Buzzcocks, Siouxsie & the Banshees, X-Ray Spex, The Slits, The Adverts, The Buzzcocks, The Vibrators, The Undertones, Sahm 69 and Angelic Upstarts. In 1978, the Sex Pistols broke up while on American tour and in the UK Radio Birdman broke up in the same year while touring the UK. Whilst many US punk bands continued their styles evolved and diverged. By the time Sid Vicious was found dead from a heroin overdose in New York in 1979, Punk was over. Many of the groups expanded their musical range with a wider variety of tempos and often more complex instrumentation which took them into a whole range of different styles including white reggae, Oi music and new wave.

Worth a listen

The Velvet Undeground
White Light/White Heat (1968)

I Wanna Be Your Dog (1969)
No Fun. (1969)

Kick Out the Jams (1969)

Iggy Pop & The Stooges
Search and Recall (1973)

Dr Feelgood
Back in the night (1974)


The Saints
(I'm) Stranded (1976)

The Sex Pistols
Anarchy in the U.K. (1976)
Never Mind the Bollocks, Here's the Sex Pistols (1977)

The Vibrators
We vibrate (1976)
Pogo dancing (1976)

The Ramones
Sheena is a punk rocker (1977)
Rock’n’Roll High School (1979)

Denis (1977)
Hanging on the telephone (1978)
Heart of glass (1979)
Union City blues (1979)
The tide is high (1980)

The Adverts
Gary Gilmour’s Eyes (1977)

Cheap Nasties
(I'm) Stranded (1977)
The Buzzcocks
Time’s up (1977 & 79)

The Dead Boys
Sonic Reducer (1977)

Ian Dury and the Blockheads
Sex and drugs and rock’n’roll (1977)
Sweet Gene Vincent (1977)
Hit me with your rhythm stick (1978)
Reasons to be cheerful Part 3 (1979)

Mink DeVille
Mixed Up, Shook Up Girl (1977)

Radio Birdman
New Race/TV Eye (1977)

Richard Hell and The Voidoids
Love Comes in Spurts (1977)

The Stranglers
No more heroes (1977)
Something better change (1977)

Johnny Thunders and the Heartbreakers
Chinese Rocks (1977)

Talking Heads.
Psycho killer (1977)
Burning down the house (1983)
Marquee Woman (1977)
Siouxsie & the Banshees
Hong Kong Garden (1978)

The Police
Roxanne (1978)
So Loney (1978)
Message in a bottle (1979)
Walking on the moon (1979)

Sham 69
Hershan Boys (1978)

X-Ray Spex
The day the world tirned dayglo (1978)
Germfree Adolescence (1978)

The Undertones
Teenage kicks (1978)
Jimmy Jimmy (1979)

Angelic Upstarts.
I’m an upstart (1979)

The Clash
London’s burning (1979)

The Damned
Love song (1979)

The Slits
Typical girls (1979)

Hazel O’Connor
Eighth day (1980)

Friday, August 18, 2017

Alma Cogan (1932 - 1966)

Alma Angela Cohen was born in 1932 in the East End of London. Her mother liked the name Alma and took it from the actress Alma Taylor. Alma’s parents moved to Worthing, Sussex where she grew up before going to school in Reading, Berkshire. Her father sang and she had an uncle who was a band leader. The house was full of jazz and young Alma soon picked it up. She was auditioned for the Ted Health Band as a child and began singing at tea dances, aged only 11. When she was 16 and appearing in the chorus of High Button Shoes, Walter (Wally) J Ridley spotted her and signed her to the HMV label. Although her first single "To Be Worthy Of You" / "Would You" (1952) was not a commercial success it did receive regular airplay.

During a recording session in 1953 Alma broke into a giggle while singing "If I Had A Golden Umbrella.” The producers liked it and kept it in the recording then a year later, the girl with a giggle in her voice had a hit with Bell Bottom Blues which really launched her recording career.

Bell Bottom Blues (1954) which sold more than 100,000 copies. She was soon asked to replace Joy Nichols as the resident singer for “Take it from here” (BBC). where she performed up beat ballads and novelty songs.

Alma became a firm favourite in other radio shows including Gently Bentley, and The Glums which established her as a UK star.

In 1955 Alma topped the UK charts for the first and only time with "Dreamboat."

