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Serge Gainsbourg’s reggae version of ‘La Marseillaise’ that earned him death threats
07.14.2014
08:19 am

Topics:
Heroes
Music
Politics

Tags:
Serge Gainsbourg


 
Serge Gainsbourg offended many of his patriotic countrymen in 1979 when he rewrote the French national anthem “La Marseillaise” as a reggae number, “Aux armes et caetera.” The song was the title track from his 13th album, recorded in Kingston, Jamaica, giving him the distinction of being only the second (to Mick Jagger, who dueted with Peter Tosh) major white European performer to record there. Serge did not anticipate the shitstorm that followed the TV premiere of his song, including death threats from nationalists and threats from soldiers to kick his ass if he performed the song in public. The French embassy’s website still has a reference to this controversy:

The French national anthem has had a turbulent past. Every now and then, there is an outcry to have it banned, or at least updated; it has been a long time since the Revolution was endangered by bordering European monarchs. Some people are offended during national ceremonies, when they hear such vengeful verses as “these ferocious soldiers who slaughter our sons and wives” or demanding “that impure blood flow in our fields.” But the majority of French people do not wish to change so much as a comma in their national anthem. Didn’t the members of the Resistance in WWII sing it as a final and supreme challenge to Nazi-occupying forces as they fell beneath the bullets of the firing squad?

The extent of the attachment of the French to their national anthem was revealed in the 1970s, when President Giscard d’Estaing attempted to impose “his” Marseillaise by having it played to a slower tempo in order to give it greater solemnity. The President’s initiative raised a storm of protest and Hector Berlioz’s orchestration was maintained. Late controversial singer and composer Serge Gainsbourg tried to rewrite the Marseillaise his own way in 1979 by having the national anthem played by a reggae band. The reception was less than stellar: A group of legionnaires threatened to give him a hard time if he performed his new version in public. Gainsbourg did sing the Marseillaise, but a cappella. One cannot tamper with that which is sacred!

 

A little gallows humor on the cover of Hara Kiri magazine
 
When a group of paratroopers caused a 1980 concert in Strasbourg (where “La Marseillaise” was written) to be shut down, Gainsbourg defiantly sang an a capella traditional version instead of “Aux armes et caetera” and was joined by the paratroopers! A year later in a defiant but classy move he bought an original manuscript of the anthem’s lyrics by Rouget de Lisle at an auction in France. Gainsbourg then proved to the public that his version—and the controversial “et caetera” of the title—was in fact, more faithful to the original than any other version: de Lisle, in fact, did not write out repeated verses by hand, but merely wrote “et caetera, et caetera, et caetera”!

Serge Gainsbourg, “Aux armes et caetera”:

 
Serge Gainsbourg sings the original “La Marseillaise” to calm everyone down, and at 2:09 the auction for the lyrics’ manuscript begins:

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Serge Gainsbourg, France Gall and the most ridiculously phallic music video of 1966
05.12.2014
02:06 pm

Topics:
Music
Sex

Tags:
Serge Gainsbourg
France Gall


 
“Les Sucettes” (“The Lollipops”) was written for the virginal blonde 18-year-old France Gall by that arch-lecher himself, Serge Gainsbourg, who wanted to market her as the ultimate French “Lolita” pop star. The song’s lyrics depict a young girl, Annie, who likes aniseed-flavored lollipops. Here’s a translation of a verse so you get the gist:

When the barley sugar
Flavored with anise
Sinks in Annie’s throat,
She is in heaven.

Annie’s aniseed. Think about that for a minute…

Christ, he’s good…

But here’s the thing: France Gall apparently had no idea that she was singing a song about oral sex and swallowing… seed.

When she performed the number on the television program seen in the clip below, she did so oblivious to what every other person present was thinking! It wasn’t until she was on tour in Tokyo that someone let the cat out of the bag. Gall was infuriated and greatly embarrassed by what she’d unwittingly taken part in. She felt betrayed by the adults around her and mocked like a naïve fool. She refused to leave her home for weeks afterwards and ultimately entirely stopped singing Gainsbourg’s songs that had made her so famous. For years afterwards her career suffered from her association with this scandal, even if “Les Sucettes” had been a big hit.
 

 
It’s interesting to note that Walt Disney himself wanted France Gall for a musical adaptation of Alice in Wonderland, but the project was shelved with Uncle Walt’s death in 1966. Bernardo Bertolucci reportedly wanted her for the leading female role in his X-rated Last Tango in Paris opposite Marlon Brando. Can you imagine? No offense to the late Maria Schneider, but it’s too damned bad that didn’t happen!
 

