Synthpop greats Telex prep new Best Of, tell us about their favorite covers
Formed in 1978 by jazz musician and radio DJ Marc Moulin, electronics wiz Dan Lacksman and singer Michel Moers, Belgian trio Telex made wonderfully whimsical synthpop, taking cues from Kraftwerk but adding a bubbly playfulness and snarky sense of humor that aimed to be as far away from rock as possible. Their 1978 debut single was a giddy cover of Les Chats Sauvages' 1961 Francophone rock n' roll number "Twist à Saint Tropez" that predated records by Silicon Teens, Tubeway Army, M's "Pop Muzik," and The Flying Lizards, and planted seeds for Depeche Mode, OMD and more. They were also infamously Belgium's official Eurovision entry in 1980 with "Euro-Vision," a song that mocked the competition and was made with hopes of coming in last place. (Unfortunately, Portugal gave them high marks and they placed second to last). They also worked with the likeminded group Sparks for the 1981 album Sex, and later covered their classic "The Number One Song in Heaven."
This week, Mute Records is releasing a new compilation This is Telex, which was overseen by the band's Dan Lacksman and Michel Moers (Moulin died in 2008), and features songs remastered from the original tapes. They include their most famous songs ("Twist à Saint Tropez," "Moskow Diskow," "Euro-Vision"), Sparks collabs “Drama Drama” and “Exercise Is Good For You,” and a couple of previously unreleased covers: The Beatles' "Dear Prudence" and Sonny & Cher's "The Beat Goes On." You can pre-order now and listen to a few tracks below.
As Telex have always had a knack for great covers, we asked Michel Moers what some of his favorite covers -- not recorded by Telex -- were, and he came back with a list of 10 featuring The Residents, Tom Jones, Grace Jones, Sinead O’Connor, and more. He also included a couple of artists who've covered Telex songs. "The idea of making a cover is to deconstruct familiar tunes and bring another lighting," Michel tells us. "In TELEX’s case it helped us to find our own vocabulary and have fun revisiting the 'history' of popular music."
Check out his list, complete with commentary, below.
TELEX's Michel Moer - "Covers I like, not made by TELEX"
1/ Moskow Diskow (TELEX) by Señor Coconut
Electronic music is supposed to be cold,that’s what we were told. Here is a sunny/warming cover by Señor Coconut aka Uwe Schmidt, a versatile famous electronic musician.
2/ "Je Suis Venu Te Dire Que Je M’en Vais" (Serge Gainsbourg) by Jo Lemaire
Serge Gainsbourg was a French composer/author - very witty and rather cynical, playing deliciously with words. “Je suis venu te dire que je m’en vais” means “I just came to say I’m leaving”, quite different from Stevie Wonder’s “I just called to say I love you”...Jo Lemaire brings a nice emotional touch with this 80s simple electronic arrangement.
3/ "Kiss" (Prince) by Tom Jones & The Art of Noise
Who would have expected Tom Jones to cover Prince? I miss Prince’s guitar here but the Art Of Noise made a beautiful backing, almost James Bond style in some parts
4/ "The Model" (Kraftwerk) by Balanescu Quartet
Quite different from Kraftwerk isn’t it? That’s what is interesting with covers, going to the frame. I miss the voice and the words though.
5/ "D.I.S.C.O." (Ottawan) by The Young Professionals
Only the chorus is a cover, could even be a sample. The TYP attitude is quite close to Telex’s one. If you see the video, very Buster Keaton tongue in cheek.
6/ "Warm Leatherette" (The Normal) by Grace Jones
Grace Jones is an amazing singer/performer. One of my favorite concerts, back in 1981, the Jean-Paul Goude era. And The Normal is/are no other than Daniel Miller, our new Mute partner… who made that iconic electronic title.
7/ "Nothing Compares" 2 U (Prince) by Sinead O’Connor
Sinead helped spread this song by bringing an emotion that helped a lot of people who lost a dear one.
8/ "Hit The Road Jack" (Ray Charles) by The Residents
I always loved Ray Charles, even in the Nat King Cole style of his beginning. Telex made a cover too, of another tune, but this one by The Residents is so strong, even frightening.
9/ "Every Time You Say Goodbye" (Cole Porter) by Annie Lennox
Cole Porter is a genius, I had to choose between the two covers I like: Chet Baker or Annie Lennox. Here is Annie on Red Hot & Blue, the compilation helping to fight AIDS, with a nice touch of accordion.
10/ "L’Amour Toujours" (TELEX) by Miharu Koshi
Another Telex song in Japanese, produced by Haruomi Hosono, a member of the Yellow Magic Orchestra, who came to Brussels for the recording with TELEX.
Charming, and a good song to say goodbye!