Monday, 1 June 2009

Q: Which came first the “Bon!” or the “Quoi!”?

BOOM! TISH! BOOM! TISH! BOOM! TISH! BOOM! TISH! It’s 1966, and Nino Ferrer’s rhythm-section is coming on like a pair of cavemen with a back-to-basics Kick’n’hi-hat stomp and a dirrrty old bass line. Some jazzy Hammond organ tones give it a bit of lo-fi warmth to counter Ferrer’s ever-so-slightly sleazy vocal stylings, as he lists all the things he keeps losing: his uncle, his sausage, his cousin Célestin, who’s an academician…

Then, 54 seconds in a chimeric transformation takes place: the organist goes off on one and Nino gets gruffer and gruffer, until he has a choking fit and emerges sounding like a Muppet with bad laryngitis:
“la la la la, la la la, la la la la la la, la la la, la la la, la la la la la la la,la la la, la la la, la la la, la la la la la LA, BOFF!!!”

Nino Ferrer - Oh! Hé! Hein! Bon!
[buy Nino Ferrer: iTunes |]

I’m convinced that Fernand Raynaud was the voice of the father-figure in all the French listening tapes I heard at school. I can hear him now saying “Hrm, Je voudrais un sandwich au JAMBON!” He always seemed to have a short-fuse, hence the caps and exclamation of "JAMBON!"

Raynaud’s version is certainly a cover of Nino Ferrer, but it works almost as a response/riposte. Likewise it is credited as a 1966 release. It’s way bigger on production values, though, so it must have come out later that year.

There’s that familiar opening salvo: “Oh! Eh! Hein! QUOI!” then the band drops into a slinky, but primitive, disco passage (about 5 years before disco was even invented). He seems to have roped in his listening-tape family to back him up on the “Oh! Eh! Hein!” bits.

You’ll notice the subtle change in the title: an “Eh!” for a “He!” and a “Quoi!” for a “Bon!” It makes for a much more quizzical vocal, as he looks for his uncle, and his sausage, and his cousin Célestin…

The whole thing sounds bigger, brasher and full-to-bursting thanks to some big, bold brass which just about errs on the right side of comical.

Monsieur Raynaud never quite hits the gravelly mania of Monsieur Ferrer, he just sounds a little more resigned, and ends with a shrugged, raspberry-blowing “BOpppFFF!”

Fernand Raynaud - Oh! Eh! Hein! Quoi!
[this song was re-issued on Pop a Paris Volume 1 which is discontinued]

A: The “Bon!”
Nino Ferrer wrote it, though apparently he dismissed it as something of a novel throw-away song. Bring on the majorettes...

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