Straight to No.1 – the Renaud revival is in full swing

A fortnight ago I wrote in anticipation of a revival of interest in the music of the great French gruff one, Renaud. More specifically, that 15 artists under the moniker of La Bande à Renaud had recorded his best-known songs on an album, and that the first single from it, Mistral Gagnant by Coeur de Pirate, had entered the French top 50.

The following week the signs weren’t so good: Mistral Gagnant dropped nine places from 47 to 56. I grew morose. “Bernardo, you are out of touch,” I told myself. “You’re living in the past. Nobody likes Renaud anymore.”

Wrong, wrong, wrong! The album has just debuted at No. 1 on the French chart, and Mistral Gagnant has zoomed into the top 20 singles – at number 13, actually. “Bernardo, you’re bloody brilliant,” I now tell myself. “You are so on the ball. You don’t just anticipate trends, you don’t just set trends, you’re, like, so far ahead the Hubble telescope has trouble tracking you. Take a bow, Bernardo!” (Long pause while Bernardo tries to take a bow but his big stomach gets in the way and it’s all a bit of a strain).

Here is an extract of the details from the French music charts blog:

  • We have a brand new Number One in this week’s French albums chart, as La Bande A Renaud enters straight to the top. Like the two volumes of Génération Goldman for Jean-Jacques Goldman, some artists (such as Coeur De Pirate, Jean-Louis Aubert, Nolwenn Leroy, or Carla Bruni to name a few) sing Renaud‘s best-known songs. Since the first French albums chart was published in January 1985, Renaud got six chart-topping LPs, with Mistral Gagnant (for four weeks in January 1986), Putain De Camion (for two weeks in April 1988), A La Belle De Mai (for two weeks in November 1994), Boucan D’Enfer (for five weeks in June and August 2002), Rouge Sang (for two weeks in October 2006), and Molly Malone Balade Irlandaise (for two weeks in November and December 2009). Renaud‘s compilation Le Plein De Super ! re-enters at number 31.

On the singles chart, another song that I have been raving about, Black M‘s Sur Ma Route, has spent its second week at the top of the charts.

It hasn’t all be great news for La Bande à Renaud, though. The second single from the album, and the one on which they all perform, Dès Que Le Vent Soufflera, conveniently poitioned for you at the top of this post, has barely made an impression – after four weeks on the charts it drops from 96 to 107. Meanwhile, Renaud’s original version of Mistral Gagnant has re-entered the charts at 111. It will be interesting to see whether these songs go up or down next week. You can listen to Coeur de Pirate and Renaut’s new and old versions of Mistral Gagnant here.

For fun, I thought I would chuck in some covers of Renaud’s songs by other artists.

Here the sad ballad, Manu, gets some raw rock treatment from Zephyr 21.

Vanessa Paradis and Maxime Le Forestier did an acclaimed version of Mistral Gagnant way back 1998.

Italian singer Alessio Lega often adapts French songs into Italian, including these three by Renaud.

The Renaud song that seems to be covered most by other artists is Hexagone, (from 1975) probably because of its political venom – it is a sarcastic, brutal assessment of the flaws of the French people, going through their trivial pursuits month by month. On La Bande à Renaud, the task of updating it fell to Nicola Sirkis, the lead singer of Indochine.

There have been rap versions of this too, but for me none beats Renaud’s original. I have chosen a clip whose images will give you some idea of what he’s going on about.



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