Jean-Jacques Perrey, was born in a little village in northern France, on January 20 1929, and received his first musical instrument, an accordion, when he was just 4, as a Christmas present. He would go on to teach himself to play the piano by ear, although he did once attempt to study music at the Amiens Conservatory, but was kicked out for violating school rules by performing in public.
Perrey must have had some sort of epiphany in Paris in 1952, after meeting inventor Georges Jenny. In 1941, the Frenchman had come up with the Ondioline, a very unique vacuum-tube powered electronic keyboard, suspended on special springs which made it possible to introduce a natural vibrato if the player moved the keyboard from side to side with their playing hand. The result was a beautiful, almost human-like expressive vibrato.
Perrey, who at the time was a student of medicine, must have realised that it was actually the science of electronic sound, that was really giving him a buzz, as opposed to the science of medicine. Upon that first meeting, Jenny must have enjoyed Perrey’s excitement towards this new instrument and actually gave him one to take home for six months, to see what someone with Perrey’s mind and talent could do with it. On the return, Jenny was quite impressed, and probably never heard anyone play it like he did. Perrey ditched his medical studies and Jenny hired him as a salesman and demonstrator of the new instrument. Out of these demonstrations grew a cabaret act in which Perrey played piano and Ondioline, at times simultaneously. Titled Around the World in 80 Ways, the show was quite popular and Perrey took it on tour throughout western Europe. Working the nightclub circuit, Perrey became acquainted with singer/songwriter Charles Trenet and also legendary jazz guitarist Django Reinhart, who he ended up recording several songs with, one of which, The Soul of a Poet, became a major hit in Europe.
One night after a presentation of the show, Perrey received the notice that someone wanted to talk to him at the bar. To his surprise this person was Jean Cocteau (and by the way, myself having a huge adoration for that artist, when this fact was revealed, my brain exploded a just a little bit). The influential poet gave Perrey the advice to go to the U.S. to follow his music career there. “He said there would be more possibilities and an audience for my approach to music. He asked for my phone number and told me he would hand it to somebody that he knew who could help me find the sponsor in New York I needed. He gave my contact to Édith Piaf!”
Piaf was already really interested in the sounds of the Ondioline, and took Perrey under her wings. They would bond, perform and record together, and she would pay for studio time that enabled Perrey to record his own compositions. But Piaf’s biggest contribution was to send one of these tapes to Carroll Bratman, a music contractor in New York City. Bratman responded immediately, sending plane tickets to Perrey with one word marked on the envelope: “Come!” He moved to the U.S. in March 1960 and stayed there for 10 great years.
Now be sure to watch the online footage of Perrey demonstrating his incredible musical vocabulary on the Ondioline, which was televised on the American I’ve Got A Secret show in 1960 and also in ’66. Quite remarkable to see the reactions for what must have been for the majority of the audience, their first steps into the new world of electronic music.
Also, before Perrey moved to the U.S. he did release two EP’s under the adopted persona of Mr. Ondioline around 59-60 for Pacific Records. The result may have been whimsical commercial pop bent into kooky novel shapes, but it’s probably that bizarre mysterious cover that makes this 7″ EP so sort! Crazy for it’s day!
Bratman built Perrey an experimental laboratory and recording studio, where he would he invent “a new process for generating rhythms with sequences and loops”, utilising the environmental sounds of musique concrète. Like a mad scientist, he’d spend endless hours, even weeks, splicing tape, and tape recorders with scissors, piecing and “looping” together a unique fantastical take on the future.
In 1965 Perrey met Gershon Kingsley, who you could say was a like minded contemporary German American composer, and a former colleague of *John Cage, and at the time was a staff arranger at Vanguard Records. There must have been a strong and obvious connection from the get go. They both shared each others way of musically thinking, way out side and far beyond any square. And it wasn’t long before they found themselves recording together in the Vanguard studios, which normally specialized in folk, and not in avant-garde. The end result of their first collaborative effort was The In Sound from Way Out! released in 66.
