19 July 2017

Pierre Cour - Letter To A Teenage Bride/ Love Letter



Label: Charisma
Year of Release: 1975

Oh dear. Readers, I try to be as generous and magnanimous as possible on this blog, frequently not bothering to upload or comment on crap records. There are plenty of other folk online who will happily lob their invective towards unsuccessful targets, some brilliantly, some just for cheap and easy laughs. Nobody really needs my added input, and anyway, there are far too many good records out there which have gone largely unheard. Sometimes, though, I encounter something so gobsmackingly awful that I almost feel I have to share it just as a discussion point - and this is one example of how even the most atrocious, inappropriate work can slip through the music industry net and into the world at large.

"Letter To A Teenage Bride" really is an example of a single that manages to get absolutely everything wrong. Sticking rigidly to a tedious orchestral melody that offers no melodic progression or surprises, it wouldn't even be passable as an instrumental. The whimpered female backing vocals of "Oh my Daddy! Oh Daddy, Oh Mama!" also repeat every five seconds and continue for the full four minutes of its playing time. In terms of songwriting alone, then, it's a deeply irritating dud.

That's not really my main area of concern, though. Throughout this track, Pierre Cour decides to rival Peter Wyngarde in the "bad taste lyrics" stakes, with a spoken word tale of how frustrated an older lover is by his teenage wife's demands to see her family. He implores her to understand how much fun they have together without the interference of these unwanted interlopers, chiding, snapping and sneering coldly as he does so. The record then steadily works itself to a dreadful climax (of more than one kind) with Cour making vocal demands about his conjugal rights, turning the track into some kind of sophisticated vintage wine drinker's take on The Specials' "The Boiler". 

Initially, it's tempting to be charitable and assume that Cour is trying to satirise the behaviour of grown adult men with teenage lovers, but if that's the case, it really isn't clear. All we hear about is the man's frustration with the girl's immaturity, with added hints of manipulation within the relationship. The arrangement appears to be suggesting we should side with him - the man is, after all, sophisticated and mature, whereas the girl is a constantly protesting, whining alarm call throughout without any character to speak of. At least with a song like "Come Outside", you had a sense that you knew both characters reasonably well by the time the needle left the groove. Here, the girl is just a prop for Cour's frustrated narrative.

And by God, his narrative is also poorly delivered. He can't speak fluent English, and his mutterings and murmurings slop and slick their way across the record incomprehensibly, being ponderously delivered and in places ridiculously over-acted. Even Tommy Wiseau would weep at his effort. The whole single is a total horrorshow, managing to be offensive, badly written and poorly delivered. It's utterly impossible to even pinpoint one area where it manages to get something right (it's particularly surprising that someone as skilled as Zack Laurence would be involved with this dreck). 

We've become fond of saying "the past was a foreign country" in the UK, using it to explain away the casual acceptance of all kinds of perverse (and criminal) behaviour. This isn't always true, though. In 1975, this single was apparently greeted with huge hostility by the women in the press department at Charisma Records, who refused to promote it. Faced with poor airplay and PR staff who weren't prepared to work on the single, Charisma allegedly ended up stuffing a large number of stock copies of this disc into a cupboard, never to see the light of day (though melting the lot down and recycling the vinyl towards a more worthwhile cause would have been a better response). The copy in my hand appears to be one that did manage to drift into the real world, purchased by me for the princely sum of 50p despite its scarcity. Some would argue that's at least fifty pence too much. 

Pierre Cour was a highly successful French songwriter who had penned numerous tracks for his country at Eurovision, and had embarked on a rewarding working partnership (for both parties) with Roger Whittaker by the seventies. His songs had also previously been recorded by many luminaries, such as Petula Clark, Nana Mouskouri, and Paul Mauriat. Why he needed to blot his copybook with this creepy mess is a good question, and one we will probably never get an answer to. 

Kenny Everett eventually span this on his radio show as an example of one of the worst records of all time, and that's a judgement I really don't have a quarrel with. The only thing I might debate is whether it should actually be named the worst record ever, not "one of" the worst. 

Sorry for the pops and crackles on the mp3s below, though to be perfectly honest they should be the least of your worries (and I doubt you'll want to listen to this more than once).