Comme D'Habitude
August 1, 2010 9:05 PM   Subscribe

The original version of "My Way" ("Comme d'Habitude", Frank Sinatra's version was a cover) was written by Claude Francois, AKA "CloClo". Somewhere between a French Wayne Newton and Elvis, he died when he was taking a bath, saw a lightbulb had gone out, and tried to replace it while standing in water, completing the circuit. Some of his hit songs include: Belinda, Belles Belles Belles (cover of "Girls Girls Girls"), Si J'avais un Marteau (if I had a Hammer), Sale Bonhomme (French country, cover of Johnny Cash's "Dirty Dan"), Le Disco est Francais His scantily clad female backup dancers, called the "Claudettes" or Clodettes, were the inspiration for the Solid Gold dancers and had their own short-lived solo spinoff career where they tried to cash in on the kung-fu + disco craze.
posted by destro (27 comments total) 22 users marked this as a favorite
Trés cool, mais voici le correct link pour le premier chose...
posted by Crane Shot at 9:47 PM on August 1, 2010

CloClo did a reverse 'My Way' with the Four Seasons 'December 1963 (Oh What a Night)', writing new lyrics (about himself, comme d'habitude) and making what is arguably the greatest music video ever. (Equally awesome TV performance.)

He also played Brigitte Bardot to a teenage Jodie Foster's Serge Gainsbourg in a creepy version of Comic Strip.
posted by grounded at 10:39 PM on August 1, 2010 [3 favorites]

I love
all of this.
So much.
posted by StopMakingSense at 11:17 PM on August 1, 2010

Podium is an excellent movie starring Benoit Poelvoorde as a Bernard Fréderic, a Claude Francois impersonator. He has his own backup dancers, called the "Bernadettes".
posted by Akeem at 11:42 PM on August 1, 2010 [2 favorites]

Whoa, that Clodettes link has some unflattering outfits. The kung-fu outfits are restrained by comparison.
posted by benzenedream at 12:07 AM on August 2, 2010

What's with all these weird old dudes covering Sid Vicious?
posted by koeselitz at 12:16 AM on August 2, 2010 [3 favorites]

Okay, now that I got my stupid joke out of the way: I love this guy. I particularly love the way he dances. Nobody over here in America dances – dancing is something done by (a) unimportant backup dancers and (b) women, who are deemed less important too, and you can tell how important a woman is in a music video by how little she actually dances and how much she gets to just vamp in front of people dancing. But dancing is very marginalized, particularly at our moment in time, although this isn't a strictly isolated phenomenon; I think it's always been true to a degree.

It seems as though we Americans see a man who dances as somehow 'fey,' to use that lovely (ugh) euphemism. Bluntly, dancing is something we think queers do, because it gives away your power, and even a powerful woman wouldn't do that too much (except to show her willingness to use her submission as a kind of power.)

This dude, though – in a lot of these videos, at least, he's keeping up, he's doing all the moves that the backup dancers have to do and more. Awesome! And how badass. Or maybe this just makes sense – if you're the star, maybe you damned well ought to be able to keep up with the dancers you hired, instead of just standing there in front of the background holding your mic and crooning like everybody else does now.
posted by koeselitz at 12:27 AM on August 2, 2010 [8 favorites]

I always thought it interesting that "My Way" expresses a kind of satisfaction for a life well-lived, while "Comme d'habitude" portrays a rather bleak tale of marital stagnation.

When talking about CloClo, we need to include "Le téléphone pleure" (The telephone is crying) about a man who tries to get in touch with an old flame and discovers that he has a daughter.

Finally, looking at cross-lingual song covers, compare Jacques Brel's "Le Moribond" (The Dying Man): 1961 studio version, 1972 studio version
to the rather maudlin translation popularized by Terry Jacks as "Seasons in the Sun."

The Kingston Trio's version captures (slightly more) the insouciant tone of the Brel original, with reference to the narrator's wife cheating on him with a friend of his.

On the other hand, David Bowie's version of Brel's "Amsterdam" is rather faithful lyrically, though of course both are sung to the tune of an old song which has been repurposed elsewhere.
posted by dhens at 12:59 AM on August 2, 2010 [6 favorites]

Bluntly, dancing is something we think queers do, because it gives away your power

Ohhh ... so *that*'s the excuse?? But ... what kind of power is revealed by hiding?

