En 1984, Laurent Fabius remplace Pierre Mauroy et devient a 37 ans le plus jeune premier ministre de France.
Il confirme un virage a droite entame en 1983 et qui continue jusqu'a Gisca... pardon Hollande. Fabius est jeune, il est beau, il est brillant, et il veut imposer un style de communication qui corresponde a sa volonte de "moderniser la France" : "Parlons France" devient un rendez-vous mensuel de 15 minutes avec les telespectateurs :
Selon votre niveau de cynisme, je vous laisse decider de s'il s'agissait d'un coup de pub, d'une gestion habile d'image publique, de propagande, ou alors d'un desir candide et honnete de communiquer avec le peuple... Le gamin de 14 ans que j'etais approuvait en tout cas.
I first noticed Valerie Kaprisky during my initial stay in Paris. As I might have mentioned earlier in this blog, those few weeks I spent there in the summer of 1984 were magical. And Valerie was part of that magic... She was on the poster for the movie "La femme publique" and you couldn't miss her:
A good friend from my home country, let's call him NZ, had also arrived in Paris at about the same time. He was a very ingenious guy. Back home he'd taught me all about airplane models (say the difference between a F-14 "Tomcat" and a F-15 "Eagle": the former's wings move back and forth for some reason!). He'd also managed to find in some dumpster some porn film (literally the film, not an actual tape we could play) and we'd strain our eyes trying to make sense of the tiny images. In Paris he built chess pieces out of cork plugs so we could play for cheap. And since he was as fascinated by "La femme publique" as much as I was, he convinced me to try to sneak into a movie theatre with him to see the movie, but our attempt was immediately spotted and stopped by an usher... To this day I haven't seen this movie.
Later on the same year Valerie Kaprisky had another movie that looked just as enticing, judging by the poster:
I saw that movie many years later on TV, but other than for Valery's physical attributes it didn't leave much of an impression to be honest.
Christelle was a tall and pretty classmate. She was, like most of my classmates, one or two years older than me, and so probably 15-16ish and looking more like 18 because of her height. It seemed that in Clermont-L'Herault it was ok to take your time finishing studying, or maybe they put me with those kids because they didn't have much hope that I'd do well.
More importantly, Christelle was into music (she was a fan of Jean-Jacques Goldman: nobody's perfect). And so I once asked her to make me a mixtape (under strict orders to include Alphaville's Big in Japan). This is what ended up playing on auto-reverse in my Toshiba walkman for weeks:
Because I'm a nice guy I made a YouTube playlist of this mixtape just for YOU!
As you may have noticed, side B is a little bit short. But that was ok because I discovered that the mixtape was taped over some older songs, and so the rest of side B ended up revealing some older songs:
- David Bowie - Let's Dance
- Falco - Der Kommissar
- Soft Cell - Tainted Love
But I didn't know what those songs were (they were already too "old" for NRJ to play them anymore), I didn't have Google and I didn't want to sound ignorant and uncool by asking my classmates, so it took me quite some time before I could put a name on them.
Vous avez fait connaissance avec mon walkman. Je m'en suis surtout servi pour ecouter la radio. C'etait une epoque radiophonique un peu sauvage, avec la liberation recente des ondes. A Clermont-L'Herault on n'arrivait pas a capter grand-chose d'excitant, mais il y avait quand meme :
NRJ c'etait la source principale de pop music, c'est comme ca que je rattrapais mon retard sur mes camarades de classe ! Qui se souvient du jingle : "on est bien tous leeeees deuuux, quand on ecoute NRJ !". Il n'y avait pas encore FUN (1985 je pense, fonde par un ex-patron d'NRJ), Skyrock et autres.
Il y avait Radio Alligator, mais qu'on ne captait pas bien. Il fallait etre a Montpellier pour ca... C'etait surtout axe sur la musique americaine a l'epoque : Rock'n Roll, blues, folk... C'est bien plus tard, vers 1988, que je suis devenu completement accroc de cette station.
Mais il y avait aussi Radio Thau Sete, qui passait aussi surtout de la musique, mais dont je ne me souviens pas bien :
Radio Littoral :
Radio Clapas, avec ses emissions en occitan !
Radio Choc, la radio Pied Noir !
Il y avait aussi Sud Radio et Radio Campus, il me semble, mais imposible de trouver les logos...
Et puis bien sur les vieilles institutions : RTL, RMC, Europe 1, France Musique, France Culture...
