Ignored Obscured Restored
Serge Gainsbourg was a French Renaissance man. He made his mark in music (singer, composer, pianist, guitarist) and film (screenwriter, director, actor) but he was also a writer, poet and artist.
In the music world, his most renowned work was the 1971 concept album, Histoire de Melody Nelson. In seven tracks over about 28 minutes, the album tells the story of a middle-aged man that crashes his car into a 15 year old girl, Melody Nelson, on her bicycle. The accident leads to seduction and an affair. Eventually Melody meets her demise in a plane crash.
Today’s SotW is the album’s opener, “Melody.”
This is an astounding piece of music. It combines a rock guitar with a funky bass and an orchestral string arrangement. Gainsbourg’s vocal is more spoken than sung, like many of Leonard Cohen’s recordings. The track as a whole is simply mesmerizing.
The link below to a blog post by YellowOnline provides more detail about the album and handy translations of the French lyrics into English.
Histoire de Melody Nelson has influenced many other musicians, including Michael Stipe (R.E.M.), Portishead and Stereolab. Beck found inspiration from Histoire… for his own “Paper Tiger” on his breakup album, Sea Change. Histoire… was also cited by Alex Turner of the Arctic Monkeys as an inspiration for their recent album Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino.
Enjoy… until next week.