Our world is blue

Paul Mauriat, the orchestra leader whose 1968 recording of “Love Is Blue” is, to these ears, the second-best French instrumental ever, has died in Perpignan, in southern France near the Spanish border.

Born in Marseille in 1925, Mauriat led his own band during the 1940s, subsequently working with Charles Aznavour and honing his own reputation as a classical pianist. Maintenance of that reputation perhaps led him to release his pop records, starting in 1957, under various pseudonyms; in 1962, as “Del Roma,” he got his first hit as a composer, cowriting (with Franck Pourcel and lyricist Jacques Plante) “Chariot,” a massive hit for Petula Clark. (The next year, an English-language version was a smash in the US for Little Peggy March, under the title “I Will Follow Him.”)

You might figure from that particular example that Mauriat was an exponent of strong melodies, and let the words come in where they will, and you’d be correct. Pierre Cour’s lyrics to “L’Amour est Bleu,” first sung by Vicky Leandros at the 1967 Eurovision Song Contest — it placed fourth — were clearly secondary to André Popp’s music, and when Mauriat recorded it in 1968, he cast it as a sort of neo-Baroque string piece with harpsichord accents. It sold zillions on the Continent and (as Philips 40495) made #1 in the States, the fifth-biggest instrumental, as Casey Kasem says, of the Rock Era. I’m on my third copy of the single.

Starting with Blooming Hits, the LP containing “Love Is Blue,” the next few Mauriat album covers, at least in the US, could be described as Blatantly Sexy, peaking with the late-’68 Mauriat Magic, which produced two minor singles: “Même si tu revenais,” otherwise known as “Love in Every Room,” and a version of John Phillips’ “San Francisco,” which you remember with Scott McKenzie advising you to wear some flowers in your hair.

Mauriat also built a name for himself in the Far East, signing with the Japanese Pony Canyon label in 1994 and touring in Japan as late as 1998. His orchestra, still bearing his name, continues to perform. “Love Is Blue,” to my knowledge, has never gone out of print, and Blooming Hits was just reissued on CD by Collectors’ Choice Music.

And that first-best French instrumental? Right here.





3 comments

  1. Mister Snitch! »

    5 November 2006 · 11:16 am

    This brings up an intriguing (well, to me anyway) question: Why does English-language music get played all over the world, while (for example) very little music from France gets traction here? It’s not just because we’re such aggressive marketers – French cuisine does well everywhere, it doesn’t get drowned out by McDonald’s.

  2. CGHill »

    5 November 2006 · 11:50 am

    I think it’s a reflection of the fact that the French record industry doesn’t have any consistent reach into US markets: the individual labels are either small and aren’t distributed here, or are parts of big multinationals that already have American interests. Petula Clark recorded for the French label Vogue; “Chariot” was a massive Eurohit, but nothing was heard from her in the States until she’d signed a US contract with Warner Bros. (WB’s Joe Smith reportedly heard “Downtown” in Vogue’s offices and offered to distribute Clark’s recordings right then and there.) Paul Mauriat had the advantage of a contract (from 1965) with Philips, which was actually based in the Netherlands, and which had a US outpost already (Chicago-based Mercury Records, which Philips eventually bought outright).

    Another issue might be that for many years, the French had few singles as we know them, the market preferring EPs: 7-inch disks with two tracks per side. Few such, even on American labels, were ever sold in the States. (Capitol issued, for instance, only two Beatles EPs.)

  3. Tatyana »

    5 November 2006 · 1:23 pm

    Ah, Mauriat Orchestra, a must for a candles/roses/”have-you-seen-that-Kurosawa-film” triviality…Where’s my 17?

RSS feed for comments on this post