|To Lizzy Ö with love|
Towards the end of 2003 I got very worked up about the born-again Ze label salvaging the early works of Lizzy Mercier Descloux, and urged everybody to indulge in their glorious messy exuberance. I finished my little write-up by asking what Lizzy was up to now.
What I hadnít realised was that Lizzy was seriously ill, and it made the fact that her music was back in circulation all the more important and poignant. This week I learned that Lizzy had died after a long struggle against cancer, and I felt sadder than I can ever remember about hearing a favourite artist had died. That is not an entirely logical response, I know.
For me, Lizzy Mercier Descloux was the most glamorous of pop people. I am not a Patti Smith fan, but I like the way a lot of her early poetry and writing is based around being a fan, and being obsessed with the likes of Rimbaud, Dylan, Edie, Jeanne Moreau, Keith Richards, and so on. So, somehow (and I know Iím not alone) Lizzy captured something special by simply being Lizzy, and we have I am sure our poems and writings stashed away celebrating the way she opened so many new vistas for us.
Growing up in suburban South London, the notion of Lizzy the young punk relocating from Paris to the heart of downtown New York, immersing herself in a melting pot of revolutionary art, guerrilla warfare, poetry and film, experimental pop, and whatever anyone could get away with, encaptured the spirit of revolt and romance.
Still, her earliest recordings as Rosa Yemen, all so shrill and gorgeously incomprehensible, with the trebly guitars circling and needling, sound amazing. And again for a young kid even the merest mention of such music in magazines like Zigzag hinted at worlds so wonderfully wild and exotic. And exotic would be as good a way as any to describe the Press Color and Mambo Nassau records that followed, with incursions and excursions into unfamiliar musical worlds, from highlife to tropical Brazil, from Yma Sumac to Fela Kuti, and a whole sense of mischief, magic, mystery, and a sense of worldliness and wisdom I would never ever even begin to aspire to. She made many of my big favourites like the Raincoats and Slits seem oddly straight-laced or clumsy.
And I think the fact that even as a fan I seemed to know very little about Lizzy Mercier Descloux made things seem so much more strange and charming. Which it has to be said is how I like my pop. The fact that her greatest records were out of circulation for so long added to the sense of something special being hidden away. But having the reissued CDs, so lovingly packaged, gloriously gave Lizzy a whole new lease of life, and hopefully made new fans and old lovers deliriously happy as they careened and whirled around to the oddest strains of uninhibited dance music. We should cherish the Mau Mau Machuki sleevenotes too!
Lizzy with a seashell against her ear is one of the enduring pop images, and she will remain forever beautiful and wild.
© 2004 John Carney