Friday, 25 September 2015

Hector's House

No Post next week – I’m taking a well-deserved week off – so here’s a bumper bundle of badness to tide you over until I return.

I love 60s French pop music – the freakbeat stylings of Jacques Dutronc, the genius pop of France Gall’s Poupee du Cire and the nutso pairing of Brigitte Bardot and Serge Gainsbourg for example – but why on earth would the world need a French Screaming Lord Sutch (or Screaming Jay Hawkins for that matter)?

Yet that’s exactly what it got in 1963 when Jean-Pierre Kalfon, better known under his stage name Hector, released a handful of records via Philips France.

Not to be confused with the French actor of the same birth name (that particular Monsieur Kalfon is eight years older than our Hector and would launch his own singing career later) our Jean-Pierre was born in 1946 and was only 15 years’ old when he became Hector, the flamboyant singer of the beat combo Les Mediators (which translates as The Picks). Stealing liberally from both Hawkins and Sutch – he used to emerge on stage from a coffin just as Hawkins (and later Sutch) had done – Hector would appear in white tie, tails and cape (as Sutch often did) accompanied (in a nod to James Brown) by his faithful valet Jerome. He was also known to emulate Sutch’s caveman look from time to time. His incredibly (for the time) long, bushy hair earned him the nickname The Chopin of Twist.

Hector et Les Mediators released one 45 single and two EPs (the preferred medium in France at the time) in 1963, including covers of such rock ‘n roll standards as Peggy Sue, Whole Lotta Shaking Going On and Something Else alongside material written specifically for him, including the diabolically awful Hawkins rip-off Je Vous Déteste (I Hate You). During his wild stage show, when he wasn’t imitating Sutch (who would later be photographed with Hector, holding his famous fake axe to the Frenchman’s neck) he would take off other stars of the day… including the Singing Nun! Like Sutch he was publicity-hungry, even going so far as to try and fry an egg on the flame at the tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

After a heated disagreement with Philips over the reissue of a brace of his old 50s covers on a then-current EP he left the company, and Les Mediators - Marc Schleck (lead guitar), Serge Mosiniak (bass), Gilbert Krantz (rhythm guitar) and William ‘Atomic Bill’ Roudil (drums) - behind him. Hector continued as a solo act for a couple of years, issuing EPs in 1964 for Ducaret Thompson (via Pathé Marconi) - Alligator/Mon Copain Johny//La Femme De Ma Vie/Hong Kong - and Polydor (Abab L’Arab [a cover of the Ray Stevens/Jimmy Savile novelty hit Ahab the Arab]/Il Faut Seulement Une Petite Fille//Le Gamin Couché [a cover of the Monkees-related US hit The Gamma Goochee]/A La Fin De La Semelle [a dire French language version of Otis Redding’s I've Been Loving You Too Long]).

After recording an (unreleased) cover of Screamin’ Jay Hawkins’ The Whammy he left France in 1967 and moved to Canada, where he dabbled in artist management and rubbed shoulders with Tony Roman, the man behind Mme St Onge, before returning to Paris and re-emerging in 1970 as part of the trio Hector, Tom et Jerry with the one-off 45 Un P’tit Beaujolais/La Societie. Tom et Jerry had previously recorded as a duo for RCA.

And that was that. No more releases. He became artistic director at Barclay Records and at Pathé Marconi before becoming an actor, appearing in Gomina (1973) and Marriage (The Wedding) (1975) with Jeane Manson. In 1983 Hector bought a packaging machine manufacturing plant in Seine-et-Marne, which he sold on four years later; the following year Philips issued Je Vous Déteste, a mini-album compilation of the six sides he recorded for the company. In more recent years he has made a living out of touring the French r’n’r revival scene.

Last year (2014) Hector resurfaced with several members of Les Mediators at the unveiling of a plaque to mark the Golf Drouot – a club where many of France’s top performers (including Hector et les Mediators) performed between 1955 and 1981.

Anyway, here’s a handful of Hector’s finest. Enjoy!

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