Song of the Day: Space in Music (Day Five). “Will You Ever Return Me? Just Like Frankie Fontaine, I Wonder, What Can I Do?”

Hometown Unicorn was released as the first single from Super Furry Animals debut album, Fuzzy Logic on the 26th February 1996.  The beautifully constructed single is packed full of intriguing folktale style lyrics such as the opening verse:  “I was lost, Lost on the bypass road, could be worse, I could be backward born, Could be worse, I could be turned to toad”.  The single came complete with a stunningly mysterious promotional video featuring long time friend of the band and former band mate turned world famous actor Rhys Ifans looking suitably lost as he walks up and down a road carrying a suitcase, appearing and disappearing amongst beautiful views of the Welsh countryside, appearing to be chased by an unidentified object and looking as if he is going crazy in a shed filled with recording equipment.

Hometown Unicorn is one of those Super Furry Animals songs which, like many of their early recordings, is like a puzzle to interpret.  Taking the chorus of “I say you please return me, Will you ever return me, Will you ever return me, Just like Frankie Fontaine, I wonder what can I do?” coupled with the video and the song’s other assorted lyrics about being lost and being “found riding a unicorn”, the song appears to be about alien abduction.  Before I look at the alien abduction case which informs the chorus, let’s look at the unicorn.

The unicorn is a mythical creature which in European folklore, is often depicted as a white horse or goat-like animal.  In the middle ages and Renaissance era, it was commonly described as an extremely wild woodland creature, a symbol of purity and grace, which could only be captured by a virgin.  Firstly here, we have the idea of capture, relating to the alien abduction and secondly, the unidentified thing that has captured the song’s subject has potentially done so on their virgin visit to Earth.  Then, there is the idea of mythology, tying in with the idea of myths and legends surrounding alien abduction.

One such legend is the case of Franck Fontaine, referred to as “Frankie Fontaine” in the song’s chorus.  The event, now known as the Clergy-Pontoise Hoax, began as a report of a UFO abduction and ended with one of the spectators present at the supposed abduction channelling messages from extraterrestrials whom he claimed were involved in the taking of Fontaine.

The story starts on the morning of the 26th November 1979, when Jean-Pierre Prevost of the Paris suburb of Point-oise called the police to report that his friend, Fontaine, had been abducted by aliens.  Prevost told of how he and Fontaine, along with two other men, were preparing to drive to a nearby town to sell clothes at an open-air market.  Fontaine, their driver, waited in the car whilst the other men went to gather their stock.  A UFO appeared and Fontaine was taken from the car.  The other men watched as the UFO sped away into the sky.  Fontaine reappeared a week later claiming to remember very little about what had happened, saying he fell asleep at the wheel of the car and woke up in a cabbage field, unaware that a week had passed.

After Fontaine reappeared, the police intensified their investigation concerning the incident and were joined by Grope d’Etudes des Phenomenes Aerospatieux Non Indentifies (GEPAN), France’s main UFO investigation organisation.  After conducting interviews with the alleged abductee and the principal witnesses several times and looking for any collaborating evidence, GEPAN came to the conclusion that the incident was without any value in furthering knowledge of UFOs and therefore, the incident has come to be regarded as a hoax.

Shortly after the incident, French UFO enthusiast Jimmy Guieu published a book-length account of the story entitled Contacts OVNI Cergy-Pontoise.   In the book, Guieu believes the story to be true and suggests that the UFO’s intended target was Fontaine but actually Prevost, who had begun to channel messages from the abductor whom he referred to as intelligences from the beyond.  Shortly afterwards, Prevost published his own book about Fontaine’s abduction entitled The Great Contact.  The book centred on the messages which he had received, primarily one from Haurrio, about the deteriorating state of life on Earth.  Prevost went on to found his own publishing house and gather a following of people attracted to the message from outer space.  However, he was unable to find enough people interested in the venture and soon the publishing house folded, leaving him in heavy debt.

A full four years after Fontaine’s supposed abduction, Prevost finally confessed that it had been a hoax.  He told a French reporter that he had organised the event and had hidden Fontaine in a friend’s apartment during the week of the supposed abduction.  He continued to tell of how he had done so in order to attract attention to his channelled messages and in order to assist in building a modern religion based upon extraterrestrials.

Following the confession, Guieu refused to accept to Prevost’s story.  In the interim between the emergence of the abduction stories and the confession, Guieu has come to know others whom had received messages from Haurrio.  Ufologist Jacques Vallee suggests that the whole incident had been an operation by the intelligence community in an attempt to create a sect upon which various social science experiments could be conducted.