Monday, July 14, 2008

Aux armes... The Marseillaise in all its colours

No, not a free ad for Viva la vida....Today is the French national day which celebrates the beginning of the Revolution in 1789. It was the day on which the anger of the French people against the ruling classes spilled over and they stormed the fearsome Bastille prison, releasing all those inside. The fact that there were only seven prisoners in there at the time seems immaterial: the whole event symbolised the seizing of power by the people. Today, France commemorates the event with a massive military parade though Paris and, as France holds the Presidency of the EU for the next 6 months, it seems they've really made a special effort and invited everyone. Carla is in purple, in case you're interested. One melody we'll be hearing a lot today is the Marseillaise. Now having watched quite a bit of the Euro 2008 and heard the various national anthems, I have come to the conclusion that the French one is actually quite groovy. I also liked the Italian one. I don't claim to know all the words of the Marseillaise, but I think it's a stirring, beautiful melody. The Marseillaise was actually written by the young Mayor of Strasbourg, Rouget de Lisle (that's him singing it below), in 1792. Originally intended as a 'war song for the Army of the Rhine" it became known as the Marseillaise and was adopted as the anthem of the Revolution when it was sung in Marseilles by a doctor from Montpellier who had come to coordinate the revolutionary efforts in the south. Unlike other national anthems, the Marseillaise is occasionally covered by musicians from every genre, from jazz to rock. The most infamous (and my favourite) version is the reggae-dub version by Uncle Serge and of course it's in my playlist. This version was considered utterly disrespectful at the time, so much so that, as the story goes, Gainsbourg didn't dare do his reggae version in concert but sang the melody straight, a capella.
I shall spend this most patriotic of days as all border dwellers do: by nipping off to Germany. Well, the shops are open and we're right out of milk and orange juice...
Happy 14th of July!!


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40 comments:

Proudfoot said...

Salut, fp. I once visited the Bastille station on the Metro as a youth in Paris. There was nowt there. I expected a Tower of London type edifice. Still, I was a free man in Paris, unfettered and alive etc. The Marseillaise is indeed a great anthem. What a dreary dirge we Brits have to put up with. Not so bad when it gets to 'Send her victorious' bit but the opening llines are tuneless rubbish. Then there's the verse about crushing the pernicious Scots. And this is the British anthem?
I suggest rapid devolution. The Scts can have 'Flower o' Scotland', N. Ireland 'Teenage Kicks', Wales 'Mountain People' by the Super Furries, and England 'The Blaydon Races'.

goneforeign said...

My favorite national anthem anywhere, I get all patriotic just hearing it and I also don't know the words. The one I'm subjected to does nothing for me, bombs bursting in air indeed! What we need is Woody's 'This land is your land'.
Loved Beatles of course and Django and Serge, never heard either before and how come you get a song written about you? could you get one for me?
Really miss John, getting all teary just listening to him.

ejaydee said...

Well happy 24th of July to you FP, and anybody else living in France. I like to be pedantic, so I should precise that the Bastille was also full of rifles and ammunition, which was part of the draw.
There's been growing talk of changing the lyrics in France as they are a bit blood-thirsty.
GF, Giorgio Moroder's got Tony's Theme from the Scarface soundtrack.

ToffeeBoy said...

Hey froggy one - have a great Bastille Day! Loved listening to the playlist - particularly, of course, your own personal theme tune by the divine Divine Comedy. Definitely the most inventive use of the Marseillaise.

PS. Just how close to the German border are you?

steenbeck said...

I just discovered Django Reinhard and LE Quintette Du Hot Club De France on an interesting CD Mr. Steenbeck found of very early jazz guitarists. He had a fascinating life as told by wikipedia. I'd like to find more of his music.

I'm with you on the stars and stripes, GF. I think the melody was actuallly a drinking song originally. Are you an American citizen now? Can you vote here?

FP said...

RR Massive keepin' it real! [mental note to self to stop watching Ali G.]
---
@ Proudfoot: Just checked and you can only see remains of the structure of the original Bastille on the platform of the Bastille tube station - line 5. But there are lots of oil paintings of it which exist. Would not have liked to have been a.. er.. guest.
---
@ GF: Glad you enjoyed it. I did, of course, take my moniker from the song, rather then specially ordering a song from the Divine Mr Hannon.... Just imagine, eh?
---
@ Frenchy: A toi aussi. Glad to hear they got a haul of useful ammunition as well. I'm sure it came in handy. Oh dear. Just imagine if they get someone else to do the lyrics. You could have great fun imagining what artists as different as.. IAM, Mylène Farmer and, say, Francic Cabrel would come up with...
---
@ Toffee - a kick in the pants to you, sir. So to speak.
---
@ Steenbeck - great that you liked the Django! I think that's Stephan Grapelli on the fiddle with him - one of my heros.

