PACO RABANNE METAL (1979) : CHAMPAGNE JACUZZIS, BIANCA; BUBBLE-FOAMed ECSTACY, AND THE LAST DAYS OF DISCO

 

 

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This week I find myself deeply drawn to Paco Rabanne’s Métal.

 

 

It is spring outside.  Bright, something between warm and cold, and the flowers are blossoming slowly: tulips pushing through, peach blossoms already blown away by the wind.

 

 

With the sunlight, the new air, and all the freshness I feel in the atmosphere, as well as the freedom of being off work for almost three weeks (sheer heaven), I want optimism: zest, but with emotional, and aesthetic,  intelligence.

 

Métal, a sly, forever fresh, delicious concoction, fits the bill perfectly, a scent that is not often written about for some reason, but one that I find very beautiful, and strangely not dated considering the fact that it is already 34 years old.

 

No: Métal is ageless. A shimmering, (dirty) angel of the disco set who constantly has one eye on the next: a laughing, exuberant, parfum savonneux: always soaped down and lightly fresh from the shower, washing away the sins from the night before with dismissive,deft swishes of the hand;a foaming, aldehydic sparkle of fresh greens; ylang ylang, white iris, rosewood and peach, all gently laminated with the classic, subtlely metallic sheen of rose à la Calandre, Paco Rabanne’s other, rather more philosophical and held back masterpiece from 1969.

 

 

Upon contact with the skin, this lugubrious scent bursts with life: quills forth from the bottle clean and energized, elegant, green and sweet, the protectant veil of aldehydes preserving the joyous flowers and fruit within in a bubble of about-to-step-out-the-house ecstacy that never fades; a white pant-suit (white, white, most definitely white – the white of Bianca Jagger and her Studio 54 stallioned entrance, the white of the Scarface mansion:  that seventies, flared Travolta white; the white of the lights; cocaine, and the mindless, careless, flamboyant last days of disco……)

 

 

Under the glorious sheen of this scent is that effervescent, pampered smell of expensive designer bubble baths that was taken up again later in the eighties in such scents as Courrèges In Blue (1983) and Byblos (1989). Beneath all that luminosity, if you look at her closely, Métal is smiling, of course; but wide-eyed, with gleaming shark-white teeth. Though she never betrays it, there is something depraved beneath this epidermis, and herein lies the real beauty of the perfume: unlike other disco era perfumes of the period – Ivoire, Scherrer, Rive Gauche, Michelle – which all have some internal self-awareness of their in-built shelf lives, an inner knowledge of their decadence, Métal conceals this side of herself to mad perfection – even to herself :: we see just a glimpse of it, occasionally, under her future-seeing façade, in her eyes: and, as with other such perfumes such as Chanel’s Cristalle, to which this perfume bears a slight resemblance (though fruitier, younger, less haughty), this is, to me,  what seals the scent in forever-fresh immortality.

 

 

 

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Unlike the ‘clean’ fragrances of current climes though, which are so chemically preened you immediately smell a rat, Métal is evincibly human ( if perfectly put together: it is very difficult to pick out individual notes – all so sheened and shined together effortlessly in a manner very much of the time); a scent that must have smelled stunningly beautiful emanating from the shoulders of the disco creatures of that era;  or the valiumed wives moving about their bay area lidos and mansions, as sunlight spliced their vodka martinis and their long, floating sleeves trailed the secretive jungles of their houseplants.

 

As they, like Nina Van Pallant in Robert Altman’s  The Long Goodbye, concealed the potential numbness within the cold veneer of the current, of the fashionable, the momentary; the flesh that would decay; but which, at this moment in time, laminated in Métal, felt preserved.

 

 

To me, there is definitely something of all this in this scent, like the liana females who also inhabit Harry’s House, one of my favourite songs by Joni Mitchell…

 

 

 

 

 

 

Caught up at the light of the fishnet windows

Of Bloomingdale’s

Washing those high fashion girls

Skinny black models with raveen curls

Beauty parlor blondes with credit card eyes

Looking for the chic and the fancy

To buy

 

 

He opens up his suitcase

In the continental suite

And people twenty stories down

Colored current in the street

 

 

A helicopter lands on the Pan Am roof

Like a dragonfly on a tomb

And businessmen in button-downs

Press into conference rooms

 

 

Battalions of paper-minded males

Talking commodities and sales

While at home their paper wives

And paper kids

Paper the walls to keep their gut reactions hid

 

 

Yellow checkers for the kitchen

Climbing ivy for the bath

She is lost in House and Gardens

He’s caught up in Chief Of Staff

 

 

 

He drifts off into the memory

Of the way she looked in school

With her body oiled and shining

At the public swimming pool….

