Philippe Marcade has left us.
With those five words, the social media page dedicated to the musician and author shared the somber news that Marcade, at the age of 68, succumbed to pancreatic cancer on June 5.
Gregarious and gracious, Marcade arrived in New York City in 1975, moved into the Chelsea Hotel and a year later co-founded the band The Senders. As lead singer, Marcade cut a striking figure at center stage, draped in a black leather jacket and fronting the shake, rattle and roll of the band’s sonic abundance of punk blues. It was the dawn of a new era in downtown New York.
He witnessed The Ramones playing their third-ever gig, caught early performances by Blondie (who would enlist Marcade’s native French language skills to script the verses the band would use in their rendition of the song “Denis, Denis”) and share a blossoming friendship, and often the stage, with Johnny Thunders.
“I felt that I had missed the Great 1960s, and all that was left were some little local bands and a very small local scene,” he said, during a conversation in 2019 for a story I was writing about him. “It never occurred to me that this was history in the making and that some of these bands would become huge.”
Playing with the Senders from 1976 through his final performances in 2017, he remembered: “Nothing beats the feeling of a good audience that’s right in front of you…We weren’t just there to play music; everyone in the audience had to go home soaked, messed up, worn out.”
His memoir, “Punk Avenue,” published in the U.S. in 2017 by Three Rooms Press, documents a life fully explored: being chased along the Boulevard Montparnasse by a barber from whom he’d snatched a mannequin’s wig, pursued through the Paris meatpacking district by beef-flinging butchers repelled by his long hair and hunted by holy men after venturing into the Forbidden Area of the Notre Dame. And that’s when he was just getting started.
Migrating to America, he explored his new landscape on a cross-country zag in a beat-up hippie van, sustained by all-you-can-eat restaurants, drive-in cinemas, and gas siphoned from other cars through plastic tubes. And of course, there was all that music - as noted in his memoir’s subtitle: “Inside the New York City Underground 1972-82.”
Marcade’s journey was laced with a yearning for discovery, a sense of joy and the natural ability of greeting life’s unexpected moments with great humor and often laugh-out-loud exchanges.
“You seem to be able to find the humor in all things, no matter how serious, and present them in a funny way,” I said to him, during that last conversation we shared.
“Yes indeed,” he responded, his words laced with the French undertones of his upbringing. “It was very funny, and I had a wonderful time!”
For more about the memoir, visit Northshire Bookstore HERE.
For more information about The Senders, go to: The Senders.bandcamp.com.