Maharajah Teenage Rock Band, or What About the Calling?

1/So far away paradise (03:11)

2/Poltergeist (01:10)

3/Taj Mahal (08:05)

Already alluded to there, Maharajah was a teenage creative experience that was to last about one year and a half. The band gave three concerts (in Chaville and Sèvres) and made two recordings, one studio, one live. The name Maharajah comes from the fact that, as would-be hippies, we were beguiled by a fantasized India.

The three songs here (actually two songs and one extract of a song) were recorded during a concert in Chaville (or was it in Sèvres?) in April 1994. Performers are Serge (guitar and vocals), Florence (violin), me (bass), Guillaume (drums), and Aurélien (percussion). Originally the band was Serge, Guillaume and I. It later expanded with two new members, Florence and Aurélien. We knew each other at the Lycée de Sèvres.

These songs were written by me but they owe much to the guitar line added by Serge, who also wrote the lyrics on Taj Mahal (both French and English, although our lyrics were mainly English), as well as to the contribution of all the other members. When either Serge or I brought our compositions to the pool, the final songs always were the result of what came out of our jam sessions in Guillaume’s cellar.

I had no previous training in music and, if I remember well, neither had the others more than a smattering of it, Florence being the exception (as she had completed training at a classic academy).

We were lucky enough to find conditions that allowed us to have that activity, and we were happy doing what we were doing. Circumstances did not allow us, however, to polish our work, did not provide us with the means to give it a less amateurish gloss. Maybe the ending of it was made easier by such considerations as that we were young and could and would make greater things in many other ways. When, twenty years later, the thought dawns upon you that you have achieved nothing worth a few songs that only exist in poor recordings (I remember that the live recording had disgusted me because the bass line was not distinguishable enough to my liking) of a rather poor performance as well, time has come to deal with these relics of one’s past with seriousness.

Contrary to most of my writings of that time, which probably were more to the taste of my contemporaries than the later classic verses I published, all these years I have kept the two cassette tapes of our two recordings. It must have been a decade and a half since I last listened to them, I was not even sure something could still be heard on these tapes after so much time. Yet everything could be heard and I recorded a few songs on a dictaphone. Then a friend accepted to remaster the files. I have just posted them on YouTube.

If, on YouTube, I wrote ‘All rights reserved,’ it’s only because the thought that another might reap the harvest of one’s work or ideas (and we all have heard of people becoming millionnaires from just one song) is too hellish to be borne by a man, but in no way does it mean that I am convinced our ideas, our inspirations were successfully embodied in our music, especially in these recordings. I won’t likely find the conditions again to give it another try, so I leave these ideas to the world such as they are here incarnate.

They’re ideas somewhat embedded in a layer of mud (lack of time and means). I wish, o my reader, had you the means yourself, you would clean the stone, if you could do it without concealing where you found it. Many people, I am sure, are so haunted by the hellish thought I have alluded to and at the same time lack the means, the channels, the acquaintances to air their ideas in a secure way that they keep them out of the world’s sight and bring them bound to their bosoms into the grave after a life in obscurity, whereas their ideas would have enlightened our existence. I don’t blame them. They’re proof, if I’m not mistaken, that our age-old logic of exploiting one another is at odds with the calling of mankind.

A last word on that wrecked calling of young people. The idea that we could have made a living writing and playing songs was hardly credible, in the context, given the market open to a French band (even singing in English). For determined teenagers in U.K. or U.S. that seems far more credible, inasmuch as they’re offered a world market, potentially. In these countries you can drop out and make it to the top as an artist; not here. In these countries, thus, you can overcome petty-bourgeois prejudices; not here. Yet I don’t envy those I’d call wonder dropouts (idea of a book called Wonder Dropouts: The Theory of the Leisure Underclass). Many musicians I used to listen as a teenager, who were selling albums all over the world, today eke out an existence from various toils. They were and still are known worldwide: How is it possible that they have to toil in order to earn their bread?

December 2016


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  3. florentboucharel

    “the live recording had disgusted me because the bass line was not distinguishable enough to my liking”

    This is so because, contrary to most rock bands, the bass in Maharajah featured prominently, as a good deal of our songs, namely those I composed, were composed on the bass. The sound engineers did not understand it during the rehearsal before the gig and the recording therefore gives the bass the default treatment, which here is inappropriate.

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