“Les Bombes”
Written by Michel Pagliaro and Jimmy James
Published by Earth Born Music inc.

Every career has its ups and downs, key creative periods and songs that stand apart. Michel Pagliaro has recorded more hit songs – whether in French or English – than most artists of his generation. “Les Bombes” came out in 1987 and is among his career-defining songs.

This heavy hitter marked Pagliaro’s return to recording after a six-year hiatus, and it became the calling card for the following year’s release of the album Sous peine d’amour. “Les Bombes” was Pag’s sparkling return to form.

It’s a glacial February morning in a Montréal café; Michel Pagliaro is going back in time to discuss the writing of his hit song, which actually occurred in two countries. It all started in France, where he lived for five years.

“I created that song in Paris. I’d say sometime in 1984 or 1985. At least the first draft of it,” says Pagliaro, whose gaze is as piercing as ever… when, rarely, he takes off his ever-present shades.

“As weird as it can seem, even though the song is almost 30 years old, it’s basically the same people in the same broth. Nothing’s really changed. It’s the same old stuff.”

“Writing is a big word in this case,” he continues. “I wrote all of it in one night. I had many, many verses. Unbelievably many… a whole cassette tape full! I still have it. I keep all my ‘sketches.’ There’s no shortage of things to say about such a topic. Even today, you could keep on writing on this topic and there would always be more to write about.”

Some songs don’t age well. Sometimes it’s the lyrics that become outdated. Sometimes it’s the production style. But not only did the lyrics of “Les Bombes” – sadly – remain relevant, but they barely need touch-ups to actually be squarely about current events.

“Once I had the lyrics, I started making demos. I had pieced together a small recording machine to make demos, I lacked certain cords, using alligator clips, for some reason. The apartment I was staying in had been… (laughs) ‘ransacked’ by a kid who played harmonica for (Jacques) Higelin. He’d punched a hole in the wall using a hammer. It was weird… I didn’t finish the song there.”

“Les Bombes” would see the light of day in Québec after Pag’s return home. Guitarist Jimmy James was among the musicians who participated in the recording sessions.

“I’d worked with Michel before his European hiatus,” James remembers. “When he came back he was looking for collaborators, and we got back in touch. Mike’s always spur of the moment. Sometimes he’ll come up with a riff and say: ‘What can we do with this?’ That’s how it happened.”

So the musicians worked from the original demo for the verses, but it was a completely different ballgame when came time to ork on the chorus and bridge.

“I felt we needed to take it somewhere else,” says James. “My contribution was mainly in the bridge and solo. We decided to move away from the basic riff, because otherwise the song would remain on the same tempo through and through. After that we re-worked the lyrics.”

“The lyrics on the final demo are not exactly the ones that I wrote in France,” continues Pagliaro. “There were some touch-ups. There were verses with country names like Madagascar, Haiti, Vietnam, the whole nine yards…”

One would be forgiven for thinking the song was about the Iran-Contra scandal of the mid 80s, but such is not the case, it seems.

“There have to be motivations, sometimes, how should I put it, let’s call them ‘cerebral motivations’ to do something,” Pagliaro explains. “Except in my case, it’s purely organic, from the gut. What I mean by that is that there is a will to create, to develop an idea that’s in your mind for a beat or something.

“Then you come up with a sentence that gives you an idea. It’s music, you know, not just thoughts. It has to become physical. Concrete. You have to play that music. You can’t just think about it. Or rather, you can think about it, but at some point, you’ll need to hear it.”

Pagliario’s reputation as a studio perfectionist precedes him. When the 7-inch single for “Les Bombes”/”Dangereux” came out, he wasn’t entirely satisfied with it.

“I did not like that record. I did not like how it sounded,” says Pag, serious as can be. “Except it had to come out at some point.”

“Les Bombes” did not remain exclusively a 7-inch for very long. Both songs – “Les Bombes” and ”Dangereux” – quickly found themselves on a compilation titled Pag Avant. And although they weren’t included on the first pressing of Sous peine d’amour, they were on its second pressing.

“We took two English songs out [“It’s Love” and “Rock Somebody”] to make room for ‘Les Bombes’ and ‘Dangereux.’ But those are record executives’ decisions,” Pag adds with a smirk.

Thus, “Les Bombes” had three distinct releases (7-inch, compilation, and original album) and fueled Pagliaro’s grand return with Sous peine d’amour. And since? Basically not much, as far as original material is concerned. Only “Tonnes de flashes,” included on the similarly titled box set, released in 2011.

Anything new on the radar, then? Everyone know it’s useless to ask Pag that question, but let’s just note that this interview was conducted in a café located beneath a recording studio where he went back to work as soon as we were done. It seems there might be hope. But it’s a ‘time race’…

What if there was a space online where musicians across Canada could easily congregate, simultaneously sharing their talent with others, selling and promoting their music, and booking gigs? While Canadian artists today rely largely on social media to network and promote themselves, Canadianmusicians.com allows our home and native musicians a single, dedicated online location where they can connect to, and collaborate with, their colleagues in music-making, and in the Canadian music industry.

