Ferre Grignard

Band members                             Related acts

  line up 1  

- Ferre Grignard (RIP 1982) -- vocals, guitar


  supporting musicians (1968)

- Butch -- drums, percussion

- George "Toet" Smits (RIP 1997) -- guitar, slide guitar, harmonica

- Spencer -- bass





- Ok Zblok (George "Toet" Smits)

- Zblok (George "Toet" Smits)

- Toet (George "Toet" Smits)




Genre: psych

Rating: 3 stars ***

Title:  Captain Disaster

Company: Barclay

Catalog:  920 117

Country/State: Antwerp, Belgium

Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+

Comments: --

Available: 1

Catalog ID: 31023

Price: $250.00

I became aware of Ferre Grignard while living in Belgium in the late-'70s.  By that point in his career, he'd dropped psychedelic influences from his music in favor of a more commercial Dylanesque style showcased on his 1979 "comeback" album "I Warned You'".  To be honest, what little I heard of the man's new direction didn't do anything for my musical itches.  And that was the last time I thought about Grignard for twenty years.


And then in late mid-90s I was attending some management training in Charlottesville, Virginia and wandered into a local used record store (wish I could remember the store name).  While browsing through the bins I stumbled across a copy of "Captain Disaster".  I didn't know anything about the album, but the artist's name rang a bell, so I grabbed the album - think I paid $20 for it (which was a lot to me back then).  


(Interestingly, based on the rear panel inscription, the LP was originally purchased by Angele Dhooge in 1970.  It appears Ms. Dhooge is still in Antwerp.  Wonder if she would like her album back?)

Grignard started his professional career as an artist, but by the mid-'60s had picked up a guitar and inspired by Dylan and others, started performing as a protest singer.  Discovered playing an Antwerp club, he was eventually signed to Philips, recording a string of West Coast-folk singer styled singles and EPs that enjoyed some success throughout the Benelux and France.  Sung in fractured English, to my ears songs like 'Ring, Ring, I've Got To Play' and 'My Crucified Jesus' offered up a mixture of Lonnie Donegan-styled skiffle, blues, and in later years, a rougher, Flemish version of Barry McGuire.  Many of those singles were subsequently collected on Grignard's self-titled 1968 debut. The LP was also issued under the title "Ring, Ring I've Got To Sing".


Produced by Rikki Stein, 1968's "Captain Disaster" featured a mixture of Grignard originals and revamped traditional tunes.  While his sound remained firmly rooted in '60s singer-songwriter folk and American blues (as interpreted by a Flemish hippie), producer Stein slapped an update sound on the ten selections.  With backing from an un-credited band, performances like 'I Won't Have a Dance', the single 'Yama Hey' and the title track mixed his folk and blues moves with a heavy dose of psychedelic effects.  Again singing all of the material in English, the combination of Grignard's ragged voice; limited English and those psychedelic arrangements made for a truly strange album.  To be honest, had it not been for his "hippie" reputation (long hair, mod clothing, don't-care attitude), it's hard to imagine that Grignard would ever have worked himself out of a small Antwerp club.  And maybe that "real person" vibe was part of what made this album interesting.  Okay, half of it was lousy, but exemplified by tracks like the opener 'I Won't Have a Dance' and 'Hansie Pansey', the other 50% was fascinating in a train-wreck fashion.


I've never seen a copy, but the album was released in the States by Vanguard  (catalog number VSD-79298) .


"Captain Disaster" track listing:
(side 1)

1.) I Won't Have a Dance   (Ferre Grignard) - 3:52   rating: **** stars

On the surface 'I Won't Have a Dance' didn't seem to have a great deal going for it.  On first listen Grignard's caterwauling voice was slapped on top of a simple acoustic guitar shuffle.  But with repeated spins the song  got increasingly strange with producer Rikki Stein adding all sorts of psychedelic orchestration.  Add to that, while Gringard's stream-of-conscious lyrics may have simply reflected limited English facility, they were definitely strange - "I went down to dance in Baltimore, I don't like sand ...".  And while that description may sound like an aural mess, there was something fascinating in the results.

2.) Tell Me Now   (Ferre Grignard) - 3:04   rating: *** stars

Showcasing Grignard's accented vocals, 'Tell Me Now' was a decent enough pop ballad.  Once again, the facet that stuck out came in the form of Stein's production effects; this time he added heavy effects to Grignard's voice and a stream of psychedelic strings, giving the song a floating, slightly lysergic feel.  Imagine early Moody Blues had they been Flemish. 

3.) Yama Hey   (Ferre Grignard - H. Hermans) - 2:10

Admittedly virtually every early-'70s musician had a Dylan fixation so why not Gringard?  To his credit Grignard at least embedded the catchy title track refrain in the song. 


With a modified songwriting credit (George Smits replacing H. Hermans) and a slightly modified title, the track was released as a single in the Benelux and France:


- 1970's 'Yama, Yama Hey' b/w 'I Won't Have a Dance' (Barclay BE 61044)



4.) My Friend   (Ferre Grignard - H. Hermans) - 4:46

5.) Hansie Pansey   (Ferre Grignard) - 2:40   rating: **** stars

Who knew Johnny Cash-on-acid would be popular in Belgium?


(side 2)

1. ) Down In the Valley  (traditional arranged by Ferre Grignard) - 4:12  rating: ** stars

Admittedly Grignard toughened this one up a bit, but it was still way too country for my tastes,.

2.) The Pirate Song   (traditional arranged by Ferre Grignard) - 3:55  rating: ** stars

So why not throw in a traditional sea chanty?  Well, maybe because it wasn't very good?

3.) Pleasure Train   (arranged by Ferre Grignard) - 3:00  rating: ** stars

The ballad 'Pleasure Train' was an off mash-up of Grignard's raw, quivery vocals, some pretty acoustic guitar and a string arrangement that repeatedly threatened to overwhelm the singer.

4.) Captain Disaster (George Santis - Ferre Grignard) - 3:03   rating: **** stars

Surrounded by a full rock arrangement, the title track was probably the album's most commercial tune.  Grignard's vocal sounded like it was sped up, or he was huffing whippets and once more producer Stein slapped a psychedelic blanket on the song; this time he included what sounded like tablas.  It took me a couple of spins to figure it out, but at least part of the song sounded like it had been borrowed from Chuck Berry's 'Rock and Roll Music'.

5.) The Lost Affair   (Ferre Grignard) - 1:58




Gringard tried to ressurrect his career in the late-'70s with the album "I Warned You" (Philips catalog number 6320 042), but popular tastes had moved on.  He continued to perfom, occasionally appearing on television.


Having literally spent all of us money, what little he made going to Belgian tax officials after years of failing to pay taxes, he ended his days reportedly livinig in an unheated Antwerp attic.  Only 43, Grignard died of throat cancer in August, 1982.





Belgian television did a lengthy documentary on Grignard.  You can find it on YouTube, but be forewarned the show is in Flemish: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DfGQh-1VYuo