Thursday, June 10, 2010

Serge Gainsbourg


Serge Gainsbourg

I recently lucked into an inexpensive copy of the 17CD boxed set (“Gainsbourg Forever”) of the studio albums by French singer / songwriter Serge Gainsbourg (1928 – 1991). An acquired taste, to be sure. I think I first really heard him around the time of “Love On The Beat” (1984) – I remember that the US album that was released had a “Parental Advisory” sticker on the cover – despite the lion’s share of the lyrics being in the French language. Huh? At least it got a US release!

I remember seeing all the posters for “Mauvais Nouvelles Des Etoiles” all over Paris on one of my early visits there – I didn’t really know who he was – and I certainly didn’t hear his reggae albums at the time they were made.

My 80’s interest in French pop music was created by luckily finding LP’s by Etienne Daho, Les Rita Mitsouko and Charlelie Couture – I’d done the French progressive rock bands in the 70’s – but that wasn’t all together a “singer / songwriter” scene – Magma, Catharsis, Pulsar – those kind of artists.

After finding several Serge Gainsbourg CD’s and a few LP’s – I read about a 9CD boxed set that could be special ordered, toward the end of the 80’s. It was meant to be “everything” that was to be available on CD. Serge was still alive, I hasten to add. Even in 2010 – almost 20 years after his death – I still listen to him a lot, and I continue to add to my collection. My facilitator was Rick @ Poo Bah’s – who let me trade in all my Gainsbourg CD’s to help cut down the hefty price tag on this first CD box. Man, it was a mouthful! I found I really dug the early 60’s material, particularly “Confidentiel” (which remains a real favorite record of mine, for any genre).

The 17CD boxed set isn’t everything – no live albums, and – unless I am totally out of

the pool – none of his original soundtrack work (such as his fabulous “Anna” score). But crisp new (2003) re-masters of all of his studio albums – the new mastering of “Love On The Beat” is a tremendous improvement over the old ’84 CD…

I remember playing “L’Homme A Tete De Chou” to a Japanese progressive rock fan once, while we were driving somewhere in my car – he couldn’t believe his ears! Ha ha, he thought it was progressive rock! I have read (and been told) that in France, all of Gainsbourg’s records are well received because everything he did, every “style” he tried – rock, reggae, chanson, prog rock etc. – all were valid examples of each style.

Some people are charmed by his ex-wife Jane Birkin. Some people like his daughter Charlotte Gainsbourg (ever hear “Charlotte Forever”?) – I always rather liked that he seemed to love to write songs for women to sing – Isabelle Adjani, Catherine Deneuve, Viktor Lazlo etc.

I was very bummed when he died. Jane said on British TV that whenever workmen would come to her house (where SG had lived) they would say to her, “Who will be there to make fun for us now?” Merci pour la musique, Serge-san.

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