 

Regarding “Les Sucettes” with a rare public comment from France Gall about the scandal it caused.
 

“Teenie Weenie Boppie,” about LSD and Mick Jagger on Dim Dam Dom.

More France Gall on Mod Cinema’s two DVD France Gall collection

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
‘Erotissimo’: Sexy French pop art cinema (with suitably sleazy Serge Gainsbourg cameo), 1968

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The 1968 French sexual revolution comedy Erotissimo is one of those ultra stylish Sixties films that art director types go totally nuts over. With good reason.

Starring Annie Giradot as a married woman confused by the rapid change in sexual mores around her. Erotissimo takes place precisely at the point in the 1960s where SEX became an inescapably “in your face” component of modern life, advertising and urban dwelling. As such, it is a perfect time capsule of the end of one era and the beginning of another. Giradot’s heroine struggles to understand the matters I presume would have been vexing a fair amount of the film’s audience during that time period as well.

But plot aside, the film’s reputation these days is due to its unique—and very Sixties—art direction: Gerard Pires’ Erotissimo looks like almost no other film I can think of. Nearly every frame is a masterpiece of visual composition, in the vein of William Klein’s Who Are You, Polly Magoo? The groovedelic soundtrack is the aural equivalent of a white molded plastic chair…
 
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Mod Cinema sells a DVD of Erotissimo with English subtitles, making it possible for those of us who paid no attention in French class to enjoy this treat.

A married woman in her 30’s (Annie Girardot) tries to spice up her sex life with her distracted husband Philippe (Jean Yanne) under the deluge of sexy Swedish movies, sexy advertising on the streets, sexy intimate clothing in ladies’ shops, and even talks about sex and marital infidelity with her mother and female friends. Philippe, a general manager of a dynamic company specializing in baby products becomes preoccupied with an upcoming tax audit. Even the presence of a beautiful fashion model who lives with Annie’s brother fails to divert his attention. This amazing and colorful work of 60’s pop art features an original psychedelic soundtrack by French composer William Sheller & singer-songwriter Michel Polnareff, and don’t miss the cameo by monsieur Serge Gainsbourg!

Gainsbourg’s cameo is appropriately sleazy: He plays a guy who hits on Annie as she is leaving a Swedish “art film.”
 

 
Below, the NSFW Erotissimo trailer:
 

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
Marianne Faithfull sings Gainsbourg in 1967’s ‘Anna’


 
Marianne Faithfull sings “Hier ou Demian” (“Yesterday or Tomorrow”) in a scene from the incredible 1967 French TV movie musical, Anna. Directed by Pierre Koralnik, and with songs written by Serge Gainsbourg (who also appears in the film). Anna starred Godard muse Anna Karina. The film is practically a musical pop art paean to her beauty. Suits me just fine.

 

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A gorgeous young Faithfull, who never looked better (and that’s saying a lot), singing a Gainsbourg-penned tune. What more could you ask for? The entire film? Well you’re in luck, because you can purchase a copy of Anna (with English subtitles) from Mod Cinema.
 

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
Serge Gainsbourg’s science-fiction cartoon ‘Marie Mathématique’


 
Incroyable! Hosting the legendary French pop show Dim Dam Dom in 1965, Sandie Shaw introduces the first installment of “Marie Mathématique,” an animated short made by “Barbarella” creator Jean-Claude Forest. Serge Gainsbourg wrote the music and sang André Ruellan’s lyrics.

On Halloween, several dozens of Gainsbourg-related items—including nail clippers and cigarette butts—will be auctioned off in Paris.
 

 
In total, there were six installments of “Marie Mathématique,” the rest follow after the jump…

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
‘La Horse’: Incredible Serge Gainsbourg instrumental rarity
08.23.2013
12:31 pm

Topics:
Music

Tags:
Serge Gainsbourg
Jean-Claude Vannier


 
There’s never a time when I’m not in the mood for some Serge Gainsbourg. Histoire De Melody Nelson is always in my speed rack next to the stereo. I’ve listened to it 10x more than any Rolling Stones album. Whenever I can’t decide what I want to listen to, I listen to that album or Forever Changes or Sly Stone or Neil Young. I’ll never get sick of it, but my wife probably is…

