Lost Classics! Willy DeVille’s Paris Trip

Willy DeVille came out of the infamous CBGB’s, the Bowery club that also produced Blondie, the Talking Heads and the Ramones in the 1970s.  DeVille’s band, Mink DeVille, was signed to Capitol Records in 1976 and the next year they produced their debut, which was a mix of soul, R&B and punk highlighted by the singles “Cadillac Walk” and “Spanish Stroll.”

When it came time to record the third Mink DeVille album in 1980, Willy wanted to become an old-style soul singer.  He took advantage of a new friendship he had just struck, with “Doc” Pomus, the Brill Building songwriting giant.  Pomus (who wrote “Save The Last Dance For Me” for the Drifters, among others) was convinced that Willy was one of the most soulful performers he’d ever seen.

So the two co-wrote a handful of songs, and Willy packed his bags to record his new album in Paris.  He dismissed all of the original members of his band except for guitarist Louis X. Erlanger, and recruited Jerry Scheff (bass) and Ron Tutt from Elvis Presley’s old road band.  Steve Douglas, a sax player who worked with Phil Spector, also produced the album.

When Le Chat Bleu was turned in Capitol wasn’t happy with the results.  The songs had lavish string arrangements and accordions, nothing sounded even close to punk rock.  So the album was released only in Europe, and critics hailed it as a near-masterpiece.  It sold well enough overseas to convince the label to release it a year later in the United States, but not after replacing “Mazurka,” a zydeco tune written by Queen Ida, with a more conventional rocker.

Willy DeVille still plays concert dates up and down the Northeast coast, and on a good night, he’ll play at least four or five tunes from Le Chat Bleu, including the sweet and soulful “Just To Walk That Little Girl Home,” one of the songs he wrote with the late “Doc” Pomus.

MP3: “This Must Be The Night”

MP3: “Just To Walk That Little Girl Home”

MP3: “Mazurka”

Willy DeVille official website

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