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Rob Jo Star Band

  • Title: Rob Jo Star Band
  • Artist: Rob Jo Star Band
  • Label: Born Bad
  • Format: LP+7"
  • Genres: Historical Recordings, 1970's, Avant Garde, Rock, Garage Rock, Psychedelic Rock, No Wave, Krautrock, Analog Synth, Misc France
  • Price: €16,90EU (incl. 19% VAT)€14,20non-EU

"Where the hell did that one come from? Though early 1970’s French Underground Rock had certainly things to offer, mostly headaches and yawns, it was quiet unexpected to stumble across a truly good album coming out of that scene. As often with those discoveries, we gotta thank the bootleg cosa nostra for this return from the grave. Beside a few collectors and a handful people older than me that knew of them back in the days, Rob Jo Star Band managed to stay under the radar all these years…

It all started in late 1972, in the Montpellier area in the south of France. Michel-Robert Sahuc a.k.a Mick (bass) and Robert Castello a.k.a Chris (guitar) had been friends since 1970, and after a couple of years in a non-formal band, they decided to move on one step further with new accomplices. In January 1973, they met Alain Poblador a.k.a “Penny”. He was from Avignon, had been playing electric guitar for 12 years and had spent the sixties in local bands named Les Blue Stars, Les Silver Stars, Les Ombres and The Beavers. None ever made a record. With Roger Vidal a.k.a Cedric from Perpignan on drums, the original line-up of the RJSB was soon in place. After doing covers to get their act together, Penny and Mick, with occasionnal help from Chris, started writing original material in May 1973. Glam Rock (often refered as “Decadent Rock” in Pompidou’s France) was happening and Bowie, Lou Reed and the latter “old” gang, The Velvet Underground, were RJSB’s muses. “Our musical philosophy was to go back to the roots of Psychedelic Rock, both soft and trash, simple yet with experimental leanings, finding inspiration in contemporary music, with intellectually oriented lyrics. Away from the sophistication and technical aspects of Prog Rock and the whole French underground that was then more interested in Free Jazz experiments – of the Canterbury or Zappa-esque types -, British Pop, Symphonic Prog, or French Chanson, when it was not Musette”. They chose to sing in English, but “in a very French way as we were not trying to hide our French identity, we were decided not to renounce our southern accent either, or even the French language itself”.

In July 1973, they met Serge Soler a.k.a Bryan, a sound and electronic engineer, who soon joined the quartet along with his “Waves Generators” (home-made prehistoric synths which were incorporated in a mix board). He not only added his own noises, but could transform the sounds made by his bandmates, even on stage. They were now thinking of themselves as something like The Velvets meet Pierre Henri, “trying to create some kind of a Messe pour un temps présent for outsiders and junkies”.

In August 1973, they formed a small musical commune in the unused part of a “Mas” (typical French southern countryside house) in Lattes. To test their songs in front of an audience, they used their new home for some free private shows, in front of a dozen of friends, sometimes a little more. The sharecropper living in the other part of the “Mas” did not care for the racket, not to mention the freaks. So, the lease wasn’t renewed. At least, they had another spot where they could practice and give private shows, a place called the AréPop.

In October and November 1973, some A&R men started to show some interest. First a dandy from RCA, unfortunately more focused on the charm of the musicians than on their music. Then a guy from CBS took a demo tape, but to no effect. The third was someone from DOM, a small label created in 1971 by former employees of the Vogue record company. He offered them a one-album deal they couldn’t refuse (though no horse was hurt in the process). In March 1973, they played their first “big” gig. It was a festival that, over a couple of weeks, presented shows by (among others) Amon Düll II, Magma and Can. “We took the stage in glitter suits, à la Roxy [Music], which was the source of a little heckling from the crowd. But the show itself generated frenzy and joyfullness, plus a strip tease from a male audience member. This was the result of our music, but also the light show. Part of it was psychedelic colored oils, there was a slide show with pictures of the band at a picnic at the foot of Montferrand Castle, and strobe lights, black lights, plus a spot light very efficient on the strip teaser and Penny’s acrobatic gyrations, with his red hair à la Bowie. The whole thing was orchestrated by our friend Claude Vialette a.k.a Ducale”.

The band never managed to play beyond the south of France. There were some talk about a festival in Luxemburg and a tour with jazz clarinetist/novelty singer Marcel Zanini (WTF?!). Both plans went nowhere fast.

At least, they did manage to make that album. “It was first Penny’s baby. He wanted to pass on his musical ideas and the pleasure he took in creating. It seemed like a natural thing at time when you could transcribe your music on an audio format to make an album to leave your mark, like earlier some were doing that with musical scores. (…) We wanted an album with no compromise. It was recorded at the Lumi-Son studios in Marignane, live, with no artificial addition to our sound. We had chosen to disturb the balance of our music with layers of fuzz from Chris and electronic touches generated by Bryan’s Waves Generators”. The songs had been written in 1973. The recording itself took place on March 28th and 29th 1974. The album came out on the 1st of June. DOM pressed 1500 copies. The main influences… “David Bowie, his Man Who Stole the World and Ziggy Stardust days. Roxy too, the first three albums. We were big fans of Eno’s work. He was the reason Serge Soler took the nickname of Bryan (…) Penny had been formed at the school of the British scene, with The Kinks, The Beatles, and so on… On the American side, we felt closer to the New York bands like The Velvet Underground and The New York Dolls, or Detroit with The Motor City Five and The Stooges with the brilliant Iggy Pop. Then there was the Kraut Rock scene. Can was essential, their period when Kenji Damo Suzuki was their singer, plus bands like Agitation Free, Amon Düll II or Neu!. I also have to mention three British groups. Firstly Hawkwind with Dave Brock and the inspired poet Michael Moorcock, and two more major acts, big in my book, and Bryan’s, Peter Hammill & Van Der Graaf Generator, and Robert Fripp’s King Crimson”.

Unfortunately, Chris, called by the army to do his one-year of required National Service, had to leave the band after a show at the Arles MJC on April 20th 1974. MJC (stands for “Maisons des Jeunes et de la Culture”) where city youth centers, an inheritance of the left wing riots of 1968. These, along with small provencial theaters and outdoor arenas, were the sites of most of the band gigs as there weren’t much proper rock clubs. It wasn’t easy for bands back then in France, even more for outsiders like RJSB. So it all came to an end by the following August. At least, they had recorded a few more songs as demos, including two in French, “La Cigale” (The Cicada) and “Le Démon du rythme” (Rhythm Demon) that you’ll find here as very special bonus. Pathé did show some interest, but it was another dead end.

In 1975, Mick, Cedric, Bryan and Penny gave it another try, now calling themselves Keust, an homage to RJSB most experimental song, “Monster Keust”. This new project was again over by the end of the year. Now it’s 2012 and RJSB is back on the map. It’s about time!" Laurent Bigot