Of course, Histoire De Melody Nelson is famously known for being a collaboration between Gainsbourg and Jean-Claude Vannier, the great composer-arranger who is often referred to as ‘the David Axelrod of France.’ When Universal Music Group put out the expanded Histoire De Melody Nelson (I really highly recommend it, especially if you’ve got a 5.1 surround hook-up, it’s absolutely insane to hear that instrumentation all around you) the idea of hearing some outtakes from this classic had me salivating, but the other day I stumbled across something at the NowAgain records blog (it’s been posted there since 2008) that’s even better:

I’ll never forget the phone call from The Heliocentrics’ Malcolm Catto when he asked me if I’d ever heard of this promo-only 7-inch “La Horse.” Of course I hadn’t, and he went on to describe in vivid detail this track, composed by Serge and his long time arranging partner Jean-Claude Vannier that stood not only as one of Serge’s best instrumental releases, but also his rarest. The record was released by Serge’s publishing company, Hortensia, around the time of the release of the film, as a promotional-only item to be given to theater goers.

A few years and missteps later (including one in a Parisian flea market, when the Euro was worth about a dollar, when the going rate for the record was about 900 E), I finally scored a copy from a collector based in, of all places, Oxnard. This one hasn’t left my box in years, and I DJ it out constantly. The banjo break is a bit hokey, but whatever – the film [a Jean] Gabin feature, took place in the countryside, so I guess Serge was just shouting out the hicks. Who cares? It follows one incredible drum break, doesn’t it?

Oh, one last thing: that cover is a “paste on…”

The banjo break is awe-inspiring!

Oh and “La Horse” = heroin.
 

 
Previously on Dangerous Minds:
Histoire de Melody Nelson: Serge Gainsbourg’s psychedelic orchestral rock opera

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
Serge Gainsbourg as Salvador Dali
08.08.2013
07:51 am

Topics:
Music

Tags:
Salvador Dali
Serge Gainsbourg


“Ee’s SURREAL!”

Both above photo and the below video are via the Melody Nelson 33 1/3 Twitter feed. Darran Anderson’s Serge Gainsbourg’s Histoire de Melody Nelson, an upcoming entrant in the famed 33 1/3 book series will be published later this year, is available for pre-order now. If you are a Gainsbourg fan, you might want to follow this feed, as I expect they’ll be posting a real bounty of Serge-related multimedia.

Below, an insanely cool short sequence edited from the French movie La Pacha (1968). Gainsbourg is seen here singing “Requiem pour un con” (“Requiem for a Twat”)

Listen to the organs
They play for you
That tune is terrible
I hope you like
It’s quite beautiful, isn’t it?
It’s the requiem for a twat

I composed it specially for you
In your sordid memory
It’s a pretty theme
You don’t find
The ressemblance to yourself?
Poor twat

I’ve never seen this clip before. It made me tres happy.
 

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
Brûler baby brûler!: Serge Gainsbourg setting money on fire on French TV
06.27.2013
10:22 am

Topics:
Music
Politics
Television

Tags:
Serge Gainsbourg


 
It’s 1977 and Serge Gainsbourg is sick of being overtaxed by the government, taxed not for the poor but for nuclear energy. In protest, the singer sets 500 francs on fire during an interview on French TV. Shrugging off the fact that what he’s doing is illegal, the defiantly mellow Gainsbourg reminds viewers that “it’s my money.” Or at least what’s left of it after the ash has fallen away… which is his point.
 

 

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Boy Serge: Gainsbourg does his best Boy George impression
05.06.2013
09:19 am

Topics:
Amusing
Music
Pop Culture

Tags:
Serge Gainsbourg
Boy George


 
Boy Serge.

Serge Gainsbourg impersonates Boy George and gives French comedian/singer Patrick Sébastien a big smooch on the lips.

Gainsbourg may be the only person on the planet who can dress up like Boy George and not lose my respect.
 

Posted by Marc Campbell | Leave a comment
15-year-old Jodie Foster sings a Serge Gainsbourg tune
02.05.2013
10:57 am

Topics:
Music
Pop Culture

Tags:
Serge Gainsbourg
Jodie Foster


 
A 15-year-old Jodie Foster sings Serge Gainsbourg’s “Comic Strip” with Claude Francois on French TV in 1977.

Foster speaks French impeccably and pulls this off beautifully.
 

Posted by Marc Campbell | Leave a comment
Serge Gainsbourg’s ‘Je t’aime… moi non plus’: The Interactive 8-Bit Audio Game!


 
Creator, Martin Bircher writes,

…moi non plus is an interpretation of Serge Gainsbourg’s song “Je t’aime… moi non plus” in the form of an audio game. By operating the joystick, the human components of the song can be controlled according to selected preferences.”

