Dick’s Picks: Question – Which French band like to hide behind masks and are partial to a little bit of electronic music with vocoders? Answer – Daft Punk…….don’t be stoopid…..ladies and gentlemen we give you ‘Les Rockets’…..
Les Rockets – who, what, why?
This truly bonkers group formed in Paris in 1974, initially dealing in a brand of space rock that bore some similarities with the UK’s Hawkwind, by 1977 however the band, who comprised of vocalist Christian Le Bartz, bassist and vocalist “Little” Gérard L’Her, guitarist and keyboardist Alain Maratrat, drummer and percussionist Alain Groetzinger, and keyboardist Fabrice Quagliotti had caught a hefty dose of the euro-disco bug, a sound that was steadily growing in popularity in France, some, like ‘Space’ of ‘Magic Fly’ fame and the crack production team of Don Ray and Alex Costandinos who were responsible for ‘70s disco smasher Cerrone made it overground, others, like wayward production genius Jean Paul Massiera remained firmly underground.
It was around this time that Les Rockets leader Claude Lemoine assured the rest of the band it would be a good move if they all shaved their heads, painted their skin a sort of robot grey and began giving all their songs a synthy-euro-disco sound complete with suitably ‘spacey’ song titles; ‘Future Women’, ‘Last Space Train’, ‘Cosmic race’ and yup, you guessed it, ‘Space Rock’…..
Les Rockets – What’s it like and why do we care?
Approach with an open mind, if you’re looking for some inter-stellar Hawwkind type freak out you’re in the wrong place, from the opening rock solid kick drum and distorted vocoder vocals, it’s clear Les Rockets inhabit a different type of space to their free festival neighbours, oh yeh, and the phrase ‘rock’ might best be used, err, lightly.
After a minute or so of establishing the groove and its all-round general other-worldliness by 1.40, however, you’re in deep – the vocals intensify and those pizzicato disco strings do their thing. Yes, it’s cheesy and comes on like the poundstretcher version of Kraftwerk but this is also a bit of a curveball no? A five minute single with few words and very lengthy instrumental passages with an image that is so kitsch it’s cool, what’s not to like?
What happened next?
The band continued with some success in their native France, their 1979 ‘new wavey’ album ‘Plasteroid’ was a fairly decent sized hit, however,after numerous line-up changes throughout the ’80s the band started to fade into obscurity. By the mid-2000s things were changing, and a reappraisal of all things disco was underway – resulting in euro-disco obscurities by artists like Les Rockets shooting up in value and all-round collectability (in 2010 a copy of ‘Space Rock’ sold for £110! Thankfully things have calmed down a little since then!), reissues of the band appeared and the keen eyed had also noticed some similarities with that whole Daft Punk thing, just look at the picture of the Thomas Banglater/Stardust ‘Music Sounds Better With You’ single if you don’t believe me….