Lizzy Mercier Descloux Best Off

ALBUM ZE.LP26

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ITINERARY OF A TIRELESS NOMAD

I met Lizzy Mercier Descloux when I came back from my first trip to the US; she was only 17 years old. She was trailing her frail figure round the Beaux-Arts school, spending her time drawing, reading and writing poetry. I had a shop called « Harry Cover » at 12 rue des Halles, in the center of Paris where one could find rare imported records from England or the US, and any kind of Rock merchandise. The basement quickly began to look like rehearsal premises for what was about to become the first wave of Parisian punk-rock bands.

Lizzy used to live at 11 rue des Halles, just across from Harry Cover. Her name was still Martine-Elizabeth Mercier. I renamed her Lizzy, a diminutive for Elizabeth, and later added to her last name, her father’s, a father who didn’t even know of his daughter’s existence; a father she would met only a few months before her disappearance. Somehow, it was as if we were meant for each other, and for 30 years Lizzy was my Soul Mate.

When I created the first French « punk fanzine », Rock News , in 1975, it was clear that Lizzy should be part of it. We left together for New York in December 1975 in order to cover the awakening of a scene from which important bands would quickly emerge, like the Ramones, Talking Heads, Television, Heartbreaker, Blondie, Richard Hell & the Voidoids, and of course, Patti Smith who soon became a close friend. The following year, it was the time when the English bands started to rise, and we were privileged enough to witness the first gigs of bands like the Sex Pistols, the Clash and so many others. The adventure was intense and fascinating. To paraphrase the good Dr John, there are moments in the ephemeral history of rock when you have to be « at the right time, at the right place ». Lizzy and I had that privilege.

Rock News, just like punk, was not built to last. We moved to New York in1977 and became close friends with the main actors of this local scene. Patti Smith, with whom we were sharing a loft, insisted that we formed a band. Lizzy then bought a Fender Jazzmaster and started to check out the clubs and galleries of SoHo and the Lower East Side, joined by my brother Didier, under the name « Rosa Yemen ». I myself preferred the quieter status of producer in the shadows. At that time, I had just produced, with John Cale, the single of Marie et Les Garçons, the semi-cult « Re-Bop ». John asked me later to help him create his own label SPY Records; while Lizzy was writing her first book,« Desiderata », which I published soon after ; a collection of poems, collages, drawings, pictures, with collaboration by Richard Hell and a preface by Patti Smith. Through John Cale, I met Michael Zilkha the future associate with whom I formed ZE Records, the label on which the first mini LP of Rosa Yemen was released in 1978.

The same year, New York witnessed the emergence of a new scene later called « No Wave » by the journalists (as opposed to the former New Wave), composed by Wannabe Arty, an eclectic group made up of musicians, filmmakers, or graffiti artists like Keith Haring, or Jean-Michel Basquiat. Everybody played in each other’s bands, acted in each other’s movies, and even composed the soundtracks. Arto Lindsay, Lydia Lunch, James Chance/White, Mars, Lizzy, they all ended up signing on ZE Records. At that time, ZE Records also financed the « New Cinema », and Zilkha was soon to produce Edo’s movie - alongside Maripol and Glen O’Brien - « Downtown 1981 », about and starring Jean-Michel Basquiat, in which you can see James Chance, Arto Lindsay and, another ZE Records signature: Kid Creole and the Coconuts and we find Lizzy and Richard Hell again in Amos Poe’s « Blank Generation ».

New York between ‘78 and ‘81 was probably one of the most creative places on the planet. In 1978, Lizzy released her first full-length LP « Press Color », recorded in the now mythic Blank Tape Studio, where the master of the house Bob Blank recorded most of ZE’s albums. Her versions of « Fire » and « Mission Impossible » would soon fill the dance floors in Tokyo, London, Paris and Berlin.

In 1981, the call of Africa was felt; New York’s energy was now fading, maybe burnt itself out too quickly. At Compass Point, Island Records’ studio in Nassau, Bahamas, Lizzy managed to gather a team of musicians hailing from diverse backgrounds, Africans, New Yorkers, Jamaicans and Parisians. Behind the deck was Steven Stanley, a member of « Tom Tom Club » (The band of Tina & Chris of the Talking Heads ) and a brilliant sound engineer for Bob Marley and Grace Jones among others. A first crossbreed record welcomed as a precursory album by the critics.

In 1982 we began a promotional Asian tour that led us to Bangkok, Hong Kong, Makao, Seoul, and finally Japan. Back in Paris, we recorded two 7 inch singles: « Mister Soweto / Don’t You Try To Stop Me » and Lizzy’s first attempt in French, her native language: « Maïta / Les Baisers d’Amants ». 1983 was to be the real departure for Africa. We crossed the whole continent down the East side, from the Sudan, via Ethiopia - following Arthur Rimbaud’s footsteps - until we reached its Southern extremity.