ToffeeBoy said...

fp - huh? Je ne comprends pas.

FP said...

That's how far I am from the German border - a kick in the pants. It's perhaps a Geordie expression meaning 'not very far'. Sorry for gittin regional on y'all.

Shoey said...

@Proudfoot
We'll take the Sex Pistols' cover of our current tune; you can have Jesse Rae's "The Thistle".

Blimpy said...

hey spillers!

i'm back in the land of the laptop! back to 385 'spill comments to read and what looks like about 30ish fab posts to get through!

nice work, you guys rule!!

ToffeeBoy said...

Oh - that's a relief - I thought you were threatening physical violence of some sort.

Please excuse the impertinent question I've always been fascinated by national borders (I never claimed to be an interesting person) and I was intrigued by the idea that you could pop into Germany for a pint of milk! Incidentally, my daughters seem to have inherited the same fascination with borders. A couple of years ago when we were holidaying in Germany (the Pfalz) we popped across into France and the two Little MissToffees insisted on parking the car so that could walk into France, stand in 'no-man's land' and then walk back again. I suppose it's because we're 'Insel Affen'!

FP said...

None taken! And border regions are extremely interesting because of the mix you get there - culinary and otherwise!! And it's handy to have shops open in one country and not the other...

CaroleBristol said...

I love the Marseillaise, a fantastic stirring tune.

Incidentally, the column in the middle of the Place de la Bastille commemorates the revolution of July 1830.

I have been in France on the 14th July in the past. You get some great street parties.

goneforeign said...

Steen: Yesterday I wrote a fairly long winded response to your question re voting et al describing how I wound up American and how nothing I ever voted for made a jot of difference, plus I waxed enthusiastic about Django and the Quintet of the Hot Club of France and I wrapped it up by saying that as a lifelong atheist I'd had a hard time with the concept of reincarnation but I'd decided that when they give me my return ticket I'm going to ask to be French the next time around, the most civilised country in the world.
And at the point of 'Publish your Comment' it went 'Pouf!' Off into the blogosphere never to be seen, it's happened several times before, does anyone else suffer from this malady?

goneforeign said...

Steen: One more, I usually check RR on a Tuesday morning just to catch the tail end and I saw your comment re. Karen Dalton, so I youtubed her. I'd never heard of her but I thought she was wonderful, the first song, Blues on the Ceiling sounded so much like Billie and the second, It hurts me too, is a Big Bill Broonzy song and she even has his guitar licks. If you don't know it you should check him out, I think he's one of the alltime greats, he's on youtube also but not the best selection.

steenbeck said...

Goneforeign, I'm sorry to have missed your post. That does happen to me, a lot. I've gotten into the habit of copying whatever I write before I try to send it, so I can just paste it if it gets erased. Usually if I'm signed into the blog things work better.

I'd like to know what you said about Django Reinhard. His life sounds like a movie--apparently he was born among gypsies in Belgium. There's one story in particular--his wife made flowers (I think) out of paper, so supplement their meager income, and the caravan was full of them. One day he came home late after a performance and accidentally set the whole thing on fire. Can't you just SEE that? He injured some fingers and had to teach himself to play again. But you probably knew all that. I find his story fascinating.

FP said...

Oh God. Steenbeck - biopic of Django Reinhardt? Just called... Django. The soundtrack will sort itself... GF I have contacted the correct authorities and can happily inform you that in your next life you will be French. We aim to serve....

FP said...

Thanks for notre Carole for that historical note on the bastille monument...

darceysdad said...

Yes, gf, the disappearing post thing happens to me too, but more on RR than here, funnily enough.

I'm with steenbeck - I almost always select & copy my post before I send, then if it disappears I can just paste it back in.

FP said...

Evenin' Darce - very clever. Must remember that...

treefrogdemon said...

I love the bit in Casablanca when the Marseillaise starts up in the bar...in fact I watched it on YouTube twice today and cried both times.

FP said...

