30
Apr 02

NAME AND SHAME

I Hate MusicPost a comment • 677 views

NAME AND SHAME

Readers – solve my pop riddle and name the star!

This man, sinfully ugly though possessed (his friends later said) of a strange charm, rose to prominence in the 1960s with a succession of novelty hits, and quickly established himself as a fixture on the pop scene. During the 1970s and 1980s the hits kept coming – though less frequently – and he tried his hand at songwriting in almost every genre, the results usually shot through with his distinctive brand of smutty humour. Towards the end of his career, though, he was embroiled in an underage sex scandal.

Maybe you’re thinking of self-made martyr and laughable pop perv Jonathan King? If so, you’re wrong – I’m talking of course about Serge Gainsbourg, toad-faced Godfather of Gallic pop. I occasionally think of moving to France: the music is just as bad but the booze is cheaper and at least I wouldn’t be able to understand the lyrics. But then I think of Serge, and shudder at the knowledge that where Britain hounds and imprisons its novelty pop stars, France turns them into national icons.

Gainsbourg’s reputation as a genius rests on an endless succession of naughty pranks – getting some Eurovision poppet to sing a song about blowjobs; getting Brigitte Bardot to sing a song about shagging; getting Jane Birkin to sing a song about bum sex; getting a bunch of lounge-jazz musos to play songs about fucking a 15-year old; getting Sly and Robbie to do the national anthem in comedy dirty reggae style; getting his daughter to ‘sing’ a song about incest….oh, and writing a book about farting, and sexually harassing Whitney Houston. Rabelaisian? Hardly. Gainsbourg is the Benny Hill of pop.

Like Jonathan King and “Weird” Al Yankovic, Gainsbourg could turn his hand to any kind of music, just as long as you didn’t ask him to do it well. The clattery, clumsy rhythms of his sixties ‘rock and roll’ efforts were a pathetic, Pat Boone take on the music. “Je T’Aime” has the dishonour of sounding like twenty years of lame porno soundtracks – except, astonishingly, even less funky. The stinkiest hippie on the lowliest commune could have beaten Serge’s 70s acoustic numbers into the ground. Your phone is a better synthesizer than the ones on his 80s records.

And then he died. His influence is with us today, of course – France still turns up the odd snippet of paedo-pop in honour of the old bore (Latest example: “Moi….Lolita”) – though it’s worth remarking that the only French music to have become remotely fashionable since Serge turned his toes up is house, the only kind of music he didn’t get a chance to ruin. And Serge looms large in the memory of assorted neurotics desperate to convince themselves they’re having filthier sex than the general public. That public ignores such people and gets on with shagging like rabbits – and whatever soundtrack they choose, you can bet your life it’s not Serge Gainsbourg.

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