Mais une de mes stations preferees etait la nouvelle venue : Radio France Herault :
Je me souviens en particulier de l'emission que j'ecoutais en rentrant du college, animee par un certain Jacques Baradat :
Je me souviens de son nom parce que le jingle de son emission jouait avec son nom de famille, et repetait comme en echo : "Barada... rada... da ?" Il avait aussi une obsession avec une chanson des Comateens :
Ce serait chouette si on pouvait trouver Jacques Baradat et lui demander d'ecrire un blog post, non ? Mon bon ami Mr Bad n'est qu'a deux degres de separations sur LinkedIn, une mission pour lui ?
Sinon, outre ses infos regionales il y avait aussi des emissions nocturnes sympas, dont une vers 22h dont le nom m'echappe mais qui passait de la tres bonne musique, suivie par une autre qui s'appelait "Dernieres nouvelles du front" par un certain Yves quelques chose, emission encore plus pointue que j'aurais mieux appreciee si j'etais un peu moins jeune et bete.
Mais, last but not least, il y avait surtout France Inter, mais je vais garder ca pour un autre blog post...
(pour les vieux logos et tout plein d'infos sur l'histoire radiophonique francaise, allez vous ballader sur Schoop.fr)
Eh oui, imaginez : j'ai 14 ans et les sens en eveil, je debarque dans un pays ou on voit des jolies filles partout sur les affiches et a la tele. Voici donc quelques pubs avec des filles qui sont non seulement jolies mais qui apparemment sentent bon !
Il n'y a pas que la musique dans la vie ! L'annee 1984 etait aussi memorable pour les debuts de la belle Peugeot 205 GTI :
La production de la 205 de base avait deja commence l'annee precedente, mais je pense que le modele GTI a donne au modele ses lettres de noblesses avec sa maniabilite, sa pointe de vitesse et ses lignes agressives. Et bien sur les succes en rallye de la 205 Turbo 16 la meme annee, avec au volant Ari Vatanen ont fait le reste :
Ce modele a sans doute sauve le groupe PSA. Voici une pub de l'epoque, c'est a dire juste avant que la loi n'interdise l'eloge de la vitesse dans les pubs de voiture :
Et enfin, un regal de voir Ari Vatanen piloter la Turbo 16, et pour bande son "Two Tribes" de Frankie Goes to Hollywood, bien sur datant de la meme annee !
On y voit en particulier le modele qui fit aussi les beaux jours du Paris-Dakar... (j'etais a Cergy-Pontoise debut Janvier 1985 pour y voir les voitures avant le depart !)
For whatever reason, there were a few songs in 1984 and 1985 that were recorded by more than one artist. It almost always concerned a Euro-pop trash song. Usually the first (known) version was the better one, and so I never saw the point of the others that were presumably covers. Here's the ones I remember:
The first one has already been mentioned by sp1873: Self Control, which was a pretty big hit by two separate bands/artists:
and then RAF:
I by far prefered Laura Branigan's version, which was sexier (the way she sings "you take myself" in the chorus, oh my!) and had a bit of an edge with the prominent electric guitars. RAF was probably produced to appeal to the female side of the audience. Still, so tacky.
Then we had Live is Life. The version that most people remember (and is probably the original one) is by Austrian band Opus:
It's heavy-handed, and that voice just plain irks me! Whereas the lesser known version by Stargo was almost poignant. I remember playing belote with my school friends during lunch break and listening to this song and singing it in unison!
It was faster, I loved the voice (hey, give me a break, I was 14), and the almost military "la la la la la" just made things somehow more... erm... serious.
Then we have to get to the bottom of the barrel for the next one. One of them is the awful Kalimba de Luna.
I hate pan flute in general, and when it is combined with all sort of fake synthesizer sounds it is just offensive. But of course it was so successful that Boney M covered it right away, and we have the almost identical version below:
But wait! This abomination was also covered in French by Dalida. Here she is performing it during Champs-Elysees:
And finally, something a little bit different. A fun little zydeco song by Rockin' Sidney called "My Toot-Toot" was a hit in the US:
But the version that made it to France was a cover by Denise LaSalle, and for once the cover was better than the original due to LaSalle's powerful and playful vocals:
But then of course once again someone immediately covered the song in French:
I also want to thank Dr Easy for letting me take part in this blog. I think he invited me because he knows 1984 is vivid for me, too. It was a transition year, for a couple of reasons. I was 12 and everything was changing: the way I felt about boys (terror, apprehension, longing), the way I experienced music (full-bodily), the way I expressed myself (I discovered writing in 1984).
But also, there was a big life change: I moved from France (possibly just as Dr Easy arrived) to South Africa in 1984. Before we left, I remember carefully cutting a picture of Michael Jackson out of a magazine to show people what he looked like, just in case they'd never heard of him or, God forbid, had never heard of Thriller. (Look, I was 12. Also, I know "Thriller" was from 1982, but I was a little behind.)
