This might be the first spoken word piece I've ever posted here.
What a lot of people don't know is that this poem, written and performed by Gil Scott-Heron, was a response to someone else's poem. Poetry group The Last Poets had released a piece called "When The Revolution Comes", in which they implied, and by implied, I mean, said right out, that most people will watch the revolution on TV.
What Gil Scott-Heron didn't realize is that he had written a rallying cry, using a phrase from the 1960's Black Power movement. He wrote a poem that resonated far greater than Black Power, or any one movement. He wrote and performed a piece that is used to this day to motivate crowds and drive protests, despite its dated 1970 references.
Listen to the line repeated twice at about 1:30 and tell me this song doesn't still resonate today.
Youri Zaragoza is an excellent and unusual vocalist who brings a pained tone to this interesting and deep song. The song was co-written by the four gentlemen/band members, and it's not so much about one of the four best boroughs of New York City, but more of a love song.
The Easybeats were the first Australian band to have a hit outside of Australia.
This was not that hit, but it was a minor international hit for another band. This version, featuring a guest vocal by Steve Marriott of the group Small Faces, hit #22 in Australia in 1968. The song itself is a lot of fun and oft-covered for that very reason.
It's also one of my favorite songs from the 1960's, and not just because of INXS and Jimmy Barnes.
Billy Joel followed up his huge HUGE hit album An Innocent Man with a greatest hits album, which, for someone supposedly in the prime of their career, is a lame move. But, at that time, I considered Billy Joel to be pretty lame.
When he followed that with 1986's The Bridge, I didn't consider him quite so lame. You see, this song came out at a time when I was starting to branch out in musical taste - and discovering new artists that were outside the mainstream. I had already rejected Billy Joel's music as pretty boring and bland. When I first heard this song, however, it changed my perception a little. It was a song with a little soul - a little emotion. Perhaps it's the fact that it's a guitar-driven and not piano-driven song - but it resonated with me.
I'm not a Billy Joel fan to this day. This song, however, still hits.
Last week, my favorite Romanian band, Fine, It's Pink, released a new single.
Isn't it natural to have a favorite Romanian band? It isn't? Well, maybe we need to normalize that.
Anyway, they're a terrific band no matter where they are from. Ioana Lefter has a unique, rich voice unlike any other I've heard. The song is deep and also accessible. I hope this is the song that is their bridge to acceptance outside of Romania, but if not, at least you can enjoy it.
This is probably Fugazi's best known song. The band's debut single is an absolute classic, still remembered fondly more than 30 years after its initial release.
Written by Ian MacKaye about not making the same mistakes he made with his previous band, Embrace (you hear it now, don't you), it combines elements of punk, ska, and straight ahead rock. Fugazi helped define the Washington DC hardcore scene of the 80s and 90s, with this song being a major reason for that.
Look, sometimes, the post is about the song - and this one, an early single by Dave Grohl's post-Nirvana band is certainly a gem in and of itself. It's a lighthearted pop-rock song, and a top 20 hit in the US at that.
But c'mon. This post is all about this video. It's a huge Mentos commercial parody, and a damned near perfect one at that.
To compare, here's the 2nd commerical they parody.
And here's the first.
The band certainly played this fun and happy song live, but they stopped for a while. If you watched this live video, you can probably understand why, as many rolls of Mentos are thrown on stage. I don't know if you've ever had a roll of Mentos thrown at you, but they hurt.
They do perform it now, probably because people don't get the reference anymore.
In 1990, it was time for Edie Brickell & New Bohemians to release their second album, Ghost of a Dog. Their debut album, Shooting Rubberbands at the Stars, was a blockbuster, but also, that put a lot of pressure on the band to follow up that unexpectedly successful album.
Which, in my opinion, they did brilliantly. I personally think the 2nd album was better than the 1st. Unfortunately, it didn't sell nearly as well, and ended up, at least temporarily, breaking up the band.
This song was the lead single from the 2nd album, and while it got a fair bit of MTV airplay, it didn't lead to a whole lot more than that. Still, the song is complex and interesting, grabbing your ears tightly and not letting go. It remains one of my favorites to this day.
Note: This song had previously been posted in 2012 - as part of a larger post. It's important enough that it deserves its own treatment.
For once, I didn't need a special character for French words.
You see, this song was commissed by The Pokémon Company to commemorate 25 years of Pokémon. Why? Because Louane fit the fun image of Pokémon - in the words of Colin Palmer, vice president of marketing for The Pokémon Company International
“Louane is an exciting addition to the growing roster of talented artists from around the world helping us celebrate 25 years of Pokémon. Game Girl,’ with its French and English lyrics, is not only an amazing pop anthem for Pokémon Trainers, but also represents the global resonance of Pokémon with international fans.”
And, Louane - real name Anne Peichert - grew up playing the game. She did write this lighthearted, lovely pop song expressly for the occasion of the anniversary, with bilingual lyrics, both of which she sings without foreign accent in either, which takes talent. The song's title is clearly a play on the Nintendo Game Boy, for which several Pokémon games were quite popular.
