Remember the fun of going into a record store and just flipping through a few boxes of assorted bargain records?
Yeah, you'd have to have a LONG memory for THAT.
Sometimes, an unknown artist would suddenly loom into view and stop you in your tracks, thanks to either a great photo, or the genius of the record label's art direction.
When I saw the cover portrait of Lys Gauty on a 2lp set, I had to wonder...did the woman actually look like that??
Turns out, not really. Alas, Madame Gauty in real photos, is not quite so vampish or tarsier-like. Her music, likewise, is fine, but not spooky or sexy. Only a few songs were anything close to suggesting the supernatural, like the pale-eyed visage on the cover.
Below is your sample, "Crepuscule," which, students, translates as "twilight." It's the time of day when crepuscular creatures with huge eyes, such as lemurs and tarsiers, become active.
Music and lyrics by Django Reinhardt and Francis Blanche.
Lys Gauty shares something in common with today's spookiest French import, the great Mylene Farmer. Both were born with the last name Gauthier. Lys (Alice) Gauty (Gauthier) was born in Franc, February 2, 1900, and died there on January 2, 1994. While unknown now, at least to most anyone who doesn't speak French and isn't old, Lys was dubbed un "monstre sacre" by no less a celebrity than Colette. Colette is also unknown now, at least to most anyone who doesn't speak French and isn't old.
The bi-lingual Jean Cocteau (also unknown now, at least to most anyone who doesn't speak French and isn't old) helpfully dubbed Lys "a vulture of virtuosity." Critic James Kirkup noted she "set the stage afire with her strange personality, her unusual, spellbinding vibrato growl and her heart-breaking songs."
She became famous in the late 20's and 30's, a heroine of the Parisian Music Hall scene. Kurt Weill wrote songs for her, including 'La Complainte de la Seine'. Her song 'Israel va-t-en' expressed support for the French Jews, who were discovering the shock waves of antisemitism coming from Hitler's Germany. Soon enough, the Nazis took over, and Lys ultimately fled to Monaco. She was nearly killed for her views (and for having a Jewish husband), and kept a souvenir of a bullet that barely missed her.
She had fans all over the world. Some were lucky enough to get a post card...
The song below was recorded during the war, 1943. The song is about shadow and substance, of things and ideas; it lies between the pit of man's fears and the summit of his knowledge...a dimension of imagination. Your next stop: The Crepuscule Zone.
Instant Listen or Download: LYS GAUTY