Jean-Jacques Burnel - Euroman cometh
Burnel's solo career began in 1979, with the release of his "Euroman Cometh" LP. According to the bassist, the album was pieced together from 'after-hours" recordings made in London during the Stranglers' "Black And White" sessions. "I had nowhere to sleep at the time," he explains languidly. "I'd get stoned with my mates in the studio, then late at night, once they'd all gone, I'd be there with my sleeping bag and pillows - maybe I'd have a few girlfriends round - and start messing about with the drum machine." Before long, Burnel's moonlighting had accumulated enough material for an album, which United Artists duly agreed to issue. "I thought, 'This'll set the cat among the pigeons,'" he recalls, "because firstly, nobody expected me to be capable of anything and secondly, it was quite a departure from what I'd been doing before." Indeed, in marked contrast to the punchy, melodic songs on "Black And White", "Euroman Cometh" contained a collection of dark, atmospheric soundscapes, embroidered with Burnel's intense, monotone theorising about a united Europe - variously delivered in English, German and French.
"I used rhythm boxes - this was before there were proper drum machines - which you couldn't programme. It was a choice of little presets, 'fast rhumba', 'fast salsa'. I'd just work around them.
But besides the music, which ranged from the haunting, textured fumblings of "Euromess" to the frenetic backdrop to Burnel's version of the Beat Merchants' R&B classic, "Pretty Face", the LP's most remarkable feature was its preoccupation with the subject of Europe. As its title hinted, "Euroman Cometh" argued that England and its Continental neighbours had to become allies to ensure the survival of their respective cultures and economies. With admirable foresight, it also demanded the reunification of Germany! Burnel, whose mother is French, explains: "I believed - and I still do - that, although there may not be a United States of Europe, eventually there will be some sort of confederation with growing ties between each state. Anyone who doesn't think that must be living between the Zulu Wars or something."
Despite its mixed critical reception, "Euroman Cometh" reached No. 40 in the charts. As a taster for the album, United Artists released a single, "Freddie Laker (Concorde & Eurobus)", but unfortunately it sank without trace. In retrospect this is strange, as the A-side, which concerned the antics of the famous airline entrepreneur, was the most Strangler-esque track on the album. (The flipside, "Ozymandias", was a poem by Shelley from 1817 put to music.) Collectors should note that the 45 was also issued in France, Australia and Spain, with the last of these coming in a slightly different picture cover. In April 1979, Burnel assembled a band - comprising himself, Peter Howells, Penny Tobin and John Ellis )ex-Vibrator and present-day Strangler) - and set out on an extensive UK tour to promote the LP. Unfortunately, the series of dates was a flop, largely because the band's 45-minute set contained little to please the many die-hard Stranglers fans who turned up at the shows. However, punters were given some light relief each night when J.J. brought on his beloved Triumph motorbike to provide the 'revving up' intro to "Triumph (Of The Good City)", though the machine had to be replaced halfway through the tour when its engine played up! The band's performance at Hemel Hempstead was taped for posterity, and recently turned up on EMI's reissue of the "Euroman" LP.
Jean-Jacques Burnel - Euroman cometh
Labels: New Wave + Indie