Bon anniversaire, Serge Gainsbourg!

I love Serge Gainsbourg, me.  Today would have been his 89th birthday and since I received a gift of a (bootleg?) album of the Marie Mathématique soundtrack yesterday, what better way to celebrate Serge’s birthday than with a bit of MM?  Marie Mathématique was a cartoon, drawn by Jean-Claude Forest of Barbarella fame – Marie Mathématique was the little sister of Barbarella. There were six episodes, screened on the fab French TV show Dim Dam Dom from 28 October 1965 to April 1966.  Serge Gainsbourg did the narration and provided the music so, of course, the whole thing worked beautifully.  Marie never talks herself – the stories are told through the songs and on-screen text – but you do hear France Gall’s laugh throughout.  And in episode 4 you even hear a bit of Serge’s Qui est “in”, qui est “out”Each episode was introduced by a different presenter (or presenters):

Episode One was Sandie Shaw:Episode Two was Chantal Goya (also seen pointing to a huge photo of her husband Jean-Jacques Debout):Episode 3 was someone I should recognise, but I’m not sure – is it Marie-France Pisier? (please let me know who it is if it’s not her):Episode 4 was… I don’t know – they look great whoever they are (again, please let me know if you know):Episode 5 was another one I don’t know:And Episode 6 was, I think, Dorothy McGowan:Here’s some screen shots from the episodes, just because the artwork is so good:INA should give this an official release (you can watch it online for a fee here) with some English subs.

Anyway, to make this more about Serge, I thought I should share something else, very special.  For Christmas I was given this book, which is wonderful.  It’s Tony Frank’s latest book of photographs of Serge, signed especially for me, sigh! – there are quite a few photographs I’ve not seen before and I LOVE the one on the front cover, even though (or maybe because) Serge looks untidy and his jumper has got bobbly bits on it:I won’t share all the photos, you just need to buy yourself a copy – it’s limited edition, just 1,000 copies worldwide, all signed, and they are of a beautiful quality.  Celebrate Serge’s birthday and buy your copy here.  HAPPY BIRTHDAY, MISTER GAINSBOURG!!!

 

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Polnapop – Love Me, Please Love Me, Je suis folle de Polnareff

Well, the Polnapop La poupée qui fait non article proved to be a great success; not only did my French pop hero Michel Polnareff post a link to the article on Twitter (thank you, Monsieur Polnareff!) but I’ve also had a lot of Polnareff fans contacting me to pass on their encouragement, which has been lovely.  Evidently Polnareff’s fans are very ardent and committed; one of the French fans who couldn’t speak English and therefore couldn’t understand the article very well asked Michel Polnareff if he would translate it for her as she was concerned that I might have been saying something mean about him.  All I can say is, do you really think I would have 6 different copies of La poupée qui fait non and all the Polnareff biographies if I just wanted to be mean about him?  I might point out the irregularities in his anecdotes, but it’s only something that any other fan might notice if they read the books as well as I have.  Anyway, I’m sure he only does it for his own amusement, after all it must be boring being asked the same questions over and over again:

(Extract from Polnaréflexion, pp154-155, translated by me):

  • In interviews, I imagine you’re often asked the same questions…
  • Yes, it’s true
  • Is it very annoying?
  • No, not at all. Because I always reply with the same answer…
  • That must be wearisome…
  • No, no… I’m used to it. They are, it seems, the same things that are always of interest to people…
  • So, the same questions…
  • Yes, it’s very annoying…
  • But you can always reply with the same answer…
  • I know, but it’s very wearisome…
  • A question of getting used to it, I suppose?
  • Obviously.  Add to that, sometimes, like everyone else, I change my mind…

Anyway, next up Love Me, Please Love Me and another chance for me to show off my Polnacollection:

Love Me, Please Love Me / L’Amour avec toi / Ne me marchez pas sur les pieds

(Disc’AZ EP 1053, June 1966)

After the great success of La poupée qui fait non Michel Polnareff waited just one month to prove he was no one hit wonder when he released another classic EP Love Me, Please Love Me.  If La poupée qui fait non was a cutesy simple three chord pop song, Love Me, Please Love Me proved that Polnareff was an accomplished musician; maybe Georgia was on Polnareff’s mind a little bit when he wrote Love Me but other than that it can’t be faulted.  In fact, I’d say that you’d have to have a heart of stone not to fall in love with Polnareff after hearing Love Me, Please Love Me.  Sigh!

