Christophe

Born : 13/10/1945 in Juvisy-sur-Orge (France)
Country : France
Language : French
Category : Composer / Male Artist / Songwriter
Style of music : Chanson

Christophe may be a figure of fun to younger generations of French music fans (after all, in their eyes he will always be the old 60's pop star who begged his woman to come home in the smash hit "Aline"!) But those who are more au fait with Christophe's career know there are several other sides to the singer. Apart from his passion for rock'n'roll, U.S. blues and Elvis Presley, and his much-publicised love affair with Cadillac cars, Christophe remains an essentially enigmatic figure. And, while he has not deliberately cultivated an aura of mystery around himself, Christophe is notorious for hiding his real personality in interviews.

Christophe may be a figure of fun to younger generations of French music fans (after all, in their eyes he will always be the old 60's pop star who begged his woman to come home in the smash hit "Aline"!) But those who are more au fait with Christophe's career know there are several other sides to the singer. Apart from his passion for rock'n'roll, U.S. blues and Elvis Presley, and his much-publicised love affair with Cadillac cars, Christophe remains an essentially enigmatic figure. And, while he has not deliberately cultivated an aura of mystery around himself, Christophe is notorious for hiding his real personality in interviews.

Daniel Bevilacqua, better known to French music fans as Christophe, was born in Juvisy-sur-Orge (a suburb south of Paris) on 13 October 1945. Daniel, the son of an Italian-born building contractor, grew up to be an uncontrollable rebel. He hated school with a vengeance, complaining that his studies bored him to death, and by the age of 16 the young rebel had managed to get expelled from a dozen French boarding schools and 'lycées'.

Daniel's great passion in life was music and by the tender age of 8, the young boy had already become an ardent fan of French 'chanson'. Daniel's first idols, Edith Piaf and Gilbert Bécaud, would soon be supplanted however. Daniel discovered the blues in his early teens and from that moment on Robert Johnson and John Lee Hooker became his new heroes. (Daniel would remain a passionate blues fan throughout his life, going on to amass an impressive collection of traditional blues songs recorded on scratchy old 78rpms).

In the late 50's Daniel's musical allegiance changed once again. Like many other young teenagers in France Daniel was bitten by the rock'n'roll bug and he was soon jiving along to Bill Haley, Little Richard and, of course the rock'n'roll king, Elvis Presley. By this stage, Daniel had already begun dreaming of launching his own music career and he devoted all his spare time to practising guitar and teaching himself to play the harmonica.

Daniel went on to form his first group in 1961, becoming the lead singer and guitarist of Les Hooligans. Danny Baby et Les Hooligans performed widely on the local bar and club circuit, playing covers of Gene Vincent songs and rock'n'roll classics such as "Heartbreak Hotel".

1963: "Reviens Sophie"

Then in 1963 Daniel went into the studio for the first time to record his début single with Golf Drouot (the label owned by the famous Paris club of the same name). Unfortunately for Daniel the single "Reviens Sophie" - a song which was heavily influenced by black American music - proved to be a complete flop on the French music scene.

Undeterred by this early setback, Daniel continued with his singing career, changing his name to Christophe. Daniel's change of name and his dogged perseverance would finally pay off however and in 1965 the young singer scored a surprise hit with the single "Aline" (released on the Disc'AZ label). Daniel/Christophe's slow, romantic ballad proved phenomenally successful with the French public. Indeed, "Aline" soon went on to sell over 1 million copies, rocketing to the top of the charts as the smash hit of summer 65. Following the phenomenal success of "Aline", Christophe went on to record a whole string of hits in the 60's, shooting back to the top of the charts with "Marionnettes" (1965), "J'ai entendu la mer" (1966) and "Excusez-moi Monsieur le Professeur" (1967).

Catapulted to overnight fame, Christophe wasted no time in acquiring a rock'n'roll lifestyle to go with his new status as leading 60's pop star. The singer soon developed a real passion for sports cars, and he was often to be seen cruising around Paris in his collection of shining new Lamborghinis. Christophe eventually become so obsessed with fast cars and powerful engines that he ended up taking part in a Formula 1 race in 1968.

1973: "Les paradis perdus"

But by the end of the 60's yé-yé (French rock'n'roll) had had its day, and after the demise of yé-yé Christophe disappeared from the French hit-parade altogether. The singer went on to marry his girlfriend, Véronique, in 1971 and the couple had a daughter, Lucie, shortly afterwards. But Christophe's career was back to square one.

