Lizzy Mercier Descloux – Fire

26th October 2023 · 1970s, 1979, Music

Lizzy Mercier Descloux was one of the first artists to make a mark on the Ze label as the No Wave movement gathered momentum in New York.

As the New Wave gathered momentum in the late 1970s, downtown New Yorkers created their own backlash against its increasing commercialism and conformity under the moniker No Wave.

Most of this music came out on a new label called Ze, started in NYC by Michael Zilkha, an Oxford graduate from London (and son of the Mothercare founder) and Michel Esteban, a Frenchman who had been part of the CBGBs punk scene before bringing The Sex Pistols to France.

One of the pioneers of this new sound – also known as Mutant Disco – using dissonance and noise in a funky disco-adjacent framework, was Esteban’s girlfriend Lizzy Mercier Descloux, a performance artist, poet and musician from Lyon.

While the No Wave scene created some better known artists – Kid Creole & The Coconuts would go on to have hit singles – the first example I remember was Lizzy’s almost unrecognisable and very French electro-disco take on Arthur Brown’s hit Fire.

I think it might have first appeared on a Ze compilation showcasing the label’s artists. Here she is miming it, and dancing in a distinctly 1980s two-tone outfit, on French telly with Serge Gainsbourg lurking in a typically predatory manner.

The single came from Lizzy’s first album Press Color, which I still love, and which ended with an equally compelling cover version of the old favourite Fever, with the title changed to Tumour. Which is ironic considering she died in 2004… of cancer