Sunday, June 03, 2007

"Rotomagus - cre une musique emotionnelle, violente, viore agressive, ou s'inserent brusquement des moments de reflux.... des contrastes violente, des baisses brusques de tension et de rhythme. Beaucoup de travail dans les parties vocales."-Jacques Chabrion, ROCK & FOLK
Being on the lookout for all sorts of interesting proto-punk/demi-metallic excursions that have spanned the globe during those wild n' wacky early-to-mid-seventies (and ever-so-slightly before or after, depending on the musical sitchy-ashion at hand), I was pleased as pie when Mike Snider tipped me off to this French heavy metal bunch who according to said tipster were one of the few groups anywhere in the very-early seventies who professed an actual Iggy and the Stooges love and devotion (albeit they certainly were not a "French Stooges" as I was originally misquoted as saying)! And, having been driven right by the stellar European rockist tactics of such continental delights as Can, Mahogany Brain, Amon Duul, Umela Hmota and Ton Steine Scherben amongst a few hunnerd others I decided to actively seek out these Gallic minstrels' recorded wares not only because Rotomagus seemed like such a hot shot rock excursion, but because kicks STILL are getting harder to find and any honest seek for the core-of-it-all is more than necessary especially here in the dark ages of the alledgedly-enlightened late-oh-ohs, a time where it sometimes seems as if rock & roll (as whatever you might have thought it to be as a soundtrack for your own particular lifestyle) is just another 40-plus-year-old brand of rabble that only gets deified and honored this far down the line because it's been de-fanged beyond all recognition to the point where it's just as safe as that pack of vanilla pudding you can also purchase just a few aisles down.

Anyhow, the TETES LOURDES sampler (as they say, scroll down for a review) helped sate some of my thirst for these frogs' THREE singles which is def. why I went to the trouble and $$$ to obtain these flesh & blood platters for my very own, obsessive wonk that I am. And like I said, now that it's 2007 YOU NEED THIS HIGH-ENERGY MUSIC MORE THAN EVER and better it be Rotomagus (much better)than the latest flash-in-the-pan that never did deliver on the action and adventure and you know the rote score by heart already blahblah snoozesnooze...

Not-so-oddly enough, it seems as if those familiar with the Rotomagus legacy (or whatever it was) aren't even aware of the band's debut single on Polydor. I can see why because although the group is most definitely "there" (as a quintet), they appear on the sleeve looking well-scrubbed and ready to entertain the most cultured of French teenagers as "Les" Rotomagus on "Le Haut Du Pave"/"Nevada." Really, from the pic that appears slab-dab onna front of the thing you'd get the idea that these Rouenites were more or less ready to become France's answer to the Bee Gees with that same 1968 neat wildness that was too timid for the acid rock fans yet too extreme for all those people who still couldn't stand Elvis, and the 1966/67-era Beatle-influenced rock complete with accordion (!) found herein bears this out. Since both sides were written by the team of "Ph. Doray and Ph. Lhommet" (with actual group leaders Sylvain and Pierre Peresse only credited with vocal arrangements) methinks that Polydor had hefty pop plans for the group complete with "professional" songwriters dictating their material and direction which I would assume didn't quite mesh with whatever metallic plans the group alledgedly had at this point in their career. Still a nice debut with pleasing-enough suave moves and Association-inspired vocal harmonies to match and hey, although I thought that with a title like "Nevada" it would be either an all-out wild west-styled rocker about cowboys or perhaps a hot gambling ditty, I gotta say I was charmed!

After their Polydor escapade Rotomagus sans le "Les" found themselves on CBS and released what might have been their moment of glory, the "Eros"/"Madame Wanda" single. Now a sextet it seemed as if their new label was more or less bound to pull out all the stops to make these guys the hit of the land not only as part of a package tour but with this wild card of a surprise slice of power that should put every French-hater on the globe into a state of Francophilia shock. Not only did "Eros" come with a boffo pic sleeve (complete with the band looking down at you in a PSYCHOTIC REACTION mode...good sign) but the back features more than what I would've expected outta the standard big-label single sleeve of the day not only with liner notes (en Francais) but birthdays (and it's kinda startling to find out that most of the members have already or are about to hit the sexageneraian cycle) and fave raves of all the bandmembers. Those of you expecting to glom some Stooges refs (like me) will be disappointed, but it is interesting to see just exactly which groups and musicians were the tops in Rotomagus' reason-for-being...Pierre Peresse lists Pete Townsend as his fave while brother Sylvain likes the Beatles and Tim Bogart...harmonica/trumpet player Alain Fontaine digs Joe Cocker and Ray Charles while vibraphonist/percussionist Alain Villedieu also swings with the Beatles but likes his with some Vanilla Fudge. Drummer Jacky Billaux goes for Ginger Baker and Mitch Mitchell, and flautist/trumpeter Bruno Fontaine (Alain's brother?) tends to like the Hollies and Association which would figure in with the sounds heard on the debut (which I'm not even sure Bruno plays on!) but whatever, with a combination like that (both talent and influence-wise) paired with a dose of the alledged Stooges influx you can expect a totally whacked out single to be on-hand, which 'tis.