Then in 1973 Christophe made a surprise comeback, re-surfacing on the French music scene with a new album entitled "Les paradis perdus" (Lost Paradises). This album, which was musically far superior to the light, syrupy pop songs of Christophe's early career, featured lyrics by a certain Jean-Michel Jarre (who was in those days a struggling young songwriter). "Les paradis perdus" not only marked a turning-point in Christophe's musical style, it also heralded a radical change of image. On the cover of this album Christophe left his squeaky clean 'Boy Next Door' look behind, re-inventing himself as a decadent and flamboyant dandy. Christophe's singing style had also changed - gone were the days of pop idol seriousness, Christophe now sang in a detached, faintly ironic way, crooning his way almost sarcastically through "Le dernier des Bevilacqua" or his new hit "Señorita". This new-style Christophe appeared to go down extremely well with his fans. Indeed, when the singer performed at the prestigious Olympia concert-hall in Paris in November 1974, his show was greeted with rapturous applause and hysterical cries of 'encore'.

Christophe returned to the studio in 1975 to record a new album entitled "Les Mots bleus" (Blue Words). "Les Mots bleus", which oscillated between Christophe pop star and Christophe crooner, confirmed the singer as a major name on the French 'variété' scene. But by now Christophe had resumed the flamboyant rock'n'roll lifestyle of his early days - and, sadly, the effects of fame, alcohol and too many all-night parties were beginning to take their toll. Like a modern-day Icarus flying too close to the spotlights, Christophe was destined to burn his wings. Suffering from a bout of nervous exhaustion and depression, the singer soon acquired a destructive drug habit.

Christophe re-surfaced on the French music scene in 1978, however, with a new album entitled "le Beau Bizarre". The tracks on this album, which reinforced the image of Christophe as a mysterious loner drifting apart from the showbiz scene, were mostly written by Bob Decout (who penned Christophe's popular song "Un peu menteur").

Christophe's career appeared to be heading into a downward spiral when his wife, Véronique, encouraged him to re-release his very first hit single "Aline". Véronique's suggestion proved to be a brilliant idea - in 1980 "Aline" catapulted Christophe back to the top of the French charts, selling a cool 3.5 million copies in the process!

Christophe was back on the road to success and three years later he re-appeared at the top of the French charts with a new hit single, appropriately entitled "Succès fou" (Crazy Success). While "Succès fou" did not manage to repeat the phenomenal success of "Aline", it did manage to sell over 600,000 copies.

When Christophe returned to the studio in 1984 it was to record a collection of cover versions, rather than his own original compositions. (The singer's new album "Clichés d'amour" featured a selection of 40's and 50's classics such as "Arrivederci Roma" and "Dernier baiser" - the French version of the Italian classic "Besame mucho"). Then in 1985 Christophe turned his attention to songwriting once again, penning "Ne raccroche pas" (Don't Hang Up) - a song which was rather cheekily addressed to Princess Stephanie of Monaco. Oscillating between the image of 70's crooner and ageing pop star, Christophe remained notoriously difficult to pin down. Many critics dismissed him altogether, claiming his songs and image displayed unforgivably 'bad taste'. Others complained that the singer was only capable of attracting audiences of teenage girls.

1995: "Bevilacqua"

Christophe carried on in this vein for some time, recording a string of rather mediocre singles such as "Chiqué chiqué" (in 1988). But his career was far from over. In 1995 the singer left his old record company Motors, and signed a new recording deal with Epic (a subsidiary of Sony). The following year he returned to the studio to begin work on a brand new album entitled "Bevilacqua".

The album "Bevilacqua", released in 1996, marked the beginning of a major Christophe comeback. For the very first time in his career the singer wrote all of the songs on his new album, which revealed a more sympathetic, personal side to the public. Christophe, who had developed a passionate interest in synthesisers and techno, also explored the new possibilities offered by computers and he spent several months locked away in his home studio sampling voices and electronic sounds for "Bevilacqua". Christophe's new material turned out to be totally unexpected - his songs moved away from the standard verse/chorus format to experiment with a more labyrinthine stream-of-consciousness style (a style which Christophe himself described as "totally off the wall"!). Two tracks on the singer's new album were odes to his personal passions/obsessions. "Enzo" was a 9-minute 'hymn' dedicated to the Italian creator of the Ferrari and "Rencontre à l'as Vega" was a tribute to the American musician Alan Vega (which featured a rather bizarre recording of a poker session between Christophe and Vega). The experimental synthesisers and mood ambiences on "Bevilacqua" certainly surprised critics and music fans. And, more importantly, the album helped Christophe throw off his old '70's dandy' image and re-invent himself as a modern musician with something to say. In spite of the radical ups and downs of his thirty-year career, Christophe has nevertheless managed to establish himself as a leading figure on the French music scene. What's more, Christophe's willingness to experiment with modern technology and explore a new musical direction means that this talented singer/songwriter will doubtless be with us for many years to come.

