Public Serge

You must’ve noticed the stream of ‘public domain’ compilations with Gainsbourg-songs recorded pre-1962. Most of those rehash the same stuff, the first EPs, the Gréco-versions, the Alain Goraguer-filmscores and the odd Michèle Arnaud or Les Frères Jacques-cover. Very rarely, as fellow FS-writer Sky also noted here, such a compilation is done right, i.e. with all the relevant recording data, informative liner-notes and/or remarkable ‘new’ material. The Frémaux & Associés-released triple-cd ‘Intégrale Serge Gainsbourg et ses interprètes 1957-1960′ is a noteworthy exception. Though it’s claimed to include ’13 Titres Inédits Sur CD’, it actually has five songs that I hadn’t heard before, or couldn’t track on other compilations. Four Gainsbourg-songs recorded in 1958 in the Paris’ Alliance Française, and a live-version of Le poinçonneur… by Hugues Aufray, recorded in L’Olympia. The Gainsbourg-tracks, with their introduction and little interview, show that the stories about Serge’s stagefright weren’t exaggerated – he sounds like a rabbit in the headlights. This new comp is fairly cheap, expansive and includes enough nice covers and versions (Trumpet Boy, Simone Bartel, Francis Lemarque, the odd Los Goragueros-cover) to recommend. So there.

Serge Gainsbourg – Douze belles dans la peau (live @ Alliance Française 1958)
Hugues Aufray – Le poinçonneur des Lilas (live @ Olympia, 1958)


Brazilian correspondent Luciane strikes again, with ‘cute folk’ duo Agridoce. Who cover Serge.

“Agridoce” is the debut album and name of the parallel project by Brazilian pop rock singer Pitty with her guitarist Martin Mendezz. It’s unplugged and explores different instruments and minimalistic sounds, textures, details, it’s quite the opposite of what’s she’s used to do with her über-popular solo work.

In “Agridoce,” which means bittersweet in Portuguese, guitars are out, acoustic guitar and piano are in, along with drawers with pillows inside and such other new musical instruments. The mood is introspective and folk-ish. The album was quickly nicknamed “fofolk” or “cute folk”.

Fan of Pitty or not, it’s an interesting album to listen, especially for those who never cared about her rock band or downright didn’t like her. This is something else. It shows nuances of her voice that one couldn’t hear before.
I certainly appreciated that, even more when it comes in French.
The first French surprise in the album is the song “Ne parle pas.” They didn’t name any French influences on the interviews they gave about the project. There are a lot of songs in English on the CD, so this one stood out.
And it turns out “Ne parle pas” is self-explanatory. Pitty said she can’t speak French, so this song is precisely about that, and her desire that she could. It’s about having a lot to say, but thinking it would all come out and sound much better if she could say it in french — ah, but haven’t we all been here before?… She said she finds French very musical and embracing. “If anyone who can speak French listens to this song, there’s already a mea culpa in it,” she joked on an interview.

Volontairement kidnappée
Délibérément traînée
Décidément arrachée
Pendant que tu coules entre mes jambes

I’d say is a good start for someone so raw and newly arrived. The piano does wonders for this song.
When I thought that was all, voilà, the second surprise comes as an iTunes bonus track: Pitty singing “La javanaise,” by Serge Gainsbourg. She made it absolutely bittersweet: her voice is mellow and sad, while the piano softens up the atmosphere of goodbye at the end of a love affair.

Covering Serge — and what she said above — could be a good indication that she’s been captured by french chansons. And maybe we’ll see more from her in the future. I’d gladly welcome that.

Agridoce – La javanaise

RIP Whitney

On the day Whitney Houston died, it is good to remember the legendary TV interview from Michel Drucker, with Whitney and Serge, on April 5, 1986.
As a wise man said: Serge said what every one thought back then…

Do Your Math

In 1965, comic illustrator Jean-Claude Forest created futuristic heroine Marie Mathématique for French TV, kind of a little sister of Bébé Cyanure (Baby Cyanide) and 60s icon Barbarella who brought Forest world fame and was played by Jane Fonda in Roger Vadim’s masturbation blockbuster. Venusian Marie, “la jeune fille comme il faut”, appeared in six all-too short episodes within ORTF’s Dim Dam Dom tv magazine — a pop art kitten sexed up additionally by the low-pitched cool of singer/ storyteller Serge Gainsbourg. Extraordinary stuff, not to be missed. Giggles and chuckles by another outlandish creature: France Gall.

