Serge Gainsbourg’s infamous duet with Jane Birkin, “Je t’aime… moi non plus” (“I love you… me neither”) released in the “annee erotique” of 1969, had originally been recorded in late 1967 with Brigitte Bardot who the song was written for, a penance/apology from Gainsbourg for a disastrous first date. Bardot’s estranged husband, German photographer Gunther Sachs, got wind of the steamy song via reporters eager to drum up another scandal surrounding the sex kitten. The number’s orgasmic female moaning was said to be “audio vérité” (apparently at least half true, as Gainsbourg is alleged to have fingered the actress in the vocal booth) and Sachs demanded the release be pulled. The famously private Bardot begged her notoriously sardonic lover to withhold the song, prompting him to tell her “For the first time in my life, I write a love song and it’s taken badly.” Their original version would not be released until 1986.
Gainsbourg asked Marianne Faithfull, Valérie Lagrange and Mireille Darc (the model/actress perhaps best known for her role in Jean-Luc Godard’s Week End) to record the duet with him, but they all turned him down, until, as fate would have it, he was to meet his greatest muse, English model/actress Jane Birkin on the set of the film Slogan. Birkin quickly agreed, seething with jealousy over the idea of someone else singing this sexy chant d’amore with him. When “Je t’aime…” was finally released, the song was banned from radio play in Spain, Sweden, Brazil, the UK, Italy, and Portugal. Even in France, the song was forbidden to be played before the hour of 11 pm. Most US radio stations didn’t touch it, but still the song went on to sell over four million copies.
“Je t’aime…” has been covered—a lot. There are moog versions, parodies and recordings of the song by the likes of Nick Cave and Anita Lane (who also recorded it with Barry Adamson), Psychic TV, Giorgio Moroder and Donna Summer, Pet Shop Boys with artist Sam Taylor-Johnson, Einstürzende Neubauten, and by Placebo’s Brian Molko with Italian actress Asia Argento (who reversed the gender roles). And that’s a very partial listing. I think it’s also safe to assume that at this very minute and indeed during every future minute before time comes to an end, that there are at least two drunken fools in love singing “Je t’aime…” in a karaoke bar somewhere on the planet.
Serge Gainsbourg et Jane Birkin performing “Je t’aime…” at the Eiffel Tower in Paris.
But probably the weirdest cover of “Je t’aime…” ever performed is by an enigmatic little old man by the name of Zvonimir Levačić or “Ševa” as he was known to viewers of Noćna mora (“Nightmare Stage”), the defiantly strange long-running live late-night telecast on Croatian television, which as far as I can tell was something analogous to an Eastern European version of Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job! Ševa was one of the show’s most popular performers and according to his bio (unless Google translate was way off, which it think it might be in this case) was a bit of a war hero who was considered to be an intellectual and philosopher. Still he seems a bit more Richard Dunn than Slavoj Žižek to me.
Watch it after the jump, and no, this is NOT a recent Happy Mondays reunion…