Called back to the world of Janis Ian

The two songs were introduced with the comment, “here’s two from 1979.”

Trying to recall the year concerned, I was not sure either of the recordings dated from that time of transition. Neither had the edginess of the closing days of the punk era. There was more the narcissism of the New Romantics than the nihilism of punk.

I’m in love with a German Film Star was never a favourite. However, the fact it was recognizable after more than forty years meant it must possess some memorable qualities.

The second song was the silky smooth Joe Le Taxi, by the enchanting Vanessa Paradis, who seemed to grow more beautiful as the years passed.

The mellifluous tones of the song conjured thoughts of Gallic laughter and Parisian charm and the sophistication of a young French woman who possessed that magical je ne sais quoi.

A Google search revealed Joe Le Taxi had been recorded in 1988, by which time the world of pop singers was a far remove from the life of a Church of Ireland curate.

Had it been 1979, Vanessa Paradis would have charmed a young sixth-form student. Except that even then there was a hard-headed realism that said such sophistication was far removed from a rustic, impecunious youth. The companionship of such a voice would be no more an attainable than would playing for the Chelsea football team he followed at the time.

The playing of the record was a reminder for someone who stood amongst the plain that there was a world that would forever be inaccessible, that boys on pushbikes with empty pockets passed unnoticed by the beautiful.

Perhaps the world of the plain is a safer place, it is a place where the predictable and the routine provide a daily order. Perhaps plainness is just an evolutionary fact of life, no more worth lamenting than realities such as ageing. Perhaps it is just part of an immutable natural order, something to be accepted without complaint.

Oddly, Vanessa Paradis’ voice evoked not the cosmopolitan life of Joe Le Taxi, but the hard reality of life described in Janis Ian’s At Seventeen:

I learned the truth at seventeen
That love was meant for beauty queens
And high school girls with clear skinned smiles
Who married young and then retired
The valentines I never knew
The Friday night charades of youth
Were spent on one more beautiful
At seventeen I learned the truth


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