Difficult to believe that an Artistic Director at Disques Vogue said of Polnareff: “Nose is too long, sings in a shrill voice, will never be attractive to girls…”:

My original 1960s AZ promotional card for the Polnareff album and the La poupée qui fait non and Love Me, Please Love Me singles

Love Me, Please Love Me came out as a three track EP, which apparently was very unusual for the time.  This was undoubtedly because the title track was fairly long, running at 4 minutes 20 seconds, which would not allow for a second track to be included on the A side.

The lyrics for the title track were written by Franck Gérald who had collaborated on La poupée qui fait non.  This time the lyrics were credited to both Gérald and Polnareff because Polnareff had provided the song title in English, which they retained; the rest of the lyrics written by Gérald are in French.  The recording and production for the second EP were once again assigned to Jean Bouchety with work taking place in London, although it seems that the musical direction of the title track Love Me, Please Love Me is credited to Charles Blackwell, who often worked with Françoise Hardy in the 1960s.

Despite having 3 backing singers, 2 drummers and violins for the recording, Polnareff had wanted to make it more spectacular with the track running even longer, including some orchestral sequences, but he had to compromise on this; the longer a track ran, the poorer the sound quality became.  Polnareff didn’t, however, compromise on the piano recording – a studio musician had been lined up to play for the recording but it seemed it just wasn’t as good as Polnareff’s rendition of his own composition, so in the end he recorded it himself.

At this early stage in his professional music career Polnareff had not yet done any live concerts and he was asked to present Love Me, Please Love Me at the Festival de la Rose d’Or d’Antibes-Juan-les-Pins.  Whilst he had made his opinions on competitions clear following his refusal of the prize at the La Locomotive competition, Polnareff was told that it was very important for his career and so he was finally convinced to participate.

Once again, another bizarre Polnareff incident at a competition: amidst stormy weather and an audience that found Polnareff’s look a bit offbeat – shoulder length hair and huge yellow glasses – Polnareff and his song Love Me, Please Love Me were eliminated in the earlier stages of the competition by the judges.  However, whilst the jury made their views clear and the audience was split between those shouting out “Get your hair cut!” and others wildly applauding, the journalists were unanimous in their support of Polnareff and his new song – so much so that they created a new special prize, which they awarded to Polnareff:  the Critics Prize.  In contrast to the jury’s declared Rose d’Or winner (Jacqueline Dulac with Ceux de Varsovie), Polnareff went on to further great success with Love Me, Please Love Me going straight into the charts at number 2 for the period of 15 June to 15 July 1966 and selling about 300,000 copies between June and October 1966.

Love Me, Please Love Me:   In an interview in Mademoiselle age tendre (no 42), Polnareff says that there was a reason why he came up with an English title for the song; the song was composed for an American girl he was in love with at the time.  In terms of the lyrics, in Polnaculte Franck Gérald says that the use of the term ‘vous’ (the polite or very formal version of you) in place of ‘tu’, which is more commonly used between young people, seemed to be in a sense provocative.  Using ‘vous’ might imply that the woman Polnareff was asking to love him was more mature than he was or someone outside his social reach; at the time it was unheard of in popular music.  It wasn’t necessarily the case though because the use of ‘vous’ was predetermined to a certain extent by Polnareff’s vocal phrasing on his demo – he had used the “ou” sound, which would not accommodate the usage of the more familiar ‘tu’, meaning that Polnareff was not able to ‘tutoyer’ with his love object on this occasion.  Gérald says that had he tried to use the ‘tu’ sound in place of the ‘ou’ sound that Polnareff had adopted on his demo, the lyrics would not have been accepted by Polnareff.  It seems he was very particular for such an inexperienced performer; starting out the way he meant to go on!

The song is again one of Polnareff’s “woe is me” unrequited love songs.  Polnareff is addressing his song to a young woman who is totally disinterested in him, despite him declaring that he is crazy about her.  He wants her to love him, but instead she makes fun, remains silent or simply looks bored.  The situation may seem hopeless and faced with her indifference Polnareff wants to disappear into the night, but by morning he has regained his confidence and is hopeful that everything could change today.  It doesn’t sound hopeful but, o my, what a way to get other girls to feel sorry for him and to love him for showing his vulnerability.  A sure fire winner, I’d say!