Oooh I want to see that! Do you have the link?

treefrogdemon said...

http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=_iYbEPZVVIA

steenbeck said...

That was moving. I got weepy, too. Of course they're in Morocco, right? So it's complicated.

Found this piece of a documentary, Django, jazz, wwII, Paris
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I43GJRc2reI&feature=related

Thought nilpferd might like this. He looks a bit like chaplin/keaton here,
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6jLnuv4j_vw&feature=related

Proudfoot said...

Grrr. My post just went 'Pouf!' too. And I wasn't even threatening to turn into a cheese-eating surrender monkey in my next life.
@shooey. I'm only a quarter Scots, but I think they'd like the Thistle. Is that the one where he flies across the Atlantic clutching a claymore?
There would be something apposite to 80,000 England fans roaring 'No Future!' before our next competitive football game though.

nilpferd said...

Just saw your post steenbeck, nice Django clip. I once saw a Japanese hot club tribute band in NZ, they were very good.
As far as the cheese eating surrender monkeys go, we knew them for a while as radioactive warmongering boat sinking bullies... but in the spirit of European togetherness I've buried old hatchets...

Proudfoot said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Proudfoot said...

radioactive warmongering boat sinking bullies... Heck, OK, I wanna be one THOSE in my next life.
Sure that wasn't the Vikings? Ah, Rainbow Warrior, I get it. Nilpferd, please don't tell me you were there. I'd feel guilty or something...

ejaydee said...

Sorry about that one Nilpf, although I seem to remember most of us were against it at the time. It was that now dying tradition to say to the world: "hey check us out, we still matter".

ejaydee said...

Oh the Rainbow Warrior, that was even sillier.

Proudfoot said...

Um. 1995. Mururoa and Fangataufa atolls in 'French Polynesia'. Thyroid cancer, it's a bugger. Let's get back to Django...

Proudfoot said...

D'you know what? That last comment looks somewhat stupid. I feel that whatever the French Govt did in those years was only what the UK govt would have done if we weren't 'protected' by the 'special relationship'. (Yo Blair! Yo Maggie!). The Rainbow warrior thing could easily have been carried out by anyone (Crap mercenary Mark Thatcher?) with an axe to grind or a few thousand quid to put in their Swiss Bank account. I would hate to think that the French people REALLY felt guilty about this. Not your fault mes amis, any more than we am (sic) responsible for slavery, the bombing of Hamburg in WW2 or loutish drunkenness in Agia Napia. We didn't vote for that.

ejaydee said...

True, my original comment was about the nuclear testing in 1995, because it's what I remember, and I remember specifically arguing about friends that Chirac's opponent during the election wouldn't have done the same thing. The Rainbow Warrior is like a sadder version of the Suez Crisis. After some research I see the ship was docked in Auckland.

Proudfoot said...

Can't remember who Chirac's opponent was, but then we only get fed tidbits of European politics if they stsrt shaggging the Cheeky Girls or something. Ed, see you on the other side shortly. I don't mind a bit of politics but the reason i love you is all to do with The Music. Very amused to read you are the 'baby' of the group: don't make no nevermind to me brud. You're ageless! Plus I got more hair than you!

ejaydee said...

Ok then let me just finish by informing you that his opponenet at the time was Lionel Jospin, our very own Gordon Brown, father was also a pastor. But even in France, his sort don't get elected anymore, it's all about haircuts and charm all the way. What happened to the revenge of the hardworking nerds?

nilpferd said...

Sorry to throw that in, last week's RR reminded me about the Rainbow Warrior. I wasn't in Auckland at the time but of course we all took it very personally, there were boycotts of French produce if not exactly flag-burning. No animosity to the French in particular, it was very much directed at Chirac. The later farce with the release of Marfat and Prieuer just made it worse. A sorry phase of French international politics, as you say any country could have done the same.

Proudfoot said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Proudfoot said...

I remember Jospin now. He lost to Chirac AND Le Pen. He must've had REALLY bad hair.

Shoegazer said...

@Proudfoot
No in "Thistle", our Jesse, for some reason, is running along a beach in full armor & battle helmet with his claymore ablaze (yes, really it's on fire). Then he's on a steam train (the Flying Scotsman presumably). Then he looks like he's thinking about worrying some sheep...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fw91zI9OScY

ejaydee said...

Jospin has sad hair, sad style, sad face. He could be defined as grey actually.