Jakie Quartz – À la vie à l’amour
Growing up in Dumfries, there were only a few places you could buy records. There was Woolworths for the charty stuff, which was all well and good, but not that great if you had a yearning for hi-NRG twelve inches. If you were in the market for that sort of thing, you basically had three shops to choose from: the first was Barnstorm, which was usually frequented by rock lovers, but still stocked enough dance music that they wouldn’t bat an eyelid were a slightly fey teenager to pop his head around the door and ask ‘has Liza come in yet?’ (this really happened, yes it was me). Pleasingly, it’s still there, and in larger premises. Then there was Domino, which was really more of a video shop but still had some good stuff. Amazingly, it’s also still there, and still regularly displaying ABBA records in the window like the last thirty years never happened.
The last – and best – place was DMC, which stood for Disco Music Centre, and it was staffed by the town’s only proper goths, two lovely girls named Sioux and – if memory serves, Sue. For some reason DMC stocked an awful lot of the kind of records you might typically expect to find in a city with a large gay scene, which is perhaps one of the reasons it’s no longer there. But for me and my best friend Sam it was the best place in town, and we made sure to befriend Sioux and Sue so they would give us the old display items (which is why I had a huge cardboard ad for Liza Minnelli’s Results album on my bedroom wall for years).
Sam was especially good at buying records entirely on the strength of their sleeves, which is how À la vie à l’amour by Jakie Quartz came into our lives. With its stylish pink and grey colour palette and mysterious solitary lady pioneering a look that Marie from out of Roxette would later make her own, it just screamed ‘fabulously atmospheric anthem of continental loneliness’ – and so it proved to be. Here it is in all its extended version glory, because to be honest I can’t find the single edit anywhere.
Of course we weren’t the only ones looking for a fast fix of French pop – PWL, whose remix of Desireless’s Voyage Voyage had propelled the former flop into the UK top 10 in 1988, were also on the lookout for the next big French smash. Pete Hammond was tasked with adding a bit of Hit Factory sheen to proceedings, and two years after it hit the top 30 in its home country, À la vie à l’amour was released in the UK. Now, I don’t quite know what this says about the French mindset in the 1980s, but here was another fairly doom-laden minor masterpiece in a minor key to set alongside Voyage Voyage, Joe Le Taxi, Ella Elle L’a and Irresistible. For some reason they loved making miserablism something you could dance to – can you imagine Bananarama singing lyrics like “And everything goes too fast / money, stress / Difficult relationships / Alcohol, distress”? (though come to think of it they skated pretty close with Rough Justice). Thank goodness it was all in French and most of us didn’t have a clue what it was about.
Liking À la vie à l’amour made me feel all sophisticated, in much the same way that biting into a Ferrero Rocher did when they were still a new thing. If you went round to someone’s house and their mum had a bowl of them out you thought ‘ooh, fancy.’ To me, both the record and the chocolate suggested worldliness, intrigue and somehow even sexiness. Which is of course completely ridiculous, but I was sixteen and had only ever been as far as London, on a school trip to see Jill Gascoigne in 42nd Street. I knew nothing.
I’m not sure what else to say about this record other than I love it just as much now as I did then. And I still feel ever so sophisticated when I listen to it.
Entered chart: 11/03/1989
Chart peak: 55
Weeks on chart: 3
Who could sing this today and have a hit? Because the chorus is a bit shouty I immediately think of lovely, rowdy Charli XCX.