Lili Boule de Gomme

This was the other song that Jean-Paul Boissard wrote out for me during the Columbus stop-over on his seeing America trip in the ’70s. My attempt at a singable English version did not get as far as with J’ai Mis le Feu, but I still retain a fair sense of the meaning. Maybe someday. The narrator is a young woman who has different identities in the different verses, all having to do with movie idol fueled fantasies. It starts out with her as Lili Boule de Gomme, (Lili Gumball, or Bubble-gum.) “I’m 13 but I look 20.” Then she is Brigitte Boule de Gomme (“I’m 20, but I don’t look it”), then Marylin Boule de Gomme (“I am dead, but I never age”).

Here is one of several videos of a Paul Boissard tribute concert at his home club in Picardy, about 10 years ago. Lili appears at about 16:45. Here it was sung by a young girl, which made it extra poignant. She didn’t really get older as the song went on, though. Then everyone starts singing along at the end. This brings tears to my eyes every time. I used to think I might be the only person in the world that knew this song. Everyone knows this song.

Regarder la vidéo «20 ans dans la lune 1» envoyée par François sur dailymotion.

And here’s a recording of Paul

(lyrics:) Je m’appelle Lili boule de gomme J’ai treize ans mais j’en parais vingt D’ailleurs l’âge ça ne compte pas Au fond des salles de cinéma Je m’appelle Lili boule de gomme J’aime les hommes qui ont des gros bras Des moustaches comme mon papa Et qui m’emmènent au cinéma Quand arrive l’entracte Et qu’ils me payent un esquimau Mes rastacouères rougissent de trac Et je leur dis ces tendres mots Je m’appelle Brigitte boule de gomme J’ai vingt ans mais je les parais pas Du talent comme on n’en fait pas Et je veux faire du cinéma Je m’appelle Brigitte boule de gomme Et je danse souvent les pieds nus Dans la chambre pleine d’inconnus Que je rencontre au cinéma Je suis le monstre de ma voisine Quand je chante avec mes héros Et que je joue la fin du film En leur disant ces tendres mots Je m’appelle Marylin boule de gomme Et je me tourne dans les draps D’une nuit qui ne finit pas A la sortie du cinéma Je m’appelle Marylin boule de gomme Je suis morte mais je ne vieillis pas Dans le film quand je dis aux soldats Je vous en prie n’y allez pas Ils vous tueront tous là-bas Restez encore auprès de moi.

Finding and losing an old friend.

Merde. Pour un moment j’ai pense que j’avais trouve mon viel ami de quelques jour, Jean Paul Boissier. Mais, peut etre il est mort.
 
Back in the mid-70’s I was living in a crumbling Civil War era mansion with a lot of people, so things would occasionally happen in spite of my near autistic state. (I still live in this house in my dreams, trying to reconcile the background knowledge that we were driven out when it was torn down for OSU hospital parking space.)
 
Somehow, we ended up with a hitch-hiker from France staying with us for awhile. Why he was in Columbus, OH I’m not sure, but he found the right place if you had to be there. Turned out he was a songwriter, and at some point he undertook to teach me a couple of his songs. I still have them as they were written down and annotated in an old notebook, which I have to search through all my old notebooks to find whenever I try to learn them again. Somehow, between his very little English and my even smaller French he explained most of the images to me. Ah, je vois, ce n’est pas une lyric ordinaire. It took some similes and hand gestures, vraiment.
J’ai mis le feu, I set the fire, you know, the fire in the skull, like when you get sick… faiset mes poubelles, you know, garbage, [gestures of digging through something with one’s hands.]


J’ai mis l’feu by PaulBoissard

Current state of translation

the other song: Lili Boule de Gomme

I guess that took up most of our indoor time, I don’t think I ever got to teach him one of my songs. Well, I hardly could teach them to myself around then. I don’t remember much else about his visit. Some black hashish rolled with tobacco, some walking in the sunshine in the big field behind the Hospital Cafeteria, some passing the guitar back and forth, some big smiles.

