Les Années Psychédélique – Part 2: La Responsable – Jacques Dutronc. Or, Vive Le Morrissey’s French, Spiritual Forefather. The Bastard.

First things first: I am enormously, feather-spittingly, cripplingly jealous of Jacques Dutronc.

Second, my suspicion is that, despite Morrissey’s stated admiration for the work of Hattie Jacques, it’s this Jacques who he really had something in common with, at least in terms of this – absolutely cracking single.

To draw a rough analogy in terms of English and French pop music, Jacques Dutronc is probably the relative equivalent of Mick Jagger, which is to say that in their heydays, they went out with the grooviest girls and they had reputations that leaned towards being bad boys.

Not that the two things are necessarily related because Francoise Hardy*, the grooviest girl he had a relationship with said, “One day, in his office, I saw a frightful, myopic boy wearing glasses like jam jar bottoms, covered in zits. So, I hardly paid attention to him!” I get it that she didn’t dig his bins and – get this – I don’t even wear glasses, and I’ve never been spotty so I reckon I must be at least halfway there.**  Anyway, a couple of years later, she saw him and he’d lost the glasses, she asked him to be her guitar player.  And he said, “No.”  Forward a bit to 1967 in Berlin, where she asked him if he fancied going to Corsica with her, despite her being legendarily shy.  He said yes to that and there it all began.  On the other hand, she also said that she was so drunk, she has no recollection of it happening.

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Françoise Hardy and Jacques Dutronc.  The bastard.  He looks a bit like Herman Munster, doesn’t he?  No, I know…

Just to rub it in, they went out for six years but only saw each other a couple of times a month until she became pregnant with their son, Thomas.  When he was born they did move in together, but only because she asked him to.  “If I had not asked him, he would not have suggested it,” she said.  Even then, in the house they moved into, they still lived on separate floors.  The bastard.  The year after the birth of their child, Jacques started having it off with Romy Schneider, the actress he was filming*** with at the time.  Francoise Hardy was present and knew what was going on and she took him back after the filming ended. “I was not going to leave Francoise Hardy for Romy Schneider – It’s Francoise Hardy!”  he told Vanity Fair.  The bastard.

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Jacques Dutronc and Romy Schneider: what the fuck is going on in Jacques’ tiny mind here?  I can only think he’s lost the plot entirely.  In terms of everything.  The bastard.

Finally, Dutronc and Hardy marry in 1981, following lots and lots of affairs with other women, the lunatic.   Even then, their marriage was hardly a romantic gesture designed to impress a newfound sense of commitment to her, oh no.  It was for tax purposes.  The bastard****.

Francoise got a fair bit of material out of her ambivalence for Jacques, in Mais il y a des soirs (But There Are Nights) she sings, But there are nights when I hate everything / And those are the nights when I think back on us…”  In Soleil (Sun), “Sunshine, I love you, and forever, you are loyal, but love Isn’t often like you. Why not?”

In her autobiography (The Despair of Monkeys – it relates to a monkey puzzle tree) though, she asks herself  “…if I would have been better off if I had been balanced enough to put satisfying my own needs ahead of satisfying those of my partners, rather than spending my life compensating for my ridiculous frustrations by creating songs.”

All I’m saying, Francoise, is get on with that time machine and you won’t have to.  I’m sure that’s a wonderful comfort to her.

Anyway, I’m not just here to express hypocrisy, I’m here to talk about Dutronc’s 1969 single, La Responsable***** which, to be fair, is fucking great.

The video I’ve linked to here barely shows Jacques Dutronc at all.  What it shows, primarily, is what the music of Jacques Dutronc is for.  Or, at least, what it should be for, and what it should be for is Go-Go dancing.  To be even more specific, it should be for groovy French chicks in tight sweaters and tennis skirts to Go-Go dance to jubilantly. I don’t even mind the dude in the sunglasses who’s smoking at the start and towards the end.  If I had to live in a video, I’d live in that video.  I wouldn’t even need to talk to anybody, I’d be happy just watching 1960s French chicks busting moves as if the concept of self-consciousness hadn’t even been invented.

