Talk From The Rock Room: Now Playing: 'Suprise Partie' New Years 1968 Paris, France - Who, Small Faces, Fleetwood Mac, Booker T

Tuesday, December 1, 2020

Now Playing: 'Suprise Partie' New Years 1968 Paris, France - Who, Small Faces, Fleetwood Mac, Booker T

Now Playing in the ‘rock room’ is one of the finest substantial slabs of the 1960’s rock revolution to be captured on celluloid. Paris, France in 1968 was a city and country in upheaval. In May 1968 the French Revolution was ignited. A revolution in all sense of the word, the working man, artists and government were all turned upside down by the social upheaval forcing France into the modern world. Women’s rights, gay rights, student and musical freedoms were also on the docket. Concluding this important and chaotic year was a huge New Year’s Eve celebration with some of Europe’s most respected and forward thinking musicians. Now days, New Year’s Eve celebrations are nothing unusual, but here rock music was still considered to be subversive and was not taken seriously or as entertainment for the whole family unit.

‘Surprise-Partie’ was broadcast on French television on December 31, 1968 from ORTF studios in Paris and included a remarkable line up of artists. ‘The Who, Small Faces, Booker T and the MG’s, Pink Floyd, The Equals, Les Variations, The Troggs, Joe Cocker and Fleetwood Mac. Similarly to New Year’s Eve celebrations of modern times, some of the performances were taped on site and some come from various venues around Paris. Most of the bands performed live, but both the Small Faces and Who lip- synced their spots. This puzzles me somewhat at these two acts are obviously the most incendiary of the line up and famous for their live shows, but for reasons unknown they played along to backing tracks. There was a number of bands that played but did not make the television broadcast including but not limited to: PP Arnold, Francoise Hardy and Johnny Halliday.

Flickering today in the ‘rock room’ is the available circulating pro shot hour and a half broadcast. Unfortunately the original broadcast ran for three and a half, so we are missing much. What I am enjoying is also available on line for your review here. The film is quintessentially 60’s with a plethora of rock and a substantial amount of beautiful groovy ‘birds’. A paisley time capsule with a stellar captured soundtrack.

The show begins with ‘The Who’ playing along to a prerecorded track of three of their songs against the back drop of a aluminum foil dazzled stage. This particular era finds the in the grey area between their ‘psychedelic Mod’ era and Tommy. The footage is welcome for that single fact alone. ‘I’m a Boy, I Can See for Miles’, and ‘Magic Bus’ comprise the set. The band gives it their all but seems slightly uncomfortable with their surroundings. Moon and Townsend in particular seem to be feeling no pain. This mimed segment does offer a complete contrast to the Who’s devastating live performance of ‘A Quick One While He’s Away’ that took place on a few weeks prior on the Rolling Stones Rock and Roll Circus.

The ‘Small Faces’ take the stage for their segment which is also mimed. The band looks like a group of bad asses in this clip with all eyes locked firmly on the simply decorated stage. Fascinatingly, the band opens with the title track of their latest LP, Odgens Nut Gone Flake. The band is in an odd configuration with Marriott on Hammond organ. This is also a rare and unique look at the band as very early in the next year Marriott would leave the band to begin ‘Humble Pie’ with Peter Frampton. The next two songs also feature from Odgens with Ronnie Lane’s ‘Song of a Baker’ and the horny ‘Rollin Over’. A fine and funny moment occurs when Marriott leaves the Hammond to grab his guitar in time for ‘Song of a Baker’ causing him to miss the beginning of the cut. Moon and Townsend laugh and Moon gives Marriott a joking punch as he grabs his instrument. Both Townsend and Moon sit on the stage like the surrounding dancers and band around enthusiastically to the Small Faces.

The show cuts to an offsite club where ‘Booker T and the MG’s’ play live at ‘Bibelot’. The band is as taut as a drawn bow with Donald ‘Duck’ Dunn and Al Jackson in particularly fine form locking down the groove. First up a swinging version of the famed ‘Green Onions’ with Cropper and Booker taking tasteful and crisp solo spots. Following next is the 1966 B side, ‘Booker Loo’. Washed with Booker’s breezy organ lines and the intimate venue quivers with the MG’s perfect shady rhythms.

