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Baker's Dozen

A Tower Of Songs: Sylvie Simmons' Favourite Music
Manu Ekanayake , August 13th, 2020 09:48

Like a gamekeeper turned poacher, rock journalist Sylvie Simmons has a new album of her own music out. Here she guides Manu Ekanayake through 13 lifelong inspirations, from Leonard Cohen to Johnny Cash, Miles Davis and Black Sabbath


Serge Gainsbourg – Histoire De Melody Nelson
When I moved to France in 1990 there I was in the middle of nowhere with an American husband who had just had a hit record, who was trying to turn the place into a studio so he could make another hit record. I was busy going out taking care of practical things and making friends. As this was all going on, the news came on the radio that that Serge Gainsbourg died - it was over the TV all over the radio, everybody was in tears, the French president, everybody. And I just got really arrogant and British about it, like Jesus, French music, you know, ‘J’Taime Moi Non Plus’ is the only hit he had!? This is while everybody's lamenting him... total English person arrogance. This friend of mine, who was a French woman who was an English teacher at the University of Bordeaux, came over with a big pile of vinyl, and left it with me and said, 'Oh, listen to this Sylvie and see what you really think of him.' And I fell absolutely head over heels in love, especially when I got to Histoire... which is one of the one of his concept albums. These concept albums, well, they make Tommy by The Who seem like kind of absolute fact; they're completely mad. This one was very strange; it's about a man driving a Rolls Royce through a very next seedy part of Paris and he literally runs into a bicycle being ridden by Jane Birkin, who was in his lover, and as she flies through the air he sees her skirt fly up and he realises she is a natural redhead. We need to say no more. He takes her to a nearby hotel, which is just for one-night-stands and seduces her and then falls madly in love. Then it fast-forwards to near the end as she gets homesick for somewhere like Scunthorpe, I don't remember the name, then as she flies home from Paris on the way the plane crashes into the Channel and she dies. Then he joins some sort of Cargo cult in Africa to try and pray to get her back and goes mad in the end. I just thought 'Yeah, I love this guy.'