Which, considering the lyrical content, is a mildly peculiar, not that I care.

Dutronc wrote his own songs, but he tended to work with a lyricist, meaning he wrote the music which, on this record is fucking great.  He also played the guitar on it, so even more kudos to him.  The bastard.

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Jacques Dutronc and guitar: Dave Davies of The Kinks got his distorted guitar sound by slashing his amplifier’s speaker with a razor blade.  Jacques Dutronc, like any self-respecting Frenchman, takes that concept to its natural conclusion.  And good on him for it.

In a way, you can tell that La Responsable owes a certain amount of debt (a substantial amount in fairness) to (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction by The Rolling Stones but, unusually for records influenced by The Rolling Stones, it’s a lot better than their take on frenetic fuzzbox driven 1960s freakbeat singles.

For starters, the introduction attempts to get a bit of feedback going on the guitar and it falls flat.  The Beatles’ I Feel Fine started off with a bit of guitar feedback and did a far better job of it than Dutronc manages here, but from the moment he started to actually play it, he’s right on it.  He kicks the fuzzbox on and, while his riff is slightly more complicated than Keef’s on Satisfaction (it’d be difficult to be any simpler), it has the benefit of not sounding anything like as stilted as Keef does.  If Keef’s sounds like a child dragging a settee across floorboards, Dutronc’s is the aural equivalent of a dog who’s just come in from a a walk in torrential rain and is running frantic circuits around the house.  And I know which one of those metaphors I prefer.  Who wouldn’t?

As the singing begins, the guitars drop out, leaving Jacques’ unhinged babbling to get on with it, accompanied only by the drums and bass which are groovy and complementary as fuck.  Jacques’ voice has been filtered as if he’s singing to us down an old telephone line, emphasising the distance between him and me.  The bastard.

And what he’s singing is odd for a record featuring guitars that sound like Snoopy dancing because Snoopy is the epitome of laissez-faire (cheers) and the lyrics are the opposite of that.  “I have worries, I have cares, I have troubles, I have torments.

Like many pop songs did and do, they refer to the older generation but, again, in the opposite way that you might expect.

I am a responsible man
I don’t hide my head in the sand
I don’t want to sing like Grandfather
In life, you don’t have to worry”
Because if I worry today
It’s because yesterday he laughed
In a strange sort of way, Le Responsable predicts Greta Thunberg’s (eminently reasonable) position, that the older generation should have cared more and laughed less.    Dutronc isn’t a Baby Boomer, he’s a War Baby or, to be more accurate, a member of The Silent Generation (born in 1943, he’s six months younger than my mother).  Which puts an interesting slant on today’s belief that it’s the old farts who are the problem.
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Jacques Lanzmann: Ooh, la, la.
Even crazier than that is the fact that Dutronc didn’t even write the lyrics.  They were written by Jacques Lanzmann who was even older than Dutronc, being born in 1927, which makes him a G.I. Baby, or it would if he’d been American.  Nevertheless, he fought in World War II, was caught by the Germans and was due to be executed by firing squad, age 16.  Lanzmann later said that he escaped because, “…I was determined not to die a virgin...”  He travelled and worked all over the world, ending up in Chile, at which point his brother Claude passed on his manuscript for his existentialist novel (La Glace est romp – “The Ice is Broken“) to Simone de Beauvoir and Jean-Paul Sartre who read it and helped get it published in 1954.
I don’t know what Jacques Dutronc thought about the lyrics, but I suppose he must have thought they were at least alright, and they are – they’re great.
“What I like most is being sick with worry
I feed on the worries every which way
But I also like catastrophes
Which put my life in relief
When things are going well, I am unhappy
When things are going poorly, I am very happy.”
Those are pretty neurotic lyrics and they’re blunt with it.  It’s almost as if Morrissey had been born into the body of a Frenchman in the first half of the 20th century with a lot less self-consciousness and a lot more self-awareness.  And with Francoise Hardy as his girlfriend.  The bastard.  The neurotic bastard.

