A Brush With Fame


[FR : Grâce à une maladresse bureaucratique, Jon a obtenu le numéro de téléphone de son héros Bob Feldman, un producteur et musicien génial (Strangeloves).]

OK, the funny part starts after the next two paragraphs, but first an explanation.

In France, musical authors’ rights are managed by a disliked organization called the SACEM. They keep a tight control over music publishing. One reason to dislike them is that when you put out a record, you have to pay a fee (a couple hundred euros) “up front”. Their excuse is that “you’ll get it back in royalties”. My ass! I haven’t seen a penny.

Also, if you put out a cover version of a song, everything’s OK. But if you do an “adaptation”, taking a song (for example) originally in English and writing French words for it (a typical practice in the 60s for lazy French rockers), you have to get approval from the writer (or rights holder) of the original song. Incredible!

A while ago, for Les Dragueurs, Grégoire and I wrote a French adaptation of the sublime “Cara-Lin” by the Strangeloves (click for a film clip). (The story of these guys, escaped from their Australian sheep farm to create and produce brilliant rock ‘n’ roll built on aboriginal percussion, has already been told elsewhere.) Our cover version is nothing remarkable, but it set the stage for a brush with fame.

We called our version Caroline, of course. After performing it for a while, we wanted to cut a record. This meant I had to get permission.

OK, time for action! In the US, thousands of individual music publishers are organized under two umbrella organizations: BMI and ASCAP. (I am a member of BMI because it’s cheaper.) On their websites, you can locate the publisher for any given song.

I phoned the Strangeloves’ publisher, a very old-school organization in New York. I explained the situation. I said that I wanted permission to put out a French adaptation of Cara-Lin. They said they couldn’t give me permission. I said, well, can Bob Feldman, the songwriter, give me permission? (He’s the one with the goatee.) They said I don’t know, why don’t you ask him? I said well, do you have his phone number? They said hold on.

So, I’ll be a monkey’s uncle! A few minutes later I had Bob Feldman’s home phone number. (This was an incredible breach on the part of the publishing company.) I called Bob, of course. (He’s now in his 70’s, and retired in Florida, judging from the area code.) He answered the phone. “Bob Feldman speaking.” Ah, cool!

First, he wanted to know where on earth I got his number. Hahaha, somebody at the publishing company caught a lot of shit for that! Then, I told him how much I admired his work, and explained the situation. Seemed like a nice guy and we chatted a bit. He remembered the 5 Gentlemen’s version, and said to send a demo and he’d get back to me. Unfortunately, he didn’t. I called back a couple of times, but nobody answered. I think he stopped picking up calls from French phones. Oh well.

We later learned that the song had already been adapted (in the 60s) by the excellent French band Les 5 Gentlemen (click for a Scopitone). Presumably they had no trouble getting Bob’s permission.

Here are our lyrics, followed by an English translation of them:

French adaptation (J. von Zelowitz-G. Garrigues) as performed by les Dragueurs, 2003

Tu es vraiment ravissante
dans ta robe transparente
Ton physique exceptionnel
est juteux comme une mirabelle

Quand tu marches dans la rue
c’est comme si tu étais nue
Tu me mets la tête en vrac
comme un aphrodisiac

Quand nous sommes dans ma piaule
nous perdons le contrôle
Tu me mets en appétit
satisfaction garantie

English version of our version:

You are really gorgeous
in your see-through dress
your exceptional body
is juicy like a plum

When you walk down the street
it’s as if you were undressed
You put my head in a whirl
like an aphrodisiac

When we are at my pad
we lose control
You get me hungry
satisfaction guaranteed

French adaptation (J. Fredenucci) as performed by the 5 Gentlemen, 1966

si tu l’aimes comme un fou
ce qu’elle aime ce sont tes sous
et si ton cœur est comble
t’auras les poches consolidées
car méfies-toi
oui cette fille se moque de toi

quand tu rêves de son amour
elle rêve de perles et de cadeaux
si tu veux garder son amour
tu devras lâcher ton argent
car méfies-toi
oui cette fille se moque de toi

quand tu sors avec elle
elle te présente à ses amis
ce n’est pas toi dont elle est fière
mais de la voiture que tu conduits
car méfies-toi
oui cette fille se moque de toi

English version of their version:

even if you love her madly
what she loves is your money
and if you feel fulfilled
it’s because you have deep pockets
so watch out
yeah this girl doesn’t care about you

while you dream of her love
she dreams of pearls and presents
if you want to keep her love
you will have to let your money go
so watch out
yeah this girl doesn’t care about you

when you go out with her
she introduces you to her friends
it’s not you that she’s proud of
it’s the car you’re driving
so watch out
yeah this girl doesn’t care about you

The original lyrics by the Strangeloves

Pretty as a picture
Glory what a mixture
You ought to see the shape she’s in
What she ain’t got ain’t never been

(second verse, not played on the Shindig video)
When we go out walkin’
Boy the dogs start barkin’
She can make a left right
Man this chick is out of sight

She don’t just affect me
Man, this chick upsets me
She got everything I need
Satisfaction guaranteed

4 Responses to “A Brush With Fame”

  1. 1 pat

    Cool blog, Jon Von. Do Les Drageurs have t-shirts? I’d like to buy one and sport it over here in the US.

  2. 3 Jody

    while I love my Les Drageurs albums, my question is when are the Four Slicks coming back to Chicago?

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