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