For those who don’t speak French at all, Polnareff sings ‘je suis fou de vous’ – fou is the masculine French word for crazy, mad, insane.  The version I used in the title to this article, folle, is the feminine version; hence, je suis folle de Polnareff.

L’Amour avec toi:  If the use of ‘vous’ in Love Me… was slightly controversial, then the b-side (and if ever there was a b-side that deserved to be an a-side in its own right then this is one of them) L’Amour avec toi was downright scandalous.  It seems ridiculous to say it in this day and age but back in 1966, apparently, for Polnareff to say in a song in that he wanted to make love with a girl meant that the Bishop of Paris put in a complaint and the song could not be played before 10pm on radio stations.  Here’s an extract of the lyrics (excuse poor attempt at translation, but at least I try!):

There are some words we can think but not say in company
Me, I don’t give a damn about society and its alleged morality
I just want to make love to you
Of course I could tell you
That I live only for your smile
That your eyes are the bluest of all eyes
La la la, la la la
Some would say you can’t talk to a young girl like that
Those people do it but don’t say it…
I just want to make love to you

Whilst it might seem pretty tame today, as Polnareff puts it, it was “the porno song” of its day!

The “la la la, la la la” bit makes me laugh when I think about it – like he’s winging it and can’t think what else he would have to say if he was to have to go through the motions of being polite rather than just telling her that he would like to go to bed with her.  Maybe I’m just being cynical.  I think I am because, in fact, I have always thought of that song as being fairly innocent and sweet in its intentions, not at all sordid or “porno”; it’s a lovely, pretty song but there is no getting away from the fact that it is railing against “society” a little.

In fact, the lyrics to this one were self-penned, so we can’t even place the blame for this scandal with anyone else.  Naughty Michel!

If the intention was to scandalise with this one, though, it seems it didn’t work too well as the French public took this song to its heart and L’Amour avec toi became as well known (and as well loved) as Love Me, Please Love Me.

Ne me marchez pas sur les pieds:  If I thought L’Amour avec toi was sweet, then maybe I was wrong because here Polnareff begins to show his reluctance to be tied down to just one woman.  The lyrics were written by Frank Thomas, who was again presented with a track of Polnareff singing over his demo in franglais.  Thomas says he thought of Polnareff himself for inspiration for this one, which would be slightly disappointing if I wanted to believe that Polnareff was the romantic type (although it’s fair to say that that thought has long gone out of my head as I’ve learnt more about him).  Here’s an extract to give you a sense of the lyrics:

Listen to me, my sweet
This is how I live
And if you stay
Don’t try to walk all over me…
Nobody is strong enough to tie me down for life…
Others before you have already broken their noses
And our paths have separated
I’m like that
One day or another it won’t work for us two
If you insist
You may lose me…
But I beg and implore you
If you really love me
Don’t step on my feet
This is how I live
Take it or leave it…

Not a romantic song at all, but a good fuzzy, rebellious, garage punk style number.  Sadly this track wasn’t selected for inclusion on the album.

In summary I’d say, Love Me, Please Love Me is a wonderful EP with three cracking tracks and something for everyone.  And talking about something for everyone, do you prefer blonde Polnareff or dark haired Polnareff?  He had obviously bleached his hair since La poupée qui fait non and it suited him but I think I prefer the dark haired Polnareff myself:

 

So, I said I had 6 copies of La poupée qui fait non in my previous article but it seems I have 7 as I have this oddity, which fits both here and in the previous article really:

Love Me, Please Love Me / La poupée qui fait non 7″, HT300022 Hit-Ton, Germany

I say an oddity because of the typo – pouppée instead of poupée.

How many copies do I have of Love Me, Please Love Me?  Well, sad to say, not all of them yet.  I have the one above, plus the French EP pictured at the top of the article and the following copies:

Love Me, Please Love Me (German version) / Ich will dich lieben (L’Amour avec toi German version) 7″

HT300050, Disc’AZ

L’Amour avec toi / Love Me, Please Love Me 7″ , Palette PB 45.242, Belgium

Love Me, Please Love Me / L’Amour avec toi / Ne me marchez pas sur les pieds

Hispavox, HAZ 277 18, Spain

Just the five copies, sob!  I don’t yet have a copy of the Italian language version of Love Me, Please Love Me.  I know you can find the Italian version on YouTube but that’s not the point when you’re a collector; I have to get my hands on a copy of the single with a picture sleeve at some point to make my collection complete.  I also need the UK Disques Vogue 7” with picture cover.  If anyone knows where I can find either of these, please get in touch.

