Vassiliu was – awful word – a poet. Even worse, he was an wandering entertainer. He wandered the world, bringing back words, sounds, instruments and feelings. Maybe his rhymes weren’t that rich, the instrumentation not too lush, the production quite laid-back and the timbre rather little demanding, but you could be sure the song would be pampered. Had anyone else taken care of it, it would have been worse. To make a good Vassiliu song, you had to be Vassiliu. The problem is, all this was nothing but a succession of misunderstandings. Because he continuously tried to remodel his career, from a chansonnier to a cunning singer, from tender to comical, to a beatnik poet, to an ethno-artist, to a venue manager, to a showman, to a barfly.
1961. Pierre Vassiliu, a horserider and a war photographer, embarks with his brother Michel (lyricist) in the music business. Their department: comedy. Puns, a funny voice, honk-honk and oompahs. Lucky break, it works. A first misunderstanding gets him labeled as an agitator: his song about the military is censored on the radio, and only played past midnight. That’s all it takes to create a buzz. Georges Brassens champions him and writes a few laudatory lines on his first 45 – Vassiliu is launched. But enough with the smutty rhymes designed to make lowbrows laugh. The sassy man sets to putting sweet songs on his singles, such as “Le Manège désenchanté” on the B-side to “Ivanohé” in 1965. He also participates in the French-Brazilian adventure of Les Masques, with an album that has become a cult item thirty years later. Eddie Barclay once addresses him: “Your thing is gentleness, not bawdy joking. Deal with me and you’ll be able to do whatever you want.”