looking for leonie
BLOWUPDOLL EXCLUSIVE - LEONIE - ELISABETTI
i am beyond thrilled to bring you a brand new leonie discovery courtesy of jez - i have asked him to write about this discovery. (the b-side will be posted in a few days)
"Blowupdoll’ readers will have shared Mordi’s joy in discovering the work of the French chanteuse Leonie. I felt the same when a few years ago I first heard her 1971 single ‘En Alabama ’. Her fragile yet subtly expressive voice is enchanting, especially when framed by the work of composers, arrangers and lyricists of the legendary calibre of Jean-Claude Vannier, Christophe, Karl-Heinz Schafer, Mort Shuman and Etienne Roda-Gil. But as anyone who’s fell under her spell knows, the joy soon gives way to frustration.
The few available discographies list her known recorded output as an impossibly obscure 1968 four track EP recorded as Leonie Lousseau (which I’ve still never heard), four singles released between 1971 and 1975 and the hauntingly beautiful ‘Couleurs’ which can be heard on the OST of the film ‘Les Gants Blanc Du Diable’. Then?... douce rien. Try finding a photo of her that isn’t on her record sleeves, and you’ll see.
It was while researching this most mysterious chanteuse that I first came across the radio ads that Mordi has been teasing you with – not completely unknown in France it seems, but big news to fans elsewhere I think. Not only was it great to hear her voice again, but the ads confirm that she was still working in the mid eighties, 10 years after her last known record release. I alerted Mordi and a dialogue commenced.
I then managed to dig up her one credited movie appearance in a 1969 French film called ‘Paul’ and we hoped it might at least yield some screen grabs of the mysterious Leonie – we were sadly disappointed – in fact we completely failed to recognise her amidst the movie’s wilfully obscure avant-gardism. It’s not like we had a lot of photos to work from!
Then there came another discovery, much more exciting. A 1979 single entitled ‘Elisabetti’ and credited to Leonie turned up for sale on the web. I know there’s been a few singers called Leonie down the years and so before I chanced my money on some bad Italian balladry or sappy German schlagerpop I redoubled my efforts to link it to our Leonie, even appealing for information on 'very good plus', the UK based brains trust of vinyl boffins (where I sometimes lurk as ‘giantchicken’) – not even this cabal of superbrains could help!
Clearly a decision had to be made and I laid down my money based on three things; the picture on the sleeve bore at least a resemblance to Leonie and the timeframe was credible, the second track ‘Y’a rien a faire avec les hommes’ was in French - on Ariola, a German label. Finally, when I considered the other acts on Ariola around that time - Amanda Lear, Silver Convention, Japan, etc it occurred to me that Leonie’s cute charm would fit in perfectly - especially, as I reasoned with Mordi, ‘if she’d gone a bit disco’…a nervous wait ensued….
But it’s now, with some great disbelief and enormous joy that I can finally announce – the world has another Leonie single to cherish! The sepia tinted sleeve shows Leonie looking pensive like a rather sober schoolmistress and completely fails to betray the fun and excitement of ‘Elisabetti’, a song co-written with seasoned international pop/disco all-rounder Paul Ives.
This pen portrait of a fashionable yet jaded Italian borghese has absorbed all the energy and angularity of the disco/new wave explosion that had occurred since her last release and should have seen Leonie fighting back strongly against Lio, Kate Bush, Nina Hagen, Lene Lovich, Gina ‘X’ and all the other pretenders to the ‘weirdchick’ crown that had emerged in her absence. Why it didn’t will be another Leonie mystery to uncover – I suppose the understated sleeve didn’t help much….
If ‘Elisabetti’ comes as something of a shock to seasoned fans, it’s B-side, ‘Y’a rien a faire avec les hommes’ finds Leonie back in more familiar territory, intoning gently in a rather woozy fashion over a deliciously laconic, slightly jazzy shuffle beat. The provocative title and sexy giggles hint at something else which my schoolboy French unfortunately can’t quite decipher. (traduction, anyone?)
This track sounds to my ears perhaps a year or two older than ‘Elisabetti’ and the band sound not unlike the English session crew who graced Jane Birkin albums in the late seventies. Another mystery is ‘Gael Donadieu’ who is credited as Leonie’s co-songwriter here. Googling the name reveals nothing and I wonder if Leonie’s collaborator is hiding behind a pseudonym.
I had worried that even if this record turned out to be THE Leonie, time and fashion might have overtaken our heroine. It seems I should have known better….here’s to uncovering more mysteries – I hope you all can help!
Jez Morewood (DJ /Collector, Manchester UK )
Labels: french 70s, leonie