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the Pale

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'Taking Notes and Stealing Quotes'

Toujours l 'Amour

Album: Grand Hotel (1973)

Authors: Brooker / Reid 

 Read the words

Performed: promotionally, mainly

Cover-versions: none

In typical style for this side of the Grand Hotel album, Gary Brooker's piano sets the tempo for this elaborate rocker: within a few seconds the whole five-piece is steaming away, and it remains that way for the whole song. The production almost seems light after Grand Hotel itself, but we are still evidently not listening to the 'raw' five-piece: two guitars play in the solo breaks (despite claims to the contrary, Dave Ball remains – graciously – convinced that the slow-moving one that picks out the chord changes is his own playing, left from the abandoned first sessions for the album) and there is overdubbed tambourine almost throughout and handclaps at the end; furthermore the harmony vocals, which come in at verse two, sound sharper than the band was able to achieve live. Organ is busy and effective throughout, greeting verse three with an attractive registration change; BJ's tom-toms get some nice stereo panning but are not as clear in the mix as the playing deserves to be. But the guitar playing here – our first recorded glimpse of Mick Grabham outside the arranged constraints of Grand Hotel – is tremendous, specially the expressive second half of the second, extended solo, which is constructed with an earthy panache that reassured the fans who still hankered for the days of Trower. The vigorous ending, with its surprise repeats and virtuoso co-ordination, seems to be an invitation to applaud. Toujours l'Amour came out as the 'B' side to the (banned!) novelty single, A Souvenir Of London. It is perhaps a little too samey to have made a convincing 'A' side, and its title would have baffled many a DJ.

'The title roughly means "long live love". And it is an obvious quip about the song itself,' said Keith Reid to Circus (May 1973). It's interesting that no comment was made about why the title is in French. There are French girls in Grand Hotel and in this song, and Souvenir is in principle a French word, but that's not reason enough. Reid may well have been looking to the 1945 title No More Toujours L'Amour by Hoagy Carmichael. To the English-speaking lyric writer, the French word for love seems to conjure up some added sophistication: for instance Kate Bush writes L'Amour Looks Something Like You, and Bryan Ferry croons ''L'amour, l'amour, l'amour" over the chorus of an early Roxy Music song; American cabaret vocal quartet Manhattan Transfer took Chanson D'Amour to the top of the UK chart in 1977: could this have happened using an English translation? The actress Mary Slaton captured movie-goers' imagination under the pseudonym 'Dorothy Lamour'. Gary Brooker introduces Toujours l'Amour as 'a song about a cocktail' at one gig; «Toujours l'amour» is sometimes uttered as a drinkers' toast (the French wine Schorlemorle takes its name from German attempts to pronounce this). Literally 'toujours' is 'always' but it can mean 'still'. The rhymes 'toujours' and 'l'amour' are as convenient to French lyricists as 'moon' and June' are to English ones; and since there are several sound-punning titles on Grand Hotel it may be worth mentioning that with an indifferent accent the title might resolve to 'tu jures l'amour', which might mean 'you swear love'.

Musically the song is a close relation of Power Failure, with which it shares its pianistic key of B flat and its heavy rocking feel; both are built on a piano riff that is then repeated at a lower pitch, both extend the 'collapsing cell' motif that is common in Brooker's writing, picking this out with 'aah' backing-vocals. The chords of Toujours are much more sophisticated: they open in B flat with an exotically-juxtaposed set of bluesily-related majors, and the 'cell' (highlighted by the backing vocals) uses a pedal A flat under a cycle of falling fourths, G flat, D flat, A flat [compare this with the opening of Power Failure, where the falling fourths are E flat, B flat and F over a pedal B flat: here the bass misrelates to the final chord, in Toujours it misrelates with the first]. Toujours then repeats all this material a minor third lower, contributing a fresh, exciting feel at the same time as brilliantly leading us back to an F from which the B flat sequence can start afresh. It has a middle section, based on a relative G minor with its fifth note rising to make E flat and C (the same chords, in reverse, supply the central section of Simple Sister, a more distant cousin to this song) before reverting to B flat and related chords. This G minor section, which supports only soloing and no words, is prepared by a D7 at the ends of the verses; but verse one dives from that D7 straight back into B flat, which is exactly what happens at the end of verses in Power Failure too. Brooker's characteristic bluesy suppression of the dominant in his rocking songs evidently extends to an actual subversion of the chord, allowing it to 'point' to new beginnings that would puzzle teachers of conventional harmony: this contributes some of his most dramatic effects.

The song is one of a group written in the first half of 1972 and first recorded in the Dave Ball Grand Hotel sessions. It was probably played as early as January 1972 when Procol briefly toured Britain with Amazing Blondel supporting. It featured solidly in setlists during the promotional round of 1973 and 1974, including orchestral gigs at the Rainbow (September 1972), on the German tour (October 1972) and at the Hollywood Bowl (September 1973): the choir's huge 'aahs' made more of an impact there than the orchestra did, bolstering the weighty sounds behind Grabham's' fine guitar solos: the fly in the ointment was an orchestral percussionist whose whiplash sound maybe corresponded to some notional pulse, but was completely out of kilter with what BJ was dictating to the band.. After 1974 Toujours l'Amour was heard occasionally, but lost prominence, perhaps because its compact, intense arrangement offers the players less variety and excitement than the likes of its main rival, Bringing Home the Bacon.

  Thanks to Frans Steensma for additional information about this song



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