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Yes: these slender, maquillaged, loose-limbed, pant-suited women who, in the movies at least, exist to rest on the arms of the rich men who own them…

 

 

And the white Art Deco mansions, in Florida.

 

 

 

I have referenced De Palma’s perennially popular classic Scarface before in relation to Léonard’s lovely, if simple, Tamango (1977), which always reminds me of the character Elvira and her gauche, ‘bored’ moves on the dancefloor early on in the film as Tony is listing to possess her, materialistically, as his trophy wife. Métal, which is far more complex, expensive smelling, and downright gorgeous in many ways, might, in some ways, be the same character a couple of years later, when, married to Pacino, we see her, still beautiful, but pining away in their gilded mansion, their giant, ivory jacuzzi filled with foam, champagne bottles and excess.

 

 

 

 

This perfume might almost be what holds her together: it never loses its ever-recurring sparkle, its  foaming, delirious lustre.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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For this review I have been discussing two bottles of vintage Eau De Metal, and also the parfum (pictured), a bit ropey and old now, but still lovely. There is not a great deal of difference between the two perfumes; one is just lighter and fresher, the other more long-lasting, as you might expect. Ultimately, though, I think I like Eau De Metal best and would recommend it to anyone who goes for this deeply appealing, timeless, feminine sheen,  still easily found at discounters online. Get vintage if you can.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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73 Comments

Filed under Floral Aldehydes, Perfume Reviews

73 responses to “PACO RABANNE METAL (1979) : CHAMPAGNE JACUZZIS, BIANCA; BUBBLE-FOAMed ECSTACY, AND THE LAST DAYS OF DISCO

  1. brie

    How about it being worn by a skinny fifteen year old girl? I have worn many of the others you mentioned (Rive Gauche, Byblos, Calandre,Ivoire) but I always found Metal to be the most unusual scent I had encountered at the time. And you are right…it is indeed hard to pick out individual notes. Given that Cristalle is among my top 10 perfumes of all time I can now understand why I was always drawn to Metal.
    Great review!

    • ginzaintherain

      Thanks. I love this perfume!

      And wasn’t Byblos fun as well? I would love to encounter that one again.
      I imagine this smelled gorgeous on a blonde haired fifteen year old, but I think you will find that it still smells great on you now.

      • brie

        As you know I always emptied my bottles in youth..and luckily my parents had the empty one of Byblos in storage for me so it did not get tossed. I reclaimed it…not a drop left but I can still get a faint odor upon smelling the spray. It was a fun scent and probably more appropriate for me at the time than some of my other choices!

  2. ginzaintherain

    As in…. ?

    Personally I love the idea of such a stylish smelling teenager. I was one too….

    • brie

      As in fragrances that were worn by my mother and her contemporaries…no 5, no 22, Aliage, Private Collection, Diorissimo, Aromatics Elixir, etc, etc… that some said had no business being on the 80lb body of a 15 year old (yes, I once wore no 5 in a ballet class and as it wafted in my sweat a 25 year old dancer chided me for my choice of perfume). All of my contemporaries at the time were wearing Love’s Baby Soft, Heaven Scent and Chantilly. I had to be the rebel!

      • ginzaintherain

        And thank god. Private Collection is American divinity if you ask me. My French teacher wore it . I ADORED it.

      • Katherine

        I like the sound of this list! Not sure why, suppose high class sophistication. Have smelt the new Diorissimo and frustratingly ‘watched’ a few of the vintage bottles go by on eBay… would like to try Private Collection too, though from descriptions not sure if I could carry it off!

      • It IS a lush thing; strangely depressing while being very green, poised and elegant in the finest American way. I kind of love it.

  3. Dear Ginza

    What a spellbinding review!

    Without ever having tried Metal – which now of course I must – your words and images just ooze the apparently easily bought ease of the late disco era where drugs, prescription or otherwise were always the answer and white – yes ‘that white’ was always in fashion.

    How those people paid afterwards.