She was a belle figure and attracted much attention for her collection of luxurious haute couture. She wore hooped skirts, often heavy with sequins, and figure hugging tops. Her gowns were indeed extravagant and her dress always caught the eye during her many TV appearances. Alma changed her musical material to suit the times and by the end of the fifties she had her own television program and was cast in the role of Nancy in Lionel Bart’s Oliver. In her private life Alma was a party girl and played host to the glitterati with all-night parties at her Kensington High Street home. Guests were literally a ‘Whose Who ‘and included regular such as actors, Stanley Baker and Roger Moore, musos, Paul McCartney, Noël Coward, Ethel Merman, and Lionel Bart, among many others. Her close friends included Danny Kaye, Elizabeth Taylor, Bob Hope and Sammy Davis Junior. It has been suggest Alma had a close relationship with John Lennon. Paul McCartney famously wrote the first draft of Yesterday at Alma's flat, and she became the first woman to record it.

Although the hits had dried up she continued to record and had credible versions of Burt Bacharach songs and recorded six Beatles songs, including: “Help,” "Eight Days a Week," "Yesterday," "I Feel Fine," and "Ticket to Ride." They were recorded in Studio 1 at the Abbey Road Studios and the orchestrations were by Stan Foster.

Some authorities suggest Lennon and McCartney were present but others deny this. Behind the scenes Alma had fallen out with EMI and her usual producer Norman Newell was replaced by David Gooch. Despite her status as a star EMI records had decided in 1965 not to renew her recording contract. Alma continued to appear live and whilst touring Sweden in 1966 she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. She died shortly afterwards. In her short career she had 18 chart hits and at her height Alma Cogan was the highest paid British female entertainer.

Worth a listen
To be worthy of you (1952)
Over And Over Again (1953)
If I had a golden umbrella (1953)
Bell Bottom Blues (1954)
Make love to me (1954)
This Ole House (1954)
I Can't Tell A Waltz From A Tango (1954)
Never Do A Tango With An Eskimo (1955)
Dreamboat (1955)
Hernando’s Hideaway (1955)
Love And Marriage (1956)
Why Do Fools Fall In Love/ (1956)
The Birds And The Bees (1956)
Willie Can (1956)
In the middle of the house (1956)
Whatever Lola wants (1957)
Sugartime (1958)
Last Night On The Back Porch (1959)
Just Couldn't Resist Her With Her Pocket Transistor (1960)
Tell Him (1963)
Fly Me To The Moon (1963)
The Tennessee Waltz (1964)
Eight Days A Week (1965)
Help (1965)

The Monkees

The Monkees were four actors playing musicians for an American television series of the same name. The program ran from 1966 to 1968 and was modeled on the Beatles' film A Hard Day's Night. Featured were the antics and music of a fictional pop-rock group based in California. Due to the incredible success of the program and the massive record sales that resulted, the pretend group became a real pop-rock group.

437 hopefuls rocked up for the auditions including Harry Neilsen. The final Monkees line up was David ('Davy') Jones (percussion/vocals), George Michael ('Micky') Dolenz (drums/vocals), Michael Nesmith (guitar/vocals), and Peter Tork (bass/keyboards/vocals). Stephen Stills was short listed but eventually rejected because of his bad teeth. Mike Nesmith and Peter Tork were professional musicians, but Mikey Dolenz (Circus Boy) and David Jones (Coronation Street) were already established actors.

To make the group look natural with their instruments they went through extensive training prior to the pilot episode being filmed. Only the Monkees voices were used on the initial recordings. Don Kirshner, executive producer employed popular songwriters including Neil Diamond, Gerry Goffin and Carole King, Harry Nilsson, Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil, Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart to write the Monkee songs and in the studio they had top session musicians. The following all went to #1 in the singles charts around the world.

The massive success of the series and its spin-off records created intense pressure to mount a touring version of the group. In 1966 with fear and trepidation the Monkees embarked on a live tour and wherever the group performed they met scenes of fan hysteria not seen since The Beatles. This gave the four Monkees increased confidence in their battle for creative control over the music used in the series.

The group complained and eventually it was agreed they should play their instruments. In 1967 on the third album Headquarters, the four Monkees were playing most of the parts on their recorded material.

The Monkees TV program was produced by Bert Schneider and Bob Rafelson (Easy Rider), and Bob Rafelson (dir Five Easy Pieces and The King of Marvin Gardens). Rafelson directed the Monkees feature film, Head (1968) in conjunction with Jack Nicholson.