The camera’s move to an additional off site club where the celluloid grasps another famous rock band during a time of flux. Next is ‘Pink Floyd’ live at ‘Bilboquet’ hailing from September 7, 1968 (I believe the band recorded a segment at the ORTF Studios the day before).  Founder, guitarist and songwriter Syd Barrett had left the band in April 1968 and was replaced by David Gilmour who is seen in this footage for one of the first times. This bit of footage is a real treat as I feel this particular era of Pink Floyd is stellar. Here the band performs ‘Let There Be More Light’ the lead off track from 1968’s Saucerful of Secrets. Of special note to ‘rock geek’s, is that this song is the first to feature a David Gilmour guitar solo and a stunning on at that. Set up on a minimalist stage, the song revolves around Roger Water’s weighty bass line. The psychedelia pulsates with a lysergic march to which a number of swirling and twirling girls and boys gyrate. The band is heavy and this particular performance sets something of a high water mark for what was to come for this definitive line up of the group.

‘The Equals’, a UK R and B band follow playing a short fiery three song live set. The band is known for their big hit, ‘Baby, Come Back’ (which closed this set), but also as one of the first racially mixed bands of the time.  The crowd is pumped with everyone on their feet and shakin’ asses. ‘Equality’ cooks with a soulful Eddy Grant guitar solo complete with some Hendrix style theatrics including playing with his mouth and buns! There is some serious sonic shoveling going on. The finishes bombastically with their big aforementioned single, ‘Baby Come Back’.

Popular French musicians, ‘Les Variations’ join the stage to play a set thematically connected by all being performed by the ‘Stones’ except for the closing ‘We’re Going Wrong’ (via Cream) which emerged from an ‘world music interlude’ during the set closing ‘Satisfaction’. ‘Les Variations’ set is charged rock and roll brought to life by a fully invested crowd who loves their hometown boys! Take note of the snappers in the front row who initiate the party atmosphere and get on stage during the gritty dynamic and improvised vamp on ‘Around and Around’. ‘Les Variations’ rips it up! A similarly high energy ‘Everybody Needs Somebody to Love’ gets the assembled crowd even more crazed with some early crowd surfing. These are the kind of sick moments that the ‘rock room’ lives for!! I will say that my assumption that the circulating video is out of order may be confirmed during the ‘Les Variations’ set as the credits are run during the concluding number.

‘The Troggs’ live set though maybe more well-known artists, pales in comparison to ‘Les variations’ freak out. Well known for the smash, ‘Wild Thing’ the US forerunners of ‘garage rock’ play a well-received set but one that lacks in the power of the previous groups. Nonetheless, the band is brisk and disseminates a chunky set of grooving pop psych. A strangely placed cover of Buddy Holly’s ‘Peggy Sue’ is nestled mid set before the band closes with a singalong version ‘Somewhere My Girl Is Waiting’ from the bands 1967 LP Cellophane and the high tempo sudsy stomp of ‘Hip Hip Hurray’.

The cameras move yet again to join Joe Cocker and the Grease Band live at the ‘Tour de Nesle’ in Paris. A two song set comprised of the ‘Dylan/Band’s’, ‘I Shall Be Released’ and Cocker’s famous rendition of the ‘Beatles’, ‘With a Little Help From My Friends’. This segment may be the most intimate venue view yet as Cocker and his band are ‘elbows to ass*h*oles’ on the dimly lit and cramped stage. Cocker is his usual invested self and the footage joins with the small club crowd slow swaying and dancing. When ‘With a Little Help from My Friends’ begins it gets the girls right up and dancing near the lip of the stage. Fresh faced Cocker gyrates and moves with the downbeat and reaches for each note while making the purely Beatles song his own only a bit over a year since its release. The footage of the stage from over the top of the minimal crowd really give listener a sense of time and space. Cocker directs the band charismatically during the ‘Friends’ conclusion with his body punctuation's and growling vocals driving one of the highlights of the broadcast to a substantial and explosive finish.

Closing the available footage is a three song blues set by the original ‘Fleetwood Mac’. Peter Green takes lead vocal for the track ‘Homework’ which is turned in on time and features a delicious shuffle. Peter Green steps back to let Jeremy Spencer come forward for two slide guitar focused numbers which the Mac appropriately kick their way through. The band closes with Elmore James, ‘Dust My Broom’ which gets the crowd swinging, but honestly we all know that 'Fleeetwood Mac' could have taken the show down in flames if they chose to.

The circulating footage of ‘New Years Eve 1968, ‘Surprise Partie’ is a time capsule of a unique musical and social period in our history. The pro shot color footage appropriates the era through sound, sight and aesthetic. Such an amazing visual experience to become part of an epoch that we can only read about and analyze through the foggy lens of history.

Suprise-Partie 1968


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