Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Think About It, Then Forget It: Mungo Jerry: "Alright, Alright, Alright"

Since it's summer, I'm going to be brief - this Mungo Jerry song was lifted/inspired by a song by Jacques Dutronc from '66 called "Et moi, et moi, et moi."  Each reflects their own decade and country pretty accurately, but is it just me that thinks Dutronc has the edge here?  That instead of generalities that sound good but are kind of nothing but shoulder-shrugging platitudes ("some say no and some say yes" not forgetting "too many heads and too many minds").  But with Dutronc, his lyrics juxtapose his own bourgeois life and the lives of millions of others, pointedly singing:  "Cinquante millions de vietnamiens/Et moi, et moi, et moi/Le dimanche √† la chasse au lapin/Avec mon fusil, je suis le roi/J´y pense et puis j´oublie/C´est la vie, c´est la vie."  Whereas Mungo Jerry is singing a song about general wrongs and rights, here Dutronc is thinking about them and forgetting, going about his life, mostly oblivious to the world, even the Martians who may well exist, but as long as he gets his cheque at the end of the month, he's fine with them.  It is a satire on indifference, on knowing and actually not really caring all that much; he thinks and forgets about everyone, including his fellow French, who he calls "gens imparfaits."

I have no way of knowing if, during the popular boom of French music in the mid-60s, if "Et moi, et moi, et moi" was at all heard on the radio in the UK; Ray Dorset of Mungo Jerry got to hear it though, and hence did his own version that got to #2 hit on the NME chart.  My own knowledge of French pop is fervent but rather slapdash; I didn't really know about Dutronc until now, even though he's mentioned by Cornershop on their classic "Brimful of Asha."

It is abstractly interesting to have French pop turned into UK pop; it's not so great when it gets drained of the humour and modesty and just becomes something to nod along with on a hot day.  Something gets lost in the translation, and as admirable as it might be, I am glad that no one has, say, tried to do an English version of Autour de Lucie's "Chanson sans issue."  The melody and voice are like one raised eyebrow, and it all works together in such stunning unity that I'm not sure anyone could pull it off in English.*  I could scratch my head as to how such an utterly catchy song got approximately nowhere in the UK charts, but then remember how Arnaud Fleurent-Didier made no impact here in 2010 with his tremendous album La Reproduction.  I am not sure why these things happen, or rather don't happen, but France remains a place, as far as I can tell, that gets airplay and attention for its dance music, as opposed to anything else; I will be discussing the greatness of that specific music in the future, but sadly the world of French pop is one I won't get to talk about that much...c'est dommage.

Next up:  A true rock 'n' roller, and a still-taboo subject.

*If you like this song then you will like the album it comes from, Immobile.  

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