With Perrey’s tape loops, and his inventive melodies twinning together with Kingsley’s complementary arrangements and instrumentation, the album created, was filled with tunes that sounded like some kind of surreal animated cartoon from out-of-space gone berserk. And since this was decades before the advent of widespread digital technology, each tune took weeks of painstaking editing and splicing to produce. Their second and final collaborative effort came in 1967 with the release of Kaleidoscopic Vibrations: Electronic Pop Music From Way Out!, and although sounding similar in style, this release was particularly different in two ways. Firstly, most of he compositions were versions of popular songs of the day. And secondly, Perrey’s tape loops and effects were added in post-production after Kingsley’s orchestrations were recorded, a technique now commonly used by electronic artists to this day. Also the album was one of the first to use the new Moog modular synthesizer, a massive, complicated electronic instrument resembling an old-style telephone switchboard.
Kingsley continued to do his own work with the Moog, while Perrey joined with producer John Mack and arranger Dave Mullaney and their company, Laurie Productions, to compose and record, mostly for radio and television advertisements. Perrey recorded two more albums for Vanguard, The Amazing New Electronic Pop Sounds of Jean Jacques Perrey and the legendary sort after Moog Indigo in 1970.
The back cover liner notes to this far out LP read…”Without a ship Columbus could not have traversed the Atlantic, without a telescope Galileo could not have charted the solar system, and what the MOOG SYNTHESIZER opens up for the future of music is beyond dreams”. The enthusiastic proclamation would continue with…”The most amazing instrument is nothing without a mind behind it, and Jean Jacques Perrey’s mind is that of a combined musician and scientist, with a special love for what is happy and vital tin popular music. The way Paganini thought musically in terms of the violin, Perrey thinks musically in terms of the Moog”.
As you’ve probably guessed, there were some pretty great spaced out tracks laid down on this 12″ slab, and as expected from Perrey, cosmically twisted, fun and swinging. There’s the great opener Soul City that every space mod must have played on their Weltron 2007 while preparing a Martini, and also the dark and slinky Cat In The Night. But the real track here, that took Perrey to a new level of greatness, is of course E.V.A.!
Now I know this infamous track is nowadays quite well known, and not just amongst the vintage space pop fanatics, but it’s hard to believe that is was never to be officially released by Vanguard as a 7″ in the US. In fact even the UK had to wait two years for the first Moog Indigo single, and that wasn’t even EVA, but instead the loopy Gossipo Perpetuo with the title track on the flip! THANKFULLY the vanguard people over in Brazil had the sense to release it 3 years after it was recorded as a single and as featured here, a gorgeous EP picture sleeve, that actually runs at 33rpm.
This track is pretty special to me for a number of reasons. It played on the dance floor at Sounds of Seduction when I meet my wife many years ago, and it also played at our wedding and is featured on our Super 8 wedding video. It’s so smooth, it has beats, it has fuzz and Wah wah, and it even has bells…but most importantly, it has so much integrity! And while so many other Perrey recordings happily and contently sit back in that other time from the past, this unstoppable track is still soaring far ahead, smashing through electronic genres, only leaving a traces of space glitter on the occasional hip dance floor.
And so what does E.V.A. stand for? Well to tell you the truth, I don’t know, but it is a space term for extra-vehicular activity, so maybe that was a reference point?
Perrey returned to France in 1970 and became the musical director of a ballet company. He wrote and recorded music for a television commercials and a number of French cartoons, and released several albums of this music on the Montparnasse label. He also continued to work on music for therapeutic purposes, including one project that involved recording with dolphins in the waters near Vancouver, Canada. “It was remarkable,” Perrey says. “If you played sounds of a certain frequency, the dolphins began to swim in perfect circles.”
Perrey’s influence would reverberate for years – The In Sound from Way Out! inspired a tribute from the Beastie Boys, who borrowed both the album’s title and cover art for their own album 30 years later. But sadly, none of this translated into personal fortune. Perrey did not own the publishing rights to his music when it was licensed to Disney, while Stanley Kubrick was able to incorporate some of Perrey’s sound effects into 2001: A Space Odyssey for next to nothing. Perrey says: “Jean Cocteau told me, ‘Thirty years after I die, you will retire a rich man.’ Well, Cocteau died in 1963 and I haven’t been able to retire yet.”
I highly recommend this video interview by Richard Lawson from 2004!
Also great Perrey references here…
*John Cage, who was one of the leading figures of the post-war avant-garde, and is perhaps best known for his 1952 composition 4′33″, which is performed in the absence of deliberate sound. Musicians who present the work do nothing aside from being present for the duration specified by the title. The content of the composition is not “four minutes and 33 seconds of silence,” as is sometimes assumed, but rather the sounds of the environment heard by the audience during the performance.
