And now for something completely different
Georges V/Four Seasons Hotel, Paris, May 23, 2007: Bambou, Serge Gainsbourg’s paramour for the last decade of his life, arrives with Lulu (né Lucien), their now 21-year-old son. Lulu is very tall, big, handsome, with long dark hair—he looks like a rock star. Bambou (née Caroline Von Paulus) is half Chinese, half German, and looks at least a decade younger than her 48 years. She carries a Birkin bag; she says Lulu gave it to her on his 18th birthday to thank her for taking such good care of him. They live in Paris in the house Serge bought for Lulu. Serge nicknamed her “Bambou,” she says, because she used to smoke opium and was a junkie when she met him (she’s now sober), but, she says, she never used drugs in his presence—he wouldn’t allow it in his house. She tells me how he tried to turn her into a singer, about his failing health after a 1989 liver operation and subsequent stays in the hospital, and says, “Serge was everything to me. He was my lover, my father—he was my real family. And with Lulu, he left me an angel.” (Lisa Robinson, Vanity Fair, November 2007)
It was mid-August and I was just leaving California for New York when I received an email from a publicist who keeps me in mind, and she was pitching a new album by someone named Lulu Gainsbourg. Of course I recognized the last name, and quickly listened to the Soundcloud links she included. Hardly my thing…so I sent them to my son whose tastes and interests are on a much higher plane than moi. He dug it. The publicist wrote that “Lulu is the son of Serge Gainsbourg and actress/model/singer Bambou and his debut album is a tribute to his father, featuring a special collection of handpicked covers and collaborations with Scarlett Johansson, Rufus Wainwright, Johnny Depp and Vanessa Paradis, Iggy Pop, and more.” The “and more” she didn’t mention includes Marianne Faithful, Shane MacGowan, Sly Johnson, Angelo Debarre and, forgive me…more.
She also noted, “Half-brother to Charlotte Gainsbourg, Lulu started playing piano when he was five years old and later attended the Music Conservatory of Paris at the age of eight. Accepted into Berklee College in 2007, he composed a song for French singer and actor Marc Lavoine’s 2009 album Volume 10 during his term, and assisted Beck who produced his sister’s third studio album entitled IRM.”
“From Gainsbourg to Lulu is a project that he considers as a heartfelt gift to his father. Lulu took it upon himself to select the tracks he knew would best pay homage to his father’s work, as well as reach out directly to all of the guest artists himself to bring the album together.”
God….I love when the publicist does all the work for me.
48 days later, on October 7th, the publicist did something simply amazing…she sent me a link so I could download and hear the album through iTunes on my iThing instead of my mBook. My god, who would have thought that actually listening to the music through good headphones might motivate me to share my thoughts with you? This is huge…a concept and lesson for all of you marketeers out there: music bloggers like to listen to music in their natural habitat.
So I did, and I was/am blown away by this recording. First of all, let me make it clear that this might only be considered “roots music” within a very wide definition and context. Serge Gainsbourg used the elements of jazz, reggae, funk, disco, electronic, pop and chanson in creating his unique sounds, and his lyrics often had double-meanings and strong sexual innuendo. His infamous 1969 song “Je t’aime… Moi Non Plus” was written for and recorded with girlfriend Brigitt Bardot, but it was the re-recorded version with English actress Jane Birkin that became the hit single. Quite scandalous at the time, and a vey adult record for top 40 AM radio. Lulu did not include it on his own record, although his father’s other famous song “Bonnie and Clyde” is done eloquently with Scarlett Johannson. (There’s a link below.)
Let me be honest here, there isn’t a pedal steel or banjo anywhere on this record. It is more jazz and chanson than anything else, and if you’re a strict adherer of most of the music that this website deals with, From Gainsbourg to Lulu just might not work for you. But should you be feeling a bit adventurous, and have a love for all things music, you could be very pleased. The recording and production is excellent, and the musicianship is crisp, clear and defining. Lulu takes a style that could be considered outdated and strictly international, and re-sequences the rhythms and note phrasing to make the music seem to be on the ground, if not of the earth. Meaning this…
The era and the life of Serge Gainsbourg is one of art and fashion, jet setters and beautiful people, cinema and music, cognac and dope. It’s a world most of us don’t live in; one of fantasy and sexuality, not of Levis and minivans. Lisa Robinson’s 2007 Vanity Fair piece was titled “The Secret World of Serge Gainsbourg” for a reason. His life was a secret and we weren’t invited into it. His work was exclusive and quite exhaustive. And while normally I’d exit stage left, there is something very compelling in this album. There is a earthly warmth to it, and it manages to capture the mystery and the secrets as well. And a labor of love for a son to the memory of his father.
Marianne Faithfull:”I was very sad when[Serge]died. I thought by the time I’d grown up and gotten off drugs that there’d be a time when I’d work with him again. I still miss him. And every time I start to make a record I think, Fuck, it’s so annoying that he’s dead.”