Song Of The Day: Lizzy Mercier Descloux “Queen Of Overdub Kisses”
“Queen Of Overdub Kisses” is a wonderful slice of South African pop music by French post-punk pioneer Lizzy Mercier Descloux. The song features a bouncy baseline, shimmering afro-pop guitars, bright horns, a wonderful vocal performance from Lizzy, and lyrics that are turns funny, poetic and poignant about the often times confusing nature of love.
Following in the footsteps of her idol, the poet Arthur Rimbaud, Lizzy decamped to South Africa in 1984 (a good two years before Paul Simon would go on to do the same and record his album, Graceland) and ended up cutting the brilliant pop record Zulu Rock (also known in her native France by the alternate title Mais où Sont Passées les Gazelles which translates as “But Where Have The Gazelles Gone?”) in Johannesburg with local South African musicians. While one might initially think that a white French woman singing Soweto-influenced afro-pop should not work, Lizzy pulls the trick off brilliantly. This album is also notable for being an early example of “World Music” before such a thing existed, without any of the cheesy trappings often associated with that genre.
Originally from Lyon, but having grown up in Paris, Lizzy taught herself to play guitar and moved to NYC in 1977, eventually taking the New York ‘No Wave‘ scene by storm. Despite her start as something of a punk poet (often under the alias Rosa Vertov) and her close friendships with both Richard Hell and Patti Smith, by the time she released her first record, Press Color for the storied indie label Ze Records, Lizzy began to incorporate more African, funk, soul and mambo influences. These would come to the forefront on her second album, Mambo Naussau and, of course, on Zulu Rock. She subsequently went on to record in Brazil (a move also later mirrored by Paul Simon) and record with jazz trumpeter Chet Baker, among others.
While Lizzy developed a cult following, she was never a big seller despite a big hit with “Mais où Sont Passées les Gazelles“ in her native France. After only five records and due to her lack of commercial success and escalating demands from record labels, Lizzy effectively retired from the music business to the Island of Corsica in order to focus on painting and to write an unpublished novel. Unfortunately, Lizzy was diagnosed with cancer in 2003 and tragically died shortly afterwards in early 2004 at the age of only 47. She left behind a wonderful body of work which has gained greater notoriety in recent years, including critical reappraisal of her career and a recent reissue campaign by label Light In The Attic, that have helped a new generation hear her music.