Various Artists Kiosque d'Orphée – Une épopée de l'autoproduction en France - 1973/1991

Born Bad
15th March 2024

Format Info

3xLP - black vinyl

For a long time, I’d come across these discs without really understanding what connected them, apart from a button and that famous logo designed by René Dessirier. Then, with a little more digging, I discovered the “self-production” link. For choirs, schools, folk singers, young pop groups, popular homes and even great composers who engraved unique copies of certain recording sessions…

The French equivalent of the English “Derby Service”, the Kiosque d’Orphée, formerly at 7 Rue Grégoire de Tours in the 6th arrondissement, was taken over by Georges Batard in 1967 and moved to 20 Rue des Tournelles in the 4th arrondissement of Paris. The adventure lasted until 1991. Georges Batard was a sound engineer who used a Neumann tube engraver to engrave acetates from the tapes he received, before printing the precious vinyls in the press factories of the day, where he was able to produce very small runs of between 50 and 500 copies.

Of course, there were other structures for releasing his records, such as Voxigrave or, later, FLVM, but none of them had so many records in their catalog. Le Kiosque d’Orphée was neither a label nor a publisher, but a structure that allowed you to press your own vinyl, at a time when it was quite an adventure to get your first 45 rpm or 33 rpm album released!

Georges Batard was described as passionate and conscientious. His son, bassist Didier Batard, wrote of him:
“Georges was passionate about recording and reproducing the stereo sound of his great passion, music. He paid close attention to distortion rates, signal-to-noise ratios, response curves, rise times and other damping factors in audio equipment. He was looking for the exact reproduction of concert hall sound in his living room (with the same sound level, if possible…). In the late ’50s/early ’60s, he found other sound enthusiasts in AFDERS (Association Française pour le Développement de l’Enregistrement et de la Reproduction Sonores). He became its honorary president. Every Saturday afternoon, its members met to test audio equipment. Their opinions were published in the monthly Revue du Son.

All you had to do was send in your tapes and choose the number of record copies you’d like to take home with you, so you could finally share your creations and, in a way, exist. You could opt for a generic sleeve, available in several colors, directly customizable with your name and credits, or you could design your dream sleeve yourself in your living room or at a printer’s.

This “Do It Yourself” temple gave birth to some superb pouches. Stencilled, hand-written, illustrated with paintings, drawings, illustrations by friends or girlfriends of the time, photo prints hastily stuck in the middle of a blank, white sleeve, on which the traces of time would leave their imprints, so that collectors and the curious would come and buy them decades later, with the promise of a musical discovery, unfortunately not always fulfilled…

What most of these records have in common is the youth of their songwriters, whether or not they’ve had a career. Stories of buddies, of getting by and dreams of glory made up this catalog. Most of them were amateur productions, both in terms of the level of the musicians and the quality of the recordings, made on a two-track or, the ultimate luxury, a 4-track in a teenager’s bedroom or parents’ living room.

It was the beginning of the home studio, thanks to the advent of the Revox portable tape recorder. A bit of a shaky DIY system, but, in return, the luxury of setting no limits: one-sided tracks, no outside censorship, no artistic director, no manager, no Barclay or EMI/Pathé Marconi logos…

When you finally had your own record, you could give it away or sell it to friends, family or after concerts. You could also drop it off at the nearest record shop, with undisguised pride.

It was also a calling card that could be sent to radio stations or music labels, in the hope of launching a career…

Many of the protagonists in this story tried to sign with labels, but in those days, bridges were not so easy to build between one’s hometown, or even one’s village, and the major or more specialized label that might have released these records. At the time, the advertisements published in the press by the Kiosque d’Orphée opened up the field of possibilities for provincial composers. It was now possible to make their own record, without having to go through the process of signing with a label.

Some of the composers who have gone on to make a career have used this channel to release their first record or parallel projects (Claude Engel, Dominique A, Andy Emler, Michel Deneuve, Claude Mairet, Mick Piellard, Tristan Mu- rail…) and sometimes even single or very limited pressings of work or promotional copies (Bernard Parmegiani, Jef Gilson…).

This album is the conclusion of a long investigation, begun six years ago. It took a long time to find the records, scattered all over the place, in the homes of collectors and sometimes the musicians themselves, and then to listen to them, sometimes painstakingly, to unearth these moments of grace.

From this work, 23 tracks remain, but there are dozens of others that could have been included, so we had to choose, and the choice had to be as universal as possible. This selection is obviously not objective, but I hope you’ll like it.

Today’s music is raw, touching and powerful.

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