Gaspard Murphy is a musician and producer living in Paris, and the productive non-prodigal son of musician Elliott Murphy. He’s produced music by his father (and played in his band) as well as for Jenn Ayache, Superbus, Claire Lafutt, Gauvain Sers amongst others. He’s also performed and recorded with other musicians (Ofenbach, France De Griessen, Louise Attaque, Sara Carlson) and as part of The Dukes and Duplex.
We asked him for his top 10 Elliott Murphy songs, which he kindly provided as follows.
10. “Children of Children” (Wonder, 2022)
My favourite from Elliott’s last album Wonder that I produced. I love the warmth and the tone of this song. The groove is so tight and I feel like the production really outlines the nostalgic dream-sequence of a story that Elliott tells us. The track starts with the sound of crashing waves and the song takes me to this nostalgic technicolour beach.
9. “Big Sky” (Strings of the Storm, 2003)
I have clear memories of being in the studio as a young child, 11 or so, when this song was being recorded. I had just picked up the guitar and my dad took me with him that summer to Le Havre at Florent Barbier’s studio. When I listen to this song, I am immediately transported to that time and place – the smell of the studio and the taste of take-out pizza comes up vividly, as well as that particular feeling of being in the studio. I felt at ease in that space, it was a wonderful place where wonderful things were done and this song kinda embodies that for me. That big sky of possibilities and dreams, like a big canvas. Ironically, you never get to see much of the sky in the studio. Great song, great slide guitar by Olivier Durand and our late family cat Salem is mentioned in the bridge.
8. “Last Call” (Party Girls And Broken Poets, 1984)
This was my grandma’s favourite song of Elliott’s, I heard she was always very moved by it. Now, when I listen it’s almost like I’m trying to understand something about her, maybe a side she didn’t show. Music is great for that, the songs we love tell a part of our own story, regardless of what the song is actually about, they connect deep within and give us clues on who we are. “Last Call” was featured on the album Party Girls And Broken Poets which I got to remix from the original 24 track analog tapes and that was a wonderful experience. I felt like an archaeologist re-discovering the tracks, hearing the outtakes, the studio talk…magic.
7. “Come On Louann” (Soul Surfing, 2002)
By now this song is a classic, definitely a fan favourite and a mainstay at Elliott’s shows. I’ve heard it live so many times that the album version almost sounds foreign. Such a great song and recording. The rhythm section is really tight courtesy of Danny Montgomery on drums and Ernie Brooks delivering one of my favourite bass line, supporting the song so well and that great accordion part by Kenny Margolis.
6. “You Never Know What You’re In For” (Night Lights, 1976)
I think this is a lot of people’s favourite – for a reason. Beautiful storytelling and a song title which serves more as a life lesson. For me this song is always about finding faith in desperate times. Fantastic upright bass by Richard Davis and such a classic ‘70s sound.
5. “Everything I Do (Leads Me Back To You)” (Selling The Gold, 1995)
Such a high point of Elliott and Bruce [Springsteen]’s long friendship. The two voices work so well together and it’s like that second verse was tailor made for Bruce. This album was a big come-back moment for Elliott and even though I was young I remember feeling the excitement around the record. I love the lush soundscape of that song, Sonny Landreth’s slide guitars, BJ Scott’s sweet background vocals and those big acoustic guitars…a great record made at ICP studios in Brussels where I got to spend time myself!
4. “Diamonds By The Yard” (Night Lights, 1976)
One of the first songs I got to learn on the guitar and play onstage with my dad. It’s amazing how rich and nostalgic the song is while only featuring three major chords. That song always sounded like New York to me, there is something very rough about it and also very shiny and pristine. The top end sounds like diamonds and the beautiful Stratocaster lead at the end just completes it perfectly.
3. “Continental Kind Of Girl” (Murph The Surf, 1982)
It’s hard to pin-point exactly what it is I like so much about this song. I think it’s the energy and the power of the performance. Everything feels so on edge and the vocal is so melodic but also very wild and insolent. I think this record was made at a difficult time in Elliott’s career and something about this song feels like a beautiful desperate scream to keep the rock ’n’ roll dream alive.
2. “How’s The Family” (Aquashow, 1973)
Such an emotional, introspective and somewhat auto-biographical masterpiece. I think Elliott is singing about his own teenage years and the death of his father but I also always heard this unveiling of a deep hidden sadness within suburban America. The vocal performance is so touching and honest. In 2015 we re-recorded these songs [Aquashow Deconstructed] and 40 years later it was very moving to hear Elliott sing those lyrics which took on a whole new meaning.
1. “Rock Ballad” (Just A Story From America, 1977)
My all-time favourite. Elliott still has the 1960 sunburst Fender Stratocaster featured on his first records, I am obsessed with that guitar and it’s all over this song. From the intro licks, to the tremolo arpeggios throughout the song all the way to Mick Taylor’s magnificent slide solo, it’s like everything a Stratocaster should be encapsulated into a single song. And what a song…it builds so perfectly, features such great musicality thanks to the likes of musicians like Phil Collins on drums and yet doesn’t get in the way of the vocals and the story. The lyrics are beautiful and while I still don’t understand exactly what the song is about, at the same time I totally do. Whenever I pick up that 1960 sunburst Fender Stratocaster, I can feel that song still vibrating in the wood.
ABOUT ELLIOTT MURPHY
Elliott Murphy is an American musician and writer, living in Paris. His debut album, Aquashow (1973) received huge critical acclaim. A further three albums followed in the ‘70s, six in the ‘80s, four in the ‘90s and at least another thirteen up to 2022, not including live albums. He’s worked with Billy Joel, Phil Collins, Sonny Landreth and Bruce Springsteen amongst others. Murphy has written for magazines (including Rolling Stone) and is the author of a number of short stories, novels and poetry collections. In 2015 he was awarded the Chevalier des Arts et Lettres by the French Minister of Culture and in 2018 he was inducted into the Long Island Music Hall of Fame. His latest album is Wonder (2022).