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Nov 07

CHARLES AZNAVOUR – “She”

FT + Popular48 comments • 8,040 views

#352, 29th June 1974

Elle

People remembering the 1970s as a grim decade must surely be forgetting records like this, which prove that it was also a time of romance and sophistication. Romance of course meaning “French”. And sophistication meaning….”French”. And they don’t come much more romantic and sophisticated than Charles Aznavour.

“She”‘s lyrics take a somewhat easy road – womankind as an exotic, unknowable, endlessly mysterious other. Men are from France, women are from Venus. You don’t get much sense that “She” is a real human being, which is of course the point – this record is both all-purpose (who wouldn’t imagine they were flattering their lover by implying that she is She) and aspirational (but actually it’s probably Brigitte Bardot or someone). Under the heavily-accented corn there’s a song here somewhere but I can’t say I have the patience to uncover it.

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Comments

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  1. 26
    mike on 2 Nov 2007 #

    Back to “She”: does anyone else hear premonitions of “Fairytale of New York” in its opening moments?

  2. 27
    crag on 2 Nov 2007 #

    Beautiful melody, lovely arrangement, and that voice giving it the hook to make it stand out from the pack – yet another number 1 like Waterloo and even perhaps Seasons in the Sun(with its unusually perky musical arrangement) that seems to combine optimism w/ a meloncholy sigh of regret. Must have been something in the water at the time.
    3 is way out- would have probably hated it at the time but this is a def 8 now.

  3. 28
    Marcello Carlin on 2 Nov 2007 #

    Mike xpost: I prefer to blot such traumas out.

  4. 29
    Marcus Floater on 2 Nov 2007 #

    An overripe slice of French cheese, is my feeling. Aznavour did much better things than this, but nonetheless he remains a second-rank chansonnier, compared with the likes of Brel, Brassens, Ferré, etc. A good actor, though. He’s excellent in Chabrol’s Fantômes du chapelier.

    I seem to remember reading that this single was a huge flop in France!

  5. 30

    (it is WRONG that “cheese” become a word of disapproval! in a sane world “french cheese” would be a massive thumbs-up)

    (i am going to add it to my list of WORDS IT IS V.LAME TO USE AS a DISS alongside dinosaur and fat cat)

  6. 31
    Marcello Carlin on 2 Nov 2007 #

    and pretentious

  7. 32
    Erithian on 2 Nov 2007 #

    This spate of Francophilia came at around the same time as the Cointreau adverts. You know the one – woman at dinner party asks French guest, “What is Cointreau?” Frenchman reads the label:“Inimitable chef d’oeuvre – litairallee a mastairpiece zat cannot be equalled” etc etc. French entertainers such as Sacha Distel and Mireille Mathieu were on our screens a fair amount. And we weren’t too far away from a referendum in which there was a bigger vote in favour of the EC than you might expect today. Perhaps we just liked them more than we do now!

  8. 33

    also michel legrand! the taste-community for material like this has fallen through a hole in history a bit

    diclaimer: as a tot i thought LES SWINGLE SINGERS were the greatest thing in all art and music

  9. 34

    haha IN PARTICULAR the xmas ad they did for DE KUYPER CHERRY BRANDY

  10. 35
    Waldo on 4 Nov 2007 #

    One day at school in the summer of 1974, a few weeks before I was to take summer exams as a second year, I wrote a composition for English class called “Boxing Day Bobby”. This told the seasonal tale of an enterprising lad (Bobby) who struck on a blinding money spinning idea. He simply went around all the houses in his well-healed neighbourhood on the day after Christmas, collecting up all the now neglected presents of puppies, kitties and bunnies into a perforated potato sack to take down to a bridge over a stream and there indulge in his own variation of “Pooh sticks”. For this vital service, Bobby naturally takes a commission. On the back of this delightful festive story I was cordially invited to undergo a programme of half hour treatments with Doctor Ramesh Ganges, who was on site to help my school’s many “special” children. During these sessions (there were about six of them, I think) I can remember moving flat animal shapes around a board depicting a farm, drawing the “Play School” house over and over and also playing Ludo with Doctor Ganges, which is rather like Trivial Pursuit without the questions. I remember Doctor Ganges as being a dear man, who reminded me of Professor Calculus from the “Tintin” stories, but his parting remark to me was double-edged:

    “Waldo, you are a clever and creative boy but your imagination tells me that there is something disturbing in you…” Charming.

    When I returned to my class, I had it on good authority that I would broadly be left to my own devices and not subjected to any cruelty. Amazingly this held sway. I think the advent of the exam season had much to do with it and I was, after all, in the “O-level stream”, largely a civilised group within a school choc-full of psychotics, neurotics, bullies, nincompoops, half-wits and violent basket cases (and that was just the girls).

