Four of the best from France and Belgium

Plastic Bertrand

Plastic Bertrand (Photo credit: Magalie L’Abbé)

On my first trip to France as an adult I went into a record store (this was in early 1980s when music was only available on vinyl or cassettes, before CDs and MP3s were even invented) because I wanted to buy some French rock that I could take home to Zimbabwe, where I was studying French at university but had little exposure to the language. So I went into what I must have thought was a cool store where the guy behind the counter was playing some rock himself – I didn’t want any disco crap! I explained that I was new to French music but liked rock, and suggested that an album by Plastic Bertrand might be the answer. Plastic had had a huge hit in 1978 called Ça Plane Pour Moi“, it was kind of punky and it had even made the top 10 in conservative, English-speaking Zimbabwe.

Cover of "Au Coeur De Nuit"

Cover of Au Coeur De Nuit

The salesman was horrified. “Non, non! You can’t buy Plastique Bertrand, that eez not rock musique, vraiment, I wheel not allow it. You haff to buy theese….” He went over to the racks and pulled out the album Au Cœur De La Nuit by a band called TéléphoneI rather reluctantly allowed myself to be persuaded and bought it, but he still would not let me by the Plastic Bertrand album. Still, I have a lot to thank that salesman for. Téléphone were a great band, I really enjoyed that album and I have bought most of their material ever since. Even my mates at university who were not studying French enjoyed listening to them. Here are two songs from that 1980 album, the title track (which translates as In the Heart of the Night) and a live TV performance of 2000 Nuits (2000 Nights)

Great punky stuff! I would have to say, though, that my favourite track from Téléphone, is the slightly more mellow and refined title track to their 1984 album Un Autre Monde (Another World), which unfortunately was their last studio release. The words are on the clip below, so this can be your language lesson. Sing along in French, please.

So, what about Plastic Bertrand? If you read the Wikipedia entry here you will see that in fact it wasn’t him singing on that famous hit after all. Nevertheless, regardless of what that salesman in the record shop I visited in Paris thought of that song, he would have to admit that probably no other chanson in French (or mostly French) since has managed to penetrate the music charts in as many English-speaking countries as Ça plane pour moi did. So it really was quite an achievement. Here it is again. Check out those dance moves from the king of the divan!

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