Sunday, May 29, 2011

The Clayderman Mystery

A couple of evenings ago on some minor tv channel, I came across an old concert given in this country by French pianist Richard Clayderman. Now most Brits have probably never heard of Clayderman as he's one of those artists who have had great success all around Europe but little in the UK or the US.

When I say great success, I mean 267 gold and 70 platinum discs and that up to 2006. Given his prodigious output (ohh err), he's probably added a few more since then.

He's made so many albums because Clayderman is to the piano world what Canon is to the written word. He copies everything. Sure he puts his own distinctive middle of the road style on tunes, but they are copies none the less. Actually middle of the road doesn't do the term justice. He comes out on stage with a white line down his back and makes artists like Cliff Richard seem like heavy metal rockers.

Anyway the reason I know of Clayderman goes back to a trip I took back in 1972 just after the invention of the aeroplane and package holidays. I had just started my first job straight from Leicester Polytechnic and in the summer of that year, I splashed out on a summer holiday to the Spanish island of Majorca. I'd just passed my 20th birthday, had a full head (and face) of hair and this would be my first trip to foreign parts. An innocent abroad in lots of ways !!

Despite staying in an instantly forgettable hotel at the beach resort of Arenal (which I kept calling Arsenal) , it was set in a beautiful location a few paces from the water and about 10kms from the main city of Palma. Back in those days I couldn't swim but I enjoyed paddling in the warm water, sunbathing for hours on the beach and watching the world go by.

Back in the hotel, there weren't many evening events to entice me to stay in but one did take my fancy. Ok it was the ONLY event laid on over the whole 2 weeks and so it wasn't a hard decision to take up the offer of this act. It was a magic show and although I'd quickly change channels if such a show came on tv today, this was live, I was young and unused to the glamour of the entertainment world and, let's face it, it was free.

I remember little of the show except for the music. The same instrumental piece was played over and over as background music by the magician so I've never been sure if I liked it because of this repetition or because it was memorable because it's simply a good tune. In any case, at the time, I liked it so much I spoke to the magician after his show and despite both knowing nothing in the other's language, I managed to get across to him that I liked 'his' background music and what was it called.

He wrote the song name down on the back of a playing card he'd used in the show (so I hope he replaced it before his next show !!) and I still have that card to this day. The name of the song was Ballade Pour Adeline and the next day I went off to the local music stores to track it down. After quite a search, I found a copy as a single with it's middle missing which meant it had been used in a jukebox. I didn't care and after handing over a few pesetas, the copy was mine.

But now we come to the mystery.

That was in July 1972. Yet having read details about the song online, it wasn't officially recorded until 1976. Something obviously doesn't add up but I'd put my mortgage (if I had one) on buying that copy 4 years before it was recorded ! A demo version ? Donno but I do know that the official release is exactly the same as my copy.

Prior to winning the right to record this tune from 20 other pianists, 23 yr old Clayderman was known as Philippe Pages but he must've known that the recording would bring success and fame and so he wanted his name to be easier to pronounces outside of his native France. And succeed it did, selling 22 million copies in 38 countries. I wonder if my 'early' copy was counted ?

I've spent some time today looking around my house for that copy as I'd kept it with my small collection of singles mostly bought during my school years. But sad to say I've not found the singles and may have thrown them in the bin when decluttering my house a few years ago. I decided that downsizing took precedence over sentimentality and so, in the bin they probably went.

And so I have no physical proof that my copy of Ballade Pour Adeline was somehow created prior to 1976. I'm not even sure if, with the middle part missing, there would've been any proof anyway as that's where the recording information tended to be.

Music helps me remember so many times and events in my life and whenever I hear this song, I'm taken back to that very first foreign holiday in Majorca. I've not found a very good video version online and I don't want to just insert an audio version here. You really need to see the man in action ! So a bit dull as it is to watch now and in fairly low and fuzzy quality, here is Richard Clayderman performing his most successful recording back in 1984.........Bobby Crush, eat your heart out !


Debby said...

Aww c'mon...where's the picture of you on that holiday? You know the one I mean...

Jennyta said...

Wow, that's a blast from the past. I haven't heard mention of Richard Clayderman in years.

Daphne said...

Ahhhh I have always liked that tune - I have always been a sucker for any big sentimental tune - - but I must say I do have Richard Clayderman in the same mental bracket as Bobby Crush, Mostly Mush and generally heading for the lift-music category. I didn't know he was French though. And Majorca is one of the many places I've never been to!

rhymeswithplague said...

Never heard of the tune, never heard of Richard Clayderman. But it's amazing where a white grand piano, a white tuxedo, white shoes, a red pocket handkerchief, matinee-idol good looks and a few piano lessons will get you with our entertainment-starved general public.

Most Recent Awards

Most Recent Awards