Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Ils sont zazous! - Johnny Hess


The "Zazou" were a current of mode of France of the 1940s. They were young people expressing their individuality by wearing big or garish clothing (similar to the zoot suit fashion in America a few years before) and dancing wildly to swing jazz and bebop. Men wore large lumber jackets, while women wore short skirts, striped stockings and heavy shoes, and often carried umbrellas. During the German occupation of France, the Vichy regime, in collaboration with the Nazis and fascist itself in policies and outlook, had an ultra-conservative morality and started to use a whole range of laws against a youth that was restless and disenchanted. These young people expressed their resistance and nonconformity through aggressive dance competitions, sometimes against soldiers from the occupying forces. The Zazous were to be found throughout France, but were most concentrated in Paris. Vichy had started 'Youth Worksites' in July 1940, in an attempt to indoctrinate French youth. The same year, they set up a Ministry of Youth. They saw the Zazous as a rival and dangerous influence on youth. By 1942, Vichy high-ups realised that the national revival that they hoped would be carried out by young people under their guidance was seriously affected by widespread rejection of the patriotism, work ethic, self-denial, asceticism and masculinity this called for.

In 1940, 78 anti-Zazou articles were published in the press, as opposed to nine in 1941 and 38 in 1943. The Vichy papers deplored the moral turpitude and decadence that was affecting French morality. Zazous were seen as work-shy, egotistical and Judeo-Gaullist shirkers.

Soon, round-ups began in bars and Zazous were beaten on the street. They became Enemy Number One of the fascist youth organisations, Jeunesse Populaire Française. "Scalp the Zazous!" became their slogan. Squads of young JPF fascists armed with hairclippers attacked Zazous. Many were arrested and sent to the countryside to work on the harvest.

At this point the Zazous went underground, holing up in their dance halls and basement clubs. With the Liberation of Paris it appears some Zazous joined in the armed combat to drive out the Nazis -- certainly they had a few scores to settle. But the Zazous were suspected by the official Communist resistance of having an apathetic, even flippant attitude to the war in general.

First, an extract of "France Actualités" of April, 1944, when Jacques Doriot (French politician prior to and during World War II. He began as a Communist but then turned Fascist.) expresses himself in front of the LVF. He says:
"... I want to greet these first pioneers who faced the risks of the fight from 1941, and the even harder rigours of the terrible winter 1941/1942. Thanks to the Legion, France has the possibility of reconstituting the only military force which can be accepted in Europe, because she contributes to the common defence....Does not she know, our youth, that if she does not fight, the youth of Europe which gives its blood to stream onto the east front, will have only been mistaken for her? Be 20 years old, live in the grandest time of the human history and make the "zazou" physically, morally... What a decline, what a decay! "

1r stanza:
" The frizzed hair,
The collar eighteen feet high,
Ah they are zazou!

The finger like that in the air
The jacket which is dawdles on the ground
Ah they are zazou!

They have pants of an incredible cutting
Which arrive a little in the top of knees
And come rain come shine, they have an umbrella,
Of big dark glasses,
And then especially,
They look like disgusted.

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