Bob Stanley and Pete Wiggs Present Paris In The Spring.

Label: Ace Records.

People across Europe were shocked when they saw the pictures in newspapers and reports on television of the civil unrest in May 1968, and couldn’t believe that Paris was burning and at one point, it looked as if the French government was about to fall. The police had lost control of the situation and were powerless as anarchy reigned in the French capital. Political commentators shook their head in disbelief that this had started with students occupation protests.

The students were protesting about everything from capitalism and consumerism right though to American imperialism. They all rallied against traditional institutions as well as values and order. French students were angry frustrated and had decided to make their presence felt as they raged against the machine.

Before long, an unlikely alliance was formed when the student’s strike spread to French factories and suddenly, eleven million people had withdrawn their labour for two weeks. This amounted to 22% of the population and had a disastrous and crippling effect on the French economy.

With the students, factory workers and high school students were now brothers in arms, and wildcat strikes taking place across France, the government knew they had to take actions. Especially as the students and factory workers took to the streets to protest and make their demands.

The students had a list of three things that they wanted to the government to agree to. They wanted all criminal charges against arrested students to be dropped; the police leave the university and the Nanterre and Sorbonne to be reopened. Prime Minister Georges Pompidou and his government considered these demands.

Meanwhile, President De Gaulle decided to mobilise the French police, who were told to quell the strikes. This had the opposite effect, and soon, there was a confrontation between the two sides on the ‘10th’ of May 1968. Pitched battles took place on the streets of Paris’ Latin Quarter, and before long, it was obvious that the police who were heavily outnumbered, were fighting a losing battle. Try as they may, the police couldn’t control the situation, and watched on, as Paris burnt and looting took place in parts of the capital.

After the riots, and what was perceived as a heavy-handed approach by the government, there was a huge wave of sympathy for the strikers. This lead to many French poets and singers joining forces with the strikers in a show of solidarity. and layer, a number of American musicians voiced their support for the protesters.

Three days later, on  May the ‘13th’ 1968 a million people marched through Paris, while the police kept a low profile. Meanwhile, Prime Minister Georges Pompidou announced the release of the prisoners and the reopening of the Sorbonne. This it was hoped would stabilise a situation that was rapidly getting out of control.

When the Sorbonne reopened, it was occupied by students who referred to the famous institution as an  autonomous “people’s university.” By then, public were supportive of the students, but this soon changed as the students started to speak of their plans to destroy the consumer society. This lead to public opinion turning against the utopianist students.

By the ‘17th’ of May 1968, there had been an increase in militancy and 200,000 people were on strike and this grew to two million on the ‘18th’ and ten million on the ‘19th’ of May. With the country at a standstill, the trade unions demanded a 35% increase in the minimum wage and 7% increase for other workers. However, within the protest movement the trade unionists weren’t popular, and were jeered.

Over the next twelve days, negotiations took place between the various sides, and eventually, on the ‘28th’ of May 1968, François Mitterrand of the Federation of the Democratic and Socialist Left announced that he was ready to form a new government. Just a day later, on the ‘29th’ of May 1968 Pierre Mendès France also announced that he was willing to form a government, and was wiling to include the communist party that had in excess of 20% of the vote. However, by then, there was a complicating factor.

On the ‘29th’ of May 1968 President De Gaulle had postponed his meeting of the Council Of Ministers, and fled France. This shocked the French nation, who watched as their country ground to a halt. 

It turned out that President De Gaulle had travelled to Baden Baden in Germany to visit General Jacques Massu. He managed to persuade President De Gaulle to returned  to France on the ‘30th’ of May 1968, as  500,000 people marched through Paris chanting “adieu, De Gaulle.”

