The last evening of the Bus Palladium or the epilogue of half a century of rock history in Paris

8 p.m., 6 rue Pierre Fontaine, a few steps from the Pigalle metro station. No sign of Michel Polnareffthis Saturday, April 2 on the first floor of the Bus Palladium. Cyrille Bodin, slumped on a velvet sofa at the back of the room, his electronic cigarette in hand, listens for the umpteenth time to the message left by the star in the white glasses on his phone. The artistic director would have liked to see him go on stage this evening, but the interpreter of The Doll Who Says Nosettled in Los Angeles, could not free himself. ” I will be with you in thought “, he assures from Cyril’s voicemail. The forty-year-old in cigarette pants and a leather jacket has spent the past few weeks in a whirlwind of confused emotions, and feels a little elsewhere, as a spectator of this end clap. Cissoko cheese and Mariama Diallowaitresses here for a few months, have brought out large plates of thieboudiene to gather strength before opening, and laugh loudly as they remember their most drunk customers, able to continue dancing even when the music has stopped. Elvisthe physiognomist, recognizable by his large silhouette, his imposing brown beard and his leather flanked by the inscription “Bus Palladium”, has just welcomed his mother, Evelyne Maréchal, 82, cane in hand and Metallica t-shirt. “I’m going to try to hold out as late as possible, like when I went to Régine or Castel in the 1960s,” she slips mischievously, before discussing her recent hip problems. Cyril claps his hands and brings the whole team together to give them courage. “Watch the customers a bit: tonight is not a wrecking party, we hope to keep the room in more or less good condition between now and the real closure, in 3 weeks”, he insists, before letting the bartenders, the counter clerks, the technicians and the cloakroom staff disperse to welcome the dozens of night owls already posted in front of the club entrance. They came to witness the last hours of a former giant of the Parisian nightlife, once frequented by Salvador Dali, Serge Gainsbourg and Mick Jaggertoday slated for demolition. Instead of the concert hall, a luxury hotel should be erected in this district that has become ultra-touristy. The owner suggests that he will surely install a nightclub in the basement of the establishment, but the work will last for years. And in the meantime, Parisian rock will have to fight for its survival in the few venues that still want to host it.

Aliocha Walloon

So be it

Hundreds of former regulars came to build their last memories before the curtain went down. The first to arrive is Herve Vilardressed all in black with her little silk scarf tight around her neck. He triumphantly announces to the counter clerk that he was “the oldest DJ on the Bus, the first to play an Otis Redding vinyl”. The interpreter of Capri is over is one of the last witnesses to the first hours of the Bus Palladium, installed in 1965 in the premises of a former cabaret that became a jazz club in the 1930s. At the time when the very select Chez Régine reigned supreme over the Parisian night, a young assistant director close to the New Wave, Bow Jamestakes it into his head to allow commuters to infiltrate the nights of the capital, and establishes a shuttle system to take them home. “Before, on the Parisian rock scene, there was the Golf Drouot, which corresponds to the period Elvis Presley. The Bus embodies the arrival of the Beatles generation”, explains Francois Jouffamusic journalist and regular from the start. 1965 is the year of To help of the Beatles and Satisfaction the Stones: the yéyés are already outdated, the English groups are conquering the world. James Arch lets long-haired beatniks escape from their bourgeois families, passing through Paris between two trips to India or California, free of charge. The legend says that on the tenth day of opening of the Bus, Salvador Dali walks through the door and exclaims in the middle of the dance floor: “It’s a marvel! “. High society is piqued with curiosity, and customers in furs and designer dresses come to mingle with hippies and girls in Courrèges skirts in full jerk demonstration. James Arch organizes dance marathons, as in We finish the horses welland a contest for the longest hair. Three years before May 68, a whole heterogeneous youth bubbled and danced together in this still infamous district.

When Hervé Vilard is not there, it is Vigon, a Moroccan singer then in his twenties, who takes his place on stage with his group Les Limones. A few months earlier, he was still helping his father on the fruit and vegetable stalls in the markets of Tangier. In Paris, he realized his stage dream. Dressed in sequined suits bought in Italy, he plays all the r’n’b hits of the moment: Stevie Wonder, Jimmy Cliff, James Brown. “I was paid 50 francs per evening, from Monday to Sunday. I lived at 69 rue Pigalle, in a maid’s room at 100 francs a month, in which I only went to sleep for a few hours before returning to the Bus Palladium, ”recalls the singer, now 77 years old, always elegant with his tinted glasses and his slender silhouette.

80s in the vape

In 1974, the journalist Sam Bernet takes over the management of the place with his friend Richard Ermann, to welcome a new musical wave, more American: the DJs play the latest titles of the Doors and Jimi Hendricks, Gloria Gaynor and Patti Smith perform on the stage. Johnny Halliday, Eddie Mitchell and Véronique Sanson spend their nights on the dance floor, sometimes crossing paths with Eric Clapton and David Gilmour, who have come to enjoy the Parisian night after a concert. Sam Bernett also remembers the discreet presence of Serge Gainsbourgat the back of the room, glass in hand and cigarette in mouth. “One morning he staggered off and rested for a while alone, sitting on the sidewalk opposite. A police truck stopped. When the agents recognized him, they offered to take him home, rue de Verneuil. After this episode, on Sunday mornings around 5 a.m., the police often popped in to ask if Serge was there, and if he needed to be accompanied, ”recalls the former RTL presenter. In 1966, in Who’s in, who’s outthe singer had already paid his tributes to the Bus: “You like nitroglycerin, It’s at the Bus Palladium that you can listen to it, Rue Fontaine, there’s a crowd, For the little guys from Liverpool”.

In the 1980s, the club changed teams again, opted for more specialized programming and tried to take part in the new-wave wave. But the public is more and more scattered. “From the opening of the Bains Douches in 1978, the Bus Palladium began to decline”, rewinds Philip Maneuverformer frequenter of the place. “I remember one evening when I wanted to sit at a table, and where I was asked to clear out because PSG players were expected there. It had become a place to show up, pay for your table and order bottles of champagne, ”says the former editor-in-chief of rock & folk. At the same time, Sylvie Jouffa, journalist at Europe 1, created the Bus d’Acier, a prize awarded each year by the music press to the best rock band of the moment. In 1988, the Bérurier Noirs hesitated to accept it, for fear of “entering the system”; Carte de Séjour received the trophy from Jack Lang in 1987, just after the release of Sweet France in rai version.

Aliocha Walloon

Ex fan of the sixties

Fallen into oblivion during the 1990s, the club was taken over by a new team in 2010, with the aim of reviving the spirit of the beginnings. The floor is redecorated with furniture from the 1950s, patterned carpeting Bright and a large painting representing Serge Gainsbourg. Cyrille Bodinthen appointed artistic director of the Bus Palladium, gets busy programming rock bands of all styles, from rockabilly to metal, including Pete Doherty and a few baby rockers. His best memory remains that evening in December 2013, when Jean-Louis Aubert, Richard Kolinka and Louis Bertignac came on stage unexpectedly, joined by Axel Bauer on bass, and began to sing. Another world. It’s been twenty years since the musicians of Telephone announced their breakup. A month later, the group partially reformed under a new name: Les Insus.

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