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AUDIO

histoire de melody nelson


MIXAGE DORIGINE ORIGINAL ALBUM MIX
Melody 732
Ballade de Melody Nelson 202
Valse de Melody 131
Ah ! Melody 146
LhOtel particulier 406
En Melody 325
Cargo culte 737
LES SeSSIonS melody nelson
LINTGRALIT DES PRISES ALTERNATIVES

COMPLETE ALTERNATIVE TAKES

Melody PRISE COMPLTE 926


Ballade de Melody Nelson PRISE VOIX ALTERNATIVe 207
Valse de Melody PRISE VOIX ALTERNATIVe 140
Ah ! Melody PRISE VOIX ALTERNATIVe 155
Melody LIT BABAR VERSION CHANTE 103
Melody LIT BABAR VERSION INSTRUMENTALE 112
LhOtel particulier PRISE COMPLTE - VOIX ALTERNATIVE 510
En Melody VERSION VIOLON LECTRIQUE SOLO COMPLET 340
Cargo culte VERSION INSTRUMENTALE 744

VIDEO

Lhistoire de melody nelson


film DOCUMENTAIRE EXCLUSIF 40 mn
AVEC LA PARTICIPATION DE

EXCLUSIVE DOCUMENTARY

/ WITH INTERWIEWS OF

JANE BIRKIN
JEAN-CLAUDE VANNIER
ANDREW BIRKIN frre de Jane et tmoin de llaboration du disque / JANES BROTHER, WITNESS OF THE MAKING OF THE ALBUM
JEAN-CLAUDE CHARVIER ingnieur du son / SOUND ENGINEER
TONY FRANK photographe de la pochette / PHOTOGRAPHER OF THE ALBUM COVER
extraits dArchives : Institut National de lAudiovisuel et Path Gaumont

histoire

de

melody

nelson

SERGE GAINSBOURG
1.

Melody 732

(Serge Gainsbourg)
2.

5.

lhotel particulier 406


(Serge Gainsbourg)

Ballade de Melody Nelson 202

(Serge Gainsbourg / Jean-Claude Vannier)


3.

Valse de Melody 131

(Serge Gainsbourg)
4.

Ah ! Melody 146

(Serge Gainsbourg / Jean-Claude Vannier)

6.

7.

en Melody 325

(Serge Gainsbourg / Jean-Claude Vannier)

cargo culte 737


(Serge Gainsbourg)

Arrangements musicaux et orchestre, direction : Jean-Claude V a nn i e r


Bases rythmiques enregistres du 21 au 23 avril 1970 au studio Philips Marble Arch, Londres - Prise de son : Peter Olliff
Basse : Dave Richmond - Guitare : Alan Parker - Batterie : non identifi
Cordes, solistes et churs enregistrs les 4, 5, 8 et 11 mai 1970 au studio des Dames, Paris
Prise de son : Jean-Claude Charvier - Assistant : Rmy Aucharles
Premier violon et rgie cordes : Jean GAUnet - Chur des Jeunesses Musicales de France. Direction : Louis Martini
Violon lectrique : Jean-Luc PONTY - Cor : Georges BARBOTEU - Piano, orgue, harmonium et timbales : Jean-Claude VANNIER
Voix enregistres du 11 au 14 janvier 1971 au studio des Dames, Paris - Prise de son : Jean-Claude Charvier - Assistant : Rmy Aucharles
Mixage ralis du 1er au 4 fvrier 1971 au studio des Dames par Jean-Claude Charvier - Assistant : Rmy Aucharles
Album Philips [6397 020] ralis par Jean-Claude Desmarty, paru le 24 mars 1971

LES SeSSIONS melody nelson


Melody

6.

(Serge Gainsbourg)

VERSION INSTRUMENTALE 112


(Serge Gainsbourg / Jean-Claude Vannier)

1.

PRISE COMPLeTE 926


2.

Ballade de Melody Nelson

PRISE VOIX ALTERNATIVE 207

(Serge Gainsbourg / Jean-Claude Vannier)


3.

Valse de Melody

PRISE VOIX ALTERNATIVE 140


(Serge Gainsbourg)
4.

