Tuesday, 11 January 2011

System Addict

When I was doing a little spot of freelancing the other week I had the pleasure of sharing an office with a young chap who is obsessed with collecting old prog and glam rock records on vinyl and playing them at open deck nights. He's travelled around the world looking for rare slabs of black plastic, and likes to share his wares to his fellow workers. Obviously the quality is variable, and not to everyone's tastes, but it's always an interesting listen at the very least.

But there was one song that really struck a chord with me and I had to find out more. That song was called Carmen Brasilia, and the band was called Anarchic System. Now ordinarily you'd expect a band by that name to be some crusty Latin American anarcho punk band, but instead they were a moustachioed French glam rock band from the early 1970s. And what a dash they cut in their satin loons and fluffy feathered hairdos.


But despite their foppish period looks, they were more than just a comedy pop act. Indeed, they were among the earliest pioneers of the electronic music scene, being one of the first bands to popularise the Moog in mainland Europe. Indeed, their debut single was a curious vocal cover version of Popcorn, the instrumental Gershon Kingsley tune made famous by Hot Butter in 1972. Indeed, despite the latter version going on to be the 191st best selling French single of all time, and there being a huge dusting of similar sounding covers for the next few years, Anarchic System's version still shifted a respectable 700,000 copies across Europe, and attracted the attention of major labels the world over.

Their follow up was the tune that lured me to their singular sound, Carmen Brasilia. Dubbed The New Popcorn, it was clearly an attempt to cash in on the popularity of their first release, and shared similar themetic elements, but it had a unique edge all if its own. Based losely on the main theme from Bizet's opera Carmen, it was a marvel of descending plinky-plonk pop, and is a lost gem of the early glam era.

But despite their success in the field, they had heavier aspirations, and cited Uriah Heep, Warhorse and even Black Sabbath among their influences. Their rockier output never quite hit the public nerve in the same way that their earliest singles did, but they still soldiered on for six years until 1978, releasing three great albums, Pussycat C'est La Vie, Generation and the fabulously titled Sugar Baby Mission Space Recording and a string of fine singles. And while they may be remembered more for their slightly cheesy looks than their top tunes, they've got a body of work that is worth further investigation. And if you ever see any of their discs in an antiquarian record shop, snap 'em up quick. I know a young chap who will be forever in your debt if you do.

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