Michael and Aurora met in February 2010 and spent the next three months getting to know each other musically, listening to each other’s CDs, checking stuff out on YouTube and Spotify, and discovering that they both liked a wide variety of music: pop, rock ‘n’ roll, R & B, dance music of all types, soul, jazz – and classic French songs that both had heard in their youth.
In June of that year, they decided to develop a ‘live’ act as Michael & Aurora; to explore writing songs together; to record Aurora’s vocals on whichever of Mike’s existing recordings would suit her style; and to record the best of their ‘live’ repertoire after developing these songs at gigs.
The first, and arguably the best, of the duo’s co-written songs, “Berwick Rendezvous”, tells the story of a romantic encounter in a Soho pub. “Down there in the streets, Soho comes alive, upstairs in the bar, it’s just you and I…” sums it up neatly enough! Next up, Mike’s regular musical collaborator, guitarist Jim Mullen, put forward his arrangement of Edith Piaf’s classic “Hymne à l’amour” for Aurora to sing – adding a touch of straight-ahead jazz!
The idea for recording “Chez Les Yé Yé” came when Aurora suggested doing a Serge Gainsbourg ‘cover’ and Mike picked this song with its 60’s rock ‘n’ roll ‘feel’. After gigging this throughout the year, Mike recorded the music around the end of 2011. The furious guitar riffs and rhythms inspired Aurora to create one of her most compelling vocal performances ever!!!
Looking for more French repertoire, Aurora found a version of the famous Brazilian song, “Berimbau” with new lyrics about “Bidonville” (French for shanty-town). The duo played this song at their gigs as well – adding Latin music to their variety of styles.
“First Time Ever I Saw Your Face”, originally an instrumental duet featuring Mike and Jim Mullen, developed over time into this unusual arrangement featuring banjo, jazz guitar, saxophone, electric bass and two drummers supporting Aurora’s vocal harmonies.
For the final song in the set, Mike came up with an acoustic arrangement of Buddy Holly’s “It Doesn’t Matter Anymore”.
Showcasing talented vocalist Aurora Colson accompanied by Mike Collins and various musical friends, this EP features two classic love songs, Ewan MacColl’s “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face” written for his lover, singer Peggy Seeger, and Edith Piaf’s “Hymne À L’Amour” written for the love of her life, boxer Marcel Cerdan who was killed in a plane crash en route from Paris to New York to see her. Continuing the ‘love’ theme, “Berwick Rendezvous” is a song about a girl who finds ‘love at first sight’ and becomes wrapped up in her ‘own little world’ in the heart of London’s Soho.”
Providing a contrasting mood, “Bidonville” has a social message of support for all the poor, yet still beautiful, human beings living in shanty towns around the world. Lyrics for the song were written by Claude Nougaro to Berimbau – a Brazilian song with music by guitarist Baden Powell and original lyrics by Vinicius de Moraes about the rhythms played by Brazil’s most famous musical percussive instrument, the berimbau. This is a wooden bow with a gourd-like fruit attached to amplify the sound. It is played with a small stick while the player changes the pitch by pressing a small stone against the string and holds a small shaker in the hand that strikes the string with the stick to create additional percussive sounds. Brazil is also famous for its favelas or shanty towns. In French-speaking countries, shanty towns are referred to as ‘bidonvilles’.
In “Chez Les Yé Yé”, written by Serge Gainsbourg, he sings about his ‘Lolita’ – a young girl he has his lustful eyes on who likes the yé yé music (‘bubblegum ‘go-go’ pop/dance music) that was especially popular in France during the 60’s. As she dances, he says he will ‘get’ her during the rhythms of the tam tams… Aurora reveals a natural appreciation of Serge’s lyrical points of view – delivering the vocals with an attitude that surpasses even Gainsbourg’s original…
“It Doesn’t Matter Anymore”, one of the most popular songs the duo played ‘live’, was written by Paul Anka and recorded by Buddy Holly in 1958. This song reached #1 in the UK charts in April 1959, two months after Holly died in a plane crash.
