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The Serge Gainsbourg Appreciation thread

Discussion in 'music' started by mandryka, Aug 1, 2021.

  1. mandryka

    mandryka pfm Member


    I am going to make August a month to explore the ins and outs -- political, ethical, musical, poetical, psychological, sexual -- of Gainsbarre. And I will use this thread to jot down what I discover on this journey into the far side of the politically incorrect.

    Join me if you dare, nothing is off limits. Though I think it will be pretty well impossible if you don't understand French -- but maybe not.
  2. mandryka

    mandryka pfm Member

    And to kick it off I'll mention that I've been enjoying this song over breakfast -- would such a song be released today? I think not -- despite the acceptability of violence in music, Gainsbourg's rampant libido feels uncomfortable in the 21st century. Why has that happened? Increased enlightenment, or increased endarkenment?

    And the words

    And a translation

  3. mandryka

    mandryka pfm Member

    When I was a kid I used to think that Gainsbourg was a radical anarchic lefty or something, because the reggae version of the Marseillaise, with it's irreverent refrain "Aux armes et cætera", is so iconoclastic -- it is a deeply racist national anthem of a deeply racist country after all, so singing it reggae style seemed to be saying something.

    And I used to believe that the famous incident where he burned a banknote on the TV was a sort of lefty anarchist (or something) gesture

    But nothing could be further from the truth. He set it reggae style because it was cheap to find reggae backing musicians! And when he burnt the 500F, it was to show how he was being overtaxed by a socialist government. It's a good example of how the image takes on a life totally independent from the reality.
  4. matt j

    matt j pfm Member

    I think he has been given a lot of leeway with his lyrics/persona just through being French and a bit aventgarde. When boiled down he is just a perv with some dodgy views/morals.
    fegs and Big Tabs like this.
  5. mandryka

    mandryka pfm Member

    Maybe. I'm going to explore precisely that question. He may be just a perv, he may be a latter day Baudelaire, Rimbaud, Marquis de Sade . . . This afternoon I've been exploring this one and it seems to me to be serious poetry in fact


    (Intimations of Dylan's Desire sometimes)
  6. Marchbanks

    Marchbanks Hat and Beard member

    That made me chuckle - it reminded me of Monty Python’s summing-up of Tchaikovsky.
  7. chartz

    chartz If it’s broke fix it!

    He was probably talented, but his public image was appalling.
    I remember him burning that big banknote – I was watching! – or making fun of veterans on a TV show.
    He was always drunk when he appeared. He was rude and disrespectful too. Remember the Whitney Houston incident?
    He also released loads of crap songs… and some incredibly creative and memorable ones!
    Serge certainly was an ambiguous character who was both adored and detested.
    I’m in between ;)
    Cheese and fegs like this.
  8. irons1965

    irons1965 pfm Member

    The book 'A Fistful Of Gitanes' is an excellent read plus I like to dip into this set every so often;-

    Serge Gainsbourg Integrale 20 CD Box

    Reading Sylvie Simmonds' book reveals a very complex character, certainly one without flaws but much more than a 'perv'.....

    Edit: For all the audiophiles, some of those early Philips recordings sound amazing btw.
  9. david ellwood

    david ellwood Kirabosi Kognoscente

    Melody Nelson is a fantastic piece of work.

    Im a fan of Charlottes too. 5:55 is a good introduction.
    chartz and irons1965 like this.
  10. Romulus

    Romulus pfm Member

    Never heard of him, what does he do or why is he famous (if so)?
  11. irons1965

    irons1965 pfm Member

    No Melody Nelson, no AIR French Band....
  12. mandryka

    mandryka pfm Member


    It's a concept CD -- he falls in love with Marilou, they have sex, he kills her, ends up going mad. French -- so the words matter, you won't get much out of it if you don't understand the poetry.

    I'll single out Variations sur Marilou. Note the references to Louis Carol

    I could find no good video on youtube, so I chose this hagiographical one

    And I like it when he goes mad -- good video here from INA

    Qui me roulait entre ses doigts comme du Caporal brought memories back -- can you still get Caporal?
  13. mandryka

    mandryka pfm Member

    I am convinced that you are wrong about being just a perv. And if your comment was meant seriously rather than as a provocation, I urge you to listen to this


    I'll try and write something about it later in the week, but for the moment suffice it to say that I think it is exceptional.

    I also think that you may be wrong about him having dodgy morals, though certainly the personae in his poetry are very incorrect, dodgy from a moral point of view. But the voice of the poem is not the voice of the poet.
  14. Del monaco

    Del monaco Del Monaco

    I couldn’t get passed the fact that I didn’t like him. A morally dubious,self indulgent and creepy guy. I will try again but it was painful enough the first time.
  15. Sean K

    Sean K pfm Member

    Has an utterly gorgeous bass line and bass tone on the title track, it makes me want to borrow my son's short scale squire with 20 year old strings on it and get a plectrum out.
  16. leevinyl

    leevinyl Member

  17. mandryka

    mandryka pfm Member

  18. chartz

    chartz If it’s broke fix it!

    Great man.
    Choose whoever you like. :p
    mandryka likes this.
  19. Dogberry

    Dogberry pfm Member

  20. Dogberry

    Dogberry pfm Member

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