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Date: 01/02/15

Les Sinners - "Je Rêve À Toi" (1968)

What possible contact could I have had with the late-sixties pop scene in Quebec which would - all other things being equal - be the only possible reason for my putting this here?

Well, truth be told, only by a real commodius vicus of recirculation (thank you, Mr. Joyce) could I justify it. And here we go.

I have mentioned in my introductory remarks at The Viewing Room that I was a television fanatic in the way that only children of the 1950s and 1960s could be. Television was magical anyway at that time - just the fact of its existence in our lives, I mean - and the take-it-for-granted and blasé attitude of those who have never known a time prior to wall-to-wall, twenty-four-hour, sixty-five-channels-of-crap broadcasting never found purchase on our souls.

To someone of such a bent, one of the little secrets which we kept firmly to ourselves for fear of spoiling it and losing our own cachet was our knowledge of the programmes which the BBC broadcast without telling anybody (well, hardly anybody): they weren't listed in the Radio Times, and they weren't made by the BBC either.

They were called 'Trade Test Colour Films', and were broadcast on BBC2 for a couple of hours every weekday morning and a couple more most weekday afternoons. The idea of their being there was to enable television dealers, aerial installers and other such useful folk to demonstrate to their customers the benefits of colour television on UHF with the aim, of course, of selling (or, far more frequently at that time, renting) colour sets to a public which still wasn't quite sure about the merits of this new-fangled 'colour' stuff (black and white being still considered the natural state of television by most people in the early seventies).

The films preceded - or were preceded by - short bulletins of Transmitter Information issued by the Corporation's Engineering department, whereby the 'television trade' was told whether their local UHF transmitter was going to be working with reduced power or even be off air altogether during the day. The names of the transmitters were - like the names on the long- and medium-wave radio dials - almost like charms or incantations to me: "Rumster Forest, Mynydd Machen / Took me by the hand".

As for the films themselves (and you can find a list of them here), they varied in interest, and each of us who followed them - each of us probably thinking that we were completely alone in our obsession - had our own favourites. Mine was probably Evoluon, a dialogue-free twelve-minute whizz around Philips' major exhibition in Eindhoven (you can see it here). But there were others which held my attention to varying degrees, and this is how the record you are about to hear finds its place here.

The films came from a variety of sources, some commercial such as ICI and the aforementioned Dutch electronics giant, and some public, such as various countries' tourist services or - as in this case - the venerable National Film Board of Canada.

Atlantic Parks/Parcs Atlantiques (this is Canada at the height of Trudeauisme we're talking about, after all), followed a sequence of journeys through the country's east-coast national parks. The film starts with a young woman with a Renault 4 and one of those somewhat sour expressions on her face which I've always thought typified the Francophone female (a little while after, we were taught French - for certain values of the word 'taught' - in our secondary school by a mad Parisienne who looked a bit like her). As the film (it's about seventeen minutes in length) progresses, this jeune femme acquires - in the proper moral order, naturellement - a somewhat ineffectual-looking husband and a poisonous toddler called Jerôme, at whom madame shouts at regular intervals as the little bastard pulls flowers out of someone's patch or pushes his dirty-fingered way through someone else's washing on the line.

The film ends to the sound of a song which I found quite enchanting at the time, but was never able to identify and which - in all the pre-internet years which followed - I hadn't a cat's chance in hell of being able to track down even if I could.

More modern research facilities now abound, and I was finally able to find a very ropy copy of the film itself on YouTube (obviously sourced from VHS: the National Film Board of Canada have yet, alas, to see their way clear to posting a good-quality copy of it on their website), and found out at least the name of the artists involved.

Les Sinners were a Montréal-based band who enjoyed considerable success in the mid-to-late sixties. Their stock in trade was akin to garage rock - in both French and English - but they could use other styles as well, and it was one such occasion which I had heard all of forty-plus years ago.

Je Rêve À Toi (I Dream Of You) featured on the band's 1968 LP Sinnerismes, and was written by the band's François Guy and Charles Linton ( Prévost).


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