The song will be included on Pokémon 25: The Album, released worldwide in October, so hopefully Louane will get some deserved attention outside of France, where she is a superstar.
"Sirens Call" was the 2013 debut single by Toulouse, France duo Cats On Trees, and it's a delight.
It's also their biggest hit to date, a top 5 hit in both Belgium and their native France.
The duo consists of Nina Goern, on vocals and piano, and Yohan Hennequin, on drums. The two of them take those instruments to the fullest, filling all the aural space with their music. Lyrically, it's in English, but passionate and longing.
It is very tempting to think that a duo might be resorting to studio tricks to give their song such a rich sound. Here they are, live in 2014, proving that they are not doing that. They are just that talented.
Yes, yes I have. Thanks for reading. However, you may recall that post was mostly about Robin Schulz. This one isn't. This post is about a band that keeps getting suggested to me, and not about a Robin Schulz remix (although, to be completely fair, that song is included in the suggestions).
Can I get on with it, please?
Lilly Wood and the Prick are a folk duo formed in France. Neither of them is named Lilly Wood. They got together in 2006 to be a songwriting duo, and ended up making a lot of great music. Their first big hit was their first single - "Prayer In C" (see above link) - released two years prior to this, but their biggest and best known hit worldwide - "Prayer In C" (see above link. I explain it all there) - was yet to come.
By the time they released this song, a minor hit for them, in 2012, they had migrated a bit from the folk sound and branched out into a more disco sound. It worked for them here, and it continued to work for them.
Happy birthday to Mathilde Gerner, who turns 25 today.
Who is Mathilde Gerner? She is the French singer better known by her stage name, Hoshi. But you probably guessed that already.
So named because of her love of Japanese culture, Hoshi writes and performs songs with deep and complex emotion. She's been part of the music scene in France for a decade, between reality music competitions, street music, and finally recording her own music on her own terms.
She's an underappreciated gem, and thanks to Spotify for pointing her out to me.
So, this week, I decided to share it all with you. So, without further ado, music I've discovered solely because Cœur de Pirate is in heavy rotation.
We start with Kyo, a group of French guys who shared a love of American grunge and decided to make a band out of it. They formed in the early 2000's, took an extended hiatus, and have now come back. This is their latest single, and it is a banger. The opening rift is a clear lookback to "Lithium", with the rest of the song hitting some 90's alternative vibes. Lyrically, it's something of a sad and painful song, with the sentiment "Je ne veux pas rester seul" - I don't want to be alone - repeated throughout.
It was a little cruel of me to start with this song, because the video is actually Chapter 2 in a story. You would have met the characters in Chapter 1. I'll have to post that sometime.
Imagine 17 year old me, rushing to the record store on the day that Maria McKee released her first solo album.
Yes, this is what I was listening to as a teenager. And that album was really the third Lone Justice album - with a lot of the same personnel. I was a huge Lone Justice fan (still am). So, I had high expectations of this, and it did not let me down. The first two songs were a heck of a one-two punch. This was the 2nd single and 2nd track. It was a slower, but beautiful and emotion-filled song.
But that first track - I think I wore my cassette out on this track. It was the powerhouse vocal I had come to expect from Maria McKee. There is no video for this song that I could find, but I couldn't not share it, because it's spectacular - right from the first guitar that predated "Laid" by James by several years. The song just builds and builds, and showcases McKee's vocal range throughout.
If you had asked me in February if the term "la chanson française" was going to be used more than once on this blog in 2021, I would have said you were crazy. And yet, here I am, copying and pasting that damn œ for like the fifth time this year. (I went back and looked. It's the seventh time, which might even beat my Charli XCX rate of posting).
But now I am going to tell you why this one is different and it has absolutely nothing to do with Béatrice Martin's pregnancy. You see, I started down this journey into francophone music near the end of February, when I really wanted to find an artist that sang in French who was also Canadian to feature in my little #MapleLeafMarch thing. And, I stumbled about this one accidentally - when I was researching another post by another artist that I'll gush over another day - and did a deeper dive.
What I found was an incredibly complex artist that had a foot in the modern world and another in a classic French music world. Her entire catalog was spectacular and unlike anything I had ever heard - a lot of piano, for sure, and a lot of words I did not understand. In fact, French had been a language that completely baffled me, despite my background in romance languages.
During this deep dive, some new music was released, literally all of which has been covered on this blog. It's all been exceptional.
Then came September 2nd, and a new song was released, and I was excited to hear it. What I heard, however.... it was far far far more than I expected. You see, in a life, there are songs you may hear that just make you stop and remember where you are. These are songs that you can hear over and over again, and never get sick of them. They are songs that change the way you look at music forever.
I've had that feeling a few times in my life, and I can tell you exactly where I was when I first heard each one of them. From the disco-tinged opening violin strains of this song, to the very last "tremble", this song had me. I urge you to listen to this song. You are going to forget it's entirely in French.
