Readers recommend playlist: songs about France and French things

Our reader has listened to your suggestions and picked tunes from Debbie Harry, Jean Ferrat and Black Box Recorder among others

Here is this week’s playlist – songs picked by a reader from hundreds of suggestions on last week’s callout. Thanks for taking part. Read more about how our weekly series works at the end of the piece.

It’s fair to say that the UK and France haven’t always been the best of neighbours. That said, I do think there’s a certain unique, mutual love and admiration – they send us their cheese and wine; in return we send M&S and decent music. France and French things in general have inspired some great songs. My selection is both something of a compare and contrast exercise and a little amuse-bouche to tickle those musical taste buds.

Listen to the playlist on YouTube.

Where better to start than with the French national anthem? Fortunately, Slovenian group Laibach provide a handy translation of some of the words in their industrial version of La Marsellaise, Francia, so we can enjoy the gruesome lyrics in English too.

Like many a romantic, Alice Gold dreams of being a Runaway Love and fleeing to Paris (“Have you ever been to Paris in March? / Done the Eiffel Tower and the Arch”). Like many British people, she’ll probably have to make do with a weekend in a caravan in Skegness. Worse still, her paramour could, like Ani DiFranco’s, turn out the be a real Napoleon: short in stature but big in bad attitude.

They should have listened to the Studio Killers, who would have informed them that All Men Are Pigs. It is, as they say, a “poo poo world” at times. Or put more eloquently in a previous verse: “I believe in Simone de Beauvoir / I believe that life’s a film noir.”

After that bit of European electropop, it’s time to head back over the Channel, turn on the radio and groove to Black Box Recorder’s French Rock’n’Roll.

Speaking of which, the French went for the likes of Gene Vincent big time – although sadly their attempts to mimic the music went oft awry. They could always fall back on a bit of a snog instead: Debbie Harry was a fan, and recommended a little French Kissin in the USA to pass the time. Apparently, there’s also a French-language version of it knocking about.

Patriotic French people have sung of the delight of their homeland for years. Jean Ferrat keeps it fairly straight forward in Ma France while the ever-lovely France Gall compares the England of the swinging 60s to the France of the same era in Made in France. This track comes from her (forward thinking?) 1967 album, 1968.

Zebda reminds us that the French demographic has changed since then with On est Chez Nous – our nominator tells us this is about reclaiming a phrase from the Front National.

Paris featured heavily in the song suggestions, but France is not all about the capital, nor is it all about the modern French language, as ancient tongues are still spoken in far flung corners. Denez Prigent and Lisa Gerrard’s plaintive Gortoz a Ran is a beautiful Breton lament.

Bringing up the rear is perhaps the best known French tune of all, Offenbach’s Infernal Gallop, better known as the music we can can-can to: a guaranteed floor-filler.

I’m offering two bonus tracks this week. First (you can listen in the Spotify playlist but not on YouTube) Flight of the Conchords’ Foux Du Fafa and lastly, Dimitri from Paris, with Sacré Français.

New theme: how to join in

The new theme will be announced at 8pm (BST) on Thursday 10 August. You have until 11pm on Monday 14 August to submit nominations.

Here is a reminder of some of the guidelines for readers recommend:


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