“La maudite machine,” a classic song, written and composed by Pierre Flynn and performed by the band Octobre, will be inducted into the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame on Saturday, March 6 at 9:00 p.m. during the show Belle et Bum on Télé-Québec in the presence of the songwriter and members of the group.
“It’s with great pride that we induct and celebrate this emblematic and immortal song that has marked an entire generation of Quebecers,” said Vanessa Thomas, Executive Director of the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame.
Composed by keyboardist Pierre Flynn while he was studying literature at CEGEP St. Laurent in the fall of 1971, “La maudite machine” was first presented to his bassist friend Mario Légaré, then finalized at the beginning of 1972, before being recorded the same year. Octobre’s debut album was released in 1973 and the album entered the charts on September 22nd and stayed there for six weeks, reaching the thirteenth position.
Pierre Flynn (keyboards), Mario Légaré (bass), Jean Dorais (guitar) and Pierre Hébert (drums) released the eponymous record, featuring “La maudite machine,” produced by Bill Hill, with a budget of $3,000.
“We were just kids who wanted to make rock ’n’ roll,” Flynn remembers. “We’d go for it and discover music, but I must say that I was lucky to have by my side three musicians who were so creative and invested in the sound of the band. There were three songs in French and three songs in English on Octobre’s first demo. We switched entirely to French after Charlebois went full-on rock; it became a powerful beacon. Offenbach and Les Séguin were there, Harmonium and Beau Dommage would arrive on the scene the following year, and my generation of musicians were eager to create a typically Québécois rock sound that would have nothing to envy in the bands we admired. The spot was ours to grab.”
The social backdrop for the creation of “La maudite machine” was tense: a strike at the Front commun des syndicats, not to mention the political climate at the time. A whole generation was called to arms: “I was 16, 17 years old and I was starting to come out of my shell and realize that people’s lives weren’t always rosy, that injustice and exploitation existed. Later on, I felt like a bit of an impostor for writing this. Did I even have any right to do so, having never known any kind of hardship? Then I understood, in the general racket of the boat being rocked, that we heard then, that I was merely the antenna of a song that had to be written anyway, a juvenile and clumsy song at times, but a song I have no desire to renege today.”
“The song barely played on the radio, maybe because it was too revolutionary, but we did immediately feel its impact around us, especially when we played it live. “La maudite machine” became the peak of the show, the song everyone was waiting for. It’s undeniable that it became emblematic.”
Flynn takes us behind the scenes of its creation: “I almost always write the music first,” he says.. “The lyrics came quick quickly because we needed to record a demo. I then went to our rehearsal space with all of the song’s elements, the melody I composed on the piano, and the lyrics. It was a little unusual to insert a softer, sentimental section in the middle of an in-your-face song like that. But I was genuinely self-taught, I didn’t know the rules and I totally played it by ear. I only took music lessons after the first album came out!”
Pierre Flynn still has the manuscript of “La maudite machine”: “It’s so edited! I didn’t own a thesaurus, yet,” he reminisces, with a certain degree of self-deprecation. The final recorded version is four minutes and two seconds long, but the first rehearsed versions of “La maudite machine” sometimes ran over eight minutes long!”
When Octobre disbanded, Flynn embarked on a solo career in 1984, but he avoided playing his mythical hit live, in order to mark a clear break between his two careers. Nowadays, “La maudite machine” is only for special occasions, like the Festival en chanson de Petite-Vallée, in 2006, when Octobre played a surprise reunion gig, or during the Fête nationale du Québec, in 2014.
Pierre Flynn has written for other artists, including Pauline Julien, Diane Dufresne, Louise Forestier, and Renée Martel, and he’s also written original scores for film, dance, and theatre. His latest album, Sur la Terre” was released in 2015.