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The French Connection: Anarchy in No Man's Land (1972 - 1978)
June 2002
By Alexander "Astro" Hussenet, Lance Monthly
(more articles from this author)
2002-06-27
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"Early Punk was an effective mixture of Dandyisme taken from literature and garage-rock roots, which appealed to the new generation of French rockers who didn't want to be mere copyists of the '70s Stones or the Pink Floyds."

Curiously, despite all that I have said about the sorry state of French R'n'R, there was a time when French rockers were in sync with the US and UK scenes: The Punk years! It's no mystery, considering the fact that the formative years of Punk were made up of intellectual artists in Manhattan who dabbled with the avant-garde and actually knew how to read decadent literature by Oscar Wilde, Rimbaud, Verlaine, or Burrough, and were inspired by the situationnists' and the Dadaïsts' movements. It naturally appealed to the intellectual side of the French, and it gave credibility to French rockers with some kind of a seal of approval by the academics as long as it stayed in the art circles and didn't spill out into the streets (the Londoners, as we all know, took care of that!).

In fact, Punk in France was all about a small elite group who congregated around "Open Market," the record shop of Marc Zermati (the notorious owner of the Sky Dog label which once relaunched the dying career of Iggy pop and who now resides in Japan where he takes care of Japanese underground rock groups!) mainly situated in the middle of Paris in the world renowned 1st district called "Les Halles." This shop was truly a rallying center for wired-up people who had assimilated subversive literature and were very hip rock fans searching for obscure, US garage-rock memorabilia like the Shadows of Knight or the Nuggets' comp.

All the French bands, who were to become important in the scene, already existed in the early '70s in the wake of the Velvet Underground, the New York Dolls, Stooges/ MC5s and Andy Warhol's Factory, Asphalt Jungle, Métal Urbain, Stinky Toys, Marie et les Garçons, and Electric Callas even though the Sex Pistols made their first and only appearance at the Chalet du Lac night club in the woods of Vincennes in the outskirts of Paris in September '76. Most of them had already seen the Pistols the year before in London, anyway! In fact, the gig of the New York Dolls in Paris much earlier was the true turning point which enabled a lot of active people to meet, so that when the punk scene was taking place in '76/ '77, people already knew each other and had already played on the same stage.

The French Punk scene, for once, wasn't late in the game and didn't spring out of nowhere but, already had roots in rock'n'roll right up to covering of "Substitute" by the Who or the Stooges' "No Fun"; they knew where their roots were! They decided to sing their own songs in French, cutting short the rock custom of singing a bastardization of the English language because, for once, they had something to say and had acknowledged a French pop tradition of forefathers with the likes of Gainsbourg, Dutronc, Polnareff or Ronnie Bird, covering their songs while the previous French rock generation like les Variations, Magma or Ange, dismissed or didn't care about them.

Early Punk was an effective mixture of Dandyisme taken from literature and garage-rock roots, which appealed to the new generation of French rockers who didn't want to be mere copyists of the '70s Stones or the Pink Floyds. The first French Punk band to put out a record was a famous rock writer and critic (our own Lester Bangs of sort! ) named Patrick Eudeline's of Asphalt Jungle fame with the song: "Deconnection" on the label "Cézame Cobra" in the Spring of '77. To that end, they had to put up a race with the Stinky Toys (Eli Meideros, who is the girl singer of that band, is credited with inventing the safety pin look by fixing a tear on her jeans! And lead guitarist Jacno was afterwards a French electro minimalist pop pioneer, still making it on "Tricatel." The French pop label of today, the Stinky Toys, finally put out the first French punk album in late '77 for Polydor and took front page on the October '76 issue of Melody Maker!).

Patrick, besides being a renowned critic in the foremost French Rock mag "Rock & Folk," has written several books, especially of note: "L' Aventure Punk" (Ed. Le Sagittaire) and "Dansons sous les Bombes" (Ed. Grasset). His kid brother, Christian Eudeline is also a critic and writer of note, having written thee reference book: "Nos années Punk" (Ed. Denoël ) with a special CD feature put out by EMI. He has also released a legal Digi Pack CD collection of French swinging '60s mademoiselles called "Femmes de Paris" on FGL which you should check out. (Write to him at: eudeline@club-internet.fr )

Of course, France being a literary country, there were other rock writers of note: pioneer writer/ rock critic Yves Adrien, whose columns had been read by everyone in "Rock & Folk" (especially his manifesto "Je chante le rock électrique," as early as January '73! ) and whose most important book "Növö Vision, les confessions d' un cobaye du siècle" (Ed. les Humanoïdes Associés-1979) is deleted and thoroughly sought after by French punk-rock fans. It will be reissued next October by Denoël! And most importantly, Alain Pacadis, deceased Parisian punk swinger, who wrote a testimony to those night clubbin' years full of dope and illicit decadent sex at the notorious Palace (the Paris equivalent to New York's "Studio 54!"), "Un Jeune Homme Chic" (Ed. Denoël-1978). It's, in a sense, the only time R'n'R would fuse with literature, the only time French rock would really shine, alas unbeknownst to most of the world, being a very selective underground scene of the forerunning kind; the kind that vanishes quick!

Three cities were the real axis of the home-scene: Paris, Lyon, and Rouen in the order of importance. Marie et Les Garçons were from Lyon and were the French equivalent of the Talking Heads (especially with their single "Re-Bop" in '78 which, like their models, dabbles with white Funk and Disco!). Starshooter were also from Lyon but they were quickly considered a sell-out by the in-crowd with their squeaky clean pink satin new-wave image (they had famous comic book drawer and later French Musak balladeer, Kent, in their ranks). And then there were the late Olivensteins from Rouen . . . good but late in the game in '79! It is generally considered that Asphalt Jungle's December '78 single: "Poly Magoo" closed the first wave of "French Punk."

Still, there were others like the Guilty Razors who were among the first Punks, even covering the Seeds' "Pushin' Too Hard" as early as '77 for their first and only aborted LP! And, the Dogs with their '60s retro image, polka dotted shirts and vintage Rickenbackers, who put out the LP, "Différent" on Philips; Métal Urbain, cofounded by Rikki Darling and Patrick Eudeline, again, who released a comp LP, "l' Âge d' or" on French Indie New Rose. Even French hard rockers, Trust put out a '78 punk anthem covered in the '90s by a famous American hard-core band (of which I forgot the name. Was it Suicidal Tendencies?), "Anti-Social."

The second wave brought in the early '80s French new-wave band, Edith Nylon's Taxi Girl with their ambiguous minor hits, "Cherchez le Garçon," "Marquis de Sade," and their excellent fiery first album,"OberKampf" which includes their 1983 rallyin' hit, "Couleurs sur Paris," and Les Civils with their 1982 novelty hit, "La Crise économique". . . but, that's another story."


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