Upon President De Gaulle’s return to France, the meeting of the Council Of Ministers took place, and he met Prime Minister Georges Pompidou. He persuaded President De Gaulle to dissolve the National Assembly, and call a new election by threatening to resign. This worked, and although President De Gaulle refused to resign during a broadcast on the ‘30th’ of May 1968, he announced an election for the ‘23rd’ of June 1968. When the communists agreed to the election, this was enough to stop a revolution in France.

May 1968 was one of the most turbulent in France’s modern history, and although there wasn’t a political revolution, a cultural revolution took place. Music in France was transformed after May 1968, and some of the music from this cultural revolution features on Bob Stanley and Pete Wiggs Present Paris In The Spring, which has just been released by Ace Records.

Bob Stanley and Pete Wiggs Present Paris In The Spring features twenty-three tracks, that range from chanson and jazz, to pop and tracks from film soundtracks. There’s contributions from Karl Heinz Schäfer, Bernard Lavilliers, Ilous and Decuyper, Brigitte Fontaine, Nino Ferrer, Françoise Hardy, William Sheller, Triangle, Jane Birkin, Serge Gainsbourg and Léonie on Bob Stanley and Pete Wiggs Present Paris In The Spring which was the start of a new chapter in French music. This new music was dark, broody, moody and ruminative and seemed to match the mood of the French people. In a way, the new music was the polar opposite to yé-yé music that provided to soundtrack to France earlier in the sixties.

Opening Bob Stanley and Pete Wiggs Present Paris In The Spring  is Karl Heinz Schäfer’s composition La Victime which is taken from his soundtrack to the film Les Gants Blancs Du Diable, which was released by Eden Roc in 1973. It’s a moody cinematic track with a Gallic seventies sound. Having said that it’s a timeless track that has stood the test of time and sounds just as good forty-five years later.

Four years after Janko Nilovic released his debut album Psych Impressions in 1969, the Montenegrin-French arranger, composer, conductor, musician, producer and vocalist returned  in 1973 with his fifth album Supra Pop Impression on the Editions Montparnasse 2000 label. It featured Roses And Revolvers which was a genre-melting track where Janko Nilovic and his band combined funk, jazz, psychedelia and rock during a quintessentially French sounding track that could only have been recorded in the seventies.

In 1972, Ilous and Decuyper released their debut single L’Elu on the nascent Flamophone label. Later in 1972, Ilous and Decuyper returned with their much-anticipated eponymous debut album  and one of the highlights was the pastoral sounding L’Elu. It featured a carefully crafted keyboard led arrangement and featured harmonies that suggested a Simon and Garfunkel and Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young. Despite the English and American  inferences L’Elu was an  undeniably French sounding release. Sadly, Ilous and Decuyper never released another album and their eponymous debut album and single L’Elu are to be cherished.

After releasing two highly regarded albums, Brigitte Fontaine returned with Brigitte Fontaine Est…Folle in 1968. It was released on the Saravah label, and was Brigitte Fontaine’s first album after turning her back on ye-ye. Brigitte Fontaine Est…Folle which featured Dommage Que Tu Sois Mort was a very different album, that included ambitious and innovative music which saw Brigitte Fontaine  successfully embrace avant-garde. 

Having worked on two soundtracks with Serge Gainsbourg, Jean-Claude Vannier decided the time had come for him to embark upon a solo career. Just a year later in 1972, Jean-Claude Vannier released his debit solo album L’Enfant Assassin Des Mouches on the Suzelle label. Critical acclaim accompanied this groundbreaking album which featured Les Gardes Volent Au Secours Du Roi. However, it’s an alternate version of this moody disconcerting track that is included, and is a reminder of Jean-Claude Vannier’s seminal genre-melting album which belongs in any self-respecting record collection.

When Nino Ferrer released Nino And Radiah on CBS in 1974, it featured many of his own compositions including Looking For You. It also featured ‘actress’ and vocalist Radiah Frye who would later forge a career as a disco singer. However, in 1974, one of the finest songs on Nino And Radiah was Looking For You where effects were deployed effectively to create a sensuous and soulful song.