1. Berwick Rendezvous
(Written by Mike Collins, Aurora Colson and Damon Butcher)
This song tells the story of a girl meeting a guy for the first time at a party and immediately falling under his spell – a classic ‘love at first sight’ situation! “The song was actually written in June 2010 when I first started working with Aurora,” says Mike. “I had an instrumental track, written with Damon Butcher some years earlier, which served as the perfect vehicle for us to write the song to. Everything came together very quickly, and we had lots of fun writing the lyrics and melody. Jamie Talbot played sax on the recording in May 2011 and I added the tremolo guitar overdubs and made the final mix in January 2012.”
2. Hymne a l’Amour
(Music written by Marguerite Monnot, Lyrics written by Edith Piaf)
A cool, jazzy version of Edith Piaf’s classic ode to her lover, this features Aurora singing in French. Jim Mullen devised the jazzy chords for this arrangement and Aurora sings the song beautifully, with intense feeling for the lyrics…
Michael plays the rhythm guitar chords on a 1940’s Epiphone Broadway with a De-Armond electric pickup… Jim plays the second rhythm guitar part on an Ibanez Joe Pass electric guitar… Winston Blissett plays bass and Graham Dean plays drums… Jamie Talbot plays the lovely, melodic tenor sax solo…
3. Chez Les Yé Yé
(Written by Serge Gainsbourg)
In case you were wondering, yé-yé music was a mostly European phenomenon that originated in France and usually featured young female singers who were typically sexy in a deliberately naïve way… Originally recorded by Serge Gainsbourg in a 60’s rock/jazz style, this version is more rock ‘n’ roll.
Uptempo, with raucous, ballsy, quirky French vocals from Aurora Colson, the music is fired up by the frantic energy from Mike’s ukulele, bass and guitar rhythms and riffs and furious a-gogo-style drumming by Marc Parnell, with honking tenor and baritone rock ‘n’ roll saxes by Gary Barnacle.
(Music by Baden Powell, Lyrics by Claude Nougaro)
Claude Nougaro’s lyrics are about the poverty in the shanty towns. He invites his ‘camarades’, the people who live in these ‘bidonvilles’ who he regards as his friends, to shake his hand because they are still beautiful human beings – wherever in the world they live in such conditions. This version combines the verses of Bidonville with the choruses of Berimbau to add back some of the flavour of the original song.
In the sections that were originally intended as instrumental links, Aurora sings the brass riffs and then the chorus vocal taken from “Nougayork” – another song written by Claude Nougaro with music by Philippe Saisse. Mike plays finger-style Spanish guitar, electric guitar and maraccas – with the Spanish guitar pitched down digitally by 4 semitones to create an unusual sound quality.
5. The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face
(Written by Ewan MacColl)
Tenor sax, banjo, piano-accordion, electric bass, tambourines, two drummers, and a jazz guitarist – whatever next! Aurora sings harmonies and ad-libs to complement her lead vocals on this quirky arrangement of the song made popular by Roberta Flack.
Winston Blissett’s bass line has more than a hint of Motown about it, Jim Mullen gets jazzy during the guitar solo, Blair Cunningham holds down a steady drum pattern while Marc Parnell gets busy around the kit, and Mike keeps it all moving along as he plucks out the two interlocking banjo parts. Then Jamie Talbot plays some sweet notes on tenor sax…
6. It Doesn’t Matter Anymore
(Written by Paul Anka)
Building on his original acoustic guitar part, Mike played bass, mandolin, piano-accordion, tambourine, shaker, chimes and hand-drum to create this arrangement.
“Aurora sang these lyrics, for what turned out to be our last recording, with utter conviction”, says Mike: “…you drove me crazy …now you go your way baby and I’ll go mine, now and forever ’till the end of time, I’ll find somebody new and baby, we’ll say we’re through, and you won’t matter any more…”