One of my photos

1989 – Sidi h’bibi

February 27th, 2019 · Posted by Skuds in Music · No Comments · Music

At last – the end of the 80’s and music was starting to pick up quite a bit. There were some great singles, especially dance tunes, and some equally great albums, although my track of the year is perhaps not an obvious one.Towards the end of the 80’s I was travelling more and getting more interested in foreign music. It started with Les Négresses Vertes, who got a bit of attention over here. I can remember seeing them on the James Whale TV show, and went out and bought their album Mlah on the back of that. A big part of the reason for this was that I was trying to improve my French language and was already buying videos of French films. I thought that listening to music in French would help. Mlah had all the lyrics printed in the inner sleeve and I went through them with the assistance of the Collins-Robert French dictionary and the Harraps English/French slang dictionary to translate them. No Google Translate in those days! To be honest, the slang dictionary was much more help.

None of this really helped me gain any fluency in French, but it made it easier to remember the lyrics and I can still sing along to most of that album.

A further incentive was that my girlfriend had relocated to Paris as part of her graduate rotation. Apart from visits there for work I was able to manage it so that my visits to other countries involved coming home on a Friday via Paris, so I was there quite a lot and making lots of visits to the Virgin store on the Champs-Élysées and various FNAC shops. While the UK was discovering Rick Astley I was discovering Mano Negra, Elmer Food Beat, Charlélie Couture, Niagara, and Noir Désir.

I did end up missing out on a lot of the UK scene at the time, so the whole Madchester thing passed me by.  There were upsides though. I got to see some French bands play in small clubs in London who would have been in stadiums back in France.

During the year the relationship fizzled out. It turns out that living in different capital cities is a bit of a barrier, but by then I was a firm fan of French music, and also some other European artists like Yello. My favourite of them all was Mano Negra, who had a bit of a reputation in the UK as being the French Clash. I had the first two albums (on cassette of course) and also some singles (also on cassette, with live versions on them).  The thing is that the band may have been started in Paris, in fact from the same arrondisement that I was visiting once or twice a month on conjugal visits, but most of the songs were in Spanish, with some in English and one in Arabic. Very few songs were in French, most notably the single Pas Assez de Toi.

The track that caught my attention was Sidi h’Bibi from the Puta’s Fever album. The percussionist of the band was Arabic and did the singing on it. When Manu Chao went solo, the same percussionist joined the band later on and the song re-appeared in the setlist for his concerts. It is a fantastic song. I have no idea what any of it means, I just like the sound of it. It is like Arabic punk and it is worth searching out YouTube videos of it being played live either by Mano Negra or Manu Chao.

Sidi h’Bibi was released as a single in 1991 but it was on the Puta’s Fever album, released in 1989, so I had been listening to it for ages before it failed to make any sort of dent in the UK charts. It didn’t even make much of a dent in the French charts, but it is still one of my favourites.

Despite being on a bit of a crusade to discover more continental music, there was still plenty to enjoy in the mainstream. Love Shack by the B-52s, Neneh Cherry with Buffalo Stance, Back to Life by Soul II Soul, Name & Number by Curiosity Killed the Cat, Pump Up the Jam by Technotronic, French Kiss by LilLouis, Billy Joel’s We Didn’t Start the Fire, and All Around the World by Lisa Stansfield for a start.

I saw Curioosity Killed the Cat at the LWT studios on the Southbank. We had gone to be in the audience for Friday Night Live. Or maybe Saturday Night Live. Ben Elton, Stavros, Fry & Laurie, and live bands. Around this time I was taking full advantage of living in London, going to TV shows, concerts, comedy clubs and anything else that was in Time Out. I think this was also the year I saw Jean Michel Jarre’s Docklands concert, which I remember as being as spectacular as it was wet. It poured with rain all night, and Princess Diana was there too, though she had a more sheltered location than we did.

But I am getting away from the point now. The point being that 1989 was a pretty good year for music, and for me, and that Sidi h’Bibi is something to behold.

Tags: ·

No Comments so far ↓

Like the collective mind of the Daily Mail, comments are closed.