Warning for Donagh - this post may or may not mention football … Avert your eyes now !
A post resulting from more deadtime spent on YouTube - I’ve a lot of that recently due to the wonderful French employment market for blokes with funny accents.
Anyhow, had heard a cover on the radio of great 80/90s French stroke World stroke Punk band Mano Negra sung in an Australian accent. I thought initially it was Robert Forster but no DJ came on to enlighten me. Off then to YouTube where I was sure I’d come up with the answer. As ever, looking for A, I started off finding R, W and possibly Z. R being for Henry Rollins - who has his own talkshow now (makes consummate sense - the man could talk to the Olympic qualifying standard *). Among the guests performing and interviewed, one Manu Chao - ex frontman of Mano Negra, so let’s start from there :
Manu Chao is a major figure on the French musical scene - and through the Spanish-speaking world too, I believe. A son of a Galician father brought up somewhere out there in Paris’s interminable suburbs - he and Mano Negra distilled punk into the multitude of rich musical influences available to him in late 70s/early 80s Paris - African, Maghrebin, Reggae - just to begin with.
As it turns out, the Mano Negra cover I heard on the radio had been done by Bad Seed Mick Harvey. Harvey already has some ‘francophile’ form having done a couple of albums of Gainsbourg songs. Here then is his version of Mano Negra’s ‘Out of Time Man’ :
In ‘Out of Time Man’ we can hear the riff from Iggy’s Passenger given a stir up in Mano Negra’s shaker. For me it has always sounded, believe it or not, a bit like some of the more quality side of the ‘pub rock’ style (Squeeze, Steve Harley, Nick Lowe…). Peculiarly enough, Dr Feelgood are even mentioned as an early influence on Manu Chao. Manu reminds me most particularly of Strummer and The Clash. He appears to be carrying on the torch of some of the Clash’s finest moments - the albums where they started looking beyond the punk ghetto a lot of others had gotten themselves stuck in (Sandinista / Combat Rock). Chao’s switching between languages and global styles is very reminiscent of Strummer’s never-ending quest for great and obscure music from all parts.
I’m unsure of Chao’s profile in the English-speaking world. I remember one time I was home, there was a gig advertised for in that wee venue across the road from Conway’s and beside the babby factory - but I never heard whether the gig went ahead or not. Apparently, one of his recent tunes has been covered by up and coming young star Robbie Williams (’Je ne t’aime plus, mon amour’). I doubt too many of the latter’s fans went out hunting down Mano Negra’s back catalogue.
I’ll finish up with a ten-minute interview from the same Rollins show (for those patient enough). About halfway through, he tells how our own Stiff Little Fingers were the band that inspired him to almost risk his life bringing punk to the shitty banlieu he lived in in the late 70s :
Mr Chao currently lives in Barcelona (lucky sod) - I have not managed to find out if he’s a season-ticket holder or not….
* Henry - before ye come looking for me, coming from a Paddy, that’s a compliment…