    All of this puts me in mind of Ang Lees’s The Ice Storm, Cyra McFadden’s largely forgotten novel The Serial and, for reasons I can’t quite fathom, the art of Briget Riley from the 1970s, perhaps because it emanates an unsettling sensation of something being not right beneath it’s all too perfect exterior.

    All of it is a supreme contrast to the Berlin of the same period that has been occupying my mind.

    Thank you so much for this quite excellent essay.

    Now off I go in search of the vintage.

    Yours ever
    The Perfumed Dandy

    • ginzaintherain

      It’s possible I exaggerate its virtues ( after all, it does only smell of a silvery, gleaming bubble bath ) but if you like the sound of that then it’s worth a look.

      I have really been enjoying it this week. So light, uplifting and easy to wear but as I say, to my nose anyway, there is definitely something underneath, but not anything to destroy the soapy white surfaces.

      Glad you enjoyed it: I was kind of hypnotized while I was doing it then felt a touch ridiculous the moment I pressed publish.

      > Date: Thu, 21 Mar 2013 13:07:48 +0000 > To: opoponax8@hotmail.com >

      • Dear Ginza
        I get that sometimes – then I come back to something a couple of days later and normally, it’s actually fine….
        This was better than fine, even without the perfume being top notch.
        Yours ever
        The Perfumed Dandy

  4. Katherine

    Amazing! I want it. I love how seedy and complex some of the art from this era is.

    • ginzaintherain

      God me too: though this perfume only very slightly brushes the edge of seediness. This isn’t Michelle, who is a louche creature if ever there was one. Metal might be a disco doll, but she is as clean as a whistle.

      > Date: Thu, 21 Mar 2013 13:31:11 +0000 > To: opoponax8@hotmail.com >

      • Katherine

        I love the polished veneer, the exquisitely made up full face make up, blow-dried something…that grounds it or keeps it so precise in its excess, unlike the high voltage of the next decade. There’s something so taut and interior about the seventies, the cinema so vital, an edginess at the heart of the real, human context, it excites me. I am of course thinking of a certain type of America, more than England, and all the contradictions and complexity totally fascinating to me. Love Altman too! Fun fashion and music, I’m totally attempting hair and makeup, powder shadow and highlight with just the right sheen trying not to look too candy darling (who did look exquisite) more Debbie Harry heart of glass video or Guy Bourdin. Well, attempting anyway! I’ve been loving wearing Oscar by Oscar the past week, which feels rather exuberantly floral. Michelle I haven’t given a proper go yet, not immediately drawn to the spiciness of it, but will try and enter into the spirit of it. I like the idea of sophistication that is a little bit faux, rather like the Human League’s take on Gia Carangi Dare! cover. I guess it’s a fun aspiration, I like the idea of both the high and the low end. Anyway I am rambling now!

      • ginzaintherain

        I want to hit the town with you.

        We saw the Human League last year in Tokyo and it was heaven itself.

  5. Katherine

    Yay! Yes it is all really good stuff isn’t it? Makes you feel like tuning in and switching on. On the flip side I’m now inexplicably listening to Bread right now x

  6. Katherine

    Oh god it’s all a bit much..! Hours after listening to them and feeling switched on I found myself seemingly unconnectedly thinking of a Jesus and Mary chain song after going to bed early and an old friend and feeling torn apart. I was going to say how wonderful it is to dream of more before feeling overwhelmed, thanks anyway for bringing me alive today.

  7. Katherine

    But I am cheered by listening to ‘Dismal Day’ and the lovely falsetto voice.

  8. Katherine

    I don’t think I know anyone else who likes Bread. Do you know The Honeybus? (How Long, Fresher Than The Sweetness, Big Ship, Be Thou By My Side….) it just occurred to me they remind me of them a bit.

    • ginzaintherain

      I do not. But I do know I only like male vocalists who have a certain soft quality: the guy from Bread, Colin Bluntstone, Nick Drake, Prefab Sprout and so on.

      • Katherine

        I do love them, they’re an unusual band from the sixties, sort of imperfect pop that have this tight but tender quality and veer off somewhere. I guess they were never going to be a success with a name like that!

        Interesting, yes I like those too…

      • Katherine

        Ah yes Colin Bluntstone does have a lovely voice, thought you meant that was the guy from Bread, but no The Zombies 🙂 didn’t realise he had a solo career!

      • Good lord you need to hear his first solo album. Exquisite melancholy; really really beautiful.

