I’ve written about Serge Gainsbourg before, after hearing Histoire de Melody Nelson and all its street walking, hip thrusting bass and funk guitar for the first time. A concept album about an older man’s relationship with a much younger
woman girl, it could make for fairly uneasy listening. If you’re fluent in 1970s French street jive, it probably does. Since my French goes little further than Je suis allez au Magnum a la weekend, I’m none the wiser. But I still get the drift. Have a listen to Melody. You’ll get the drift too.
Here’s a wee film to help you along:
In France, Serge is considered something of a cultural and musical revolutionary, held in far greater esteem than any musicians really have the right to be. Over here, we’re proud of our artists and more than a wee big smug when considering the enormous contribution they’ve made to popular music. In France, Serge is right up there, above the clouds, above the stratosphere, above God. He is King. Say a bad word about him anywhere between Montparnasse and Montpellier and you’re liable to cause a good old fashioned émeute before the angry mob turns up at your door demanding your head on a stick. Oui, regardless of the sometimes dodgy subject matter, in France Serge can do no wrong.
Oh, Serge! Mes vêtements semblent avoir diminué au très de vue que vous!
His music can be equal parts folky chanson, string-swept stripped-bare funk, spoken-word, Gaulois-rasping after-hours jazz and repetetive, hypnotic and practically hip-hop in nature. It’s no wonder the breakbeat community love him, as his funkier records are choc-full of material ripe for sampling. Have a listen to Breakdown Suite. Another track, Requiem Pour Un Con, was cut-up by lo-fi indie experimentalists The Folk Implosion and sampled and looped into a fantastic instrumental tribute to Gainsbourg named ‘Serge‘. Amongst his best stuff, you’ll find such muse-driven objets d’art as Bonnie & Clyde or Melody Nelson’s L’Hotel Particulier and Cargo Culte or the super-Barryesque La Horse or Initials BB. Every one luscious, lascivious and chocolate fudge cake-rich in production. Big, booming mid-70s analogue treats. If you like these, do yourself a favour and track his stuff down. You won’t be disappointed.