Poor gay Gene Kelly, giving away all that power.
posted by Twang at 1:05 AM on August 2, 2010

Blah blah David Bowie blah blah Paul Anka blah blah "Life on Mars?".
posted by John Shaft at 1:34 AM on August 2, 2010

Now I want backup dancers. The bukvettes. Something else to put on my wish list.
posted by bukvich at 4:36 AM on August 2, 2010

I should know this (being of a certain age) but there was a kung fu + disco craze? That might explain the short life of their solo career.
posted by tommasz at 5:11 AM on August 2, 2010

Nina Simone's version of "My Way" is by far still my favorite. She was the queen of cover songs, she managed to turn everything she touched inside out and find a wholly new way of singing it.
posted by hermitosis at 6:55 AM on August 2, 2010

I love the French. The food, the culture, the art, they way they keep authority on its toes, so much to love about them. But the bathtub just seems to elude them somehow. It's like Koreans and fans, or Americans and arteries.
posted by Naberius at 7:01 AM on August 2, 2010 [2 favorites]

I can tell that you searched metafilter for 'Claude Francois' to find out if he had posted about previously.
But the correct search term obviously is Claude François.
posted by joost de vries at 7:27 AM on August 2, 2010

dhens, Brels Port d'Amsterdam is even more compelling when you see him sing it live.
Personally I think it was unwise for Bowie to invite comparison to Brel. IMO he can't hold a candle to Brels live version.
posted by joost de vries at 7:38 AM on August 2, 2010

I wonder incidentally how CloClo might feel to know that his song had caused a string of bloody (and sometimes fatal) fights in the Phillipines.
posted by koeselitz at 8:05 AM on August 2, 2010

Jacques Brel was an amazing live performer. Enregistrement Public à l'Olympia 1961 is one of the great live albums of all time. The version of Le moribond from that concert is incredible. It's a Seasons in the Sun fit for storming barricades.
posted by Kattullus at 9:21 AM on August 2, 2010

I know this is a CloClo thread, but I have to link to the L'Olympia 1961 version of Ne me quitte pas. Here's a YouTube playlist for the whole album.
posted by Kattullus at 9:32 AM on August 2, 2010 [1 favorite]

I like comparing "My Way" with "It Was a Very Good Year". Both are older men looking back on their lives- one with pride and one with satisfaction- but I tend to find "My Way" inspiring, whereas "It Was a Very Good Year" always instills this tremendous sense of loss...
posted by Pope Guilty at 10:14 AM on August 2, 2010

So it's a heresy then - to mutter that "My Way" has been degraded beyond rescue for some as the self-awarded anthem of untruths so beloved by every drunken management snotbag who ever grabbed the microphone at his own eagerly-anticipated (by everyone else) retirement bash?

The post is brilliant, by the way.
posted by Jody Tresidder at 11:12 AM on August 2, 2010

joost de vries: I would certainly agree that Bowie's performance is nowhere near as spirited as Brel's; I am just making the point that the translation Bowie uses is more faithful to Brel's original, unlike the way "Le Moribond" was butchered into "Seasons in the Sun."
posted by dhens at 1:39 PM on August 2, 2010

Returning to CloClo, I was first exposed to him (without even knowing at the time) via the Gypsy Kings' "A Mi Manera" ("My Way").
posted by dhens at 1:44 PM on August 2, 2010

What I absolutely adore about these videos is the clarity of how much fun everyone is having. Everyone's not perfectly centered, the technical details are a little sketchy, and the timing is approximate—not locked to a damn atomic clock like most of the crap out there just now. I have no doubt that people who call themselves "dancers" these days are more technically accomplished than the bouncy bell-bottomed gang kicking the floor around CloClo, but so what? Watching modern hoofers robotically jamming through their over-rehearsed routines is about as joyous as watching sewing machines fucking.

Give me bouncy French people any day.
posted by sonascope at 6:17 PM on August 2, 2010

Fact- "Eloise" is the best CloClo cover. To Whit.
posted by ThaBombShelterSmith at 7:10 PM on August 2, 2010

Well, Si j'avais un marteau is pretty far from the original; a celebration of large families, when large families were already rare in France.
posted by Monday, stony Monday at 9:53 PM on August 2, 2010

Ah. No Claude François post is complete without Alexandrie Alexandra. Or Magnolias for ever. Or Chanson populaire (ça s'en va et ça revient).

I remember when he died as if it was yesterday. It was the first time I truly realised people don't live forever. He was the first in a string of idols of mine that died around that time: Jacques Brel (cancer, 1978), Joe Dassin (heart attack, 1980), Georges Brassens (cancer, 1981).
posted by mvuijlst at 11:08 AM on August 3, 2010

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