Aufray Chante Dylan

Hugues Aufray Aufray Chante Dylan 7" (Barclay, 1965)

In the early 90s, I was in a record store in British Columbia digging through boxes. I had just discovered Jacques Dutronc for myself and was hoping to find more French 60s pop. The Swingin' Mademoiselle comps had yet to come out, and there weren't any collections of French pop or garage stuff that I had found, so I didn't have a cheat sheet or a guide to go by. I did have the names Dutronc, Hardy, Bardot, and Gainsbourg to look for and Brel to avoid, but, other than that, I was flying blind. A record store clerk asked me what I was looking for and I told him Dutronc. He raised his eyebrows, surprised that some American was asking about the great French singer, and said that he was sorry, he didn't have any, "However you might enjoy Hugues Aufray." We walked over to the French section and he handed me the Aufray Chante Dylan LP, poked at the cover and said, "Very important disque." The record was only $6 Canadian, which is about $4 US, so I bought it. At the very worst, it was a guy with a French accent singing Dylan and that was worth the kitsch value.

A few weeks later, after arriving home, I dropped needle on Aufray's take on Dylan. Wow! Unlike others who cover Dylan, Aufray doesn't slick it up or mellow it out. Instead he puts a nice hard Rolling Stones like rhythm section behind it and let's his guitarist rip. For many a Frenchie, Aufray was their introduction to Dylan and lucky they were that Hugues got to Bob before someone like Jacques Brel or Mireille Mathieu did.

Being the French Ambassadeur de Bob Dylan has not lead to a cult of Aufray or the same kid of hipness that surrounds Dutronc or Antoine. Many of my French friends regard Aufray as Old Man Music. This is probably due to Hugues doing a fair number of music hall songs. For every great odd pop song like Le Serpent, Aufray made a couple dozen designed to make you cry in your wine. In 1968, he also took a musical stand for the establishment and against the students who were ripping up cobblestones and chucking them at the cops. For positioning himself against youthful rebellion, his name was written in the books of Stodgy Old Farts.

The two below are on the Aufray Chante Dylan LP, though I have taken them from one of two 7" eps of the same name. I recommend seeking any and all of these versions out. As far as the rest of Aufray, proceed with caution. I've got some great stuff, some okay records, and some shit stinkers. You can also check out a prior post on Hugues and the response.

I'm surprised nobody ever mentions Michel Polnareff. All I've heard is some early stuff of his (first LP and some 45s) but it's some of my favourite Frenchie stuff after Dutronc. Poppy and weird, and sometimes very reminiscent of the Tropicalistas...
Some more thoughts now that I’ve been able to listen to the songs you posted (and have read the prior post): you put down Polnareff, but think Aufray’s Fille du Nord is worth sharing with the readers of this blog? I can only conclude that your judgement of Polnareff is based on stuff from the seventies or later, but keep in mind that all of these cats started turning out crap at some point in their career... As for Brel, I don’t listen to him either, but he had no need to cover Dylan; he was in a league of his own. People cover Brel, not the other way around. Also, linking Brel to Mireille Matthieu is like comparing George Brassens to Père Ecole...
I think you are refering to a latter post in which I bag on Polnareff. You are right, it was based on his later stuff. I've since found some 60s eps and like them quite a bit. I don't quite think he is a genius like ol Serge or as listenable as Dutronc, who also has some miserable 70s/80s stuff, but he is good.

As far as Jacques Brel, I've tried and tried and tried and sorry but I can see the appeal. It is too simpy and over orchestrated for my tastes. I can hack and even enjoy that in female singers but with male vocalists, it doesnt work. I dont know French so I cant judge his lyricism, only what I read in translation and in translation Brel comes off as sentimentalist tripe. I'll trust you and blame the translator, but still....

Please look at the comparisions as someone who is educating himself via record bins and what I find there. Record hunt for French stuff in the US and what you find are a lot of Matthieu, Mouskouri, Edith Piaf, and in more adventurous towns Brel. I've tried all those and Piaf I could listen to, but the rest? It is the same to me.

Imagine you being in France and the only R&B you find in used record stores are Lionel Ritchie, Janet Jackson, and Debarge. And then you came to the US and found so much stuff you dont know where to start. Well, that is me with French music. Lucky for you that you have an excellent sellection of records of all types in Paris.
I can't listen to Brel or any French chanson either (and I've never really tried) - I just wanted to make clear that he deserves better than being lumped together with schmaltzy singers like Mireille m'f'ing Matthieu. Also, I don't really see the relevance of Brel in a discussion of French pop, other than that he sang in French... Paris would be the last place I go for buying records, esp. when you can still find Dutronc jukebox 45s on Vogue or Polnareff on Palette for 50 cents a piece or less at some shitty Flemish flea market (or just rent some plain old cd's from the library...)
lionel ritchie was cool when he had a big afro & fronted the Commodores. after he went solo, forget it.check out the "cant slow down" or "dancing on the ceiling" LP's & its no wonder his ol' lady used to whoop on him something fierce.
Salut Scott

tu as du bon français sur :


à un d'ces jours à Paris

Baldo Blutt
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