You may wanna turn down the volume if you’re at work. Lots of sexy moanin’ and a groanin’ going on here.
 

 
Via Nerdcore

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Histoire de Melody Nelson: Serge Gainsbourg’s psychedelic orchestral rock opera
09.28.2012
03:09 pm

Topics:
Music

Tags:
Serge Gainsbourg
Jane Birkin
Jean-Claude Vannier

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Histoire De Melody Nelson is the great Serge Gainsbourg’s sexy Lolita-esque melodrama told in the form of a funky psychedelic rock opera, an album many (raises hand) consider to be his masterpiece.

The middle-aged narrator (Gainsbourg, doing that “talk singing” thing he was so good at) tells the tale of hitting a bike-riding British teenager, Melody Nelson (a role sung by his muse, Jane Birkin), with his Rolls Royce, and of their subsequent affair. In the end, Melody meets an untimely death in a plane crash and the despondent narrator sings of cargo cults and waiting for the return of the lost body of the “little animal” he was so in love with.

Not to white-wash it, the poetry, while lovely and oh so sad (En France, Gainsbourg is considered the equal of Bob Dylan in the lyrics department) is still describing statutory rape, with characteristic Gainsbourgian provocation (In 1985, he recorded a song called “Lemon Incest” with his then 12-year-old daughter, Charlotte).

Histoire De Melody Nelson has an amazing—and utterly unique—sound. It’s pretty much still to this day the cutting edge of what you can do with a rock group and an orchestra (no matter what The Moody Blues or Deep Purple might think). The way Gainsbourg and arranger Jean-Claude Vannier use the strings here is simply uncanny, providing a big influence on Pulp, Air and Beck (who later famously worked with Charlotte Gainsbourg). This innovative 1971 album is easily in the same class as Anglo-American contemporaries like Bitches Brew or Sticky Fingers. (Pitchfork named it #21 in the top 100 albums of the 1970s).

In 2011, Universal Music Group in France put out a box set of Histoire De Melody Nelson where the discs came in a hardback book about the album. I didn’t know about this until recently (my pal Adam Starr, a bigwig marketing exec at UMe told me about it), but when I found out that there was a DVD in the package containing a 5.1 surround disc of one of my favorite, favorite albums of all time, I had to have that sucker and I watched the mail like a hawk until it finally arrived on Tuesday. I was not disappointed. If ever there was an album tailor-made for the expanded sonic palette that 5.1 can offer, it’s Histoire de Melody Nelson, here remixed masterfully by Sebastien Merlet. I’ve probably already played it 30 times since I got it.

Oui, oui, Merlet did quite a good job with the multi-channel audio mix. The album’s slow-starting, languidly paced, seven and a half minute-long opening number “Melody” starts with just the bass and Serge “talk singing” in the center front channel. Gainsbourg’s deep voice is prominent in practically every song he ever recorded, but here it sounds like he’s standing in the room with you or sitting on your lap. Then the guitars start up in the right and left front speakers. The drums come in. It’s almost like they started recording and then the rest of the musicians sat down and started filling in as the music builds and builds. The mix takes its cue from the music and when the orchestra kicks in in full, it does so in the rear speakers, which had been reserved for, and waiting on, that moment.

It’s goddamned glorious... If you like 5.1 surround stuff, this is truly in the first ranks of that kind of release.

What is still somewhat little-known, even to fans of the album, is Melody, the half hour, shot on videotape visualization of the album created by Gainsbourg and director Jean-Christophe Averty, and starring himself and Jane Birkin. It was included in the career-spanning Gainsbourg DVD box set, Serge Gainsbourg: D’autres nouvelles des etoiles that came out in 2005. Now, of course, it’s turned up online.

Melody is quite something, a visual feast. First off, how do you go wrong with a soundtrack like this one? You don’t. And secondly, who was cooler and more elegantly wasted than Mister Serge Gainsbourg, hisself, circa 1971? (Keith Richards…? Maybe?). And my third point, Birkin was so freakishly beautiful then (and still is) that I could look at a still photo of her for 30 minutes, so when she’s actually moving onscreen, it’s just a bonus.

Trust me, this one is worth your time, rock snobs. If you’re not already a fan of Histoire de Melody Nelson, you will be…
 

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
‘Brigitte Bardot Sings’: Documentary featuring Bardot, Serge Gainsbourg and Jane Birkin


 
This French documentary from 1992 is an enjoyable overview of Brigitte Bardot’s forays into pop music. It features insightful interviews with Bardot, Jane Birkin and Serge Gainsbourg, as well as dozens of clips of Bardot’s appearances in TV shows, Scopitones and movies.