Apartheid still ruled South Africa. Not an easy task for a young white girl to record an album with black musicians when you couldn’t even have dinner with them in a restaurant afterwards. Fortunately, Soweto’s clandestine clubs tolerated our skin colour which, at that time, was no longer white anyway. Nothing, if not a wonderful, professionally and personally enlightening experience. Contrary to all expectations, « Mais où Sont Passées Les Gazelles ? » went on to be the most unpredictable and unexpected Hit single of summer 1984. Meanwhile, rock journalists, who couldn’t make head or tail of it, awarded it « Best Rock Album of the year »…

Back to New York to prepare a new album originally planned to be recorded in New Orleans. The dream was to get together, on the same album, South-African and Cajun/Zydeco musicians. But we had not reckoned on Pretoria authorities not granting visas to the South-African musicians... Whatever…

South-America was still an terra incognita to Lizzy. So in 1985, we left for Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, to record her fourth album « One For The Soul ». She met Chet Baker there, passing through for the Rio Jazz festival, who agreed to take part - surrounded by Brazilian musicians - in the recording of five tracks of the LP. An album for the soul and from the soul. Tireless nomad, Lizzy spent the rest of that year first in Ceylon to collect her thoughts, then in the Swiss mountains to start writing her first novel,  « Buenaventura ».

1988, she was back in Paris for what was to be the first recording that we didn’t do together; the album is called « Suspense » and was recorded in London with Mark Cunningham, the trumpet player for the band Mars.

From then on Lizzy started becoming more and more distant; she went back to her paintings while taking part in numerous projects and film soundtracks. An album was recorded in New York in 1995, but never released. We’ll try to release it later under the evocative name « The Lost Album », an ultimate sheer musical testimony from Lizzy. Three tracks of those sessions are featured on this compilation.

Then, Lizzy moved to the West Indies where she involved herself deeply in her paintings, and then finally she moved back to France, setting up base in Corsica at the beginning of the new millennium. In early 2003 I decided to relaunch ZE Records and to reissue all our early albums recorded between 78 and 81; « Press Color » and « Mambo Nassau » are, de facto, available with numerous bonus tracks. Lizzy was pleased; she even had plans for a new album. Our Japanese friends – who almost worship her – wanted to exhibit her paintings and they paid a genuine tribute to her career, through laudatory press articles.

Back from a trip to New York in April 2003, she was diagnosed with cancer. She left us in April 2004, right by the sea in the tiny port of Saint Florent, Corsica, where she had chosen to end her days. According to her wishes, her ashes were scattered in the sea, which she felt to be her second home. Believe it or not, two dolphins appeared near the boat and accompanied her ashes, mingled with the petals of wild flower, far out to sea, as far as where the dividing currents part ways to Spain and Italy. She rarely dropped anchor in life and now, at last, she is sailing free forever.

Michel Esteban, Paris, June 2004. 

"Why live down on earth when the sky is so vast and so blue and all is pointless but desire". Cape Desire, Lizzy Mercier Descloux.

Digital Booklet LP26

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01 • Fire • 5:11
(Crane / Brown Published by N.F.C)
From the album "Press Color Expended"
Recorded in N.Y City 1979
Produced by DJ Banes / Mercier Descloux & Eliason
Executive Producer Michel Esteban

02 • Torso Corso • 1:49
(Mercier Descloux / Mercier Descloux / DJ Banes / Eliasson
Published by ZE Multimedia Music)
From the album « Press Color Expended »
Recorded in N.Y City 1979
Produced by DJ Banes / Mercier Descloux & Eliason
Executive Producer Michel Esteban

03 • Mission Impossible 2.0 • 2:18
(Lalo Schifrin Published by Chapell )
From the album « Press Color Expended »
Recorded in N.Y City 1980
Produced by Mercier Descloux
Executive Producer Michel Esteban

04 • Hard-Boiled Babe • 4:22
(Mercier Descloux / Michel Bassignani /
Mercier Descloux • Published by ZE Multimedia Music )
From the album « Press Color Expended »
Recorded in France 2003
Produced by Michel Bassignani
Executive Producer Michel Esteban

05 • Five Troubles Mambo • 2:12
(Mercier Descloux / Wally Badarou / Mercier Descloux
Published by ZE Multimedia Music )
From the album « Mambo Nassau Expended »
Recorded in Nassau 1981
Produced by Steven Stanley & Lizzy Mercier Descloux
Executive Producer Michel Esteban

06 • Sun is Shining • 2:19
(Bob Marley Published by Ryco Music )
From the album « Mambo Nassau Expended »
Recorded in New Jersey 1995
Produced by Michel Bassignani

07 • Les Baisers d'Amants • 3:50
(Mercier Descloux Published by ZE Multimedia Music )
From the album « Mambo Nassau Expended »
Recorded in Paris 1982
Produced by Adam Kidron.
Executive Producer Michel Esteban

08 • It's You Sort Of • 2:15
(Mercier Descloux / Lecker / Lemongne
Published by ZE Multimedia Music )
From the album « Mambo Nassau Expended »
Recorded in Nassau 1981
Produced by Steven Stanley & Lizzy Mercier Descloux
Executive Producer Michel Esteban