Luciana Mello

Brazilian singer Luciana Mello recorded a French version of Serge Gainsbourg’s latinized ode to coffee-coloured beauties Couleur Café on her 6th album (called 6 Solo). In the video above you don’t see French singer Corneille, but he’s on the album version. Luciana comes from a musical family, her dad’s Brazilian funk pioneer Jair Rodrigues, her brother Jair Oliviera is a music producer. Not sure if Luciana recorded in French before, but this sure’s convincing.
Listen to more Luciana via Soundcloud.
(Merci to Under Paris blog for the tip)

Luciana Mello – Couleur Café

Initiales D.D.

Last song on Diane Dufresne’s Turbulences, 1982. Written by Monsieur G., and definitely not a virgin suicide.

Under the radar (10)

Serge Gainsbourg’s L’Homme à tête de chou is the underrated masterpiece in his catalogue, lesser known then ‘Melody Nelson’ but certainly not a lesser album. Just before he died, Alain Bashung worked on a ballet about the man with the cauliflower head. The videos for the ballet look interesting, the album was a bit of a letdown to be honest. Yet this is a great video for Bashung’s version of Variations sur Marilou. What I didn’t know, is that Serge-soundalike Rodolphe Burger recorded a live tribute of ‘Tête de chou’ in 2006. With help from Mick Harvey, Jacques Higelin and Fred Poulet. Last year, a registration popped up on Bandcamp, featuring extra tracks like a duet with Jane Birkin. I can’t believe it’s not Serge singing there.

Also on Bandcamp, an album by the British jazz band Les Effrontés. It says release-date February 4 2012, but you can stream and download it already. The band started out as a Jacques Brel coverband, with Paris-born Tiffany Schellenberg on vocals. They do two Gainsbourg-covers, the best is Black Trombone. The song, one of my favourite SG-tunes, gets a tango make-over that really works.

Rodolphe Burger & Jane Birkin – Dépression au Dessus du Jardin (See the original version by Cathérine Deneuve, and this version by Serge himself)

Les Effrontés – Black Trombone
(See Serge’s original here)

We Are Enfant Terrible

We Are Enfant Terrible is a French electronica-driven pop band that, as they say on their site, ‘sing songs in English. But with our new EP, La vie est belle, mes enfants!, recorded last summer in the french deep country, we claim our love in french to artists that inspire us by covering and/or translating New Young Pony Club, Gainsbourg, Dutronc, Beck.’ The NYPC-song is downloadable for free via Soundcloud. But this blog is of course very interested in their take on Ces Petits Riens, originally a duet between Serge and Catherine. And, well, it’s quite good! Not sure if singer Clo Floret exaggerates the ennui in her voice, but it works.

We are enfant terrible – Ces petits riens

All Roads Lead To Melody 2 – the samples

Tracks from Histoire de Melody Nelson spice up tracks by rappers (De La Soul was the first band to sample Serge), triphoppers, singer-songwriters and French funnymen. Here’s a resumé of all tracks that have a Melody Nelson-sample. If you know of/have more, let me know. Tomorrow: the cover versions.


Sample source En Melody:
David Holmes – S***! S***! S***! (from the Ocean’s 13 OST) (2007)
De La Soul – Not over ’til the Fat Lady plays the demo (1991)

Sample source La ballade de Melody Nelson:
Soul Position – Survival (feat. Greenhouse effect) (2003)
French Cowboy – La ballade de Baby Face Nelson (2007)

Sample source Ah! Melody:
De La Soul & Cee-Lo Green – Held down (2001)

Sample source Valse de Melody:
Luke Vibert – Voyage into the unknown (also contains a sample of 69 Année Erotique) (1997)

Sample source Cargo culte:
Princess Superstar – You get mad at Napster (2002)
Massive Attack – KarmaComa (Portishead remix) (1995)
Lickweed – La structure et l’instinct (1997)
Mirwais – V.I. (2000)
David Holmes – Don’t Die Just Yet (1997)
Beck – Paper Tiger (2002)
Beatnuts – Superbad (1994)
2 Bal 2 Neg – La magie du tiroir (1996)
Pop Will Eat Itself – Home (1994)

EXTRA: two tracks mashing up Serge and jazz-singer Oscar Brown Jr, using Melody Nelson-songs. HERE