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I like watching girls

Feb 17

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Tuesday, February 17, 2009  RssIcon

The early ‘80s are now seen as a golden period in English pop, but it doesn’t seem to have been a great time for French music. The Paris disco scene of the late-‘70s had faded away (to re-emerge in the 1990s as a profound influence on Daft Punk) while rock bands like Téléphone and Indochine were merely following whatever English bands had been doing years earlier.

In the background, though, The Clash’s 1981 Paris shows inspired kids like Manu Chao and Rachid Taha to dream up the sounds they’d produce in the late ‘80s and beyond. That series of concerts in the Theatre Mogador has become a creation myth for French rock music. Chao formed Mano Negra, perhaps the best French band ever. And backstage at the Mogador one night, the story goes, young Taha gave his demo tape to Joe Strummer. The following year The Clash released ‘Rock the Casbah’ – influenced directly by Taha, boast French music fans. This may well be true, as Mick Jones and Paul Simonon have often joined Taha on stage for his rousing Arabic version of the song.

Patrick CoutinSo, 1981 saw seeds sown in French music – but that harvest only comes many years later. From the music released at the time, as we said, there isn’t much that has endured. However, listening to the radio lately we discovered a rarity: a fine early-‘80s French single.

‘J’aime Regarder Les Filles’ (in English, “I like watching girls”) was a hit in 1981 for Patrick Coutin (right). Who? Well, he’s a French singer who hasn’t done anything else of note since then. But it doesn’t matter; one good song is one more than most acts can manage.

It’s an edgy, jittery sliver of punk-pop. The whole song hangs off a pulsing two-note bassline, with a sparse arrangement of guitar shards and very basic drumming. This sinewy sound sets up Coutin’s twitchy vocal delivery, which perfectly complements the lyrics about leering at girls. (Sample lyric: “I like watching girls walking on the beach/When they undress and pretend to be sensible/Their eyes asking ‘Who’s that guy?’”) The song teeters between strutting machismo and sinister perviness, and its catchiness has you humming along, making you complicit.

The song was recently covered by a French band called Astonvilla (one word), which conjures up a worrying mental image of Martin O’Neill at the beach with his binoculars out. Also, another mark of classic-pop-single status: it gets covered by contestants on TV talents shows.

There’s no video, which is probably just as well. So, while looking at a montage of the singer’s record sleeves, here’s ‘J’aime Regarder Les Filles’ by Patrick Coutin:

 

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Author

Aidan Curran, based in Paris, has been writing for CLUAS since 2004. More info about Aidan...

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