But it turned out that the music people were listening to on the radio there was pretty much the same as in the place I'd left. I felt taken down a peg, but it was also a huge relief. Music gave some continuity, a bridge across the transition, when everything else seemed to be in upheaval. Lost friends, lost year at school because my age was all in between, lost summer (we moved to SA in the middle of winter from summer in Paris, which was a shock to the system), lost home (we lived out of a suitcase at a hotel for the longest time while my parents tried to find us somewhere to live).
Posted below, a couple of the songs that kept me going at that time.
To be honest with you, I missed out on much of the Los Angeles Olympics hullabaloo. It was in the middle of summer, and I'd barely arrived in France, spending the first few weeks in Paris with my mom before finally going to the South and staying the whole school year with the family (friends of my mom) who had generously accepted to have me. It's even quite possible that I'd already arrived in Clermont-L'Herault during the Olympics, but even then there was not much time for TV distractions then, initially at least.
Those few weeks in Paris were magical, and understandably I didn't spend much time in front of the TV (except for the occasional F1 race - more on that in future posts!). But it was still hard to ignore the biggest story of the Olympics (besides the boycott by the Eastern Bloc) that was Carl Lewis' performance: 4 gold medals at track and field! (I used to root for Calvin Smith at the time, but oh well)
The big story for the French was Pierre Quinon's gold at pole vault (a bit of an upset I believe, as fellow Frenchman Thierry Vigneron was considered the better of the two), but let's not forget that superstar Sergey Bubka wasn't there due to the boycott. Here's Bubka breaking one of his many world records in 1984:
Let me introduce you to my best friend in 1984: the brand new Toshiba KT-AS1 walkman I was offered by a friend of my mom as a parting gift before my trip. The friend was an airline pilot, and he brought the walkman back from one of his trips to Japan (I think) as a special favor.
When I say this thing was my best friend, I'm not exaggerating. It followed me pretty much everywhere. I slept with it. You'll see why when you take a closer look at that little beauty:
First, as you can see in the logo at the bottom of the picture, it had Dolby! You could turn it on and off, and honestly, I would usually leave it off, as it took away too much "punch" from the sound. Second, it had a REVOLUTIONARY feature written in RED: AUTO-REVERSE! See, the "play" button has arrows going both ways! (It was sometimes confusing because the meaning of "fast forward" and "rewind" were relative and you were never quite sure what was the current direction). The green button reverses the direction of the tape! I found that one direction sounded better than the other though; I think the motor wasn't as powerful in both directions.
One of the toggles allows you to select automatic auto-reverse when reaching the end of the tape, thus allowing listening in a loop! My favorite thing: fall asleep listening to my favorite tape! (slight problem though: batteries weren't cheap). The other toggle, as mentioned earlier, is to turn off Dolby. also notice the TWO headphone jacks: share the fun with a friend! My Toshiba wasn't the jealous kind...
But moving on to the most important feature: the TUNER!
See the little fellow to the right? Meet the tuner! This walkman was, I believe, one of the very first models to carry one, and to keep things compact they had to innovate. The tuner's shaped like a cassette tape, and so when you wanted to listen to the radio you'd open the lid and insert the tuner. The tuning knob conveniently protrudes from the lid (picture the tuner standing up vertically and you'll see how the knob aligns with the hole to the left of the FF button). But you did need to select AM or FM before you inserted the tuner.
Thanks to that little tuner I was constantly updating my knowledge of French pop culture to catch up to my buddies as part of my highly-sought assimilation process. I think I overdid it hough, hence this blog...
A couple more details:
The black thingy on the right is a belt clip-on. This is how the Toshiba never left me. It was with me with every walk to school, every trip to the magazine store to buy my weekly Spirou Magazine (there will be a blog post on this), and every rare long bus trip to Montpellier. Music colored everything; it made everything tolerable, less lonely, but also often more melancholy.
The box at the bottom of the picture was something I never saw with any other model: it was a container for big batteries; this way your listening pleasure would last longer and possibly cost less. Didn't use it much as it was bulky, even though it also clipped on to your belt.
As mentioned earlier, I of course slept with the Toshiba every night. My bed was actually some sort of bunk bed. The bottom part wasn't a bed but a desk for the oldest kid of the family I was staying with. There was a ladder on the side to climb up to my bed. Being "upstairs" gave me a little bit of much appreciated privacy... The drawback was that a few times that poor walkman took a fall while I was sleeping. Not only the noise woke everybody up, but also ultimately the walkman was a little damaged, and tapes wouldn't sound so hot anymore. The tuner, thankfully, kept going, so the problem was probably the motor. So I ended up mostly listening to the radio, and that's how I'm quite the expert on French radio programming as well, but that's for another post...
(disclaimer: the nice photos were lifted off eBay; will happily replace them with my own if it's a problem)