The video was recorded in Lachine, QC, Canada, at the famous lighthouse there, and no, none of those balloons went in the water. It also looks to me like it was done in one take, without edits, but I have no proof of that.
(Update: 9 September): Since I wrote this, literally today, her new album Impossible à aimer was announced, including this song, to be released October 15th.
12 year old me did not know this song was about female masturbation. I just knew that I loved the song. And yet this song was on the PMRC's "Filthiest 15" list of truly filthy, filthy songs. That's right. The "Parental Advisory" sticker on some albums is largely due to this song.
It was, despite that, a huge hit song. And why wouldn't it be? It's darned catchy. The video, which is probably part of the song's overall appeal, is considerably more wholesome than this filthy, filthy song.
Is it more obviously filthy in its acoustic version? Maybe. It's more obvious to me that I should have realized what the song was about at 12.
I seriously, SERIOUSLY debated whether or not to post this song. The 2nd verse, in a modern era, is really troubling. Indeed, the Canadian Broadcast Services Council has banned the song in an unedited form, because of that lyric. And I don't really disagree with that decision.
In context, I decided to do it. Here's why:
1) the narrator of the song is intended to be an ignorant man. The use of that one slur IS intentional, and not complementary to the narrator. Mark Knopfler intentionally wrote an ignorant character you are supposed to despise.
2) from a historical standpoint, coming four years after the advent of MTV, it was the first big hit song to acknowledge that channel's influence.
3) MTV still uses Sting's "I Want My MTV" that he sang for this song in their promotional materials.
4) I wanted to illustrate how far we have come as a society since 1985. That slur was just casually tossed about in the 1980s - and today, it's horrifying to hear.
Forgetting that lyric for a moment, the song itself is great, combining the 80s synth sound with some terrific guitar work. The song itself is a gem, the video iconic.
What happens when a couple of prog-rock veteran guitarists get together and make a straight-ahead rock album? Well, that's what Steve Howe of Yes and Steve Hackett of Genesis did when they got together and formed GTR.
The project was short-lived, but yielded one pretty good album. Also featuring Jonathan Mover from Marillion on drums and Max Bacon on vocals, it was quite the superproject. This was their debut single and went to #14 in 1986. The band fell apart when their studio sound - sans keyboards (because Steve Howe was sick of that sound from his time in Asia) - didn't work live.
But let's go back to this song. It's a standard 80's rock song - less prog, more straightahead - but that doesn't make it bad. It's a good song. Co-written by Hackett and Howe, and produced by another Yes/Asia alum, Geoff Downes, it's a song that sounds dated and yet still present.
It is rare that I can share one of my favorite songs of all time, by one of my favorite bands of all time. I know that's not true, but just listen. Then I'll talk about it. The song is that good.
Mary's Danish was a LA band that released three studio albums and a live EP. Yes, I own all of them. This is from their last, 1992's American Standard. The band was short-lived, which is odd (and completely the fault of their record label, Morgan Creek), because the dual lead vocals from Gretchen Seager and Julie Ritter were legendary - they didn't both sing lead on EVERY song, as their voices tended to hit different styles - Grethen tended towards the harder pop/rock songs, whereas Julie had a bit of a twang that lent itself to a folksier/bluesier sound - but they sure did on this one. Guitarist David King passed away this summer, so they are unlikely to reform again.
But they left behind many versions of this song. Take this one, a B-side to this very single. It's an alternate take that some call "acoustic" but was probably the demo.
The band made the rounds of the late night talk shows, and performed this song many times. Let's start with Leno. The Tonight Show was recorded in the band's hometown Los Angeles, and boy, did Jay ever look uncomfortable introducing them....
Get out of here with your Burbank propaganda.
Next, we go to Letterman. Dave was far more comfortable introducing them. I know that because I watched it live. This recording cuts off his intro.
Also, do you remember CD longboxes?! Man, those were the days.
(postscript: if you want to read the heartbreaking story of why Mary's Danish broke up, go here. They say it far better than we could)
People who know me well know what my favorite albums are. If you read this blog last year, I revealed that Velveteen by UK hitmakers (who did next to nothing Stateside) Transvision Vamp is high on that list. At that time, I posted a really REALLY angry song - my favorite song on that album.
But here's the thing that makes that album so perfect. There are no bad songs on there. NONE. They released two other albums - this was their second - and they were all good. This one was borderline perfect.
This song was a hit in the UK and Australia in 1989 and 1990, respectively - and it's a quiet tribute to a lot of pop icons throughout the ages - it's a song full of name drops. Wendy James can deliver quiet and she can deliver loud, and she proves it on this album.
Santigold is one of a new wave of avant garde artists that have given new life to traditional genres, like pop, rock, and R&B, fusing them all with an electronic sound and lyrical depth not seen previously. This fusion brings a new sound - one that eschews genre.
This song - co-written by Santigold - dives into the subject of the degradation of American culture while we, the keepers, are asleep at the wheel. I do encourage you to not listen to the lyrics the first time you listen. It's an aurally interesting upbeat pop song, different than anything you've heard before.