Throwback / Jacques Dutronc – Les Cactus

[Throwback is a weekly (Thursday, natch) segment where we share a song or album from the past that we wouldn't otherwise have the occasion to discuss. We usually try to focus on the new, the fresh, and the undiscovered music here at DUL. This series gives us a chance to share songs and artists that we enjoy from other eras. They might be well-known classics, they might be hidden gems. They might be from 1969, or 1999, or even 1929. Who knows? There's lot of music out there, and this lets us share a small slice of what we like.]

Jacques Dutronc

Words by Brendan

I’m debuting a new series on the blog today! “Throwback Thursday” is (in the parlance of our times) “a thing”, so I thought I’d bogart the phrase and use it to describe this weekly feature where we’ll share some older bands/songs/albums that we wouldn’t otherwise write about. I’m starting it off with a 1960s French singer for a garage rock group and a live performance on TV from 1967. Read on for a little story, a catchy foot-stompin’ tune, and a guy in a suit crawling under a post-modernist sculpture of a cactus …

It’s the mid 1960s. Jacques Dutronc has played backup guitar for a few years, eventually landing a job working under the artistic director at a big record label. He and another writer wrote songs/lyrics and produced up-and-coming artists. One song flopped with the band it had been written for, and Dutronc recorded a version himself with session musicians. That song, “Et Moi, Et Moi, Et Moi” became a hit and launched a career. Since then, Dutronc has gone on to record several albums, pursue a prolific acting career (including a César Award for the title role in Van Gogh), and eventually return to music in recent years.

Jacques Dutronc / “Les Cactus” [1967]


The most interesting and appealing aspects of his music, though, are how he (1) used session musicians to tap into both the evolving European garage rock scene and psychedelia in the 1960s, crafting something like The Kinks-meets-Jefferson Airplane, and (2) wrote biting and critical, yet humorous, lyrics that satirized a lot of the social upheaval in France at the time. “Les Cactus” is a perfect example of this. “The entire world is a cactus … In a smile, there are cacti … In a cactus, there are cacti …” Those are just snippets. Paired with the obvious mockery of “live” TV concerts (like on American Bandstand, for instance), this makes for both a compelling and damn catchy performance.

(Hat tip to my buddy Sean for turning me on to Dutronc, and this song in particular.)

Buy Jacques Dutronc [1968]: Discogs / iTunes / Amazon
Jacques Dutronc: Website / IMDB / Wikipedia

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