Le cul entre les deux chaises

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


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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.

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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.


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C’est pour ça qu’elle danse

French music has always been a part of my life. One of my earliest favorite songs was Jacques Brel’s Les flamandes because it’s totally upbeat and bouncy (despite having terribly sad lyrics). When my mother would play it, I would go crazy dancing around and shaking my arms trying to play air trombone. (This is extra funny since the lyrics specifically remark that the women are dancing without quivering/shaking [frémir].)

In later years, my taste in French music was heavily influenced by the songs we sang in my high school French classes once a month. Joe Dassin’s Les Champs-Elysées still resides in my Best Songs Ever playlist purely out of nostalgia.

When I got to France, I found a ton of stuff that’s really good and right in line with my general musical taste. Gaëtan Roussel’s first solo album came out around my arrival and I basically lost my shit over “Dis-moi encore que tu m’aimes” [Tell Me Again That You Love Me] because it embodies everything I love about pop music (including hand claps!).

Recently, I’ve been going deeper into the archives and coming up with amazingly awesome 80s French pop music. I vehemently disagree that the 80s was the worst decade for music — sure there was a lot of crap — but there were also incredibly enduring bass lines and beats that won’t stop till you’ve had enough.

I was in the shower recently when I heard a French New Order-ish song and I got really excited. I had a “Jiiiiimmmmmaaaaayyyy!” moment because it’s fantastic when these things happen, and they always seem to do so in the shower.

The song is Indochine’s 1985 hit, “3ème sexe” which sounds an awful lot like another track that resides in my Best Songs Ever, New Order’s 1987 “Bizarre Love Triangle.” Hear for yourself.

UPDATE: RIP Henry Hill. You were the kind of guy that made us root for the bad guys in the movies.