    Everything was going swimmingly until “She” by Charles Aznavour charted and very quickly occupied the top spot. Universally this record was loathed by my contemporaries, boy and girl, but I personally thought it was a beautiful song and said so, even though it was the theme to a Frank Finlay-esque TV series no bugger ever watched. I particularly liked the line about “beauty/beast, famine/feast”. I said this openly too. It was only after this happened that I walked into class after lunch one day and saw that somebody had scrawled “WALDO IS CRACKERS!” on the blackboard. I had my own idea as to the culprit but it wasn’t important. What was important was that someone had obviously considered my fondness for a pop ballad as a clearer sign of lunacy than my drowning-the-pets story, which even I later conceded was a worrying piece of prose, the consequent psychoanalysis of the thirteen year-old author being perfectly understandable. Thank God I’m cured now.

    Happy Days!

  11. 36
    intothefireuk on 4 Nov 2007 #

    I would have thought ‘Crackers’ was a fairly mild taunt even for thirteen year olds. I can see their point though.

  12. 37
    Erithian on 5 Nov 2007 #

    Although these days, “Boxing Day Bobby” would not only be published but earn you a slot on Channel 4.

  13. 38
    Marcello Carlin on 5 Nov 2007 #

    Dr Ganges????? Surely too much of a coincidence on the Pooh Sticks tip.

    I look forward to Charlie Brooker recycling Waldo’s story as his own idea in next Saturday’s Guide.

  14. 39
    Waldo on 10 Nov 2007 #

    “Boxing Day Bobby” occupied all of three and a half pages of a red A5 exercise book. At the bottom was the comment from my teacher: “See Me”. The spooky thing was I can’t recall my parents having anything to do with my consequent sessions with Doctor Gangees, although I consider it unthinkable that they would not have been consulted to see whether there were any objections to my treatment. As for the story itself, Charlie Brooker and/or Channel 4 are quite welcome to it.

  15. 40
    Marcello Carlin on 10 Nov 2007 #

    Ah yes, the good old, intimidating “See me” in red ink. Quite a popular writing theme in my own West Central Scotland schooldays actually, although kittens etc. would have been replaced by “Catholics” or “Protestants” being given the Pooh Sticks treatment, depending on which school you went to (woe betide you in certain parts of Lanarkshire if you had a blue exercise book).

  16. 41
    Waldo on 10 Nov 2007 #

    I must confess that “See me” appeared more than just the once as a mark for my English compositions or “stories” as the thick kids called them. Far more satisfying was a comment regarding a piece I wrote about a swimming pool, comparing this to the Berlin Wall. I was very pleased with it and the teacher’s remark was “Good if original”. The implication was obvious and when I showed this to my dear old mum, she was livid and ready to steam round to the school to confront the teacher. I assured her that the comment was the most flattering thing he could have written and that his opinion didn’t matter. If he felt that the work was beyond my wit (I was only a scumbag comprehensive school kid after all), it was completely up to him. My mum could never see this but a face-off with the school was fortunately avoided.

  17. 42
    Erithian on 13 Nov 2007 #

    My favourite pieces of teacher’s marginalia came from Mr Harvey, our English teacher. When I wrote about Macbeth’s situation in relation to that of Banquo, “as the song says, money can’t buy me love”, he wrote laconically, “Your frame of reference is perhaps stretched a little too far here.” Another time he wrote, quite reasonably in retrospect, “The needle on my waffle-ometer is pinging away merrily at this point.” Top man, Mr Harvey…

  18. 43
    mike on 13 Nov 2007 #

    From my French teacher, on an end-of-term report: “He is making good progress, but he must learn to confine himself to what is considered to be acceptable French.”

  19. 44
    granny85 on 3 Dec 2007 #

    Can anyone remember who the hunk was in the old Cointreau advert?
    He had a lovely way of saying ‘ora-nggges’!!

  20. 45
    Marcello Carlin on 3 Dec 2007 #

    Google says it was one Christian Toma.

  21. 46
    AndyPandy on 31 Dec 2008 #

    Obviously found this very boring as an 8 or 9 year old kid listening to the Top 20 (although it didnt used to actively annoy me like ‘Seasons In The Sun’ or ‘Eye Level’). Now I think it’s pretty amazing one of those rare tracks which I appreciate more the more I hear it.PS strangely enough a similar thing has happened with ‘Seasons in the Sun’ unlike ‘Eye Level’ which I still can’t bloody stand! and that’s from a person who loves instrumental music…

  22. 47
    Matthew on 31 Dec 2008 #

    I discovered this through the EC cover and I think it’s a pretty perfect song. Nice to see it’s polarizing people… great songs probably should.

  23. 48
    xxx on 13 Sep 2009 #

    Buen cantante con buena sensibilidad, que dejara un buen legado.

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