Wednesday, December 30, 2020

LES LORDS - 1979-1980

The working year 2020 is over and four days off are comin'. Let's see, how I will end it musically and the opener is a treat, and this slab was released by Vidi Vici Records 2013 in edition of 300 copies. The Les Lords were Britz (vocals), Richard & Fifi (guitars), Laurent (bass), Lelett' (drums) and founded 1979 in Caen. And since nobody knows these guys until now, it is time for detailed information from the great creators of 45vinylvidivici which I would like to quote at this point:

1979: The musicians of the Caen punk group R.A.S. are orphans of a decaying movement. Britz, the singer-songwriter, mourns Sid Vicious. The others are starting to clearly prefer the power-pop energy of Jam, Skids, XTC or 999 to the neo-baba wanderings of the Cure or other Simple Minds.

The 60’s aesthetic and winks of the Who are already very present in punk, from black suits and string ties to the T-shirt with cockade of Billy Idol (Your Generation). Not to mention the Jam, of course. But when some members of R.S. land in Britain, it’s the shock. This one lives at the hour of "Mod Maydays", powerful revival which creates its own underground scene (Merton Parkas, Chords, Mo-Dettes, Squire...) in reaction to a punk now in the process of integration. "We hate the punk elite" sings Ian Page of Secret Affair. The musicians of R.A.S. are conquered, shop at Carnaby Street and return to Caen to tell friends about London news. The group is prompt renamed Les Lords.

As a result of this radical turn on the aesthetic level (because the songs remain the same) it appears fairly quickly that everyone gets into the idea of breaking their mouths, starting with the hard core of punks, more and more more influenced by the skinhead renewal and the “OI” wave. During the Lords' second concert in Lisieux, the skins came in force and have every intention of pissing off as much as possible. The chairs fly and the fans fall back on stage, somehow trying to send them away while the group continues to play. Arrival of the constabulary and relighting of the lights. We resume all the same and the Lords end in apotheosis by a resumption of "My Generation" of Who respecting to the letter the spirit of the original, that is to say accompanied by a methodical destruction of the material and the overturning of the columns sound system. Lying on the ground, arms outstretched to hold the
sound system lying on him and not to perish crushed, its owner, an old baba, manages to whisper "it's great, it's great...".

Great it is. The Lords continue the momentum of the most fit but harmonically rich punk, say Generation X to locate, incorporating 60’s influences, pre-psychedelic reminiscences (Creation, Move) and especially by tracing a new road, theirs. The group does quite a few covers: the instrumental The Persuaders ("Amically Your") as a concert intro, "For Your Love" by the Yardbirds mid-set and "My Generation" as a reminder. For the rest, it's a slaughter: slamming drums, metallic and melodic Rickenbacker bass, rhythmic Gibson "sound wall", dazzling escapades from the soloist on Telecaster. And there is the front man, with limited vocal capacities but remarkable texts and unparalleled charisma. It was obvious to who had once seen these kids in concert that they had fantastic potential. Because these are kids we are talking about, 17 years old at the time of history and just over 18 when it ended. Not really a "sex, drugs and rock n’roll" story, shot by the punk generation. No, just another story of tormented and rebellious teenagers. A story of music lovers who convert Gérald, the full barter shop of Throbbing Gristle to boots and frilled shirts. In return, he introduces them to Kinks and Small Faces, but also Real Kids, Charlie Mingus, Faust or Mother’s Finest. It is a story of rain (Normandy...), at night, of endless walking. Mopeds were rare, so scooters... It’s a story of cavalcades and frantic leaks, in the sad France of the end of the seventies whose "peripheral rascals" were so well sung by Renaud at the time.