The film was a critical and commercial disaster but developed a cult following for its innovative style, anarchic humour, and quite an outstanding soundtrack. Tension within the group was increasing, and Peter Tork left shortly after the band's Far East tour in late 1968. Not long after Mike Nesmith left the group, leaving only Mikey Dolenz and Davy Jones to record as the Monkees. Mike Nesmith went on to a successful solo career.

When Davy Jones departed the first phase of the Monkees' recording career ended in 1970. Several reunions of the original line-up have taken place. The first reunion lasted from 1986-1989 and the Monkees toured the world including Australia. Their second regrouping took place between 1996-1997. The Monkees (without Naismith) last worked together in 2001. Davie Jones died from a heart attack in 2012.

Worth a listen:
(The theme) Monkees (1966)
I'm a Believer (1966)
(I'm Not Your) Steppin' Stone (1966)
Last Train to Clarksville (1966)
Daydream Believer (1967)
Pleasant Valley Sunday (1967)
A Little Bit Me, a Little Bit You (1967)

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Potted history of Australian Record Companies

Festival Records was founded in Sydney in 1952. The company was started by a merchant bank called Mainguard, when they purchased a small record pressing company, Microgroove Australia. The artists and repertoire (A&R) manager, Les Welsh (former band leader) pulled off a coop when he managed to acquired the Australian rights to Bill Haley’s "Rock Around The Clock" in 1955 and the song which featured in the movie “Blackboard Jungle,” went on to become the biggest-selling record ever released in Australia up to that time.

Ironically Les Welsh disliked Rock’n’Roll but he knew the market well enough to know where to invest. He fell out with Festival Records management and was replaced by Ken Taylor (a disc jockey). Ken Taylor also disliked Rock’n’Roll but that did not stop him from singing the three top Rock’n’Roll artists of the 50s to Festival Records : Johnny O'Keefe and the Dee Jays; Col Joye and the Joy Boys; and Dig Richards and the R'Jays. Bill Haley had met Johnny O’Keefe on his Australian tour and the two became good friends. Although Haley had personally recommended Johnny to Festival records, Johnny took matters into his own hands and had a quite word with a friendly journo, telling him, Festival Records had signed the act. The first thing the company knew was when they read it all in the press. Despite healthy sales, parent company Mainguard was in serious financial trouble and in 1957 Festival Records was sold to property magnate L J Hooker. Under Hooker who did like the music, Festival Records produced its first home grown number one hit with (Real) Wild one by Johnny O’Keefe and the Dee Jays (1958).

The absence of international acts combined with poor management meant Festival Records were again running at a loss, when it was bought by Rupert Murdoch's News Limited in 1961. Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass were emerging in the US as a tour de force and their record company signed distribution rights with Festival Records. When "The Lonely Bull" became a worldwide hit, A&M Records were sufficiently impressed with Festival Records they started to supply a stream of top-selling U.S. acts including The Carpenters into Australia. Soon Festival was back on top. Company Chairperson, Alan Hely cultivated distribution deals with local and International record companies which gave Festival exclusive Australian rights to a steady stream of international hit albums and singles. Festival dominated the Australian pop scene of the mid-to-late 1960s, recording and/or distributing some of the most popular Australian acts of the decade, including Normie Rowe, Billy Thorpe, The Bee Gees, Ray Brown & The Whispers, Tony Worsley & The Fabulous Blue Jays, Jimmy Little, Noelene Batley, Mike Furber, The Dave Miller Set, Johnny Young, Wild Cherries and Jeff St John.

Meantime the R'Jays had became Festival's house band and although the studio was pretty basic, lacking many facilities including an 'echo chamber' (they used the loo), Pat Aulton the house producer, was responsible for more Australian-made hits than any other record producer of his era despite his primitive surroundings. In 1970, Festival established a new progressive music label called, Infinity Records. The intention was to market the new generation of progressive rock acts which included the "new" Billy Thorpe & The Aztecs and Sydney’s new sensation Sherbet.

During the 70s and early 80s Festival records formed an alliance with Melbourne based Mushroom Records and together enjoyed continuing success during the late 1970s and early 1980s.

