Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Michel Polnareff - Polnareff's (1971)

I’m paraphrasing most of this from wikipedia because his story is so significant and fascinating, so fuck it. This is also essentially a re-write of my write up on Fame a la Mode, but again, fuck it.

“Black glasses, fancy trousers, and ambiguous provocations” are just a few components of Michel Polnareff’s flamboyant image, not to mention his muscular physique and adoration for tank tops (hey, we have something in common!) However, it was Polnareff’s elegance and sincerity, along with his endearing quasi-narcissism (a rare, almost contradictory quality) that made him unmatched by any of his peers as a pop star in his era. With these aforementioned qualities, combined with his impassioned voice and his competent musicianship and song-crafting abilities, he was destined for stardom. Although, as they say, the fall from the top is a long way down.

At the peak of his career, adored by the French public, censored and often banned by French officials, a disastrous occurrence of fate happened when his manager at the time, Bernard Seneau, ran off with all of his money, leaving him broke and adding to his deep depression from his close friend’s recent suicide. Soon thereafter, his mother also passed away and with him unable to pay his debts, he was exiled and forced to flee to the US to live anonymously.

Dark times ensued for Mr. Polnareff. However, he continued to record, and even had semi-hit in the States, “Jesus for Tonight,” which landed him on the billboard charts. He also did some soundtrack work during his time in the US for the exploitation rape drama Lipstick (1976). Although his success was not nearly as fruitful as it was in France, he continued writing and touring and ended up in Belgium, where thousands of French fans came to see him perform and pay respects to the once legendary star. In 1981, he had a comeback album called Bulles, which made him even more popular in France.

Fortunately, the tragedy here has a happy ending. Later in his career, in 1989, he returned to France and recorded several hit albums, almost picking up where he left off in the early to mid 70s. His popularity was benefited even moreso by his tribulations and his new creative spark, with the album Kama Sutra gaining critical acclaim in his home country. After playing a number of well-received concerts in both France and the US, he sort of dropped off the map in 1996. He had a brief third revival in the 2000s, playing a few shows which garnered great support from his longtime fans, but he has yet to release any new material and has been presumably living a peaceful, quiet life away from the spotlight, profiting from the royalties of his past record sales. Lawrence of Felt was often quoted as being a huge Polnareff fan, and he inspired many other musicians as well. His legacy lives on today, especially in France.

Rating: 9.5/10

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