March 4, 2013 by joesonotheque
Histoire de Melody Gainsbourg: The Music of Serge Gainsbourg
Tuesday, April 2 – 7pm -2am – Free, no cover
Hosted by DJ Pierre Clochard (aka DJ Vagrant)
960 W. 31st St., Chicago, Il. 60608, 773-890-0588
Nestled between the bustling Boulevard Saint-Germaine, chronicled in his musings on post-war fifties Left Bank sub-culture by writer/poet/jazz musician Boris Vian, and the Seine river in the Seventh Arrondissement is the Rue de Verneuil. One of Paris’ many charming hidden streets that gives the “City of Light” much of it’s romantic charm and cosmopolitan allure, Rue de Verneuil would hardly be mistaken for a tourist destination.
Yet, if one aimlessly wanders upon this quiet unassuming side street while strolling like some later-day Bauderlairian flaneur, one’s vision immediately seizes upon the graffiti-covered building at #5, past home of the infamous French singer-songwriter and cultural provocateur Serge Gainsbourg. Suffering a cardiac arrest on March 2, 1991 Gainsbourg died after many years of bacchanalian hedonism (one needs to give a listen to the pop-dirge lyrics of “Intoxicated Man” for a sense of his abuse and love of alcohol) leaving one of 20th century’s best testaments on the complex destiny of man, his fall from grace and scorn for the world.
His life and death was likened by his contemporaries to that of fin de siecle decadent poet Paul Verlaine with even French President Francois Mitterrand eulogizing his passing by stating at his funeral, “He was our Bauderlaire, our Apollinaire . . . . he elevated the song to the level of art”. His death brought his much beloved Paris to a standstill with fellow artists, celebrities and politicians deeply mourning his loss. He fittingly was buried at Montparnasse Cemetery, the final resting place of Beckett, Sartre and Maupassant.
To pay homage to the life and legacy of Serge Gainsbourg, Maria’s Package Goods & Caveau Maudit (French for “wretched little dive”) is hosting “Histoire de Melody Gainsbourg” on Tuesday, April 2 (7pm – 2am), the 85th anniversary of his birth. Hosted by DJ Pierre Clochard (aka DJ Vagrant) “Histoire” aims to celebrate in an appropriately hedonistic manner Gainsbourg’s oevre and lifestyle, each inseparable from one another.
With his unorthodox behaviour as enfant terrible (quite hard to accomplish in middle-age; yet he did) Gainsbourg often tweaked convention and poked fun at societal norms. On television protesting heavy taxation he set fire to a 500 Franc note and in 1986 while performing on Michel Procker’s popular live Saturday evening show made lewd and inappropriate remarks to visiting American singer Whitney Houston exclaiming “I want to fuck her”. One must remember that those were pre-Bobby Brown days.
His shocking sexually risque lyrics for songs for France Gall (“Les Sucettes”), both Jane Birkin and Brigitte Bardot (“Je t’aime moi non plus”) and the highly controversial duet with his young daughter Charlotte (“Lemon Incest”) often overshadowed his creative output and musical depth. Yet, Gainsbourg’s scandalous boorish behavior, drug use and publc drunkeness often hid and protected his shyness, sensitivity and generosity (he was well loved by the local Parisian cabbies for leaving large tips while taking him back home after another night of debauchery). Comparing himself to Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, he adopted the moniker “Gainsbarre”, his alter-ego that was both uncontrollable yet somehow utterly captivating.
Gainsbourg’s genius incorporated styles ranging from jazz, African, ballads, pop, reggae, psychedelic, disco, bossa nova, rock and calypso while continually re-inventing himself over the decades. His songs, like those of his musical predecessors Edith Piaf and Aristide Bruant are filled with themes ranging from despair, isolation, suicide, lust, boredom , abandonment, jealousy and even sometimes hope. Noted British biographer Alan Clayson wonderfully captured Gainsbourg’s strange mystique in his book “A View From The Exterior” by stating, “He was an appalling fellow, really, but I liked him.”
“Histoire” will cover the life, legacy and creative output of Gainsbourg’s tumultuous career, from his earliest recordings in 1959, his winning of the Eurovision Song Contast in 1965, his collaborations with Brigitte Bardot, Dalida, France Gall and his muse Jane Birkin, his 1971 concept album “Historie de Melody Nelson”, his 1975 noir album “Rock Around the Bunker”, his reggae-inspired album “Aux Armes Et Cetera” (1979) with Rita Marley and Sly & Robbie to the electro-groove of 1987’s “You’re Under Arrest.”
“Historie” will also showcase the numerous interpretations of Gainsbourg’s corpus including works by Juliette Greco, Catherine Sauvage, Petula Clark, Regine, Francoise Hardy, Mick Harvey and MC Solaar. The evening begins at 7pm with a special 2 hour video presentation of rare Gainsbourg live French television performances and Scopitone videos. Marials expert mixologists will concoct some unique French-inspired cocktails for a bit of “La Vie Boheme” using pastis, lilette, champagne and bourbon (a favorite of Serge).