You don't need to speak a word of French to understand Histoire de Melody Nelson – one needs only to look at the front cover (with its nearly pornographic portrait of a half-naked nymphet clutching a rag doll) or hear the lechery virtually dripping from Serge Gainsbourg's sleazily seductive voice to realize that this is the record your mother always warned you about, a masterpiece of perversion and corruption.
There aren’t many artists whose personal life overshadows their musical output but Serge Gainsbourg wasn’t like most artists. His early career was spent smoking Gitanes, lurching between love affairs with various screen sirens and drinking his way through the nightclubs of Paris. Later he would become a dishevelled regular on French television, setting fire to a 500 franc note and drunkenly declaring his wish to bed Whitney Houston, before dying of a heart attack at 62. It’s little wonder that, apart from a bar of heavy breathing in ‘Je t’aime… moi non plus’, history can’t handle Gainsbourg’s musical accomplishments and some of the singer’s best work remains largely forgotten.
This is the record your mother always warned you about, a masterpiece of perversion and corruption.
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 who composed almost the entire music in collaboration with Gainsbourg for the album, 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.
Classic album from the controversial French singer/songwriter, originally released in 1971. Sex has always sold, but presented with a landmark musical backdrop, the combination is rare as finding the elusive "G Spot". Quite often, attempts fall flaccid, missing the titillating mark by a mile. But French icon and national treasure Serge Gainsbourg is no stranger to sexual proclivities, and with Histoire De Melody Nelson, he shared an erotic tale as seductive today as the day it was released. With help from actress, amour, and inspiration Jane Birkin, arranger/conductor and co-conspirator Jean-Claude Vannier, not to mention a tight hand picked crew of top shelf UK session musicians, Nelson is often cited as Gainsbourg's master work, an essential album for the discerning music lover.
Toujours épaulé de Jean-Claude Vannier, esthète des arrangements, Serge Gainsbourg anticipe dès 1971 ses variations sur un même thème, celui de l'amour et ses désillusions. Le Paris de Saint-Germain-des-Près, que ce dandy désabusé empreint de culture jazzy traverse en peaufinant son esprit acerbe et caustique, n'est plus qu'un lointain souvenir. Désormais, Lucien Ginzburg défraie la chronique en écrivant un véritable concept album L'Histoire de Melody Nelson. En 7 compositions, dont deux de plus de 7 minutes, Gainsbourg raconte les aventures d'une garçonne aux cheveux rouges, "aimable petite conne" qui trouvera la mort à bord d'un boeing 707. Chef-d'oeuvre particulièrement prisé par les inconditionnels de Gainsbourg, L'Histoire de Melody Nelson récitée par celui qui n'est pas encore "L'homme à la tête de chou" navigue entre ballade, valse et rock basique. Un classique incontournable. –Sabrina Silamo
Serge Gainsbourg's fascination with the noisier bodily functions has been well-documented, both by his biographers and by his own records. Who else, after all, would commission Sly & Robbie to lay down their earthiest, dubbiest reggae rhythm, then punctuate it with nonstop farting noises ("Evguenie Sokolov" from 1981's Mauvaises Nouvelles des Etoiles album)? Who else would write a novel about a gas-stricken painter who turns his body-burps to his artistic advantage? And whose else could conceive an album dedicated in its near-entirety to…well, the song titles tell that story: "La Poupee Qui Fait" translates as "The Doll That Goes to the Toilet," the title track documents the messier consequences of anal sex, and "Des Vents, des Pets, des Boums" means, simply, "Wind, Farts, Booms."