Archive for March 13th, 2004

Gratuitous Self-promotion #1

Mar 13, 2004 in Linkage

Review: Nellie McKay - Get Away From Me

Latest musical obsession: Serge Gainsbourg

Mar 13, 2004 in Music

Serge Gainsbourg was the dirty old man of French pop. A droll vocalist and lecherous lyricist, Gainsbourg was nonetheless one of the best French pop composers and an enormous influence on French music in general. Serge first came on the scene in the early 1960’s, pioneering a combination of French cabaret, jazz and exotica. He composed popular songs for vocalists such as Petula Clark, Frances Gall and Francoise Hardy, and achieved success with the ye-ye pop movement of the 60s.

In the late 60s, Serge became lovers with actress Brigette Bardot, and the pair dueted on his next two albums, Initials B.B. and Bonnie and Clyde. The relationship ended soon thereafter, and Serge then paired up with a young English actress named Jane Birkin.

Serge and Jane recorded the song Je t’aime… moi non plus, a sensually scandalous number featuring some passionate heavy breathing on Jane’s part. The song was originally recorded with Bardot, but due to her objections, that track was not released until years later. Je t’aime shot to number one on the French pop charts. The song was banned in Spain, Sweden, Britain and Italy, and even went as far as number 69 (ironically enough) on the US charts.

In the late 70s, it appears that Serge was inspired by listening to Bob Marley records. He traveled to Kingston, Jamaica and lined-up Marley’s own back-up group, the Wailers, to record two suprisingly decent reggae albums, Aux Armes et Caetera and Mauvaises Nouvelles des Etoiles. Aux Armes et Caetera featured a reggae version of the French national anthem, “La Marseillaise,” which caused quite a scandal back home.

Serge performed many notable antics on live television in the 80s, such as sticking an long pink inflated balloon through his trousers, burning a 500 franc bill as a tax protest, and telling Whitney Houston “I’d like to fuck you” on stage. In 1985 he performed “Lemon Incest,” a notorious song featuring his 14-year-old daughter Charlotte on vocals. The music video featured a scantily-clad Serge and Charlotte in bed together performing the song.

Despite the fact that Serge is practically a cultural institution in France, he is virtually unknown here in the States, except as a cult figure. He died of a heart attack in 1991.

Songs in (to the right)

  • Initials B.B. (with Brigette Bardot)
  • Je T’aime… Moi Non Plus (1969, with Jane Birkin)
  • Aux Armes et Caetera (reggae French national anthem)