I proclaimed my intention to write an English translation of the songs and he was all for that, then he could be a big hit on two continents. But, he didn’t keep in touch and I didn’t know how to reach him. I always pictured myself going to France one day and looking around and there he would be playing on a street corner. I let the time pass as if shutting my eyes tight enough would leave me where I was with all possibilities still intact. A couple years earlier, I would have just grabbed my backpack and hitched along.


I did end up learning and sometimes performing that one of the two songs, and finally a couple decades later I achieved a singable English version. Well, I guess I’m still working on it. Not quite satisfied. In recent years I looked for him on the internet a few times, with no success. Last night (early this morning) I was laying in bed sleepless again, and a long FaceBook chat in French with another non-French speaker led to my thinking about the song, failing to remember all of either the French or the English version. After a few hours I got up again, opened a beer and put the entire first line of the song into the Google box and there was a video result right at the top of the page. There could be a lot of “mis le feu” songs I supposed, but in the summary I could see the lyrics going on… those same ones that I thought I might be the only one who knew. …le seule solution…” It was a slightly different version, in 4 instead of waltz time, piano instead of guitar… but this is the song. (not really a video, just an audio recording with a picture of a fire to accompany it.) And that led to a whole page of videos of songs by Paul Boissier. (I guess they dropped the “Jean” at some point.) Damn, I thought, the sucker went and became functional in society. This led to finding both a Facebook and MySpace page, and I was excitedly getting ready to write to him when I read in the blurb on one of them something to the effect of (loosely tryanslating and from memory): “Gone too soon, before the inevitable national acclaim. They went on: Paul Boissard a marqué toute une génération de musiciens et poètes picards.”


I also found video and articles about a 20th anniversary celebration in 2007 for a collective cabaret named La Lune des Pirates, after one of Jean Paul’s songs. One of the nights of the anniversary was a Tribute to Paul Boissier. I guess that he had but to personally hand a song to the right person (here and there) to have it cared for and kept alive. No record company or publicity machine required.


I can’t find info on why he may have died. Later, I found on the main page of his DailyMotion site where they say he died some 20 years ago. This may have something to do with why the photos look pretty much like I remember him. But, I guess he made his mark. He lived.


et moi? “Maintenant, je reve sur des cendres… “-

Paul Pages:

http://www.correzitude.fr/GUDI/ILNOUSPROMENESURLAGUITARE.html

http://www.dailymotion.com/PaulBoissard

 

Night Music clips on yootoob

Surprising music show, maybe the coolest ever, even. And in the ’80s, of all places. I just happened to think there might be better clips on the internet by now than I could find on my couple of moldering video tapes. And sure enough, here’s
one treasure trove:

And the preview, some Funky Chicken. (I thought Rufus was my ‘celebrity sharing a birthday’, but all his bios I’m seeing now say a day earlier). But there’s so much more. Pharoah Sanders. NRBQ. Loudon. Toots. Bootsy. And, People who weren’t even alive.

PABL009 – Yola My Blues Away – Skip James (1931)

How many copies of the same records does a person need? When it comes to those mysterious and timelessly great Paramount blues records of the late ’20’s, as many as it takes. Back when we started listening to them, there would be only one source available and it would be barely audible. But, there’s no doubt that the very challenge of hearing through all those pops, crackles and hisses made us hear all the more for the effort. And the enshrouding noise enhanced the romance and air of mystery. But despite all that, there remained the nagging questions about just what notes were being played on those distant guitars; and the enduring fantasy: what if I could be there and really hear Charley Patton play and sing?

The earliest re-releases of the 78’s generally involved turning the treble down to reduce the scratchiness. Sometimes way too far down. They pre-digital Yazoo releases sometimes did different eq’s on each side of the stereo groove, sometimes to good effect. That label had the best releases, and to my ear still does a lot of the time. They get access to the best originals, and use good turntables and stylii (current transfer masters have many custom stylii of different diameters to touch different parts of the groove wall so they can find the sweet spot on different records), getting the best out of the mechanical processes before going digital.

Some of the biggest disappointments have been releases from the Columbia Roots & Blues series, which was so exciting because they actually have the original metal master parts in their vaults. But, in spite of working from these pristine sources, they seemed to feel the need to over-process, with the decisions left too much to the software, until every last trace of noise is gone but with much of the feel of the music along with it. The sound is thin and, to me, often annoying.

