June 27, 2014
I like American pop culture, but I much rather wait and get my American culture through the eyes of the French. Being an American, I feel I’m too close to my subject matter, and with the French being obsessed with my culture, I can understand it much better. Rock n’ roll never made sense to me, till I started to listen to French rock n’ roll, because I feel that they are more in-tuned to the culture than I'm. I can only reflect who I am through someone else’s eyes. I’m always shocked to see a photograph of myself, compared to my image in a mirror. It is almost as if there are two separate people. The thing is I am not sure the reflection on the mirror is truly me, or the image captured by a photographer is the true me. The confusion is something I can’t separate from my physical existence and how other’s see me. Oddly enough, I don’t own that many photographs of me. Due to family fame, all my images are in hardcover books that cost around $60 a pop. If one chooses to do so, they can go into a bookstore and purchase images of me, that I don’t own, yet I become part of someone else’s life.
The first French rock n’ roll record, in 1956, is by Magali Noël, who was also an actress who appeared in many films by Fellini. Boris Vian wrote and performed the song with her called “Fais-moi mai, Johnny” (Hurt Me Johnny). The song was prohibited from French radio due to the sadomasochistic lyrics. I really never understood the appeal of rock, till I heard this song. Around the same time Noël released a 10” vinyl album called “Rock n’ Roll.” There has been a running joke in America that France can’t properly “rock, ” but alas, that is so untrue, because the French totally understand what the “rock” is. Americans only know the rock by instinct, like animals hunting food, it can smell the sex oozing out of the vinyl grooves. The French understood that the music came from American black culture, and therefore virtually have an academic approach to the music and its artists. It is understood that the French always pick up what’s great about America, through their knowledge of a culture’s music. Would classic jazz survive without the support of the French aesthetic? But again, like people owning my image, the French can’t really own Jazz, but they can adopt it, and re-formed it into another image of sorts. Josephine Baker, the great entertainer, became a huge star in Paris, and transformed herself into an image of an American, but in actuality more French than American.
All my life I pretty much wanted to live in Paris, because I felt that being an American in France would give me more of a self-image, that I totally lack, as I sit here in Silver Lake. Nevertheless, I’m deeply attracted to American iconic figures like Doc Pomus, who wrote songs with Mort Shuman, who ironically enough became a huge singing star in France, and introduced the songs of Jacques Brel to the English speaking world. Also sadly, Shuman passed away the same year Pomus died. It is like that they traveled in a circle together and ended up in the same place at the end of that circle. Creative people embrace their territories, like cats pissing to map out their areas of interest. One time I wanted to send my urine to the corner of St. Michel and Saint Germain, thinking that I could own or at the very least have a presence on that corner. But that is very much an illusion, and like a cloud I sort of float over these areas of interest, but I’m just a tourist here as well.