Friday, August 10, 2018

Johnny Hallyday – "Hey Joe" (1966)

Je pensais avoir une fille
Mais il paraît, Joe
Qu'elle dort maintenant entre tes draps

What is wrong with this photo of the elevator control panel in a European hotel?

Everybody knows there’s no such thing as a “0” (zero) floor in a building.  The first floor is the first floor – not the zero floor!  That should be as plain as the nose on your face.

But to get to the ground floor of this hotel, you had to press the zero button – not the “1” button.  (Push the “1” button and you ended up on the second floor.)

New York City has a Third Avenue and a Second Avenue and a First Avenue.  But the last time I checked, it didn’t have a Zero Avenue.  The same should apply to hotel floors.

Calling the first floor the “0” floor is bad enough.  What’s even worse is calling the basement level the “-1” (minus-one) floor.  

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This is the kind of thing that makes a right-thinking American like me tend to eschew European travel.

About a decade ago, I spent a few days in Paris.  Other than that, I managed to avoid Europe for the first three score and six years of my life.  (I’ve been to the UK three times, but I’m not counting that.  The UK is a lot more like the United States than it is like France, Germany, or the other countries of continental Europe.)

That all changed last month when I spent two weeks in France and Belgium with a small group of other Americans.

My fellow pilgrims and I spent most of our time marveling at medieval cathedrals and visiting World War One battlefields and cemeteries.  Truth be told, we also spent a fair amount of time bending our elbows at the bars in our hotels.

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I knew I wasn’t in Kansas anymore – or any of the other fifty states – as soon as my airplane landed in Europe.  

For one thing, H2O is never free at restaurants – you have to buy a big-ass bottle of water if you want to wet your whistle with something other than beer or wine.  

European flush buttons
For another, the toilets always have dual flush controls.  You push one for number one, and push the other one for number two.  (I was never sure which was which, so I usually pushed both of them simultaneously.)  

Manual-transmission cars have pretty much disappeared in the good old U.S. of A., but automatic transmissions are the exception in Europe.  If you rent a car, expect it to come with a manual transmission – you’ll have to pay extra if you’re like my children and don’t have a clue how to use a clutch.

Also, you have to get used to kilometers and liters and other such metric units of measurements.  This is particularly important when you are ordering beer.  Draft beer is served in either 25-centiliter or 50-centiliter glasses – which are roughly equal to a half-pint and a pint, respectively.  Bottled beer usually comes in 33-centiliter bottles or cans, which are a bit smaller than standard 12-ounce American containers.  

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I had one experience on my European trip that still mystifies me.

My tour group spent two nights at a fancy resort hotel in Chantilly, France – a rather posh town just 25 miles northeast of Paris.

Chantilly is the site of the Château de Chantilly, a sort of mini-Versailles built by a lesser branch of the French royal family (the House of Bourbon).  It is also the home of a prestigious thoroughbred turf racecourse, the Chantilly Polo Club, and the Living Museum of the Horse.  (That museum is housed in the château’s luxurious Great Stables, which have room for up to 240 horses.  The Great Stables were built in 1719 by Louis Henri, duke of Bourbon and prince of Condé, who believed that he would be reincarnated as a horse).

Horse-sized lamp in the
lobby of our Chantilly hotel
Our hotel was within spitting distance of the château and all that fancy horsey stuff, and came equipped with its own golf course.

What it did not come equipped with were any drawers or shelves where I could unpack my clothes.

In the United States, even the humblest Red Roof Inn or Motel 6 provides drawers or shelves where its customers can store their clothes during their stay.  My hotel room in Chantilly had five hangers in a closet, but no chest of drawers or other place to put my clothes.  I thought that I must be overlooking something, and called the front desk for assistance.

When a hotel employee finally answered, he claimed to not be able to hear me.  I tried calling back on the other telephone in my room and was told the same thing when I asked where the drawers or shelves were.

So I walked down to the lobby and put my question to a group of desk clerks.  Their expressions showed their utter lack of comprehension of what I was driving at, so I asked to speak to a manager, who assured me that my room was perfect just the way it was.

“Let me ask you something,” I said to the manager.  “Where am I to put my socks?  If you were me, and you wanted to take your socks out of your suitcase and put them somewhere, where would you put them?”

Fine for coats, but useless for socks
The manager had no answer to what seemed to me to be a most reasonable question.  Apparently, the custom at this hotel was for guests to place their socks on the floor, or perhaps on the desk.

Shortly after I returned to my room, there was a knock on the door.  When I opened it, one of the housekeeping staff handed me some wooden hangers, then turned and left without a word.  

Did this mean I was expected to put my socks on hangers?  Zut alors!

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This is the first in a series of posts about my trip to France and Belgium, several of which will feature a song by a French or Belgian recording artist.

The late Johnny Halladay was the biggest of all French pop stars.  He released an astonishing 79 albums and sold well over 100 million records during his 57-year career.

Hallyday covered a number of American and British hits – including “Let’s Twist Again,” “(Let Me Be Your) Teddy Bear,” “House of the Rising Sun,” “Proud Mary,” and even “Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polkadot Bikini.”

Some called Hallyday “the French Elvis,” and it’s not a bad comparison.  Both were hugely popular, and both were hugely ridiculous.

Johnny Hallyday (1968)
The lyrics in Hallyday’s cover of “Hey Joe” are very different from the lyrics in the Jimi Hendrix version of the song.  For one thing, the singer didn’t shoot his old lady down.   

Here’s an approximate translation of the French lyrics quoted above:

I thought I had a girl who would be good to me, Joe 
But she’s sleeping between your sheets now

Click here to hear Johnny Hallyday’s cover of “Hey Joe.”

And click on the link below to buy the song from Amazon:

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