Etienne Daho, the trailblazing French singer-songwriter who burst onto the musical scene in the early 1980s with a singular, intimate yet infectious blend of electropop and rock, continues to forge his own unique path to rock royalty. On the strength of a distinguished career spanning over 30 years, Daho has in recent years emerged as a Godfather figure, a key inspiration, collaborator and facilitator to a new generation of French-born musicians who came of age under the influence of his sophisticated and romantic sounds.
As Mr Daho, who turned 60 this year, puts the finishing touches on a new album to be released in 2017, this end-of-year sees a major reissue of his 1988 classic Pour Nos Vies Martiennes, which offers a remastered sound and no less than 36 tracks, of which 25 are exclusive to the new set. Wildly successful upon its release—and certified gold on the very first day it became available—the album was titled after David Bowie's Life On Mars, and its sound deftly eschewed the easier pop of Daho's previous albums in favor of a self-professed "poetic spleen" firmly rooted in rock.
In another nod to Bowie, Daho asked Guy Peellaert to create the cover art. The artist, who had vowed to stay away from such commissions since the release of the Rolling Stones' It's Only Rock 'N Roll, nevertheless agreed to the collaboration and thus put an end to a 15-year hiatus. In the resulting work, which arguably counts among the highlights of the period, Peellaert revisited not only the Rock Dreams technique, based on a signature photomontage and airbrush painting process, but a specific image from his 1970 series, titled The Promised Land, which sought to capture not a famous persona but a mood, a bittersweet reverie about teenage seduction and romantic longing against a backdrop of flaming Las Vegas casinos.
The new composition reprised the vibrant blue-yellow color scheme and some of the key elements from The Promised Land, most notably the central character paired with another male figure, standing right beside him yet somehow faintly removed from the scene, which traded the Vegas neons for the garish entertainments of the Foire du Trône, the popular Paris amusement fair where Peellaert had shot his source photographs.
Like many of Peellaert's artworks based on the Rock Dreams technique, Pour Nos Vies Martiennes presented a number of challenges before it could be shown again. Although Mr Daho, having kept the original painting since its creation, had allowed the Estate of Guy Peellaert to photograph the piece at his home, the work was plagued by an all-too-common characteristic : the photosensitive inks favored by Peellaert at that time had faded considerably, turning vivid blues and warm yellows into dull grays, altering the painting's singular mood beyond recognition. To make matters worse, all photographic records of the artwork had been inexplicably missing from the artist's archive at the time of his death, and Virgin Records, which had released the album in 1988, could not locate the original reproduction material even after several months of research.
Eventually, it took a desperate intervention from Daho himself to retrieve the Holy Grail : a 1988 transparency which finally allowed for a perfect digital reproduction of the artwork in its original incarnation.