Serge Gainsbourg - Histoire de Melody Nelson (1971)

Posted by Amelia Swhizzagers On 7:36 AM

Histoire de Melody Nelson was released in 1971. This concept album, produced and arranged by Jean-Claude Vannier, tells the story of a Lolita-esque affair, with Gainsbourg as the narrator and Jane Birkin as the eponymous English heroine. It features prominent string arrangements and even a massed choir at its tragic climax. The album has proven influential with artists such as Air, David Holmes, Jarvis Cocker, Beck and Dan the Automator.
Histoire de Melody Nelson is a 1971 concept album by controversial French songwriter Serge Gainsbourg. The Lolita-esque pseudo-autobiographical plot involves the middle-aged Gainsbourg unintentionally colliding his Rolls Royce Silver Ghost into teenage nymphet Melody Nelson's bicycle, and the subsequent seduction and romance that ensues. Histoire de Melody Nelson is considered by many critics and fans to be Gainsbourg's most influential and accomplished album.

At just under twenty-eight minutes, the short running time and the stylistic consistency and similarity throughout the album gives it qualities more in line with an EP or an extended musical piece with a number of movements. Histoire de Melody Nelson‘s mix of freewheeling guitar, funk style bass guitar, near spoken word vocal delivery, and lush, deep orchestrated string and choral arrangements by Jean-Claude Vannier[1] have proven to be highly influential amongst later francophone and anglophone musical performers including the French band Air, David Holmes, Pulp's Jarvis Cocker, Portishead, and Beck, whose 2002 track "Paper Tiger" from Sea Change is extremely close to the distinctive Histoire de Melody Nelson sound.

After the release of the album, a music video was made for each song, and released all together as "Melody" a short musical.

Jean-Claude Vannier performed the album live at London's Barbican on October 21st 2006 with guest vocalists Jarvis Cocker, Badly Drawn Boy, Brigitte Fontaine, The Bad Seeds’ Mick Harvey and lead singer from Super Furry Animals, Gruff Rhys. Vannier performed the album in its entirety alongside his own solo album L'Enfant Assassin Des Mouches.

Publicity for the Barbican concert revealed that the musicians used for the album were Dougie Wright, Big Jim Sullivan, Herbie Flowers and Vic Flick who all joined Vannier for the concert.

The second track, "Ballade de Melody Nelson", was covered by Placebo as "The Ballad of Melody Nelson" and released on a bonus disc for their 2003 album "Sleeping With Ghosts". The lyrics were translated into English and in some parts changed altogether.
01. Melody – 7:32
02. Ballade de Melody Nelson – 2:00
03. Valse de Melody – 1:31
04. Ah! Melody – 1:47
05. L'hôtel particulier – 4:05
06. En Melody – 3:25
07. Cargo Culte – 7:37

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