Needless to say (though I’m saying it), Bardot was not much of a singer. But her willingness to poke fun at her sex kitten image and serve as a comedic and visual foil to the gruff machismo of Gainsbourg makes it easy to forgive her limitations as a vocalist and appreciate her sassy self-awareness. She’s having fun and so are we. One gets the impression that Bardot was perfectly content with her status as a pop icon, leaving the existential Sturm und Drang to her chain-smoking, brooding co-star.
 

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‘Les Sucettes’: The Most Ridiculously Phallic Music Video of 1966


 
Yesterday when I posted about the great new France Gall DVD compilation put out by Mod Cinema, I was frustrated because I couldn’t find an embeddable clip of her notorious TV performance of “Les Sucettes.” (“The Lollipops”). Dante at Mod Cinema was kind enough to upload a higher quality version than any that were previously on-line so that I can share it with you here. It’s a doozy.

“Les Sucettes” was written for the virginal, 18-year-old Gall by that arch-lecher himself, Serge Gainsbourg, who wanted to market her as the ultimate French “Lolita” pop star. The song’s lyrics depict a young girl, Annie, who likes aniseed-flavored lollipops:

When the barley sugar
Flavored with anise
Sinks in Annie’s throat,
She is in heaven.

Annie’s aniseed. Think about that for a minute.

Christ, he’s good…

But here’s the thing: France Gall apparently had no idea that she was singing a song about oral sex and swallowing… seed.

When she performed the number on the television program seen in the clip below, she did so oblivious to what every other person present was thinking! It wasn’t until she was on tour in Tokyo that someone let the cat out of the bag. Gall was infuriated and greatly embarrassed by what she’d unwittingly taken part in. She felt betrayed by the adults around her and mocked like a naive fool. She refused to leave her home for weeks afterwards and ultimately stopped singing Gainsbourg’s songs that had made her so famous. For years afterwards her career suffered from her association with this scandal, even if “Les Sucettes” had been a big hit.

Tonight and tomorrw in Los Angeles at Cinefamily: Gainsbourg and His Girls

Previously on Dangerous Minds:
Bongwater: The Power of Pussy
 

 
After the jump, a video story about “Les Sucettes” with a rare public comment from France Gall about the scandal.

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
France Gall, the ‘Lolita’ of French pop music
08.31.2011
11:03 am

Topics:
Fashion
Music

Tags:
Serge Gainsbourg
Mod Cinema
France Gall


 
Our friends at the mighty Mod Cinema have released another of their high quality 2 DVD-set anthologies of French singers. You may recall me posting about their fantastic Françoise Hardy DVD compilation a few months ago, now gorgeous France Gall gets the Mod Cinema treatment:

Although she’s best-known as the pretty, perky teenager who won the 1965 Eurovision Song Contest, French pop singer France Gall has had a much longer and more varied career than that. Although only a cult figure in most of the rest of the world, Gall is a major star and beloved figure in her native country. The psychedelic-era found Gall, under the guidance of Serge Gainsbourg, singing increasingly strange songs, like “Teenie Weenie Boppie” (a bizarre tune about a deadly LSD trip that somehow involves Mick Jagger) set to some of Gainsbourg’s most out-there arrangements. This DVD compiles rare footage of France Gall performing on French & German TV. 79 songs spanning 2-discs including “Teenie Weenie Boppie”, “Bebe requin”, “Les sucettes”, “Avant la bagarre”, “Toi que je veux”, “La vieille fille”, “Computer No.3”, “Baci, Baci, Baci”, “Dancing disco”, as wells as duets with Serge Gainsbourg, Jacques Dutronc, Michel Fugain, Jean-Claude Brialy, Claude Francois, and more!

It’s interesting to note that Walt Disney himself wanted France Gall for a musical adaptation of Alice in Wonderland, but the project was shelved with Uncle Walt’s death in 1966. Bernardo Bertolucci reportedly wanted her for the leading female role in his X-rated Last Tango in Paris opposite Marlon Brando. Can you imagine? No offense to the late Maria Schneider, but it’s too damned bad that didn’t happen!

Order a copy of The France Gall Collection (1964-1979) at Mod Cinema

Also, if you live in Los Angeles, there are still three more screenings of the new Gainsbourg and His Girls documentary at Cinefamily.

Below, France Gall sings Gainsbourg’s “Baci, Baci, Baci” on Musicolor in 1969.
 

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
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