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L'histoire de Melody Nelson

Serge Gainsbourg

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iTunes Editors’ Notes

French icon Serge Gainsbourg comes across as a sleazy, unrepentant Leonard Cohen on this 1971 concept album about Gainsbourg’s erotic fantasies towards a very young Melody Nelson. Arranger-conductor Jean-Claude Vannier outdoes himself with a cinematic drama that equals the dripping lust of its narrator. The unusually funky grooves and slashing electric guitars occasionally catapult Gainsbourg into what sounds like an early-‘70s disco scene about to spiral out of control. Performed completely in French, “Melody” and “Cargo Culte” are two differing seven minute epics — the first sweeping and vast, the second, quiet and meandering. Elsewhere Gainsbourg needs less than two minutes to get his points across as the quick successes of “Ballade de Melody Nelson” and “Valse de Melody” prove out. In these mini-dramas, where strings and thumping bass push against Gainsbourg’s decadent cooing and whispers, one senses an entire range of emotion beyond the usual pop song. Histoire is an absolutely bizarre masterpiece that wears its bygone era well.

Customer Reviews

Je T'aime, Gainsbourg

Histoire de Melody Nelson is Gainsbourg's finest 28 minutes. It's mystical, sexy, seductive, dirty and even a bit vulgar. A concept album about doomed love for an English teenage girl, played by his greatest muse and partner Jane Birkin on the record and the glorious record cover. Birkin stands teasing in just blue jeans clutching a cuddly monkey to her [chest]. Jane told me that she placed this monkey in Gainsbourg's coffin with him when he died. The beautiful iconic cover would be worth the price of admission alone but the music is even more mesmerising. During the 60s and still in in 1971 when this album was originally released most people were content to make variations on a theme created by The Beatles, Bob Dylan and Brian Wilson... but what Serge offered, his brand of pop, had a completely different and individual voice. The gophic bookend tracks of the album Melody and Cargo Culte sound extraordinarily modern even today. There is great tenderness and melancholy in Ballade de Melody Nelson and Ah! Melody. Witness the sound of Jane Birkin laughing hysterically over the grooviest of 70s psych-grooves on En Melody. Birkin was actually being tickled by her brother Andrew while Serge had a tape running on record under her bed. Don't be put off by the short running time, length doesn't matter, it's what you do with it that counts. Histoire de Melody Nelson is ultra cool, ultra sexy and ultra modern music. -the top review for this album on I couldn't explain it better, so I thought all you looking should read this good paragraph. All credit goes to D. Stewart "duglas"

oh la la

First, let me throw out a couple of caveats in regards to this one: 1). I don’t speak French. And 2). This was originally released in 1968. In regards to the first, this hardly matters when it comes to Gainsbourg — especially this record. All you need to know (and believe me there won’t be any confusion about it) is that machismo and sexuality are what he’s going for (surprise surprise). As to the second, well, until 2009, the album has essentially been out of print and unavailable to all but the most committed of crate divers. So then caveats aside, what do we have? A funky, dripping, sexy album that’s as hip now as it was no doubt then.

Dark Delight!

It is not a Mercedes but a Rolls Royce... Every music lover should have this beautiful masterpiece!


Born: April 2, 1928 in Paris, France

Genre: French Pop

Years Active: '50s, '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s

Serge Gainsbourg was the dirty old man of popular music; a French singer/songwriter and provocateur notorious for his voracious appetite for alcohol, cigarettes, and women, his scandalous, taboo-shattering output made him a legend in Europe but only a cult figure in America, where his lone hit "Je...
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