The instant he stops singing, the guitars start up again and on he goes:

I don’t have money
I don’t have luck, I don’t have friends
I don’t have luck, I have taxes
My stomach aches, my teeth hurt
But I wouldn’t want to change skins
Because I love annoyances.
If we were had any doubts whatsoever that Jacques Dutronc is probably Morrissey’s father, that verse has to remove every last one of them.  No luck, no friends.  A litany of medical issues and yet, he is who he is and, despite – or maybe because of – the annoyances in his life, he wouldn’t be without them.  Maybe it’s because they give him something to complain about.  Which I, at least, can get right behind.

 

Footnotes.

 

*Mrs Middlerabbit has made it abundantly clear that if James McAvoy turns up and makes a move on her, she’s off.  Similarly, I have told Mrs Middlerabbit in no uncertain terms that if time travel ever becomes possible, and if Francoise Hardy turns up from 1968, looking for an overly verbose moron from Hull, I’m running off with her.  That showed her, right?

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Françoise Hardy.  Sigh.

**N.b. Wilful ignorance.

***Since the 1970s, Jacques Dutronc has spent at least as much time being a film actor as a musical artist.  Only in French films though because he evidently has practically no interest in learning English.  Steven Spielberg allegedly considered him the best French actor of his generation and wrote the role of René Belloq in Raiders of The Lost Ark with him in mind.  When it came down to it though, Spielberg had to pass it over to Paul Freeman (later to find fame with a younger generation in his role as Ivan Ooze in Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers: The Movie) because Dutronc’s English wasn’t up to scratch.

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Paul Freeman in his seminal role as Ivan Ooze.  This could have been yours for the taking, Jacques Dutronc.  Probably.

****My generally appalling record in terms of going out with girls (detailed elsewhere and at length in this blog thing) means that my sense of outrage here is feigned due to having absolutely no fucking room to talk at all.

*****Midway through writing this, I nearly gave up because I found out that it was covered by Miles Kane, most famous for being the one who isn’t Alex Turner in The Last Shadow Puppets.  Miles Kane irritates me to a level beyond that which is reasonable because, apart from The Last Shadow Puppets, I’ve not heard anything by him.  I can’t understand his ‘success’, the quotation marks suggesting, of course, that he hasn’t actually had any.  I’m a big fan of a lot of bands from Liverpool, from The Beatles up to now.  A lot of them had little to no success and some of those unsuccessful bands are my favourites: The Stairs and Shack, primarily.

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Miles Kane: check this twat out – he’s got all his mom’s jewellery on and, especially bad, his pedant is on the outside of his shirt.  I’m not into man jewels at all.  I’m not that into lady jewels to be honest, they just seem ostentatious.  To be fair, he seems like he has some reasonable taste in music but he’s still not fit to shine Edgar ‘Jones’ Jones’ shoes.

I made myself listen to it and, to be fair, the first fourteen seconds of it made me wonder if I’d not misjudged him because, although it’s a very straight sounding cover, it’s pretty good.  However, the instant he starts singing, I realised that I wasn’t going to have to change my opinion of him.  He’s not singing in French, which is reasonable, although I would have liked that better.  He’s singing in English, but not a translation of the neuroticism so wonderfully extolled by Lanzmann.   Well, he takes bits of them, the bits about how he doesn’t want to be like his Grandfather, mainly.  For the verses, Miles Kane’s written some new lyrics all by himself and guess what?  They’re absolutely fucking atrocious.

I have drugs
I have guns
I have bullets
I have sums+
I got no time to give a fuck…And if i have children i want them to be happy in life.

+The lyrics on the internet state that these aren’t the lyrics and say he’s singing he has drums, voice, songs, but they’re not what he’s singing.

Fucking doggerel, la.

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