Mushroom Records was formed by Michael Gudinski and Ray Evans in 1972. The company had struggled in its earlier years until their fortunes dramatically turned around when Skyhooks debut album became a best seller in 1975. Good fortune continued when they signed New Zealand’s Split Enz and scored another huge hit with their album, True Colours. During the eighties Mushroom had more international success with The Saints, Kylie Minogue, Jason Donovan, Paul Kelley and Jimmy Barnes among many others. When Cold Chisel broke up Jimmy Barnes signed with Mushroom Records and launched his solid career with the album Bodyswerve. The album was immediately successful, entering the Australian charts at Number One. This was the first of a remarkable run of top charting albums for Jimmy Barnes, as each of his first six solo albums all debuted in the Number One position. In 1998 Festival and Mushroom Records merged and the company was renamed Festival Mushroom Records (FMR).

One of the oldest independent music publishing companies in Australia is J Albert & Son., and in the sixties there was an off shoot of the company called Albert Productions. They set about signing up local musical talent and snapped up the Easybeats.

The group had phenomenal success in Australia but alas only fleeting interest internationally. Not of course before making important contacts and learning more about the pop business. Albert Productions encouraged Harry Vanda and George Young back to Oz and meantime signed a new act from Melbourne called John Paul Young.

The former Easybeats set to writing material for him. Pasadena was a massive hit and John Paul Young temporarily suspended leaving the business. Vanda and Young became producers and worked with other Australian acts including a new and up and coming rock outfit, The band members included George’s two younger’s who went onto modest success as ACDC The groups cd sales are estimated at 120 million worldwide.

Albert Productions continued to promote Australian talent with acts like Stevie Wright, Ted Mulry, The Angels, Rose Tattoo, Flash And The Pan and Choirboys. Albert Productions eventually signed a deal with Festival Mushroom Records which ensured the back catalogue of these acts could be digitised and once again heard. In October 2005 Festival Mushroom Records was sold and as of 2006, it has become one of the record labels operated by the Warner Music Group (WEA International Inc.).

Worth a listen:
Bill Haley and the Comets
Rock around the clock (1956)

Johnny O’Keefe and the Dee Jays
(Real) Wild One (1958)

Col Joye and Joy Boys
Oh yeah , uh huh (1959)

Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass
The Lonely Bull (1962)

Jimmie Little
Sweet Mama

Easy beats
Friday on my mind (1966)

Normie Rowe
Shakin' All Over (1967)

Billy Thorpe and the Aztecs
Most people I know (1972)

You’ve got the gun (1972)

John Paul Young
Pasadena (1972)

All our friends are getting married (1975)

Split Enz
I Got You (1975)

Ted Mulry Gang
Jump in my car (1976)

Play Like Elvis: How British Musicians Bought the American Dream by Mo Foster

Excellent book by Mo Foster Play like Elvis!

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

The Dead South: Honey You

A brief history of Chanson Francaise

Chanson Francaise was a new development in popular music where lyrics started to mean something and singing was not there just to keep the music company. The movement started in France and came to prominence during the era of the music hall. In early Vaudeville (US) and Music Hall (UK) song lyrics contained vulgar expressions which eventually polite society took exception to and public singing split into two forms; simple bland lyrics which complemented the melody but had no real depth to their meaning; or clever use of double entendre preferred by comics. In France song lyrics had deeper meaning and the singer songwriter was very much part of Chanson Francaise. In Paris the oldest music hall opened its doors in 1888 and was owned by Joseph Oller, (the creator of the Moulin Rouge). At first it was called "Montagnes Russes" then in 1893 it was renamed the Olympia. The music hall played host to a variety of entertainment including circuses, ballets, and operettas but in the thirties as the singer song writer began to take hold the Olympia became a premier venue.

Rina Ketty had a big international hit with J’attendrai in 1938 but most probably the best know act to emerge around this time was a Belgian-French actor, singer and popular entertainer, called Maurice Chevalier and both he and Rina filled the auditorium many times. During the Occupation of Paris, Chevalier was accused of collaborating with the Germans. As a communist he always denied this and become one of the most affable and well respected character actors in Hollywood. He starred in many musicals, including Gigi. After the Liberation of Paris the theatre was open to all Allied troops, free and gratis and all the shows always ended with the Can Can.

Edith Piaf worked with the Resistance and despite leading a very full life it was also a sad one. She conquered the US after the war and became the vanguard for many other European singers including Viki Leandros and Juliette Greco that would follow. Édith Piaf was responsible for introducing Charles Aznavour to the public after he had served her as her chauffeur.