*Photo credit to Marco Zanoni
Track 1 – Harley Davidson Track 2 – Contact
Brigitte Anne-Marie Bardot was born in Paris on 28 September 1934. Daughter to a very strict homemaker mother, Anne-Marie “Toty” Bardot and a wealthy industrialist Louis Bardot, she grew up in a middle-class Roman Catholic observant home, with her younger sister, Marie-Jeanne.
It was particularly tough for the young girls growing up with incredibly harsh, stringent parents. At one point in her young life, after an innocent playful incident, which lead to an accidental breakage of an expensive Chinese lamp, Brigitte was told by her parents, they would from that day on, disown her as a daughter, as she was to address them only in a formal way, as a stranger would. This alienated her for the rest of her life. Inwardly, Brigitte dreamed of escaping her rigid monitored world….and she would hunger for that missing love.
Her socially ambitious mother pushed her daughters to do well not only at school, but also at ballet. Brigitte had an adoration towards for dance, and progressed particularly well, however her younger sister, Marie-Jeanne didn’t share that passion, and eventually gave up the lessons and did not tell her mother. Brigitte worked hard with determined concentration, and in 1947, was accepted to the Conservatoire de Paris.
Gifted with ridiculous amounts of beauty, the young starlet was noticed during her ballet studies at 14, and was approached with offers of modelling, a direction her mother encouraged her daughter to follow. Soon she would have her first modelling experience in a fashion show in 1949. In the same year, she modeled for a fashion magazine Jardin des Modes and soon the stunning 15 year old appeared on the cover of the french edition of Elle magazine in March 1950.
Director and screenwriter Marc Allégret was captivated by this image of beauty, and ordered his assistant, who was a young upcoming rebel film director named Roger Vadim, to go out and find her. He tracked her down and Allégret quickly offered Bardot the opportunity to audition for Les lauriers sont coupés. There’s conflicting stories whether Bardot landed the role or not, but the film was cancelled, and it is certain that this opportunity made her consider becoming an actress. Vadim became immediately smitten by her pouty sensuality…Brigitte fell madly in love with this bad boy…she had never meet anyone like him before, and in 1952 the 22 year old became her husband. Her parents were infuriated, but funnily enough, the two newly weds had to spend their honeymoon night at her parents home, as they had no where else to stay. They were forced to sleep in separate rooms, and Bardot was not even permitted to kiss her new husband goodnight. But Bardot wasn’t too bothered…”we had our wedding night a long time ago”.
A new path had been laid out for Bardot, leading away from her early ballet desires…now it was a different stage and spotlight calling her name. 1952 saw the start of her acting career, and she would appear in obscure films, generally lightweight romantic dramas, some historical, in which she was cast typically as “Ingenue” or “Siren”, often appearing nude. But in ’57 she really became world-famous with the release of the Vadim’s controversial film Et Dieu créa la femme (And God Created Woman).
Vadim’s now infamous film was certainly the vehicle that launched Bardot into the public spotlight, immediately creating her “sex kitten” persona, making her an overnight sensation. When the film was released in the US, it pushed the boundaries of the representation of sexuality in American cinema, and most available prints of the film were heavily edited to conform with the prevailing censorial standards of 1957. The film was also condemned by the Catholic League of Decency. Bosley Crowther, the film critic for The New York Times, wrote, “Bardot moves herself in a fashion that fully accentuates her charms. She is undeniably a creation of superlative craftsmanship”.
A proper English TV journalist asked the vivacious but innocent Bardot about these sexy roles she was becoming famous for, “Do you really like doing these kind of films, or would you want to be a serious actor?”. B.B. replies “On no, I prefer this kind of films…I will be a serious actor when I get older”.
Vadim and Bardot separated in ’56 amidst rumors that Bardot was having an affair with her And God Created Woman co-star Jean-Louis Trintignant, but remained friends for the rest of Vadim’s life. He would later direct her in The Night Heaven Fell, and Don Juan, or If Don Juan Were a Woman.
