The No Comprendo

Denis Darzacq


In early 1986, after a second trip to Japan, the duo sequesters itself to compose a second album. The film maker Jean-Luc Goddard proposes to film them in this process, so a small production team installs itself at their home studio at l'avenue Jean-Jaures, and follows them to Studio Garage.

The film, "SOIGNE TA DROITE" is released on the 18th of November, 1987, and is of interest for several reasons: you can hear unreleased versions of "C'EST COMME CA", "TONITE", "LES HISTOIRES D'A", and "UN SOIR UN CHIEN", (Godard had the 24 track multitrack at his disposal so he was able to mix & edit what he needed for the soundtrack), and also unreleased songs such as "ELLE DEMANDE QUELQU'UN" (composed with Jean Neplin), and "UNE FILLE A COLORIER", which was later recorded by MARIE FRANCE.

The relationship with Conny Plank was not entirely satisfying on the first album, Les RITA MITSOUKO choose the legendary Tony VISCONTI (T-REX, DAVID BOWIE…) to produce. On hearing a demo cassette of the songs, he is intrigued, "I never thought I would hear a French rock band rival an English or American one"... So, Catherine and Fred go to London to work at VISCONTI's Good Earth Studios.

"ANDY" / "UN SOIR, UN CHIEN" is released in June. The promo front cover announces "The Two Sides of RITA MITSOUKO", and on the back of the commercial edition, "Listen to Both Sides". As "Andy" is the choice of the d.j.'s, RITA MITSOUKO have their second hit, with a clip made in August by Philippe Gautier, in both french and english.

Catherine and Fred decide to add 'LES' to 'RITA MITSOUKO' at this point to avoid mistakenly identifying the band only as Catherine's.

"LES RITA MITSOUKO PRESENTENT THE NO COMPRENDO" is released on September 20th in France. It is quickly recognized as a landmark work (Grand Prix de l'Academie Charles Cros 1987, "Best Album", Victoires de la Musique), breaking many musical barriers. The song, "NUIT D'IVRESSE is the title track of Josiane Balasko's film that appears that fall. The album becomes a timeless and fertile mine for film directors; "TONITE" is on the soundtrack of "Les Voleurs" by Andre Techine, who also used "ANDY" on the earlier "Ma Saison Preferee" ("ANDY" can also be heard in "Comme Elle Respire" by Pierre Salvadori.). "C'EST COMME CA" is used both in "Le Cousin" by Alain Corneau, and "La Vie Est Un Long Fleuve Tranquille". "SOMEONE TO LOVE" is used in a film by Agnes Varda, and so on...

Catherine and Fred have never hidden their love of Cinema; Fred is even offered the role of Gaugin in Maurice Pialat's "VAN GOGH", but prefers to focus on their music…

November 1986 sees the release of "C'EST COMME CA" as a single, with a clip by Jean-Baptiste Mondino ('Video of the Year' at the Victoires de la Musique). On the b-side is the otherwise unavailable "CLOWN DE MES MALHEURS".

In December, Les Rita deliver an inspired version of Charles Aznavour's classic, "TU T'LAISSES ALLER" on a TV show.

In March 1987, Les RITA leave for New York to audition musicians for a live band. Prince Charles is one of the group. In April 1987, the tour is sold out. In Paris, Catherine and Fred help relaunch La Cigale, an old theatre that is to become their pet venue and the scene of many unbelievable moments. The demand for tickets is so great that shows are added at a bigger hall, Le Zenith, for the 26th of June.(recto and verso of the ticket).

On the 11th, Virgin Publishing releases "Les RITA MITSOUKO Illustres", a superb mini-book with no less than 15 renowned artists illustrating their lyrics. Amongst the painters are Samuel Ringer (Catherine's father), Mosner, Placid, Combas, Di Rosa, and Muzo.

The third single, "LES HISTOIRES D'A" is released at the end of June, 87. Les RITA become an "Album band", with the sales of the lp's surpassing those of the singles.

In February of 1988, "ANDY" is remixed by Jesse Johnson and reaches number 11 on the Billboard Dance Chart. Les RITA tour the states (15 shows) as a three-piece with Richie Harrison on drums, and tapes. SPARKS pay them their regards backstage in L.A. at The Flaming Colossus. They hit it off and agree to meet again for collaboration…