By the end of World War ll, French musicians became wildly experimental and diverse integrating jazz into chanson francaise. By the early 50s a natural beauty called Juliette Gréco became the archetype pin up girl of the Beat Generation. Her physical presence was stunning and she inspired many songwriters to write love songs about her. Her fabulous complexion, high cheek bones and hair, always worn unfashionably long and free, made her a photographer’s dream. She appeared at the Olympia many times both as a singer and later as companion to Miles Davis.

The theatre fell into dis-repair until it was revived in 1954 by Bruno Coquatrix. Over the next few years it became the premier venue for rock and roll artists with Johnny Hallyday, Richard Anthony, and Claude François all becoming French rock’n’rollers. Johnny Hallyday was the Johnny O’Keefe of the French speaking world and enjoyed a long career with many hits. Something specific to chanson francaise was the singer songwriter and the rise of Lennon and McCartney was in no short measure due to a wider acceptance of this phenomenon. Ironically Paul McCartney at parties would do a little turn for the guests lampooning the stereo typical singer songwriter of the time – a solitary guitarist in the corner of the room singing a deep and meaningful love song like, Michelle. Françoise Hardy was a singer song writer and became the 60s French icon setting the pathway for other women singer song writers to follow like Carol King, Joni Mitchell and Melanie.

Jacques Brel was another a master of the genre with romantic lyricisms that revealed levels of darkness and bitter irony so suited to the French language. His tender love songs had flashes of barely suppressed frustration and resentment and his insightful and compassionate portrayals of the unsavoury side of ordinary life makes his music compelling listening. Many of his songs were translated into English and recorded by well known artists, like Terry Jacks (Season of the Sun) (1974); and Scott Walker (Jackie) (1967).

In the 60s the Olympia became the premier venue for international stars with Judie Garland, Petula Clark, the Beatles (1964), and Nana Mouskouri (1967) all appearing among many more. One particularly popular French act was Stephane Grapelli and all the more so when he appeared with Django Reinhardt.

In the early 60s, chic French people also liked to listen to records played by disc jockeys in small darkly lit cocktail lounges. The fashion caught on with the fast set in the US and the concept of the discotheque was born. A frequent visitor to the Olympia and the disco was playboy, Sacha Distel, who established himself as an international star gaining a mention in Peter Sarsted’s, ‘Where do you go to (my lovely)’ (1969). Another French singer-songwriter to appear at the Olympia was Serge Gainsbourg who began as a jazz musician in the 1950s. His adept song writing contained double-meaning with strong sexual innuendo and in 1969 Serge released what would become his most famous song in the English-speaking world, "Je t'aime... moi non plus.” Originally it was recorded with Brigitte Bardot, but Bardot took cold feet because it was so sexy and backed out. The version with Jane Birkin was eventually released and went to Number 1 all round the world, despite getting no radio airplay.

In the late sixties a group of Greek musicians moved to Paris and formed Aphrodite's Child. They scored an immediate worldwide hit with their first release, Rain and Tears. After the band split, Demis Roussos and Vangelis took completely different musical directions both succeeding in their endeavours. The Paris Olympia has over the decades showcased a wide variety of international performers, from the Beatles to Nick Cave, with many like Luciano Pavarotti, and Jeff Buckley giving outstanding performances.

Sadly the building fell into decline after Bruno Coquatrix’s death and plans were put in place to demolish it. Then in the 90s the government declared it a listed building. Consequently it has undergone extensive construction work and has been rebuilt as a perfect replica of the façade and grandeur of the famous red interior.

Worth a listen

Rina Ketty
J’ attebdrai (1938)

Charles Trénet
La Mer (1946)

Maurice Chevalier
Thank Heaven for Little Girls (1957)

Édith Piaf
Le vie en rose (1960)

Charles Aznavour
J’aime Paris au mois fe mai

Juliette Greco
Chanson pour l’auvergnal

The Overlanders

Scott Walker
Jacki (1967)

Aphrodite’s Child
Rain and tears (1968)

Serge Gainsbourg and Jane Birkin
Je t'aime... moi non plus (1969)

Sacha Distel
Raindrops keep falling on my head (1970)

Joni Mitchell
Carrie (1971)

Stephane Grapelli and Django Reinhardt.
Lambeth Walk

Luciano Pavarotti
Nissan Dorma