"Those who have experienced Paris have advantage over those who have not. We are the ones who have glimpsed a little bit of heaven, down here on earth." - Deirdre Kelly

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Musique D'Express

Musique D'Express, Compagnie Internationale

"Joe le taxi. Y va pas partout. Y marche pas au soda." 
(Joe the Taxi driver. He doesn't go everywhere. 
He dosen't work on soda) - Vanessa Paradis (1988)

When most Francophiles think of/listen to French music it's of the Josephine Baker, Edith Piaf variety. But I think that's because most Francophiles are adults before they can fully consummate and indulge in Paris-love. Don't get me wrong, I learned to love these ladies and most classic French music, especially French Jazz. But French music is deeper, wider and taller than that. Luckily for me, my introduction to the variety and infinite possibilities of French music came in my late teens, early 20s...

Joe Le Taxi - Vanessa Paradis
Yes, she was Johnny Depp's 'wife.'

In the early-90s I was at university working part-time at Express (the 'younger' sister of The Limited Express). Back in the day Express was "the number one source for fashion-savvy American women to indulge in sleek, Parisian style." I loved working there. The place was always packed, I got my first pick of the latest deliveries and I got 40% off everything (no retailer does that for their sales teams' anymore - sigh). Express also played the coolest music.

"Picasso" - Claudia Phillips

Back in the day most clothing stores, if they played music (then a rarity) played cassettes or new fangeled cds that the manager brought in. But Express, being on the Euro-youth-cutting edge, went one huge step further. They made a deal with Polygram Records to create a one-of-a-kind soundtrack for their stores. Of course the theme was French music, with some world music thrown in for good measure. Instead of playing the music that we American teens were listening to (i.e. Coolio, Bon Jovi, Hootie and the Blowfish etc.), Express/Polygram put together compilations of music we American youths had never heard of - and it was incredible: moody, sensual, lush, quirky, soothing and addictive. This little known genre is Sophisti-pop, with a Parisian flare.

"Soleil d'Hiver" - Niagra

The soundtrack quickly became very popular. Nearly every time while  I was ringing up a customer, they asked if they could buy the music playing in the store. So popular that Express released a compilation cassette to the masses exclusively in their stores - Musique D'Express. I still have mine. Unfortunately, it's out of print and very hard to find (you can get a used cassette from Amazon.com/@ $14). Okay, now flash forward to the 21st century. Thank Goddess for the internets, YouTube, and iTunes - where you can find info on the songs and artists, watch live performance videos, or better yet, the 90s era original music videos (as well as these artists' other great music), and download them for your very own - yay!

This is my favorite, and you know 
I had to add a sistah to the mix!

I have a cobbled together a Musique d'Express playlist of my very own - joy of JOYS ;-) And every track still sounds as fresh and innovative as they did 21 years ago - goodness has it been that long? Sadly, 2 of the original 10 fabulous tracks on this compilation are not to be found anywhere - but I won't stop looking - and will update this post when I find them, and I will. So take a listen, create your own playlist. You know you want to ;-}

And, yes, I regularly blast my Musique d'Express playlist in my car with the top down, singing along in my mangled French at the top of my lungs - much to the chagrin of my three children. But they only pretend to be too cool. After the first song or two they're sing along with me.

Musique D'Express
1.  "Picasso" - Claudia Phillips
2.  "Soleil d'Hiver" - Niagra
3.  "Joue Pas" - Francois Feldman
4.  "Fric Frac" - Luna Parker (Only available for download in Europe - drat! It is at AmazonUK., the music vid is on YouTube)
5.  "Soldat" - Vanessa Paradis
6.  "Joe le Taxi" - Vanessa Paradis
7.  "Mon Legionnarie" - Serge Gainsbourg 
8.  "Tu Es Formidable" - Lio (not available anywhere, the music vid is on YouTube)
9.  "Oui, Je l'adore" - Pauline Ester
10. "J'ai Peur" - Francois Feldman

Other articles about this wonderful-magical-musical cassette:
Audio Archaeology (Cap Blackard, April 2009)
Shadows & Light (Steve Reed, April 2012) 

Take us out Pauline!

"Oui, Je l'adore" - Pauline Ester

Vivre! Rire! Aimer!



  1. i cannot believe anyone loves this as much as me - thanks for letting me relive my teens

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    3. I just got an itch to look into this as , I too, was getting nostalgic. I worked at Express in Beachwood, Ohio for years and I never actually bought the cassettes we sold. There was also a Christmas one with Sting's,"Angel Gabriel", which I loved. Oh the good ol' days.