On this front the Lords take radical measures by weaving an alliance with the gypsies, which allows to calm quickly done well the skins and to bring them back to feelings of healthy camaraderie. As for the neo-Mod movement, it is developing like wildfire. In two strokes of a pot spoon, there are more than 200 Mods in Caen. Punks converted after concerts, fans of the Specials or Joe Jackson, high school students who wanted to piss off their parents. Barely 16 years old, Laurence gives up everything to join Fifi, the rhythm guitarist of the Lords and returns on a scooter at the end of the hutch to give the teachers honor by shouting "We Are Mods", as in Quadrophenia. Britz, Laurent and I are going to see the film dozens of times at the cinema of the Carrefour shopping center, in Hérouville, one of the working-class suburbs of Caen. So we pass and we pass again in front of a band of thugs, "Arabs" as they said at the time, who stagnate on the benches of the shopping center and do not take long to look for the fight. It degenerates for good and ends with a punch outside. "We are the Mods"! Impressed, the most devious of the so-called "Arabs" quickly bought a costume and asked to join the mods.

In Caen, these are a mass movement from the proletariat, the working masses. With guys who in case of confusion are more quick to fight than to parley... There is José who fights after the group has won the French flags in a party on July 14, Franck says "Barjot" the former rocker and fisherman, "Clash" who crushes my parents' flowers in a Vespa and shoots the rockies on Saturday afternoon in the middle of traffic jams, with a WWII Luger. And then other groups that are formed: Dandys, Holly Boys and Neckties. These are 13-14 year olds who have had little time to learn English. Suddenly they proudly adapt the Who in French, "I Can’t Explain" becoming "the Caennais complain."

The Lords play in Paris at Golf Drouot. They finish well last of the "springboard rock" but fuck a happy mess and meet that evening the fabulous Stunners. A core of Parisian fans of the Lords is formed around Laurent ("Stax"), Denis, Thierry and soon Patrice Bertrand, former Hells Angel turned Mod who sells US garage rock records in the Scooter shop in Les Halles. The Lords don't pretend. They provide the first part of the Olivensteins whose equipment they demolish ("My Generation"), the Dogs from which they steal the show and a whole bunch of others. They make all the fire, open for Valérie Lagrange and even go on tour for a few dates opening for Caravan, an old British progressive rock band.

Soon the mod-revival spreads in Paris then in the provinces. Lords are heroes and kings, but there is a misunderstanding. Basically they have little to do with twinks disguising themselves as twist dancers, petty bourgeois in polka dot dresses and groups making desperate efforts to sound "garage". In fact, while the Parisian skins led by Farid - a ringworm - are having fun persecuting this bunch of little wankers from fine neighborhoods, they carefully avoid attacking anyone who wears a "Caen" patch on their jacket. Britz and the hard wing of the Caennais accentuate the demarcation with the installers by calling themselves "Glory Boys" and adopting black shirts and white ties. But hey, it's all starting to go around in circles. Especially since despite their multiple trips back and forth in the capital, where I settle as a manager, the Lords are still out of recording contract. There are indeed some contacts with Antoine De Caunes, Marc Zermati or Patrick Eudeline, the tour of record companies, a photo in the monthly Best, but nothing comes out. Meanwhile, the sken-mod conglomerate of Caen feels winged. After two years of intensive fights against rockers (very bad in those distant times) and all that hung around as thugs in the Normandy countryside, these became real terrors. Wounds that set everything on fire and blood during the Jam concert in Rouen. The Lords are victims of Sham 69 syndrome: overwhelmed by the movement they have instigated and the excesses of their audience.

The tension rises with the rhythm, Fifi, a simple heart. Then with the bass player who stands in solidarity with him. Finally with Britz Notre Dame, icon of mods, always so frosty and uncontrollable who does not want to understand that such a radical trip cuts the group from a wider audience. In a few weeks everything crumbles. Fifi and Laurent will try their luck with another group. Britz moved to Paris where he succeeded in a few months in transforming a gang of Daddy's sons into a respected gang. Richard and Denis recruit a bass player and pursue the Lords in the form of a blazing power trio.

In the end, there will be nothing but wonderful memories and rehearsal recordings from this brief epic, in mini-cassette. Despite their obvious limitations, they will no doubt give a better idea of what the Lords were than the album they would have done at the time on a major, under the guidance of a survivor of the yéyé who was converted into a producer. And the fact that more than thirty years later RAS or Les Lords are arousing interest shows that at least the flame has been transmitted. So all is well that ends well. Raymond Debord (Summer 2013)

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