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“Un Autre Monde” — Téléphone

April 3, 2010

This week’s song is “Un Autre Monde” by Téléphone. 

A French rock band?  Oui!  

Most Americans probably couldn’t name a single French rock performer — unlike their British counterparts, they’ve never experienced significant commercial success here.  Johnny Hallyday1 — the Elvis of France — has sold over 110 million records but is virtually unknown in the USA.  Very few French songs have ever made it to our airwaves — the 1969 Serge Gainsbourg/Jane Birkin pop duet “Je t’aime… ”2 was an embarrassingly bad exception (notably, this slice of French cheese featured Ms. Birkin’s heavy breathing and quasi-orgasmic moaning — a mild predecessor to Donna Summer’s “Love to Love You, Baby”).  In 1977 there was Plastic Bertrand’s ridiculous (but catchy) “Ça Plane Pour Moi,”which the AllMusic reviewer Steve Huey describes as “Perhaps the finest bit of sheer pop insanity produced by the New Wave movement”4 (of course New Wave music stole its name from a French cinema movement — but I digress).

Téléphone5 formed in 1976 — the quartet consisted of Jean-Louis Aubert (vocal/guitar), Louis Bertignac (guitar/vocal), Corine Marienneau (bass/vocal) and Richard Kolinka (drums).  They achieved stardom (in France) in 1979 with their single “La Bombe Humaine” and were the opening act for the Rolling Stones’ 1982 European Tour shows in Paris and Lyon.

I first heard Téléphone in 1984, while my wife Robin and I were vacationing in Paris and the Burgundy region.  One night I turned on MTV France.  Most of the videos were slick Euro-Pop fluff; then “Un Autre Monde” came on.  With its ethereal opening guitar line leading into a stripped-down, straight-ahead rock song, it was “another world.”

The next day I bought the single.


I was impressed to learn that the producer was the legendary Glyn Johns (recording engineer and/or producer on numerous albums by The Rolling Stones, The Who, Steve Miller6, Led Zeppelin, The Eagles, Eric Clapton — this guy worked with everybody from Joan Armatrading to The Clash and, oh yeah, he did the original mixes of the Get Back/Let It Be sessions for The Beatles).  I was less impressed that they’d misspelled his first name.

This was the last studio recording Téléphone ever did; when the band broke up in 1986 their record company put out a live album called Le Live (shades of Harry Shearer).  The video7 for “Un Autre Monde” looks dated now (what video from 1984 doesn’t?) but the song still affects me. 

So, what do the lyrics8 mean?  My French is pretty bad, but I think that the singer dreamed of another world, which is also our world; the singer dreamed reality and his reality has forgiven him.  Okay, not exactly Rimbaud — but, appropriately for a rock song, it ends with dancing.

FYI — This song should not be confused with the song “Dans Un Autre Monde” by Celine Dion!   

  6. The first album where Glyn Johns served as both producer and engineer (as opposed to just being the engineer) was Sailor by The Steve Miller Band.  I also have a unique relationship with that album.  My blog post entitled Not Quite “Almost Famous” tells that story.

From → The 1980's

  1. JIm Laffan permalink

    eh. okay song. But what about roots music?

    • There are these 4 guys driving in a car together: 1 from Maine, 1 from Vermont, 1 from Massachusetts, and 1 from New Hampshire.
      Down the road a bit, the man from Maine starts throwing bags of potatoes out of the car window.
      The man from NH asks, “What are you doing that for?”
      The man from Maine says, “We have so many @#$%ing potatoes just lying around our state and I’m sick and tired of seeing them.”
      Down the road a bit more, the man from Vermont starts throwing jugs out maple syrup out of the car window.
      The man from NH asks, “What are you doing that for?”
      The man from Vermont says, “We have so many @#$%ing jugs of syrup just lying around our state and I’m sick and tired of seeing them.”
      A minute later….

      The man from New Hampshire throws the man from Massachusetts out of the window.

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