HISTOIRE DE MELODIE NELSON by Serge Gainsbourg

Music sucks in Pattaya. Old farangs sing HOTEL CALIFORNIA and bar girls dance to boy band love ballads, while Thai bands play dinosaur rock for drunken tourists.

Nothing’s wrong with a bad reprise of SMOKE ON THE WATER, except I once hung out in nightclubs and bars in which music meant more than a tune you can sing while drinking beer with your mates, hoping the Viagra will work with your new missus. Pattaya certainly doesn’t have a bar close to Max’s Kansas City, where you could see the Jam, MC5, or Iggy.

Not even close and none of the geezers here care, because most Pattaya farangs are so low-class that their mental playlist is whatever was playing on their car radio i.e. muzak for 9-to-5 existences and none of them ever heard Serge Gainsbourg’s HISTOIRE DE MELODIE NELSEN.

And that’s too bad, because this 26-minute masterpiece set a high-water mark in 1971.

Forget the sexy French lyrics.

Forget Jane Birkin’s breathy interpretation, for her daughter was sexier in LEMON INCEST.

Dig how the guitar and bass weave a groove unattainable in this modern world on pre-packaged CDs, as Serge croons his tale of a Lolita sans the fear of moral outrage. This concept album wiped the floor with the Beatles’ SERGEANT PEPPER.

But they were no longer a band in 1971, but they must have spun this record and said, “We fucked up.”

Horrible to know you will never write anything as good as HISTOIRE OF MELODIE NELSEN.

Worse is to copy the LP like Beck, a talented plagiarist, because he’s no Jean-Claude Vannier, who arranged the 33 rpm disc for Serge, who was the ugliest man in Christendom, yet ended up with Jane Birkin as his sex slave.

The two of them might have had Jimmie Page play lead guitar. That’s the rumor, but the riff sound nothing like his solos with Led Zeppelin or the Yardbirds.

Understated and raw leaving you asking for more of 15 year-old girls on bicycles, Rolls-Royce, defloweration and a dirge about Melodie dying in a plane crash.

Not 9/11.

It was genius and I advise anyone with any musical taste to pick up this chef d’ouvres, for a song with the line ‘une poupée qui perd l’équilibre, la jupe retroussée sur ses pantalons blancs… (A doll who lost her balance, her skirt pushed up over her white leggings) isn’t getting any radio play in America.

Not this year.

But I got it on right now

Midnight. Gin-tonic. Dark outside.

Melodie Nelson.

The LP should have been a big hit, except French music has failed to dent the charts. The only excursion into the Top Ten was by the Singing Nun with her 1963 hit DOMINIQUE. The language is a problem. No teenager wants to dance to music whose lyrics need subtitles.

Tant pis or too bad, for French music has produced hundreds of great songs by Alain Bashung, Jane Birkin, Manu Chao, Julien Clerc, Etienne Daho, Jacno, Jacques Dutronc, France Gall, Françoise Hardy, Indochine, Marc Lavoine, Vanessa Paradis, Les Rita Mitsouko, Alain Souchon, Les têtes raides, Tahiti 80, Téléphone, Sylvie Vartan ad infinitum.

And of course Serge Gainsbourg.

Recently I searched to find their names of the musicians and someone added them to Wikpedia.

# Alan Parker – guitar
# Herbie Flowers – bass
# Douglas Wright – drums
# Alan Hawkshaw – piano
# Jean-Claude Vannier – arrangements, Orchestra Director
# Jane Birkin – vocal parts (and posed for front cover art)

A belated thanks to them for the hours of listening to a gem.

To hear Melodie Nelson go to the following URL

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7X5LwFCHNe4

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