I realised I can’t just call these articles “Michel Polnareff on TV…” because there are times when a French music show just has too many good bands on it to be able to leave them out of the post. So this is kind of a “Michel Polnareff on TV” post but it’s also about Antoine et les Problèmes, Christophe and Les 5 Gentlemen. There’s a lot to say about this show. Let’s start at the beginning with the credits – very nice they are too:
First up, this Albert Raisner guy and his harmonica – he seems to bring it with him everywhere so he can get in on the action. He looks a bit too old for introducing this kind of show to the stubborn and young people as well!
I like this next bit, although the “bomb” didn’t go off or even knock the letters down:
If Les Knack were not my cup of tea, well, the next bit would have got thrown out with the slops as far as I’m concerned. It was a medley of bits and bobs sung by Johnny Hallyday and Petula Clark. I can’t stand Petula Clark – there’s something about her that is very middle-aged and very prim and proper, and just plain dull. The word brio springs to mind when I think of her, in a negative way – I’d rather hear Jane Birkin stumbling over her words in French with her English accent than Petula’s over-enthusiastic approach to French pronunciation any day. The less said about this the better really:Now, the spat between Antoine and Johnny Hallyday has been well documented, but this programme seems to have been some kind of showdown for them. With Johnny taking it all far more seriously than Antoine ever could or ever would. Next up was Antoine singing an adapted version of Les élucubrations – the offending song in which he suggests that Johnny Hallyday should be locked up in a cage at the Medrano circus. To keep the peace, or just for fun, who knows, Antoine sings instead that Albert Raisner should be locked up in the cage at the Medrano instead:
Next up, Monty with L’Île de Beauté. Again, not 100% my cup of tea but it’s catchy and gets everyone in the audience singing. Not bad really, a bit bluesy with a Spencer Davis Group kind of sound. Anyway, he’s quite a charming fellow:
Something well worth a look next: the super-cool Christophe performing one of my favourite tracks Excusez-moi, Monsieur le Professeur. Apparently Christophe’s lost his way, but he’ll be back tomorrow. Let’s hope so, or we’ll miss him. What a stylish so-and-so he was with his Dennis Hopper looks and his great suits. He’s one of my favourites for sure. What a come down to have Miss Petula Clark on next, but at least it’s with something fairly decent – L’Amour avec un grand A:No fights have broken out between Johnny and Antoine – yet… – so Albert Raisner tries to set one up between Antoine and his Problems instead: Raisner puts them in a boxing ring and they battle it out with Les contre-élucubrations problématiques. Despite all the goading, Antoine’s not having any of it: “You can, of course, tease me, but if your mothers had known about the pill you would not be here getting on my nerves”. What a shame this is not in colour – it would be far more spectacular, I’m sure.
Unfortunately Johnny Hallyday’s next and Antoine’s laughing “hé, hé, hé” must have wound him up even more because he’s going for first blood – and he’s not even in the boxing ring with Antoine so he has to do it with words instead. I bet Antoine was shaking in his Chelsea boots when he heard Johnny singing Cheveux longs et idées courtes, which translates as “long hair and short ideas”. It’s a pathetic little song aimed at Antoine in retaliation for the Medrano comment, made in passing but obviously deeply felt by the much-loved Johnny. Did it hurt him so much that Antoine didn’t love him too? I guess so, otherwise he wouldn’t have had to pay a lyricist to write such absurd words for him about how having long hair is not in itself enough to change the world. Who ever said it was? Childish, Johnny, very childish. And it’s only you who ends up looking the fool:
Albert Raisner’s itching to get his harmonica out so he sneaks up on Johnny at the end and joins in:Before you know it Petula’s publicist husband must have pulled a few strings because she’s in on the action as well. Albert has to lend her his miniature harmonica:
Next, the little Tête de bois cartoon character is giving renditions of a few songs in a Pinky & Perky type vocal fashion. It’s amusing for a few seconds. The best thing is Tête de bois version of Antoine with its long hair:
Albert Raisner just won’t let the Antoine / Johnny fight thing go away, so he sits between them and starts out innocently asking Johnny about Protest Songs and about Bob Dylan. Antoine quietly shows his disagreement with Johnny’s opinion on all of this with a shake of the finger. You get the impression it’s not going to end there.
Dylan’s not on the show himself, so they just show some footage of him over in Europe being mobbed and then introduce the band Les 5 Gentlemen who were a French garage punk type band and I’m a bit of a fan, so that’s all good with me. I’d rather see and hear them than Dylan and his nasal offerings any day. What a rare treat to see this band doing a rather good cover version of The Sandals’ Tell Us Dylan, translated into French and called Dis-nous Dylan: Johnny pipes up again about how he likes Dylan but he’s just sorry that Antoine doesn’t have his talent. Ooh! But at least Antoine can write his own lyrics and he doesn’t just “sit on his backside with his arms crossed” and pay someone else to do it for him! If Petula Clark’s got Johnny’s back (see her less than subtle squeeze of the arm as he makes his catty comment), I’ve got Antoine’s – bring it on, Hallyday!Raisner diplomatically comments that that’s just an opinion. It is – it’s just Johnny Hallyday’s opinion and that was probably written for him by someone else as well. Yeah, I mean business, people!
To wash away the bad taste in the mouth that all this bickering leaves, Christophe pops up dressed as a cowboy. Quite nice, but I thought he looked rather lovely in a suit myself:
Christophe’s singing La Camargue whilst on horseback. No, really. Well, okay then it’s a pretend horse and I’m not sure I approve of Christophe doing this kind of thing. I’m in two minds – either it’s too silly for someone as cool as him, or he’s so cool he can do stupid stuff like that and it doesn’t matter. I still love him anyway, so it’s obviously not put me off:
After that there’s a cutesy little song from Chantal Kelly with (I think) Monty on guest vocals – Notre Prof’ d’Anglais: This track’s been on at least a couple of those French pop compilation albums. She seems quite sweet. I like it.
Next up, the one I’ve been waiting for – Michel Polnareff. It’s his second TV appearance doing La Poupée qui fait non. This performance is from outside the studio in a club called the Top Ten or something like that. The idea is they show footage of young French kids out clubbing in Paris and the provinces. On this occasion Polnareff is there doing a playback, surrounded by young kids – one kid in particular appears to be in love with him, looking at him with hungry eyes and singing along with all the words: Antoine’s back next, escaping Hallyday’s evil clutches, taking his chances on Une autre autoroute. He does a nice job of it – it’s such a good track with a lovely bit of guitar playing on it: There’s no show-boating for Antoine but then again he’s not taking any chances on the harmonica front, what with Albert Raisner being in the vicinity and champing at the bit to join in when and wherever possible; Antoine brought his own blues harp with.
Talking of show-boating…Johnny gets in a four-piece backing band and a group of dancers to liven up his performance of Jusqu’à minuit. He does a bit of Clo-Clo style dancing himself as well, hoping to out-shine Antoine and his brilliant but understated jerky dancing, no doubt. Never mind, Antoine, Johnny was always going to make sure he had the last word on this whatever happened.
Petula has been missing the limelight too, so she gets to introduce the smiley, chirpy singer and alleged wartime collaborator Charles Trenet who sings La Tarantelle de Caruso (I think):Petula can’t stay away for long; she’s such a limelight hogger that even the dancers try to kick her as she sings Si tu prenais le temps: And that’s your lot, aside from the credits which were sung by Monty, Petula Clark, Johnny Hallyday and Charles Trenet. Nice little touch that and what a fun show.
One last thing – Johnny Hallyday, you were great in Robert Hossein’s film Point de chute and I salute you for this, but please leave little Antoine alone. Thank you!