"A"-side "Eros" is a wild trip in itself which only proves that CBS missed a big opportunity to turn this band into France's answer to Blue Oyster Cult. Think about it...both groups had the same sense of metallic awe coupled with the psychedelic sounds they were obviously raised on mixed up with a substance that could only be described as residue from the previous few years' MC5/Stooges revolutionary snare. "Eros" has everything that should have not only made the group big in France but maybe even the WORLD (thus proving that the French could play rock & roll, sometimes even better'n their Amerigan beraters!) complete with a strange mix of metal, prog and punk moves which actually meshes well from the overt classical influences to the mania pseudo-operatic lead vocals and the (once again) Association-inspired harmonies. And with a heady mix as that you'd think that the single would fall flat on its face, but in many ways I can see just how and why Mike Snider described this as a cross between Hawkwind and Les Rallizes Denudes for it does have that manic proto-punk scrunch-edge to it. Flip "Madame Wanda" is no slouch either as it slowly envelops you with that mystical gypsy feeling.

Dunno how Rotomagus coulda gotten dumped by CBS after this aesthetic treat (poor sales are most likely why) but anyway they ended up on "les petit" Butterfly label for "Fightin' Cock" coupled with "The Sky Turns Red" which not only ended up as their final vinyl outing but turned out to be this group's ultimate, most Stooge-infested side topping even "Eros" for high energy jamz. Having dropped the horns of their CBS days, the Peresses and whomever was left in the band play a hard, stripped down metallic rock on "Cock," a single that was bound not only to raise the ire of many a feminist nationwide but become one of the first aural spottings of an identifiable Stooge-sound to be found in France for a good four or so years. Actually, "Cock" might also arouse memories of everything from "Hot For Teacher" (both the Thundertrain original and Van Halen's cheap imitation) to a variety of hard-punk outings a la the Users' "Sick of You," but whatever you may think this is hot metallic punk that would have fallen smack-dab into place in the late-seventies but's coming to you closer to the organism of it all as the song begins in classic "I Got a Right" fashion right before Peresse begins howling in typical chopped-up English while the band does its darndest to keep up. Other side ain't that hot (which is undoubtedly why it was left off TETES LOURDES) though I kinda like it (mellotron and all!) for a change of pace once every ten or so years even if it ain't your standard hard rock lungefest.

After Rotomagus' eventual split ex-members scattered off in all sortsa strange directions, with the majority (or at least the Peresses) ending up as Phoenix who recorded a not-that-much sought after exploitation heavy metal album complete with some Led Zep covers, though I have been told that others had ended up in a group called "Punch" who actually released a single on EMI/Pathe that sure looks swell at least from the cover drawing showing six longhairs as part of a multi-headed iguana. Unfortunately another heavy metal fest is not in store, as this non-click hit is more or less pop for the femme in all of you readers even those the (once again) Association-styled harmonies make this a marginal keeper. Gee, I didn't even know that the Association were big in France...must've been given the proliferation (?) of these harmonic pop singles coming outta the land of wine and cheese! But no matter what, serious BLOG TO COMM followers would do themselves a favor to seek out the "Eros" and "Fightin' Cock" singles, hold off on the debut only if more is needed, and use caution when buying discs featuring ex-members that might sound like cringe-y pop-slop yet have a certain charm in their own undeniable fashion.
"Chanteurs A vois? Pouah! Oui, mais cinq chanteurs a voix! Ah! Peui-etre Des adaptations? Oh non! Des chansons francais alors? Mas oui! Et un son international! Ah Ah!Bon ecoutons les...comment deja?"

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