Bardot would continue to follow her acting demands playing some very famous roles in new wave cinema. She later starred in Jean-Luc Godard’s 1963 masterpiece Le Mépris (Contempt) and Masculin Féminin in 66. Bardot was nominated for a BAFTA Award for Best Actress in a Leading Role for her part in Louis Malle’s 1965 film Viva Maria! Although she was in high demand in Hollywood, she continued to declined offers of filming in the US…she detested the way Marilyn Monroe was treated, a woman who she so much adored, and she didn’t have an enjoyable experience previously there. Eventually, Hollywood would accept her terms and they would have to come to France to film her, where she had a cameo in Hello Brigitte (which also starred Billy Mumy from Lost In Space fame, who apparently scored the first American on-screen kiss from the french beauty).
Bardot was appearing on record covers long before she first sang a note, and it’s pretty obvious the marketing strategy was aimed to appeal to the male audiences. She was plastered on covers for soundtracks to films she’s appeared in, unofficial tributes and promo records and of course, to her own musical efforts. Virtually everything Bardot-related is sort after, with collectors rarely distinguishing between albums merely depicting her likeness and ones on which she sings. But while there’s definitely a desirable kitsch and kookie wonderment about her recordings, I find that there’s a further unique beauty there, behind her stunning looks, that drew me in a long time ago, and which I have always obsessed over, for some time.
Bardot’s first 7″ vocal release was on the lullaby Sidonie, (delicate guitar work by Bardot) which was the first track on the Vie privée (A very private affair) EP in ’62, a film directed by Louis Malle which she herself starred in, alongside Marcello Mastroianni. This track was included alongside three instrumentals on a French EP issued by Barclay as well as a US single on MGM. An early version of “Sidonie” also appeared in the autumn of 1961 as part of issue 23 of ‘Sonorama’, the innovtive 7″-sized playable magazine which incorporated several flexidiscs to accompany the features. It’s such an adorable track…innocent, so gentle and so sweet!I love this side of Bardot!
Bardot had now signed to Philips, and the next year she would have two more Ep releases, Invitango and the great L’Appareil À Sous. The title track, penned by Gainsbourg (who was still concentrating on writing for other artists at this stage of his career), is a favourite upbeat dance floor spinner for me…1.24 mins. of french hip twisting mayhem! Her self titled debut album followed which was made available in two versions – a superb deluxe edition with a gatefold sleeve and a poster, and a standard single-sleeve album. The album contained a mix of styles and tempos, and included the beautifully strummed El Cuchipe sung in Spanish, and Everybody Loves My Baby sung in English.
The following couple of years she would continue to release fun pop french hits including Moi Je Joue (taken form her 64′ lp B.B) Bubble Gum in ’65, and the ever so dreamy Le Soleil in ’66, which had the fab off beat Gang Gang on the EP flip (these tracks were arranged by the British musical director Charles Blackwell, perhaps best-known for his work with Joe Meek in the early 60s).
In 1967, Gainsbourg was having some kind of an affair with Bardot, who was going through a difficult time with current husband, German businessman Gunter Sachs. One night in particular, Gainsbourg, who often was nervous around Bardot, drunk with his infatuation…and probably something more, made an ass of himself. And he was sure that this time, there was no hope in hell that Bardot would ever fall back into his arms. But Bardot’s request, as an apology, was that Gainsbourg write her the most beautiful love song he could imagine. That night he wrote two songs, Bonnie and Clyde, and also Je t’aime…moi non plus. They soon recorded an arrangement at a Paris studio in a two-hour session in a small glass booth, however, news of the recording reached the press and an angry Mr. Sachs! Bardot pleaded with Gainsbourg not to release it. He protested that “The music is very pure. For the first time in my life, I write a love song and it’s taken badly”.
But in 1969, Gainsbourg recorded a version with his new lover, Jane Birkin. The single had a plain cover, with the words “Interdit aux moins de 21 ans” (forbidden to those under 21), and would end up being banned in several countries owing to its sexual content. In the UK, it was released on Fontana Records, but, after reaching number 2, it was withdrawn for sale. Gainsbourg arranged a deal with Major Minor Records and on re-release it reached number one, the first banned number one single in the UK and the first single in a foreign language to top the charts. It stayed on the UK chart for 31 weeks. Bardot may have regretted not releasing her version, but she did give permission for a release of her Gainsbourg recording in 1986. With a slight re-edit, it was virtually ignored by the public, who were perfectly happy with the existing Jane Birkin version.
