Denis Quillard (born in 1957) came from an eccentric but distinguished family in Champagne. A chainsmoking fan of Gauloises, he was known to some as “Jacno,” after Marcel Jacno, the illustrator who designed the cigarette manufacturer’s logo. Jacno had learned to play flute at a religious school in Margency, Notre-Dame-de-Bury. As a child his musical heroes had been Chopin, Mozart and Satie, but as a young teenager, he gravitated toward The Who and The Rolling Stones. At fourteen, he took a job as a messenger boy, enabling him to buy a guitar. He also grew increasingly rebellious, experimenting with drugs, engaging in petty theft, and being expelled from a succession of schools. In 1973, he formed a short-lived band called Bloodsuckers.
Elli Medeiros was born 18 January 1956 in Montevideo, Uruguay. Her mother, Mirtha Medeiros, was an actress, and as a child, Elli also appeared in Uruguayan film, stage and TV productions. In the early ’70s, along with her mother and her stepfather, she moved to Paris. The following year, at a protest, Elli and Jacno crossed paths. Soon, the two began dating and plotted a musical career.
In 1976, Elli and Jacno (joined by Bruno Carone, Albin Dériat and Hervé Zénouda) formed Les Stinky Toys in Rennes, Brittany. They played their first gig as Les Stinky Toys on the fourth of July, 1976. Les Stinky Toys quickly garnered a reputation as a willing and fairly able band who played several notable performances, including at London’s 100 Club alongside The Buzzcocks, The Clash, The Damned, The Sex Pistols and Siouxsie & the Banshees. That came about after Malcolm McLaren discovered the band at a boutique in Les Halles. The notoriously hype-loving Melody Maker featured them on their cover. Conversely, the notoriously bitchy Trouser Press described them as “uninspired sub-Rolling Stones rock’n’boogie with terrible vocals by Elli Medeiros.” In March of 1977, they played with Generation X, The Jam and The Police at Le Palais des Glaces. Soon after, they signed with Polydor and released their debut single, “Boozy Creed,” followed by an album, Plastic Faces.
That same year, Kraftwerk went on a press tour by train to promote Trans-Europa Express and the notorious gatecrasher, Jacno, met them. The meeting seemed to have a profound effect on him, and his musical course began to change not long after. After being dropped by their label, Stinky Toys signed with Vogue. Their second album (sometimes known as La jeune) sold poorly, despite being an improvement. A gig at Le Palais des Arts was crashed by the Hell’s Angels, who started a fight, leaving one fan dead. The band parted ways.
Jacno’s next work was a minimalist electropop EP, Rectangle (1979-Celluloïd). Far ahead of its time, it was turned down by many labels. Today it sounds like the missing link between Kraftwerk and Novelty Rock-era Denim. A writer for Cahiers du cinéma, Olivier Assayas (well-known now as the director of Irma Vep), had used Jacno’s music in his film, Copyright, and subsequently made a music video called Rectangle: Deux chansons de Jacno (1980). Radio station Europe 1 picked up the song “Rectangle” for its theme music and it reached number one in several countries and was even used in a Nesquick ad.
One song off of Rectangle, “Anne cherchait l’amour,” featured Elli singing on the otherwise instrumental record. In 1980, they reteamed with the vision of updating the yé-yés of the ’60s for the electropop era. Elli and Jacno’s debut, Tout va sauter did well, buoyed by the success of “Main dans la main” and “L’age atomique.”
Jacno ended up working mostly over the following years as a producer. In 1982, Elli et Jacno had a baby, Calypso, and released Boomerang before ending both their personal partnership. After creating the score for Eric Rohmer‘s Les nuits de la pleine lune in 1984, the two dissolved their musical partnership as well.
UPDATE: Denis “Jacno” Quilliard died of cancer, aged 52, on 6 November 2009.
Eric Brightwell is an adventurer, writer, rambler, explorer, cartographer, and guerrilla gardener who is always seeking writing, speaking, traveling, and art opportunities — or salaried work. He is not interested in writing advertorials, clickbait, listicles, or other 21st century variations of spam. Brightwell’s written work has appeared in Amoeblog, diaCRITICS, and KCET Departures. His work has been featured by the American Institute of Architects, the Architecture & Design Museum, the Craft & Folk Art Museum, Form Follows Function, Los Angeles County Store, Skid Row Housing Trust, and 1650 Gallery. Brightwell has been featured in the Los Angeles Times, Huffington Post, Los Angeles Magazine, LAist, Eastsider LA, Boing Boing, Los Angeles, I’m Yours, and on Notebook on Cities and Culture. He has been a guest speaker on KCRW‘s Which Way, LA? and at Emerson College. Art prints of his maps are available from 1650 Gallery and on other products from Cal31. He is currently writing a book about Los Angeles and you can follow him on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.
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