Le cul entre les deux chaises

An American Spaniard in France or: How I Learned to Make an Ass of Myself in Three Cultures


French Bandstand: Édition spéciale

quelqu'un-de-l'interieur albumI’ve written at least a dozen different drafts trying to get today’s post right but none of them do the subject justice. Possibly the only way to share all the feelings and memories and emotions I have about this song would be in multiple entries or in a really long list like my Neil Diamond story, but every time I think I’ve narrowed down the salient points, another three things crop up in my mind and I have to start another version.

Instead, I’m just going to say that BROADCAST NEWS is one of the best American movies of all time and you should watch it. I’d probably say that to you anyway as it’s a good piece of advice, but for today, it’s also got to serve as the preamble to one of my favorite French songs.

If you’ve seen the movie, you know which one I’m talking about. It plays when Aaron, Albert Brooks’s character, is getting drunk alone in his apartment in the middle of the day, singing and reading: “I am read-ing while I’m sing-ing. I’m read-ing, I’m doing both!”

A million years ago, I’d copied the name of the song from the end credits on my well-worn VHS copy of the movie. It’s called <<Édition spéciale>> by Francis Cabrel.

It’s not an exaggeration to say that I had been looking for the album this song appears on, Quelqu’un de l’intérieur (1983), since the early 1990s. I didn’t actually get my hands on it until 2007 when my sister called from the train station in Geneva on her way to the airport to ask what the name of the album was that I’d just spent the whole weekend trying to track down in that city. They had a copy right there. Just waiting for her to find it and send it into my loving embrace.

The song itself seems to be about a crush on a late night TV presenter, though the only show I come across with the same name started just a few years ago. Regardless, the beginning goes

D’abord y’a cette fille / To start there’s this girl

Dans la boîte de verre / In the glass box

Qui dit “Bonne nuit, à demain” / Who says, “Good night, until tomorrow”

Sur un bout de musique / Over a piece of music

Des bonshommes à l’envers / The dolls [little men?] go upside down

Et puis après plus rien / And then there’s nothing

The last part I’m guessing refers to the “end of broadcast day” image that was shown before the channel shut down for the night, but I can’t find any examples of what that might have been online.

Further appreciation

Since living in France, I rejoice every time Cabrel comes on the radio, which is often, since he’s both prolific and his acoustic guitar + rambling voice style is easily identifiable.


French Bandstand: Gaëtan Roussel – La simplicité

OrpailleurThere’s something about Gaëtan Roussel… I don’t know how he does it, but he basically tapped into my brain’s musical pleasure center and took all of the things I love and made another damn song I can’t get enough of. <<La simplicité>> is the first track off last year’s <<Orpailleur>> and it’s essentially the best.

Here’s the chorus:

Ça parait toujours avoir existé / It appears to have always existed
Des heures entières à la chercher / Whole hours spent looking for it
A tenter de l’apprivoiser / Attempts to tame it
Ça parait toujours avoir existé / Appear to have always existed
La simplicité / Simplicity
C’est rien mais c’est si compliqué / It’s nothing but it’s so complicated

I quite like the video too, which isn’t usually the case. Despite being part of the first MTV generation, my parents didn’t love me so I never had cable and, possibly as a result, music videos kind of detract from a song for me. Nothing ruins the pictures in my head like actual pictures. But, as I said, this one’s nice — all graphic designs and patterns — and reminds me of the great, great Chuck Jones’s animated take on “The Dot and the Line.”

Annoying to me

One of the maddening things about <<La simplicité>> is that it features a repeated noise in the background that sounds like a phone ringing. There should be laws against this as it’s totally distracting and could cause all kinds of accidents.

DEADWOOD's one of the few shows that continues to grow in my estimation.

DEADWOOD‘s one of the few shows that continues to grow in my estimation.

Learn a thing?

An orpailleur is a gold miner or a person who pans for gold. I don’t immediately see the connection between the album title and the songs, but I’ll go back with a more critical ear and see if I can rustle something up. Regardless, I now have a chance to post a pic of the always-excellent Jim Beaver as the wonderful Mr. Ellsworth on DEADWOOD.


French Bandstand: Elle me dit

Bienvenue à French Bandstand! This is where I adopt the motto established by Dick Clark on “American Bandstand” and introduce you to French music that’s “got a good beat and you can dance to.”

I have a Best Songs Ever playlist that’s very hard to get into. The songs must be evocative of a specific moment or time in my life as well as being able to make me happy (without fail) every time they come on. There are great sad songs, but they’re on a separate playlist because I don’t want them to come up in the rotation much due to their inherent lack of fun.

Anyway, it’s so tough to get on the list that the most recent track is from 2011. (The oldest one is “Tighten Up,” from 1968.) Today’s artist is a guy who is Lebanese and American and grew up in Paris and London but this is his first single complètement en français.

Voici, je vous présente Mika’s “Elle me dit”

Learn something

The song is called “She tells me” and is about a mother who chastises her son about how he’s wasting his life away in silly pursuits. It starts with her saying that he should write a happy song and become a millionaire and not end up like his father or his brother. (Ouch.)

The chorus, which is pretty great, begins

Elle me dit “c’est ta vie          /       She tells me, “It’s your life
fais ce que tu veux tant pis   /       do what you want, I don’t care
un jour tu comprendras       /       one day you’ll understand
un jour tu t’en voudras”      /        one day you’ll wish you had.”

And then it goes into the super jumpy dance part with repeats of “pourquoi tu gâches ta vie?” [“Why are you wasting your life?”] This is where I learned gacher [:waste, squander] which is a helluva word.

Leave a comment

French Bandstand: Mon manège à moi

Bienvenue à French Bandstand! This is where I adopt the motto established by Dick Clark on “American Bandstand” and introduce you to French music that’s “got a good beat and you can dance to.”

Last time, I shared with you a disco version of the most well known French song popularized by Edith Piaf. Today, I’ve got another Piaf cover, Étienne Daho’s “Mon manège à moi.”

The title translates loosely to “you make me spin around” meaning, as it does, “my own carousel.” The lyrics follow in the tradition of most songs about love, specifically enumerating “how you make my head spin like a planet,” “how I am always at a party when I’m in your arms” and “how you make me orbit around the Earth.”

Tomorrow, I’ll be looking at a Word Enemy tangentially related to “Mon manège à moi” and Wednesday will have a Word Mystery totally inspired by this song.

You can watch Edith Piaf’s version here.


French Bandstand: La vie en rose

Bienvenue à French Bandstand! This is where I adopt the motto established by Dick Clark on “American Bandstand” and introduce you to French music that’s “got a good beat and you can dance to.”

The starting point for pretty much any conversation about popular French-language music is Edith Piaf, but you can’t really dance to her songs. I suppose one could sway from side to side, but I require something with a bit more jump and jive. That’s why this inaugural edition of French Bandstand is going to knock your (bobby) socks off. Préparez-vous !

Here’s disco dance diva and 80s Bond girl Grace Jones doing <<La vie en rose>>. You’re welcome.

The song is off Jones’s 1977 debut album, “Portfolio.” I had to special order my CD copy at Tower Records in Boston in the 90s because after scouring used record stores for a long time, I couldn’t find it. (There are many things in that last sentence that don’t exist anymore and that makes me sad.) The wait was totally worth it because this version of the song is the best one. (Also, it’s no coincidence that the cover art looks like an 80s issue of Interview; Richard Bernstein designed both.)


YES to everything that’s happening here.