On New Year’s Eve 1967, French TV broadcast a special colour programme devoted to B.B. called Le Bardot Show. Filmed over several months between November and December, the 60 minute show was years before its time, and it effectively consisted of a collection of video-clips, which made an incredible impression on the French public. And this when audiences would first hear…and SEE, Bardot’s Harley Davidson. Phew! I can only imagine the thoughts that were going through both male and females minds when they first shared this moment. Yeah, she had the look, the big wild blonde waves, the tiny leather shorts and high boots, and her signature dark eyeliner, but the way she sang this, is just so defiant and…well…so Bardot (can’t think of any other way to describe it). I don’t need anyone…on a Harley Davidson…I no longer recognize anyone….on a Harley Davidson…I press the starter…and here is where I leave the earth…maybe I’ll go to heaven…but at top speed on a train from hell!
These songs were released on the soundtrack LP, Brigitte Bardot Show in ’68. Adding to the sexual appeal, Bardot was pictured on the sleeve of the LP (and the spin-off EP) virtually naked, but carefully masked by a layer of wrapping-paper. Fans declared the design a masterpiece. The flip to this iconic track is Contact, and I have to say that this track I find even more desirable, but I’m a sucker for 60’s psychedelic spaced out minimalist sitar flavored dance floor grooves! And I’ll never forget the first time I laid eyes on the film clip of Contact, with Bardot draped in Paco Rabanne!
Bardot retired in 1973, aged just 39, withdrew to her beloved Madrague, her retreat in St Tropez where she could dedicate herself to animals and a barefoot Mediterranean life. She would only leave her home to protest about animal rights (and make some ill-advised comments about immigration). Bardot’s passion for animals could be traced back to her childhood, a time when she transferred affection she missed from home, to whatever 4 legged creatures she could find. In 1986, she established the Brigitte Bardot Foundation for the Welfare and Protection of Animals, and would constantly meet with the French President and other world leaders to protest any case of cruelty towards animals. Bardot has never resorted to any cosmetic surgery, (as so many of her contemporaries have) and has retained her authenticity.
I know many of us were bitten by the BB phenomenon many years ago, but it’s always great to get these records out again and play them out, especially to the “hip kids”, that for some reason are new to her. Her songs always bring back fond memories of great times, and they can still get the punters dancing…and smiling! I think she was an amazing woman with a whole lot more going on than meets the eye! And still is quite beautiful.
Recommended reading and references…
Track 1 – 7 heures du matin Track 2 – Ce Soir Je M’en VaisBorn 1948 in Carthage, Tunisia, the young Taïeb arrived in France with her parents at age eight. Her father gifted her with a guitar at 12 (like every good dad should do) which she must have really connected with, because soon she would be composing her own songs. It wasn’t long before a talent scout would discover her while singing with friends. It was ’66, and what an exciting time it must have been for the perky 18 year old singer-songwriter, scoring a contract with the record label Impact, and then being quickly whisked away off to London for her first recording sessions.
1967 saw a string of 7″ releases for the now 19 year old Jacqueline, but it’s this debut EP release (in January) that she is most well worshiped for. All four songs on the EP were composed by the young singer herself, which you have to remember for that time, was quite rare, as most female singers were expected to perform songs that had been written for them, or perhaps covers of other popular high selling hits.
Though the lead track, the almighty ye ye classic 7 heures du matin, was only a small hit at the time, it has gone on to become considered a classic of the French girl pop genre. It is the story of a young student waking up too early, at 7am, on a Monday morning, struggling with the thoughts of what the day will throw at her. She fantasizes about her boy crush Paul McCartney, helping her complete her homework, while tormenting on which sweater to wear for the day. Obviously a girl who is after trouble, the rebellious girl even considers playing her Elvis record loudly just to upset the neighbors. I mean really…how cute is that!?
It’s a simple song, but a huge dance floor monster! With it’s Steppin’ Stone garage power chords and it’s rebellious Elvis meets The Who attitude, it’s freakin’ impossible no to adore this one! And obviously very high in demand in the collectors circle. This track really brings back some great memories of the Sounds Of Seduction nights we once were fortunate to encounter here in Sydney in the 90’s, hosted by the great Jay Katz, (a friend who is responsible for introducing me to so much great lost European dance and film music of the sixties). And this song was also the trigger to the beginnings of my Yeye obsession!