09 • Penelope • 3:27
(Mercier Descloux Published by ZE Multimedia Music )
From the album « Zulu Rock »
Recorded in South Africa 1983
Produced by Adam Kidron
Executive Producer Michel Esteban

10 • Wakwazulu Kwezizulu Rock • 2:59
(Mercier Descloux / Elfas Zondi
Published by ZE Multimedia Music )
From the album « Zulu Rock »
Recorded in South Africa 1983
Produced by Adam Kidron
Executive Producer Michel Esteban

11 • Mais où sont Passées les Gazelles? • 3:11
(Mercier Descloux / Motico / Ngobeni
Published by ZE Multimedia Music)
From the album « Zulu Rock »
Recorded in South Africa 1983
Produced by Adam Kidron
Executive Producer Michel Esteban

12 • Abyssinia • 3:02
( Mercier Descloux / Motico / Mnikathi )
Published by ZE Multimedia Music )
From the album « Zulu Rock »
Recorded in South Africa 1983
Produced by Adam Kidron
Executive Producer Michel Esteban

13 • Fog Horn Blues • 4:05
(Mercier Descloux Published by
ZE Multimedia Music )
From the album « One For The Soul »
Recorded in Rio de Janeiro 1985
Produced by Adam Kidron
Executive Producer Michel Esteban
Remix 2006 Michel Bassignani

14 • One for the Soul • 3:48
(Mercier Descloux Published by
ZE Multimedia Music )
From the album « One For The Soul »
Recorded in Rio de Janeiro 1985
Produced by Adam Kidron
Executive Producer Michel Esteban
Remix 2006 Michel Bassignani

15 • My Funny Valentine • 3:52
( Hart / Rogers. Published by Chapell )
From the album « One For The Soul »
Recorded in Rio de Janeiro 1985
Produced by Adam Kidron
Executive Producer Michel Esteban
Remix 2006 Michel Bassignani

16 • Gypsy Flame • 3:05
(Mercier Descloux / James Reyne
Published by ZE Multimedia Music )
From the album « Suspence »
Recorded in London 1988
Produced by John Brand, Mark Cunningham

17 • The Long Godbye • 5:21
(Mercier Descloux / James Reyne.
Published by ZE Multimedia Music )
From the album « Suspence »
Recorded in London 1988
Produced by John Brand, Mark Cunningham
& Lizzy Mercier Descloux

18 • Calypso Moguls Tender Dub • 4:52
(Mercier Descloux / James Reyne.
Published by ZE Multimedia Music )
From the album « Suspence »
Recorded in London 1986
Produced by Adam Kidron

19 • Taller • 4:20
(Mercier Descloux / Mercier Descloux / Bassignani
Published by EMI Music France )
From « The Lost Album » Recorded in USA 1995
Produced by Michel Bassignani20 • Bayadere • 3:43
(Bassignani /Mercier Descloux / Bassignani
Published by EMI Music France)
From « The Lost Album » Recorded in USA 1995
Produced by Michel Bassignani

21 • Rouge Gorge • 3:08
( Mercier Descloux / Mercier Descloux / Bassignani
Published by EMI Music France )
From « The Lost Album » Recorded in USA 1995
Produced by Michel Bassignani
 

SOUNDThis reissue 2006 Selected & Produced by Michel Esteban
Digitaly Remastered 2006 by Charlus de la Salle at South Factory Studio
The copyright of this selection Sound & Artwork is owned by ZE records (p) & © 2006.
Tracks : 9,10,11,12 under licence by Sony Music France
Tracks : 13,14,15,16,17,18 under licence by Polydor France


DESIGN

Art Cover, Booklet, Photos & Design by Michel Esteban
Except from the book « DESIDERATA »
Page 10 Drawing by Lizzy Mercier Descloux
Page 12 Collage by Lizzy Mercier Descloux
Poem by Richard Hell
Page 17 Drawing by Patti Smith
Published by ZE Books © 2010
Digipack inside Painting. "Mamao avant-aprè" by Lizzy Mercier Descoux - Private Collection

Track List
  • 1
    Fire
    05:11
  • 2
    Torso Corso
    01:48
  • 3
    Mission Impossible 2.0
    02:00
  • 4
    Hard Boiled Babe
    04:27
  • 5
    It's You Sort Of
    02:17
  • 6
    Sun is Shinning
    02:49
  • 7
    Les Baisers d'Amants
    03:52
  • 8
    Five Troubles Mambo
    02:14
  • 9
    Pénélope
    03:27
  • 10
    Wakwazulu Kwezizulu Rock
    02:59
  • 11
    Mais Où Sont Passées Les Gazelles?
    03:11
  • 12
    Abyssinia
    03:02
  • 13
    Fog Horn Blues
    04:05
  • 14
    One For The Soul
    03:48
  • 15
    My Funny Valentine
    03:57
  • 16
    Gypsy Flame
    03:07
  • 17
    The Long Goodbye
    05:23
  • 18
    Calypso Moguls
    04:52
  • 19
    Taller
    04:20
  • 20
    Bayadere
    03:43
  • 21
    Rouge Gorge
    03:08
Video