      • Katherine

        I’m listening to it right now! You’re killing me here…

      • Misty roses, Smokey days, When you are far away…..unbelievable.

  9. Katherine

    Also, have you seen Together by Lukas Moodyson? About a broken family and left idealism and with seventies soundtrack. I saw it years ago and loved it but wonder if it would fair as well for me now. Last question, have been going off on my own tangent!

    • brie

      Katherine-
      Another Bread fan here! (also a fan of the Eagles and Moody Blues…since we are on the subject of pop bands!)

      • ginzaintherain

        Ah but you see, those groups are not quite the same…

        > Date: Fri, 22 Mar 2013 08:43:11 +0000 > To: opoponax8@hotmail.com >

      • Katherine

        Perhaps it is partly a generational thing as none of my young friends who love lots of different styles of music concede that Bread are not terrible, when they are clearly lovely! 🙂

    • Katherine

      Scrap that, it is a good film but a world away from the actual seventies cinema and exciting things I was thinking of in relation to your post. And Honeybus also very different feel and not as exciting, stayed up far too late last night.

      • I would have liked to have shared a tipple with you (what’s your poison?) but I seem to be in cooped inside, can’t cope with the world, perfumed hermit mode again.)

        Will be going out tomorrow and Saturday night though. Been inside the house for a week!

  10. Katherine

    Perhaps that was my problem, I had had a tipple, and coffee and tea, and not worn a warm enough coat out, and dived into bed only to start feeling feverishly awake.

    Hermit mode seems to be my default at the moment too!

    It’s too cold here and I’m beyond fed up of my winter coat, and maybe it’s astrological (though I’m not sure i believe in all that) but everyone’s communication wires seem to be all out of sync my end, so my ventures out lately have been not fulfilling. I just started doing yoga though and there’s this new moon gong bath thing they’re doing that sounds hilarious but perhaps does signal new clarity and beginnings.
    It’s been really nice talking to you though!

  11. Katherine

    I mean I wasn’t drunk, but do get sensitive to alcohol/caffeine blood sugars or something sometimes! I do like to drink and can be very good at it but other times I’m really a complete lightweight and somewhat manic!

  12. This has been on my list of fragrances to try for a while. As you know, I don’t shy away from the (fantastically) weird! Thanks for the wonderful review and for the terrific images. That horse . . . where did you find that!?

  13. Jared

    Thanks for this amazing review. This is my first read from the blog and I’m really loving your poetic writing. Bravo. I listened to Don’t Interrupt the Sorrow (and then Harry’s House) while reading this – I’m glad I scrolled through the images beforehand! I don’t have many perfumes from this era in my collection – I’m eager to explore them if I can, especially as I imagine into the 1970s with greater depth (Joni helps).

    • Thanks Jared and welcome – I love exchanging ideas about all this with people, and I really think that Joni album is one of the best every made. It takes years to get to know all the songs properly as they are so opaque – but also so deeply atmospheric. I don’t know if Metal encompasses the 70’s so perfectly – really, it just smells like bubble bath, but a metallic, fashion-model bathroom. I love it. What perfumes do you like the best?

      • Jared

        I agree – it can take years for some of Joni’s songs to unfold, but I also love how they CONTINUE to unfold through years! They are travel companions. As are perfumes, I suppose! It’s hard to define what perfumes I like best – complex and complicated came to my mind. I was about to give a note list (patchouli is my favorite), but even then I challenge myself to encompass anything. I suppose, though, I do like strong, intoxicating, bold creatures with a touch of the exotic.

  14. beth santos

    Thank you for the info tha there isn’t much difference between eau de metal and metal.Among online stores with the aforementioned store,who would you recommend as I will be ordering for the first time.
    Thank you and may the blessings be!

  15. jtd

    Read your comments on Metal, a fav of mine, and have worn it a few times since. I’ve always loved its abstraction but now with your suggestions am finding it evocative of a time and a style I dream of, the late 70s. Hope you don’t mind, but I’ve put a link to the page on my site scent hurdle.com.

    • No, I am delighted the association works for you. I had a really lovely day doing that review, actually: that whole week was gorgeous, and the perfume felt perfect: I just let myself go with it and all the associations, watching the Altman film, and letting the scent take me where it wanted to. It is a really beautiful perfume in my view. As I said, perfect with white teeth, but there is something up with that smile…

  16. Reblogged this on The Black Narcissus and commented:

    I went to Helen’s house last night, and she had an immaculate bottle of vintage Eau De Metal standing there on her dresser. What a beautiful perfume. Frustratingly, because of my knee injury, I can’t go walking about my old haunts as much as I would like to, but I am nevertheless enjoying just marinating in the atmosphere of my parents’ house, my friends: the perfumes they have.