By 1971, Françoise Hardy’s recording career was nearly a decade old, when she released her eponymous debut album on the Sonopresse label. Her career began in 1962, and nine years later the twenty-seven year old multilingual singer was a vastly experienced singer. Françoise Hardy was her eleventh album and featured the beautifully orchestrated song Viens where the chanteuse delivers a breathy sensual vocal.

William Sheller was born in Paris, but grew up in Ohio which was home to his father. Later, William Sheller returned to France where he studied music at the Paris Conservatoire. This training he put to good use when he wrote and released several baroque psych singles including Leslie Simone in 1969 which was one of William Sheller’s finest hours.

In 1973, English actress and singer Jane Birkin released her debut album Di Doo Dah on Fontana, which was produced by Alain Hortu. Much of the album was written by Serge Gainsbourg who collaborated with Jean-Claude Vannier to write Encore Lui. It features a breathy, sensual vocal from English rose turned femme fatale Jane Birkin.

During a lengthy career, Serge Gainsbourg was no stranger to the world of soundtracks, and in 1969 he was asked to write the soundtrack to the comedy Slogan. In June 1969, Serge Gainsbourg et Jane Birkin released the single La Chanson De Slogan which was billed as Bande Originale Du Film “Slogan.” On the B-Side was the instrumental ruminative instrumental Evelyne which has Serge Gainsbourg’s name written all over it.

Two years after winning the Eurovision Song Contest in 1965 with Poupée de cire, poupée de son, former ye-ye singer France Gall released the Teenie-Weenie-Boppie EP in late 1967. It featured Pour Que Tu M’aimes Un Peu which the following year, featured on Frances Gall’s new album 1968. By 1968, the twenty-one year old had turned her back on ye-ye and was in the process of reinventing herself musically. Frances Gall was hoping that her music would attract a more mature audience and this would help prolong her career. Sadly, after the May uprising, France Gall’s record sales and popularity fell and the former ye-ye singer was no longer as popular as she once was. That was despite releasing songs of the quality of Pour Que Tu M’aimes Un Peu which are a reminder of truly talented singer, France Gall. 

Romy Schneider and Michel Piccoli released La Canzone D’Helene as a single on Phillips in 1970. It’s taken from the soundtrack to La Choses De La Vie which was also released in 1970. It finds Romy Schneider singing the beautiful, heart-rending love song La Canzone D’Helene to Michel Piccoli, and this is the perfect way to close Bob Stanley and Pete Wiggs Present Paris In The Spring.

The events of May 1968 transformed France politically, and also resulted in a cultural revolution. After that, French music was never the same again, and seemed to have been shaken to its very foundations. It seemed that the uprising in May 1968 acted as a catalyst, and was also a force for good that brought about much-needed change.

Over the next few years, French music became much more eclectic, as artists and groups released albums of ambitious and innovative music. Proof of that can be found on Ace Records new compilation Bob Stanley and Pete Wiggs Present Paris In The Spring which features everything from avant-garde, baroque psych, chanson, funk, jazz, pop, psychedelia, rock, soul and even a couple of tracks from soundtracks. Bob Stanley and Pete Wiggs Present Paris In The Spring features a tantalising taste of what was a brave new world for French music. 

Suddenly, French artists, arrangers, composers and producers realised that they had been left behind and their British and American counterparts had stolen a march on them. Not any more, as albums of groundbreaking music were released by artists and groups who seemed to be reinvigorated after the events of May 1968 shook up the old order and nearly resulted in a political revolution. 

While French protesters stopped short of a revolution, there was a cultural revolution which meant that music was never the same again. It was the start of a brave new world when anything seemed possible for French musicians who are celebrated on Bob Stanley and Pete Wiggs Present Paris In The Spring, which is another lovingly curated compilation from Ace Records, where the emphasis is on quality.

Bob Stanley and Pete Wiggs Present Paris In The Spring.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: