Monsieur Jacques Dutronc
Listen – Et Moi Et Moi Et Moi- MP3
Greetings all (or more appropriately, ‘Comment Allez Vous?’)
I hope everyone out there on the interwebs had an excellent weekend, and that you’re all ready for something very groovy with which to commence the week.
My history with Jacques Dutronc doesn’t really go back that far. Though I have been aware of his 60’s stuff for a while (thanks to an old mod pal), I only recently managed to add any of his vinyl to my arsenal.
In brief, Dutronc, who started out his musical career with the group El Toro et les Cyclones in 1963.
By the middle of the decade, he broke off on his own and started a career that would make him one of the biggest stars in France.
Dutronc – along with his co-writer Jacques Lanzmann – had started out writing material for other artists, but after a record company biggie heard Dutronc’s demos, he insisted that Jacques take his attitude and his matinee idol good looks and record them himself.
‘Et moi, et moi, et moi’ was written in 1966 as a parody of humorless, solipsistic protest folk singers, and if you check out the lyrics (in which the hugeness of the worlds probems are dwarfed by the minutae of the singer’s life) , it’s pretty evident that behind the Pretty Things/garage swagger was a pointed sense of humor. The coolest thing – at least for me – is that on first listen, as someone who doesn’t understand much conversational French (I can read it a little, despite three years of study under the deeply uninspiring tutelage of maybe the worst French teacher in the world), the initial impression is deeply groovy. It almost doesn’t matter what Dutronc is really saying because the record is dripping with attitude. This is trans-linguistic garage snot at its most potent, with the vibe being passed along via the sound of Dutronc’s voice and the rudimentary pounding of the band.
That the lyrics turn out to be so cool is an added benefit, but in the end probably unnecessary. It’s the same feeling I get when listening to Brazilian Tropicalia or Bossa Nova (all sung in Portuguese), much of which I’ve never seen translated. There’s enough feeling delivered in the music that the actual meaning of the words being sung becomes secondary*.
I’ m willing to admit that I may be in the minority in this viewpoint. My entire life (much of which has been devoted the appreciation (and occasional playing) of music) I’ve never been prone to focusing on lyrics **(at least not at first) taking a more impressionistic approach. Music has to get me in the gut (or the ears, I guess) first, with a riff or rhythm hitting me more directly than any direct message. This is not to say that there aren’t lyrics that mean a lot to me (i.e. Dylan, Nick Drake, Lou Reed with the Velvets, Leonard Cohen) but that in most cases it was the sound and the attitude of the music that grabbed me first, and this is certainly the case (once again) with Jacques Dutronc.
I’m sure there must be a clinical explanation for why I approach music this way, though I’d be hard pressed to explain which side of the nature/nurture divide it falls on. Is it the way I “learned” to appreciate music or is it something in the way my brain is wired? I certainly have no aversion to words (I’ve always been a voracious reader), and if you hit my blogs on any kind of a regular basis you know how much I like the blah blah blah. If you’re some kind of mad scientist that’s looking into this specific topic, drop me a line. I’d love to be turned into a lab rat to figure this all out.
Dutronc went on to record a grip of classic garage/freakbeat/psyche sides before turning his energies to the cinema in the early 70’s. He eventually married none other than Francoise Hardy. Interestingly enough, in 1973 Mungo Jerry (‘In the Summertime’) remade ‘Et Moi Et Moi Et Moi’ as ‘Alright Alright Alright’ and had a big hit with it in the UK.
See you later in the week.
*Though it’s fair to note that I had some familiarity with the socio-political atmosphere surrounding the creation of Tropicalia when I first started listening to the music.
**I’m terrible at remembering lyrics. Back when I was in a band I always tried to write the simplest lyrics possible so that I could perform without messing them up.