F.R. David

TrackAlbum
WordsWords
Pick Up The PhoneWords
MusicWords
Girl (You Are My Song)Long Distance Flight
Sahara NightReflections
Someone To Lead MeReflections
I SurrenderReflections
In My MindNumbers
Some People Never LearnNumbers
Searching Their HeartsMidnight Drive

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Contributor: Damien Spanjer

Best known for the 1982 mega-hit Words, which sold over 8 million copies in the year of release, F.R. David (aka Robert Fitoussi) is somewhat of an enigmatic figure in the music industry. Regarded as a one-hit wonder in most territories, much of the information available about his extensive discography is incomplete. Even his official website omits details of past releases which the artist himself evidently wishes to edit out of his career.

I gained first-hand insight into his revisionist approach back in late 2007. Earlier that year I had created a page on MySpace (remember MySpace?) to promote his most recent album release, The Wheel. I actually discovered the album accidentally as it had not been promoted in any way as far as I could tell and I was disappointed to find that F.R. David had no online presence at all. The page I created soon gathered a significant fan following and in late 2007 I handed the MySpace account over to the designer of his newly-launched official website. I was surprised to find that both the official website and re-work of the MySpace profile had completely omitted The Wheel from his discography, in favour of a new album, Numbers, which featured reworkings of several songs from The Wheel.

Perfectionism can be a curse. It thrives on self-doubt and can cause talented artists to either ‘over-cook’ their work or induce a state of complete artistic paralysis. Both seem to have affected F.R. David at different times, with a 12 year gap between his third and fourth solo albums, the revised versions of songs on The Wheel and Numbers, and his latest release, Midnight Drive, being subject to delays and at least one sudden change of producer that I know of.

The apparent artistic frustration (and perhaps laboured creative process) of the man himself seems at odds with the sunny disposition his music conveys. Though none of it has come close to matching the immense success of Words, the hit song has funded the creation of some great music since.

My Top Ten list focuses on 1982 and beyond as his 60s and 70s material is very hard to find and mostly comprises songs written with others or by others, so they don’t showcase the melodic finesse evident in his own songwriting.

Predictably, the list kicks off with Words, the song which made F.R. David a household name and is arguably one of the very best pop songs released that year. Some time ago, I read that the synth-based arrangement came about because he left his guitar at home on the day Words was recorded. The pulsing pad which underpins the song’s original version was intended to mimic a guitar strum but ultimately became the song’s most distinguishing feature, perhaps contributing to its subsequent success.

The song has been remixed and covered many times since its original release, most frequently by the song’s creator. Setting aside all unofficial/third party remixes and cover versions, official releases (either new recordings or artist-approved remixes) of Words have been released by F.R. David in 1982, 1989, 1991, 1997, 1999, 2007 and 2011. I can’t think of any other artist who has released the same song in so many different versions throughout their career. If anybody can top this number, let me know in the comments!

Other standout tracks from Words (the album) include the Italo Disco/Hi-NRG floor-filler, Pick Up The Phone and the blissful Music, a loving tribute to the art-form itself. I’ve long felt that Music needs an updated cover version to detach the beautiful melody and heartfelt lyrics from the dated production on the recording. It deserves a wider audience. Perhaps I’ll get around to covering it myself one day.

The 1984 follow-up album, Long Distance Flight, featured similar production values to Words and is in many ways a more consistent, homogeneous album. I selected the single, Girl (You Are My Song), for my Top Ten as it best embodies the sunny disposition that I referred to earlier, and once again draws a link between the experience of love and the experience of music. It is a sentiment I relate to wholeheartedly.

Although Reflections (1987) doesn’t have the consistency of its predecessor, it does feature three of my favourite F.R. David songs: Sahara Night, Someone To Lead Me and I Surrender. Although very much a product of its time, I feel the album has aged better with some tracks sounding as though they could have been produced more recently.

Fast-forward to 2009’s Numbers and listen to In My Mind and Some People Never Learn as more contemporary examples of his work, along with Searching Their Hearts from 2013’s Midnight Drive. The synths have given way to more guitar-driven arrangements (he is first and foremost a singer and guitarist) and contemporary production values. These tracks prove that the quality of his songwriting and his voice has remained consistent throughout the years.

Incidentally, the two tracks from Numbers from my list also appeared on The Wheel, released in 2007. The same album features what I consider to be the definitive version of Words, as a bilingual duet with Belgian singer, Winda.

While never delving into deep or dark territory lyrically, the music of F.R. David provides a relaxed brand of musical escapism. Although he is unlikely to ever repeat 1982’s success, I for one hope that he continues to leverage today’s technology to produce more music and share it directly with his fans online.

In 2011, I had the pleasure of meeting Robert for a beer at a nice café near his home in Paris. Although jet-lagged (he’d just returned from touring in Korea) he was great company and very appreciative of the small part I’d played in connecting him with his fan base online. Hopefully this post will introduce his music to some new ears.

F.R. David photo

 

F.R. David official website

F.R. David on Discogs

F.R. David biography (iTunes)

Damien Spanjer is a Sydney-based keyboardist/guitarist and founding member of studio outfit Starflight. Check out his Soundcloud page for samples of other works.

TopperPost #530

1 Comment

  1. David Lewis
    Jun 15, 2016

    You are full of surprises in who you’ve met. I suspect Cab Calloway might rival F R in his numerous releases of Minnie the Moocher but Cab did it over 50 years. And I haven’t done a count.

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