Antidote to Whitesnake
Shop Around Ö part 47 
I got caught out this week. There was no escape from being sent on a workshop, and I was daft enough to take very little music with me. I ended being a lot more familiar with the Nightingalesí In The Good Old Country Way, and grew to love it. But by and large I was left to the mercies of the interminable piped music that was played everywhere in the hotel. And it was intriguing to find how unfamiliar with the sounds I was. My colleagues were quietly singing along to the very heavily power ballads centric soundtrack, and I was left wondering where all these songs came from. When someone said: ďOh is that Whitesnake?Ē I was left totally bemused. I have no knowledge of ever having heard Whitesnake before.

While I may pride myself on knowing a thing or two about music, itís good to be oblivious sometimes. In the taxi back to the station after the workshop, Radio One was blaring away, and I think the Audio Bullies were on, heavily sampling 'Bang Bang'. One of my colleagues mentioned it was odd for Radio One to be playing such an old song. Someone else then asked if it was Doris Day? And I said that it was Nancy, only to be met with blank looks, which scared the hell out of me. But maybe they thought it as odd when I mentioned never having knowingly heard Whitesnake.

After a worrying silence, Ze records is back in action, with a flood of releases to coincide with Lioís 25 years in pop. I may never have heard of Whitesnake, but I certainly had not known of Lio before either, which worried me much more, thinking I know all about Ze related activities. Lio has seven of her LPs available again, and there is a gorgeous Pop Songs and ballads double CD limited collectors edition, which is a beautiful place to start if like me you havenít been familiar with her work.

Lio is a wonderful amalgam of so many special things, and could easily have been created by Delacorta. One of her records is knowingly called Pop Model, after all. She is at her best up there with Blondie and Kylie, Saint Etienne and Annie, France Gall and Jane B, Cristina Monet and Claudine Longet. She even makes me think of Lori and the Chameleons, or in other words Bill Drummond and Dave Balfeís brief excursion in creating perfect pop. Does anyone know if 'Touch' and 'The Lonely Spy' are available?

Lio emerged from the Parisian punk demi-monde at the end of the Ď70s, and fronted such a perfect piece of pop confectionery that it was too obviously Ze for them to release, so they passed on Lio just as they passed on the exquisite Antena. Her first record features titles like 'La Panthere Rose', 'Bebe Vampire', 'Speedy Gonzales', and 'Le Banana Split'. What more would you want? Well, how about a version of that LP with English lyrics by Sparks? Which again begs the question why on earth did I miss out on Lio? She did after all have a string of hits in France.

By the mid-Ď80s Lio did at last get together with Zeís Michel Esteban, and he got John Cale and Steve Stanley in to record her Pop Model set. The Lio recordings kept trickling out, and of particular note is the exceptional Wandatta set from the mid-90s, where Lio retreats from her public persona behind a more serious visage, in the process producing a remarkable set of ballads which I would love to hear piped around any hotel. The striking cover of the Wandatta set is by the renowned Guy Peelaert, of Rock Dreams fame where he collaborated by Nik Cohn whom I see has a new book out soon on New Orleans.

Itís interesting that the Lio back catologue is erupting onto the world. Other labels have gone for a far more staged salvage process. LTM has for instance steadily been releasing the back catologues of The Orchids and Isabelle Antena, while RPM has been treating us to a monthly set of Jackie De Shannon sets. The Orchidsí back catologue does sound remarkably good though. I will naturally fall back upon the relatively early Lyceum set, which is think is a sort of lazy perfection. I remember totally confusing someone very lovely by suggesting the orchids were the missing link between Television and the Bay City Rollers. But, hey, I think Iíll stick with that one.

One of the many reasons to celebrate getting home from the workshop was being able to catch up on the packages waiting for me at home. One of these was the reissue of Farewell Aldebaran from Judy Henske and Jerry Yester, which Iíve been waiting a long time for. Itís such a glorious over-the-top baroque pop masterpiece. It is very much of its time, but a brave expedition into rococo psychedelic symphonics that you just have to love. It would have been ideal to take with me, as an antidote to Whitesnake and the power ballads of the world, but lifeís not perfect.

© 2005 John Carney