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A single you never heard, “Do It the French Way,” kicks off the best “box set” I heard in 2003—Marseille’s Rock You Tonight. Allegedly written for a porn film, its glam-pop metal makes you want to see the movie, just like Starz’ “Piss Party,” when that band was allegedly finding cinema-filth inspirational.
I’ve long believed that just by performing “Piss Party” the Starz scuttled Capitol’s enthusiasm in 1977. Marseille’s 1978 Red, White and Slightly Blue faced a similar fate, apparently bumming out all industry types associated with it. It never came to America, and in its green and pleasant English home was withdrawn from circulation, according to the notes.
But though the roaring chorus of “French Way” was jump-about special, the band was only warming up. Next came songs about the benefit of being close to a window while boning some other chap’s woman, about the work schedule (complete with closet-queen climax) of a gigolo named Percival, and about reporting to the doctor for VD treatment. “Please withhold my name and address,” simpers the singer. “Motherly Love” is the reverse of Vom’s “I’m In Love With Your Mom,” and “Not Tonight Josephine” delivers the pleas of a man who doesn’t wish to carry out his duty.
Beaten off by the opprobrium of no sale, Marseille cleaned up for their self-titled second LP, carving out an excellent build on UFO’s Obsession. The shaggy sex stories are gone, but the singer’s no longer a wheedling punk—he’s Joe Elliott! “Rock You Tonight” predates Def Leppard’s million-selling anthemic sound, and that didn’t work for Marseille, either. American classic-rock consumers were no more gonna request a band whose moniker they weren’t sure how to pronounce than they were gonna order rosé in the restaurant before it was renamed blush.
So Marseille’s final album wound up being pure girly metal. But any lapses in backbone on it are now forgiven on account of the salacious fun and cheerful arena-ready riffs of everything before.