  2. Hello Anonymous,

    Yes there is another who loves this compilation as much as you do - and I strongly suspect that we're not the only ones ;-)

    Your comment inspired me to: a) revise my original post (typos abounded - EEK!) and b) see if I could find the elusive 3 unavailable tracks. Good news, "Picasso" (Claudia Phillips) is now available on iTunes - yeah!

    If you'd like a cd copy (gratis, of course) just let me know - gotta share the love ;-)



  3. I was taking French in high school when this cassette came out. I have been able to get mp3's of all the songs, as well as they lyrics for all but Claudia Phillips' 'Picasso', and I'm searching feverishly for it. Do you by any chance have the insert with the lyrics that came with the tape? If so, would you mind posting the lyrics? Merci beaucoup! gilgonzalez(at)bellsouth.net

    1. Hello Anonymous,

      To my knowledge, the only version of this compilation is the cassette. And I do have the original liner notes. Alas, there are no lyrics included (sigh).

      But your request intrigued me. Now I want to know the lyrics for Picasso too ;-) Luckily for us, my Mr. Gorgeous speaks, reads and writes fluent French. Better yet, he's agreed to be our personal translator. So give me a couple of days and I'll have those lyrics for you.

    2. Merci beaucoup! J'ai tous les paroles des chansons sur cette cassette, mais la chanson Picasso est la dernière que je n'ai pas. Je suis sûr que j'avais les notes avec les parole, mais je ne le peux pas rencontrer.

  4. Temple,
    You are so cool. I love these songs and have been looking for a way to get them on my ipod. The only place I can play the tape now is my car which is also from the 90's.

    1. Anonymous,

      Forgive me for not posting the lyrics to "Picasso." There just aren't enough hours in a day - sigh. I'm still working on it.

      You know that there's an iPod converter for cars w/ cassette players? It's a cassette looking thingy with an iPod plug on the other end. Slip the cassette part into you player, plug then other end into your iPod and you're good to go! Of course I can't remember the name of it (sorry). Google or look for it @ Amazon. Gotta have your French tunes wherever you go ;-}



    2. Hi,

      You can get a 'Cassette to mp3 Converter' (made by Belkin) at Amazon.com for $4 (usd) free shipping ;-} Enjoy!

  5. Finally got around to reading this post after you made me aware of it on my blog (where I wrote my own paean to this fabulous cassette). Great job! I love it that so many of us bonded with this bit of "sophisti-pop"!

    1. Hi Steve,

      Now it's my mea culpa turn for a tardy reply ;-}
      While I know, especially by the responses to my post, that we're not the
      only lover's of 'sophist-pop,' yours and my posts are the only ones I can find on the internets - quelle tristeesse! Still, I take great solace in the fact that all but one of the songs on the original track are available at iTunes.

      Be well my friend...

  6. Hello Temple,

    Can't figure out how I stumbled across this wonderful page but happy I have. I nearly died laughing at the Vanessa Paradis 'Joe le Taxi' as I also worked at Express back in 1992- 1995 in Boston and this was the cassette tape they sold. I actually have one still. Plus many outfits from the store back in the day. Thank you I'm truly enjoying all the blogs here.

    All the best

  7. Hi Elizabeth,

    Yeah, those were the days ;-}
    I too have a few pieces and my cassette - I miss those carefree days.
    So glad you like the blog. Please keep in touch.

  8. I was Googling/listening to some old French songs today and found your post. Another '90s Express alum (Florida) here -- I think I've lost my cassette but I definitely wore it out back in the day! Thanks for writing this!

  9. Hi El-e-e,

    So wonderful to meet another Musique Express-lover. There are so many of us, it's a shame there aren't more 'net-posts about it. Maybe we should start a support group - ha! ;-}

  10. I would love to get a CD or MP3 of these songs from the Express store soundtrack. Though I own a cassette, my stereo will not play it, so I cannot convert to CD. :(

  11. Hello Veedle,

    9/10 songs are available at iTunes ($1 ea). If that doesn't work out for you I'd be happy to burn a cd for you ;-}

  12. I have this cassette tape!! When I was in 6th grade (over 20 yrs ago) me and my mom used to shop at Express. M mom got two copies and let me have one. One of my faves was "Soleil d'Hiver"...and today I just realized the song was about a girl that wanted to commit suicide!!! :/

    1. Hello Velma,
      20+ years ago I used to work at Express - that's how I got my copy. It took a while but I now have the entire album on iTunes and I listen to it often. In fact, just today I was jamming to Picasso as I drove my daughter home from tennis practice ;-}

      I never knew that Soleil d'Hiver was about suicide. Sad but not surprising - the best music explores positive and negative feelings.


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