Normally, I'd be off to the local pub for their Bastille Day party and some bouillabaisse, and then down to a club that dedicates itself to glorious Radio FIP, which Brightonians are lucky enough to be able to tune into halfway underneath Radio 1. Ah, europop and yéyé girls!
Instead, while I eat my soup, I thought I'd serve you up some early French soul. I didn't know what to call this mini-series. Originally it was just French Soul, then Bastille Day Soul, then Funk The Bastille!
The modern indigenous French soul scene is thriving and has a much firmer place in French sub-cultures than its British equivalents. However, I thought I'd go further back, to the 60s, to see how one of the original French rock and rollers became intrigued by the soul sound, to such an extent that he went on to spend much of his career recording in Nashville, Memphis and Louisiana. Claude Moine, who in honour of his rock and roll heroes, changed his stage name to Eddy Mitchell, and is venerated by all French people as simply Monsieur Eddy.
Eddy and his band Les Chaussettes Noires got a residency playing at le Golf Drouot, a Parisian club which originally had its own 9-hole miniature golf course inside. It was also one of the first clubs with a jukebox, filled with American tunes. Soon, they were signed to Barclay Records, and had several rock and roll hits. After Eddy went to do military service, he embarked on a solo career, continuing the rock and roll.
He recorded several times in London, and while there in 1965, it seems he came into contact with some of the modern soul music being imported from the USA. From this point on, the sound of Eddy Mitchell was distinctively different from that of other French pop artists - he turned up the horns, the guitars played blues, and he chose to interpret or write soulful tunes, all the while singing in French with the passion of a soul balladeer but also with the nuances of French chanson. The albums Du rock ‘n’ roll au rhythm ‘n’ blues (Barclay 1965) and Seul (Barclay 1966) were recorded in London, while De Londres à Memphis (1967) saw Eddy finally travel to America. They comprise the heart of Eddy's soulful output.
Here are a few of those tracks for you to consider. First up is a bluesy number:
Eddy Mitchell - J'avais deux amis (I had two friends)
Eddy moves into Deep Soul country, with an opening sliding guitar string that just makes me think of Hot Buttered Soul!:
Eddy Mitchell - Je ne me retourerai pas (I will not be turned over)
And another Eddy original from his 1966 album:
Eddy Mitchell - Seul (Alone)
And I haven't yet shared Eddy's fabulous Creedence impression, or his version of Hard To Handle! I am going to have to do another Eddy post quite soon!
After a slight slowdown in his career, Eddy picked up again in the mid-70s, travelling annually to Nashville to record with Charlie McCoy and his band, and following a country rock vibe. And he's still going strong today, having recently recorded a new CD Jambalaya with a number of displaced New Orleans musicians in LA after Hurricane Katrina, and calling in the likes of Johnny Halliday (his fellow gallic rocker) and Little Richard.
RFI Music have a great biography in english of Eddy's career.
Shout Outs To Les Soul-blogs Francaises!: If you want to practice your french while also listening to some fine music, try out these sites. We have to mention le case de l'affreux thom, a blog of refinement and taste; also, I've just come across Mushroom Soul,which looks like it will become a favourite of mine. I've visited Loaded To The Gills on occasion, and found some interesting funk. For in depth resources on Otis Redding, check out The Otis Redding Site of Jean Paul Pécréaux. To discuss soul music in french, visit The Dark End Of The Street - don't worry, they will be kind if your words fail you, like me!