Active for more than a decade, Canadianmusicians.com was conceived by founder & Community President John Eita, who, after many years of working as a sound engineer and producer saw an open door to do more for Canadian artists like himself.

“I want our members to know the strength that SOCAN has, and what it offers musicians.” – John Eita of Canadianmusicians.com

The member-based website originated as a simple directory of musicians. Over time it evolved, serving local and national businesses looking to hire, showcase and work with musical talent from across Canada. Before Eita knew it, the site grew to fulfill a real need in the Canadian music industry, offering both musicians, and those interested in working with them, a home online.
“We’re specifically for Canadian markets,” says Eita. “We work with musicians, and venues that are hiring. I connect one-on-one with my members, who want to promote themselves, and I talk directly with venues. We’re the only Canadian service of this type.”

With the advent of social networking in the 2000s, Canadianmusicians.com really found its footing, adapting quickly to the fast-moving networking phenomenon that has transpired over the last decade or so. Because the idea originated through the same concept – connect people with the same interests using an online platform – Eita, an experienced programmer, single-handedly designed and published a re-branded website with new offerings.


“[Eventually] it developed [from a directory] into everything else,” says Eita. “Now our members include a collection of venues, sound engineers, song producers, lighting professionals, and so on. It’s a social website, mainly to get people to make money, find venues and gigs, and [find other] businesses that are hiring musicians.”

Music hosting is another service Eita’s team offers its online members. Artists can upload 15 songs free of charge, and incur only a minimal fee for additional hosting.

“We’re proud of where we are at right now,” says Eita. “We offer a lot in terms of giving members a great website to connect with other artists and businesses.”

With its members’ music on rotation, Canadianmusicians.com is Licensed To Play with SOCAN. Says Eita: “SOCAN is one of the associations we want to work with. It has a great reputation and people just love being part of it. That we are part of that, I think that’s amazing.

“I want them [members] to know the strength that SOCAN has, and what it offers musicians as well. That is something I really wanted to promote and tell the website’s members about.”

Donovan Woods is very aware that he currently enjoys the best of both worlds. The highly respected, country-folk singer-songwriter has a successful solo career as a recording artist, one about to be boosted by the late-February 2016 release of his fourth album, Hard Settle, Ain’t Troubled.

He’s also an increasingly in-demand songsmith, whose compositions have been covered by high-profile U.S. country stars and many Canadian country acts.

“I feel lucky that I can always be working,” Woods says of his double life. “If you’re just an artist, then between album cycles you feel really lost. Once the tour and promo cycle for this new record is over, I’ll go back to Nashville for a couple of weeks of co-writing, and that’s just really fun.”

He explains that another advantage to his parallel careers is that “I can take a song I’ve written that I love and go play it on the road. If Nashville songwriters have written a song they love and no-one cuts it, then it maybe never gets heard.”

“I think it’s good to have a perspective on Nashville by not being mired in it.”

Right now, Woods is playing his tunes on the road via an extensive, cross-country tour of soft-seat theatres (e.g., Toronto’s Massey Hall, Winnipeg’s Burton Cummings Theatre) opening for Matt Andersen. Sarnia-raised and Toronto-based, Woods paid his proverbial dues earlier, via two independent, under-the-radar albums, prior to breaking through with 2013’s Don’t Get Too Grand.

It earned high-rotation CBC Radio 2 airplay and a 2014 JUNO nomination (Roots & Traditional Album – Solo), and he’s grateful for that exposure. “The JUNO nomination was an utter surprise and a real joy,” says Woods. “I may have been cynical or snobby earlier about airplay, but I didn’t know what I was talking about. What better medium is there than radio? I was so excited to experience what that was like, and now I know I can go to any town in Canada and have some people come [out to see me].”

Woods’ Nashville success as a songwriter began to snowball at around the same time. His first big break came when country superstar Tim McGraw cut Woods’ song “Portland, Maine,” while Lady Antebellum singer Charles Kelley just recently put “Leaving Nashville” – a tune co-written by Woods and Abe Stoklasa – on his debut solo album. The powerful portrait of a struggling Music City songwriter has quickly earned shout-outs in Billboard, Rolling Stone, American Songwriter, and more. Woods currently has other songs on hold in Music City.

“Leaving Nashville” also appears on Hard Settle, Ain’t Troubled, alongside a co-write with legendary American songwriter Tom Douglas, and other tunes co-written by Woods and fellow Canadians Carleton Stone, Andrew Austin, Gordie Sampson, Dylan Guthro and Breagh McKinnon. A joint composition with Austin and Stone, “On the Nights You Stay Home” recently topped the CBC Radio 2 Top 20 chart.

“When I started co-writing,” says Woods, “I never thought I’d record a co-written song for my own record. But as you get better at it, and write with people you like, you eventually start to get songs from those sessions where you think, ‘I could do that one.’”

Woods first started going on writing trips to Nashville in 2012, and is close to finalizing a new publishing deal there. “I have a place there, but I choose to stay in Toronto,” he explains.

“I think it’s good to have a perspective on Nashville by not being mired in it,” says Woods. “I think I’ll always treat it as a place I go to work, but can always leave. It’s a real grind to be a staff writer there, and I think I’d hate songwriting in about six months if that’s all I was doing.”