I’ve recently been reading Le désespoir des singes … et autres bagatelles, Françoise Hardy’s autobiography (J’ai Lu, Éditions Robert Laffont, 2008). The title roughly translates as something like The Monkey-Puzzle… and other trifles; I’m not sure of the relevance of the title yet as I’m skim reading, which is a bit naughty, I know. Anyway, it’s very sad to read what Françoise has to say about her relationship with her husband Jacques Dutronc – he never seemed to be around, even in the early days of their relationship – but at the same time, it reminded me that I haven’t played his records in a little while and they are so good… And then I thought about my lovely cactus!
This is one of the best gifts I have ever been given, it’s a lovely boxed plastic cactus containing 7 CDs and an incredibly stylish booklet full of great photographs of the, it has to be said, very photogenic Jacques Dutronc. The tracks on the CDs are from 1966 to 1976; the entire period he was recording for Disques Vogue. The first CD is my favourite, covering the period of 1966 to 1968 including tracks from the EPs: Et moi, et moi, et moi; Les playboys; Les cactus; J’aime les filles; La publicité; and Fais pas ci, fais pas ça. I understand that the L’intégrale les Cactus set was released in 2004 but I don’t think it was limited edition – if it was, then it does not seem to say anywhere how “limited” it was. One of the great things about this set is that it contains a CD of unreleased tracks including Spanish and Italian language versions of some of Dutronc’s best tracks. And there are so many other things you wouldn’t find in any other Dutronc greatest hits set, like live recordings and a gala show and an entire CD of songs for children!
I wish my French was better so I could translate some Dutronc lyrics and do them justice in English, but instead of doing that and failing miserably I shall tell you the reason why Françoise Hardy’s autobiography reminded me specifically of the cactus: on p126 of her book she relates a story about Jacques getting it into his head that he could tame a cheetah he had adopted, Sumo. I just have to say, I love the fact that Jacques Dutronc loves animals, and cats in particular. I have read about him being absolutely dedicated to a gang of more than 30 wild cats that he feeds when he is staying at his house in Monticello, Corsica; apparently he loves his cats so much he spends Christmas day with them and decorates the tree with chicken for them!
Anyway, back to the story – maybe he was just trying to defend himself against Françoise Hardy’s (unspecified) “cactus”, but instead of putting a cactus in his bed he took to sleeping with Sumo the cheetah in his bed; and Sumo had to wear a nappy so he wouldn’t pee-pee the bed! It might have kept Françoise away for a while but I guess the “cactus” pricked Jacques anyway because Sumo kept him awake all night stretching, licking him and batting him quite fiercely with his paws as a sign of affection – ouch, ouch, ouch! That’s got to hurt just as much any “cactus”!
Pour me défendre de leurs cactus
A mon tour j’ai mis des cactus
Dans mon lit, j’ai mis des cactus
Dans mon slip, j’ai mis des cactus
Aïe aïe aïe, ouille, aïe aïe aïe
The moral of this story? There isn’t one. But I’d recommend getting some Jacques Dutronc EPs and learning French so you can enjoy the lyrics (mostly written by Jacques Lanzmann) which are clever, silly and very caustic. I’d also recommend seeing Jacques Dutronc’s film work – he’s a terrific actor. I’ll try and review some of his films on here at some point. So much to do when you’re an habitual hero-worshipper!
PS Excuse the clutter in the background to the Cactus photos, but you can’t love “stuff” as much as I do and not be surrounded by clutter
PPS I found a photo in MAT of Jacques Dutronc with Delphine Desyeux and, I think, Sumo!!!