Eager to devote time to his numerous hobbies (travel, racing cars and cinema) as well as his music career, Christophe took five years to record his next album, the innovative "Comm' si la terre penchait" (As If the Earth was Leaning At An Angle). This album confirmed Christophe's remarkable comeback and also proved his talent as an acute social observer and his ability to take new musical influences on board and weave them into imaginative new fusion styles. "Comm' si la terre penchait" was an intimate opus which managed to be totally modern and yet defy passing musical trends at the same time.

After having been absent from the French live circuit for an incredible 25 years, Christophe is currently preparing to make a live comeback with a new concert tour in 2002.

Phenomenal

As promised, in February 2002, Christophe walked back onto the stage for the first time in 27 years. And the audience responded to it as if it were the hottest event of the season. The premiere took place in Clermont Ferrand, the capital city of the Massif Central, on February 2002 and, having got into his stride after a stay at the Zenith in the Normandy town of Caen, the artist was ready for his two Olympia dates—a private and a public one. Friends, fans and VIPS went to acclaim him. The two evenings of early March 2002 were a real triumph.

As promised too, Christophe’s comeback did not go without flamboyance.

Opera producer Vincent Boussard and stage lightning technician Alain Poisson, illuminated the stage making it look more like a magic show, than a ‘variete’ concert. Mime and dance numbers choreographed by Marie-Claude Pietragalla contributed to enhance the show visuals, which borrowed from kitsch 80’s imagery and Rock’n Roll clichés. Sitting on a stool, Christophe performed a run-through of his best songs - "Senorita", "Dolce Vita", "Petite Fille du Soleil"- mingled with more recent pieces. His very peculiar voice has hardly aged at all.

Despite his huge public and media success, Christophe treated his fans with no more than eight dates within six months.

Christophe began work on a new album in 2004.

2008: "Aimer ce que nous sommes"

Four years later, on 30 June 2008, fans were treated to a new album by one of the most enigmatic figures on the French music scene. "Aimer ce que nous sommes", recorded at a series of (mostly) night sessions in studios in Paris, Seville and London, was produced by Christophe Van Huffel from the group Tanger. The album proved to be pure Christophe, revolving around soft, muted ambiences, poetic lyrics and a sound partway between 'chanson' and electro.

True to Christophe's famous "non-singing" style, most of the tracks on his new album were recited rather than sung and "Aimer ce que nous sommes" opened with the French actress Isabelle Adjani putting in a guest appearance on "Wo wo wo wo." Christophe's new album also featured a contribution from jazz trumpeter Erik Truffaz with whom Christophe has often performed in the past (most notably at the Blue Note festival in Paris in April 2004).

Christophe also introduced a new edge to his sound, inviting two flamenco musicians - namely guitarist Moraito and singer Diego Carrasco - to join him on "Beau bizarre." The French publisher Daniel Filipacchi stepped in as an unexpected guest star at the end of the album, reciting the final track. "Mal comme" was chosen as the first single release from "Aimer ce que nous sommes."

Christophe played his latest creation on stage at the Olympia in Paris on 11, 12 and 13 March 2009. His concerts went on for close to three hours, and the last of them was a joyful, outrageous extravaganza. During the summer of 2009, he continued his “Aimer ce que nous sommes” tour, this time with some new, very chic staging by the designer Andrée Putman. He took on some Andalou musicians, David Bowie’s bass player, Gail Ann Dorsey and the American drummer Carmine Apice, formerly of the group Vanilla Fudge. Armed with his musicians, he gave a concert on the floating stage of the Neptune pond in the park of the Château de Versailles at the request of its director, Jean-Jacques Aillagon. The show took place on 15 July to a full house, and Christophe invited Helena Noguerra, Eric Truffaz and Housse de Racket to perform on stage with him.
 
The singer continued his tour until the end of 2010, taking in Parisian venues as diverse as the Théâtre Marigny and the Cité de la Musique. At the end of the year, he appeared on the new album by Salvatore Adamo, "De toi à moi", in an unlikely duet, "Jours de lumière".
 
In January 2011, he gave two performances at La Palace and then took part in an album of Alain Bashung cover versions, "Tels", singing a subtle, love-filled version of "Alcaline".
 
June 2011

 

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