Friday, 11 September 2015

The New Bob Dylan #1

After Bob Dylan triggered a passion for pop protest in 1964/65, as I write in Electric Shock, the music 'became a debating chamber for social and political issues which ranged from the banal to the apocalyptic. Every nation seemed to have its Bob Dylan . . . all young, angry, politically committed, controversial.'

Nowhere was that more apparent than in France, where Pierre Antoine Muraccioli - better known to his fans simply as Antoine - took on the mantle of becoming the Parisian equivalent of Bob Dylan's electric incarnation. His scattershot, frenzied 1966 single, 'Les Elucubrations' (which translates roughly as 'Feverish Dreams'), was a blatant attempt to mimic the beatnik politics and rock'n'roll swagger of Dylan's 'Subterranean Homesick Blues'.

Like Sonny & Cher's 'I Got You Babe' from the previous year, the song began with a complaint that people kept asking Antoine to cut his hair - which, to be fair, was long by 1966 standards, even alongside the likes of Doug Sahm or the Pretty Things' singer, Phil May. From there, Antoine savaged French accordion star Yvette Horner, pleaded guilty to murdering a woman on the grounds that he loved her, and satirized the predictability of local pop hero Johnny Hallyday, suggesting that he'd be more at home in the circus.

Hallyday, too often dismissed in Britain as a French joke rather than a trend-surfing participant in all things 1960s, immediately responded with the equally outspoken 'Cheveux Longs et Idees Courtes'. (In the same way, folkie Tom Paxton had rounded on his friend and fellow Greenwich Village veteran Bob Dylan in an article entitled Folk Rot.) Hallyday's lyric was an all-purpose assault on the banality of pop protest, which namechecked the conflict in Vietnam long before any English-speaking rocker dared to do so in song. Only Sonny Bono's joyously incoherent 'The Revolution Kind' could match him for counter-revolutionary fervour.

To accompany the live Antoine clip above, here's Hallyday from French TV, looking remarkably like the Elvis Presley who would make a TV comeback himself in 1968. He and Antoine continued to spar with each other at long distance for the remainder of the decade, long after Bob Dylan had withdrawn from the fray into the seclusion of Woodstock.

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