Sunday, 20 February 2011

Padam, Padam, Pa-fucking-dam

I looked into the blackness and asked if everything was all right. I didn't really care one way or the other, but I was curious. We'd played six songs so far and the only reaction was a clapping clatter of the sort you might hear at a village cricket match when the away team scores two runs. I could tell that a good time was not being had. During the preceding number it had briefly crossed my mind that I've seen people having more fun at just about every funeral I've ever attended. I thought perhaps a tragedy of some sort had struck the audience and we'd somehow missed it.
I wasn't ready for the response:
Le son est affreux...
Le sono est terrible...
Les instruments sont trop fort - on ne peut pas entendre les paroles...
The sound is awful - the PA is terrible - the instruments are too loud, one can't hear the lyrics.
I wanted to be nice about - that is, I didn't want the evening to end early and on a sour note, and for us to leave without getting paid. I wanted to say "Are you fucking stupid? You're all French, most of you don't understand English which is the language we're singing in, and you wouldn't understand the lyrics if they climbed up the seam of your fleece and bit you on the ear."
But that would never do.
Instead I started to say "Well, you would think that because you see, you're French, and this is rock 'n' roll and you don't really understand it - in fact you're barely qualified to even listen to it".
But I was getting into deep water with that so I changed tack and gently explained that the lyrics don't actually mean anything, they're just a noise that goes along with everything else, the sound of the instruments and so forth, so in fact they weren't actually missing anything at all. Then I pushed the master fader up on the PA so that there was a slight, desperate ring of feedback, and we carried on, louder and slightly more insecure than before.
I think you would have had to have been deaf as a fucking coot and psychologically blocked not to hear the singing. After we'd finished we met up with the remaining members of the audience, the ones that hadn't fled to God knows what personal misery they spend their time wallowing in, the well-balanced ones, the ones that like us. We were assured that the sound was good, perfect even.
It hurts me to see Amy leave the stage depressed and feeling like jacking it all in. But it happens every time we play in France. We perform in front of scowling people, fingers in their earholes, pain and bewilderment on their faces. I can only think they're too stupid to realise that they could actually leave. A cretinous man approached us at one place and asked us to turn down. "You sing very well, and the madamoiselle too" he added, "but the instruments are too loud - we can't hear ourselves talking well enough to hold a conversation."
We've been expected to carry on while moronic French skinheads sing rugby songs and Padam Padam Pa-fucking-dam, while people clatter in and out of the door as though it was a bus station, tossing a glance of total incomprehension (of everything in the whole bloody universe) our way as they pass in front of us. We've even had a four year old yelling at us to stop while his horrible family held a noisy birthday party for him, oblivious to the small but appreciative, and increasingly irritated audience that had come to hear us play.
France doesn't deserve us and I don't know what we've done to deserve France.

But at least France doesn't know, or care who we are. So for a brief while it doesn't matter that I'm not allowed to be me on Facebook any more.

11 comments:

  1. Ah, that reminds me why I left France and moved to New York 40 years ago...

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  2. For a known impostor, you did a wonderful job of imitating Wreckless Eric's authorial voice, with its overtones of black irony and wounded romanticism. Well done!

    Clearly you're fed up with rural France, and I hope you find a place to live that appreciates your particular genius.

    Sadly, I do think that the problem of declining audience attention is a universal one. In the States, it's people who are absolutely mesmerized by their electronic devices, and keep talking throughout your set because they're used to maintaining a dozen conversations all at once.

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  3. By the way, I suspect the issue with Facebook is that they would want you to create a "Fan Page" for Wreckless Eric and keep the current Eric Goulden page as a personal Facebook page (for people who actually know you in the three dimensional world). Fan Pages are for bands, celebrities, large corporates, etc.

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  4. The French audiences aren't exactly inattentive and some of the audience members are really into what we're doing. It's just that there are always these other people there who just don't get it because they don't get out and about enough.

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  5. Yeah, it sounds like a lot of these people don't get the basic concept of a rock 'n roll concert. You'd think that people in France would have extensive experience from all those Plastic Bertrand shows over the years. Are they paying a cover charge to get in? That's one way to sort out the people who really want to see you vs. the ones who are just out for a night on the town.

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  6. I always thought Mr. B. was a Belgian?

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  7. Old Plastic possibly was Belgian. On the subject of Belgians I heard that Johnny Halliday was trying to claim Belgianess as a ploy to avoid paying income tax in France. Some twat at Stiff Records (Alan Cowderoy actually) gave me a double album of Plastic Bertrand, told me to listen to it and see if I could write some songs a bit like what Plastic was doing. They were cool people those Stiff cats - really down with the music etc...

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  8. Any thoughts of doing a tour of the states? I don't see many good acts this way (in So Cal)and missed most of the Brit punks and new wave in the '70s. Saw most of the local punks live (@ The Whiskey, Hong Kong Gardens, Masque, etc.) and would love to see a revival. My all-time favorite is "33s and 45s"; yes, I used to put the coolest records at the front of the stack! don the dxguy

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  9. Didn't the 'turn it down' movement start in Joe's Garage?
    The most satisfying case of turn it down I had was the guy saying "you'll have to turn it down, you're making the optics leak"
    Ah, spirit liberating bass lines. Obviously I turned the knob down in one degree increments until I got the nod to say the haemorrhaging had stopped. Smelled nice at the bar.

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  10. hahaha i have tears in my eyes from laughing so hard!

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