Well, here’s yet another guy jumping into the digital remastering pool, and with yet another approach and to different effect. Andrew Rose at Pristine Audio is working over a number of the greats.

http://www.pristineaudio.co.uk/

He is doing what he calls ‘digital heavy lifting’, working over individual phrases and moments in detail. Patching broken waveforms, working detailed multiple eq’s to try to make the guitar sound like what he thinks the guitar would have sounded like in person. In other words, remaking the record rather than trying to present it as is in best condition. These opposed approaches have advocates who will argue the issue in great detail at endless length. I’ll listen to both and wonder.

These records feature selections, rather than the ‘complete in chronological order’ programs that some labels attempt. He doesn’t have access to those ‘best copies available’ original discs, and has to content himself to working from other peoples’ transcriptions from varying sources. That, unfortunately, means that all that hard work is on top of a flawed foundation. Like all other versions before it, this can not be thought of as the ultimate. I’ll just have to keep buying every new remastering that comes along, I guess.

These records offer a listening experience that is decidedly worth pursuing, though. There are some nuances of the performance that are far easier to grasp than ever before. And, a great sense of presence to be sure. To my ear, there is just a bit of constriction to the sound; the Yazoo versions exist in a more natural ‘space’, and are ultimately slightly more satisfying emotionally. But, there are definitely revelations to be had from Mr. Rose’s Pristine work. And, if you’re trying to work out a Charley Patton guitar part, this might get you a little closer view of the genius.

Happy Birthday, Pete

Pete Seeger, 90 years old today. His generation (including my parents) seem to have the market on longevity (while my generation is dropping like flies, already); but not even that many of his fellow WWII survivors were out standing upright and playing the banjo in the freezing cold of this year’s January. Let alone doing it in front of the President-elect, in the city that tried to throw him in jail 55 years earlier.

Pete testifying:

The testimony:

http://www.peteseeger.net/HUAC.htm

Here’s one place playing some music for the occasion:
http://www.downhomeradioshow.com/2009/05/pete-seeger-turns-90-happy-birthday/
I don’t have the time or strength to write the book on Pete right now. Heck, that would mean catching up with what he’s been up to, when there’s no one who could even keep up with him. There was a very nice biography on him broadcast on PBS last year, and it showed me many things about his life I had either never heard or forgotten over the years. I guess he never much focused on telling us his own story, except as it related to his telling of other people’s stories, and their telling of their own. By the end of the movie, I was saying, “I take back any of the nasty things I’ve had to say about Pete over the years.” Not that I ever stopped being his fan, but I certainly saw some weaknesses between when I got into the whole earlier folk movement in my early teens, and when I learned so much more about the more rootsy original versions that inspired it. Not that I would take kindly to any ignorant punk putting him down. But, sure, Pete’s blues weren’t that bluesy. His easy-going approach to other languages turned ‘mbube’ into ‘wimoweh’ in most of the world’s mind. he would choose ideology over aesthetics repeatedly.
Still, I see now, he is authentic as any of those sources. He has been the most whatever the heck he is that anyone could possibly be. He got every drop out of it. Unflagging effort, unsullied virtue, untiring seeking and sharing. Love, peace, justice, universal brotherhood of man. School drop-out, hobo, protester, cabin-building rural independant… if it weren’t for his shunning of drugs, alcohol and free sex he would indeed be the prototypical hippie.
One of the most amazing and mysterious things about his history is his effect on popular culture. he has spent most of his life not only not pursuing fame and commercial success, but attacking the very concepts. And yet, he keeps coming back to the ‘top of the charts’ decade after decade. Talk about the weeds cracking the sidewalk.
I guess there should be some mention of the star-studded spectacular, though I’m not that hot on it. He’s spending tonight at Madison Square Garden with Bruce Springsteen and Eddie Vedder, etc. and certainly not that happy at the prospect. “I’ve already had too much publicity”, he says. But, it’s going to raise a lot of money for his pet project of keeping a sloop sailing the Hudson, raising awareness for its’ cleanup. He had this idea a long time ago; and it happened.