  17. What a great review! I have an opened bottle of vintage Eau de Metal, as well as two back-up bottles, which I purchased because of my fear that they would stop making it. This used to be one of my favorite scents and still is although I do not reach for it as often as I should.

    • Because you know it is there, and that it is so safe and lovely to wear that it is easy to take it for granted.

      I wish I had a back up: despite my big collection, I must admit I envied Helen her bottle last night.

  18. Rafael

    So happy for your win! Wonder what perfumes you’ll acquire with your ill-gotten gains? 🙂 It must be pulling emotionally to be back in UK?! Love re-appreciating these reviews. Hope the knee is on the mend soon. Getting ready for Friday the 21st. First day of Spring! So far the lineup is a vintage No19 extrait, Eau de Campagne, Eau de Rochas (original)…Can’t wait for new reviews to keep exploring! Stay safe and be well.

  19. Nancysg

    Off topic but, I want to hear about your winning of the award for your Fear of Fragrance article. Enjoy your time at home. After more than 40 years, I still talk about going home to where I grew up.

  20. Lilhybelle

    I love Metal. I never could wear Calandre, much as I tried. For some reason it turned plasticky on my skin…but Metal! ♥ I need a bottle again after all these years.

  21. Lilybelle

    Sorry, can’t spell my name. ^^

  22. tonkabeany

    I think I have earned a night out in this, Perfume Lovers London is just the ticket. Can’t hope to measure up to required levels of polished glamour and my sartorial choices don’t quite chime with the above, a little too severe (would adopt the style wholesale, head to toe, cartoon copy if I could carry it off) but cannot wait to take the shimmering, bubbly loveliness out on the town. Bound to wear too much now.

  23. Reading this again, I just sprayed myself with some vintage Eau de Metal. Ever since my post in 2013, I have been wearing it more often (and of course had to spritz some after re-reading this post–I smell great!). I wore all of those perfumes in this post and went to many discos in the late 70’s and early 80’s (love the 70’s music even now) and still own Rive Gauge and vintage Ivoire. Byblos was a fun one, if I remember. (I’m still dancing, spiriting and listening to music (although I also listen to plenty of today’s music as well).

  24. MrsDalloway

    Just had a gruelling week of interviewing (as panel not candidate) and I wore Eau de Métal one day. I was still getting beautiful whiffs at 4pm (and when I got home that night I topped up with Métal). Civil service competency interviews in windowless meeting rooms are hilariously far from the last days of disco but you can take this one anywhere.

    • And the fact that nobody else will be wearing makes it all the more singular.

      • MrsDalloway

        Just all your readers! You do make it enticing. Brooding a bit on scents to interview with now. I looked up what I was wearing the other days: Vétiver Tonka, Sycomore, Cuir d’Ange, No 19 EDT. The candidates on the Sycomore day seemed weakest, the VT and EdM ones strongest, but I don’t think it was the relative cuddliness of my scent influencing….

      • I think it probably was. Sycamore is a hard bitch; Vetiver Tonka much warmer and forgiving. With Metal you probably just didn’t care.

      • MrsDalloway

        Poor old Sycomore candidates. It’s lucky I don’t have Iris Silver Mist. Sycomore is a good one for when people from other Departments might be planning to be awkward.

  25. I can’t get that vision of Bianca Jagger in a white pantsuit circa Studio 54 out of my head. Perfect, along with the other references and photos. This piece went in so many fascinating directions; I could have read on and on and on!

    I love how my vintage bottle of straight-up Métal has that white, crisp edging and base against clear glass and pale green-gold juice. It looks just like it smells. To me, compared to the Diorissimo we’ve talked about recently, this is the better setting for lily of the valley. Never tried the “Eau de” version but I will keep looking; I have a feeling it will prove to be just as elusive, at least here in Canada.

    Love Tamango and nice to see it getting its due. For some reason, I always think of Emilio Pucci’s 1965 Vivara when I think of Tamango. Somehow in that same category of sleek, appealingly bitchy aldehydic cocktails. And the packaging was so of its time. I miss that era.

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