– – 0 – –

Aside from a colour scopitone (small video shown on jukeboxes in France) made for Love Me, Please Love Me, Polnareff appeared on TV to perform and promote the song on the following shows (and probably more):

À tous vents, 09.07.66, dir Alexandre Tarta
Palmarès des chansons – Les succès de l’été, 29.09.66, dir Roger Pradines
Tilt Magazine, 05.10.66, dir Pierre Desfons
Douce France, 08.10.66, dir François Chatel
Bienvenue chez Guy Béart, 18.11.66, dir Raoul Sangla
Télé-Dimanche, 16.04.67, dir Roger Pradines
Entre nous, 07.10.67, dir Georges Folgoas
Studio 102, 28.01.68, dir Jean-Pierre Spiero
Télé-Dimanche, 06.07.69, dir Jean-Pierre Spiero
Les étoiles de la chanson, 16.02.71, dir Jean Cohen
Le grand amphi, 17.04.71, dir André Flédérick

Here are some screen grabs from the scopitone, which inexplicably featured 3 women in bikinis jumping around a garden.  I know I’m being a bitch, right, but they could have picked someone who didn’t look like a Barbie doll that had had its eyes burnt out:

Jalouse, moi?! 

Apparently, according to Christian Eudeline’s fabulous Polnareff Le roi des fourmis  the scopitone was shot in the suburbs to the north of Paris.  One of the technicians working on the scopitone thought that Michel’s name was Paul, as in Paul Nareff!

Whilst Polnareff didn’t record an English language version of Love Me, Please Love Me (to my knowledge) he apparently sang it in English on the Guy Béart show, so I’d really like to see/hear that.  I would also love to see the Rose d’Or performance, which was televised on 25 June 1966.

The duet version with Aznavour (on Entre nous) is surprisingly appalling – and this is absolutely down to Aznavour and nothing to do with Michel Polnareff at all; Aznavour seems to be just reciting the lyrics (like an interloper!) whilst Polnareff plays the piano and sings beautifully.  I normally like Aznavour but on this occasion…

And if Aznavour is bad, then Sandie Shaw’s version does not fare much better – she performed the song in English with Polnareff on piano on Studio 102; for me it’s another disappointing version with Sandie ducking out of doing the “ooh, ooh, ooh” ending, which was clearly beyond her vocal range.  Again, I’m normally quite fond of Sandie Shaw but she just proved here that Polnareff makes it look deceptively easy and not everyone can sing Polnareff.

As ever I’m looking for some of these TV appearances if anyone has them and wants to do some trades or something.  I’ll keep asking until I get them!

Postscript August 2013:  I have added some more copies of Love Me, Please Love Me to my collection now, so here they are:

Polna Love002

Love Me, Please Love Me Dutch EP, Palette, EPPB 7271 – the EP cover states it’s the “long version” of Love Me – this is because the Palette 7″ single version was a shorter version of the song (presumably to make it more radio-friendly, or for those with shorter attention spans!)

Polna poupee003

Love Me, Please Love Me / La poupée qui fait non 7″, Metronome Germany, 1974 reissue, M 25.620

Postscript February 2014:  Excellent news for me, I received a Valentines Day present that’s a cut above flowers, chocolates, etc, look at this little beauty:

Polna Ital Love001Polna Ital Love002Finally, I have an Italian language copy of Love Me, Please Love Me  and L’Amour avec toi (in Italian L’Amour con te).  It’s on Disc’AZ, J 35115 X 45.  I’m so happy to have it.  This now means I have 8 different copies of Love Me, Please Love Me!

Information sources:  (i) POLNAREFF Le Roi des Fourmis, Christian Eudeline (ECLIPSE Editions, 1997); (ii) Polnaréflexion, Michel Polnareff en collaboration avec Jean-Michel Desjeunes (Éditions Stock, 1974); (iii) Polnareff par Polnareff, avec la collaboration de Philippe Manœuvre (Éditions Grasset & Fasquelle, 2004); (iv) Polnaculte, Benoît Cachin (Éditions de Tournon, 2007); (v) Mademoiselle age tendre, No 42, April 1968, article Michel Polnareff – mes “âme câlines” et moi, p78.

All (bad) translations into English are, as ever, my own.