The Quietus: The strange world of Johnny Hallyday

The ‘French Elvis’ is performing live in the UK next week for the first time in a career that spans half a century. Sophia Deboick looks at the history of Johnny Hallyday

This month marks a watershed for Anglo-French relations – Johnny Hallyday is coming to London. For the first time the French icon, responsible for influencing Gallic musical tastes for over five decades, will perform on English soil, playing two nights at the Royal Albert Hall. Hallyday will be promoting his forty-eighth studio album, L’Attente, planned for release at the beginning of November. The album’s eponymous single showcases a voice that is as strong as ever and, despite repeated announcements of retirement and endless farewell tours, at nearly seventy the king of French stadium rock just can’t hang up the leather trousers. Often referred to as the ‘French Elvis’, Hallyday’s image in Britain has been more akin to the ‘French Cliff Richard’, but this ignores both his constant courting of controversy and the real strength of his balladry. While it is true that ‘mediocre’ has been his default setting musically, as a performer and personality Hallyday has been anything but, constantly innovating and pushing the boundaries of pomp and excess, and coming to occupy an iconic position in French popular culture. Often naff, sometimes inspired, never boring, Hallyday is a study in showmanship, fame and French identity…

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