Serge Gainsbourg-COMIC STRIP CD (Universal, France)
France has been getting picked on so badly over here inna USA by people who seem to be more'n a buncha yer everyday runna the mill nimnuls (I mean, calling French Fries Freedom Fries will look just as silly two years from now as calling Sauerkraut "Liberty Cabbage" must have in 1921 when it finally sunk into everyone's skulls just what a waste of people World War I was), so I for one will stick up for the Gallics in the face of all this twelve-year-old chest-beating going on. (Besides, and listen up all you Yanks, where would yer redwhitenblue be had France not lent a big hand in yer war for independence and besides, more French'n can be counted ended up maimed and slaughtered at the same nanosecond that Ameriga was actually believing the liar Wilson's promises of peace so where do you get off callin' 'em a buncha cowards anyway!) There's a lotta good stuff about France believe-it-or-not, and of course I'm not talking about the hideous portion of that nation's history like the Huegenots or the subsequent French Revolutionary proto-Stalins who paved the way for twentieth-century mass murder, nor do I mean the whole slew of sissified philosophers like Voltaire, Sartre, Derrida, Foucault and all of those pampered trust fund brats not only in France but the USA who clung to their every word, whim, desire and inane utterance. Naw...what this humble scribe is talking about is the France of Mahogany Brain and ROCK NEWS and all of those sleek automobile designs of the late-thirties (the Citroen 2CV was merely a low-budget variant on the way-classier Francomobiles that were cluttering up les rues of pre-Vichy France), not to mention this Serge Gainsbourg guy who's one of those Frenchies I've heard about for ages but never did get to lend an earfull...until now that is.
Mucho thanx goes again to Mike Snider for burning a CD of this as well as The Sensational Alex Harvey Band's NEXT, and although the latter didn't gel w/me the way FRAMED had (way softer, less intense and more or less a pretext to the nice yet mixed THE IMPOSSIBLE DREAM) I've found myself spinning COMIC STRIP repeatedly upon first impact. Yeah I knew the legend of Gainsbourg from his romances and the reportedly hot "Je t'aime...moi non plus" (hope I got that right) which I don't recall hearing on the radio when it became Gainsbourg's one and only Amerigan "hit" (I do remember the even more moan-laden "Jungle Fever" getting quickly snapped off as a kiddie, complete with a lotta yelling from the likes of mom!), but I passed on his music figuring the man just hadda've been another Maurice Chevallier or one of the many French song and dance men that came in his wake. Big people music as I used to say age seven.
But how wrong I was...Serge Gainsbourg (originally "Ginsberg" which cracks me up because the Frenchifying of his name reminds me of Educational Films star Willie Howard's old phony Frenchman character Pierre Gynsbairge pronounced Ginsberg!) wasn't just another hard-drinking womanizing French celeb but a hard-drinking, womanizing French celeb with a load of talent and a string of hits over there (sic) that transcend the usual pop hackjobs and naturally osmose themselves into melodies of pure art and I even mean art in the most Apollonian way at that even though Dionysus may have a say in it if he so desires. They work on two levels as do all good mass-production entertainment, on one level being great mindless sap for the boobs out there and on the other quality smart-music just brimming full of eroticism whether or not the music has any sexual content or not. (But you knew that already, and this past sentence was very Jonathan Richman-inspired...I hope you can detect that!) Believe me, most "pop" heard by my ears, and I'm talking about fifties/sixties adult contemp or whatever it's called never made an impression on me, but leave it to Gainsbourg to actually come up with "big people music" that doesn't come off as the soundtrack for that guy who's lived next door to you for the past fifty years, and he STILL looks like Dennis the Menace's father!
With French being about as Greek to me as Greek I can't make out the subtleties in Gainsbourgh's lyrics (Snider told me that "Les Sucettes," which was written for provincial teen idol France Gall in '65, "is about a little girl who likes to suck lollipops until the syrup goes down her throat") but I can sure get the whiff of Gainsbourg's truly evil intent with songs bearing such titles as "69 Annee Erotique"! Come to think of it, COMIC STRIP sounds like what I would have imagined an aural equivalent of an X-rated movie to be (we're talking about the days when films like MYRA BRECKENRIDGE and WHAT DO YOU SAY TO A NAKED LADY were considered way hotcha nudge-nudge by kids like me who never even saw 'em...I used to think that those kinda films were supposed to have been just as naughty as the all-out porn flicks that were getting picketed all over the place back then!). Real steamy pop music that I'm sure helped urge some gawky teenagers to take French over Latin back in their high school days!
The duets with French superstar Brigitte Bardot are tops, with her nonchalant speak-singing fitting in well with Gainsbourg's off-the-cuff coolness, reaching great heights on the title track where Bardot utters some great pop-art "zaps" and "pows" right outta BATMAN sounding pretty cool and sexy all the while which is a surprise for me because I'm not even hot on French women or anything. (The former sexpot and now controversial author also shines on some equally sixties modpop numbers like "Ford Mustang" and "Bloody Jack.") The music itself transcends the usual patented cliches into something more in tune with the sparkle and energy of late-sixties rock, sounding typically French on one song and almost freakbeat the next (Snider mentions the Kinks, though I am not as well versed in their late-sixties output as many of you are). It's sure nice hearing something planted so firmly in the adult-pop category yet at the same time has all of the energy and excitement of the best late-sixties rock & roll.
Still, for ultimate thrills get hold of "Je t'aime" as well as '67 cash-in "Bonnie and Clyde," the former done with British francophony Jane Birkin and the latter with Bardot. Birkin's sexual moans are more than enough to make any Silent Majority mom smash Junior's radio to a pulp (even though I saw pix of Birkin, and although she sure has a sexy face I thought she, uh, could have used the Mark Eden Course), while Gainsbourg's cinema cash-in is enough to drive you insane between his and Bardot's sexy swagger speaksinging and the mad droning music, which like on "Je t'aime" sounds like such a perfect distillation of pop and avant garde that it coulda ended up on the first Velvets album. Don't know if these two tracks are on COMIC STRIP (they're both at the end of my CD-R), but whether or not they are, SNATCH 'EM UP!!!
Saturday, November 13, 2004
Serge Gainsbourg-COMIC STRIP CD (Universal, France)