Ah ! Melody

PRISE VOIX ALTERNATIVE 155

(Serge Gainsbourg / Jean-Claude Vannier)

lhotel particulier

PRISE COMPLeTE - VOIX ALTERNATIVE 510


(Serge Gainsbourg)
8.

Melody LIT BABAR

(Serge Gainsbourg / Jean-Claude Vannier)

5.

7.

Melody LIT BABAR

VERSION CHANTeE 103

en Melody

VERSION VIOLON eLECTRIQUE


SOLO COMPLET 340
(Serge Gainsbourg / Jean-Claude Vannier)
9.

cargo culte

version INSTRUMENTALe 744


(Serge Gainsbourg)

Mixage : Poussin - Studio D.E.S., Aubervilliers, juillet 2011. Supervision mixage : Sbastien MERLET
Version chante de Melody lit Babar mixe par Poussin et Jean-Claude Vannier

lHistoire de melody nelson film


Un film de Sbastien Merlet ralis avec Youri Zakovitch - Produit par Kidam en association avec Universal Music France
Avec la participation de :
Jane Birkin - Jean-Claude Vannier - Andrew Birkin - Jean-Claude Charvier - Tony Frank
Archives : Institut National de lAudiovisuel et Path Gaumont
Photos des crans du menu : Tony FRANK

Gense dun

accident

N
U

ous sommes en 1968, Serge Gainsbourg fte ses quarante ans. Dont dix dans

la chanson. Limmense succs de Je taime... moi non plus est pour lui inattendu

et, comme il le confiera Lucien Rioux de Rock&Folk en juin 1971, il se dit
alors en lui-mme : maintenant, jai du fric, passons aux choses srieuses. Premire chose :
Melody Nelson.
Histoire de Melody Nelson reprsente une vritable rvolution dans lhistoire de la chanson.
Si cette rvolution est passe relativement inaperue sa sortie malgr un concert quasi
unanime dloges, les ventes ne dcolleront pas , ce premier concept-album gainsbourgeois
est aujourdhui considr, et cout, sa juste valeur : comme un monument rsolument
visionnaire. On serait tent de le qualifier de en avance sur son temps , mais ce serait
prtendre quil a des successeurs, ou des hritiers. Or Histoire de Melody Nelson est,
aujourdhui encore, unique en son genre (ou, du moins, propre lunivers de Gainsbourg,
dont certains opus en sont une continuation, commencer par Lhomme tte de chou) :
nulle part ailleurs on ne trouve un tel aboutissement formel au sein dun album, nulle part
ailleurs ne spanouit avec une telle force la narration, ni la musique avec une telle envergure
symphonique. Cest le fruit, non seulement dun lent processus de conception, dlaboration
et dcriture, mais aussi dune osmose musicale et artistique avec le compositeur et arrangeur
Jean-Claude Vannier, ainsi que le rsultat dun travail en et hors studio de plus dun an. Cest
enfin laboutissement de longues annes de rflexions et de rves autour dun thme qui
nourrit toute la chanson gainsbourgeoise : Lolita. Mais cest surtout un fabuleux hasard, un
merveilleux concours de circonstances, un malentendu diront certains... bref : un accident.

Les pices du puzzle

LL
M
3

olita, je lai pris en pleine gueule, dira-t-il au micro de Nol Simsolo en 1982.

Vladimir Nabokov. Page 296 : je voulais mettre ce pome en musique parce que

je le trouvais extrmement moderne dans sa forme. Mais comme ils faisaient le
film, les Amricains ont dit : pas question. No way. Qu cela ne tienne, Lolita se rincarnera en Melody.
Lolita figure en bonne place dans le panthon littraire de Serge. La nymphette, bien que
lointaine, est perceptible, en filigrane, ds ses premires chansons. Elle pointe le bout de son
nez mignon ds Leau la bouche et Cha cha cha du loup. Elle fait ensuite quelques apparitions clairs, dans Une petite tasse danxit par exemple, duo avec Gillian Hills (comdienne
qui, pour la petite histoire, apparat nue aux cts de Jane dans Blow up), pour sinstaller durablement dans Confidentiel au sein duquel la nymphette tient un rle de choix , et ds
lors que Gainsbourg commence travailler avec France Gall (Les sucettes) et autres petites
starlettes montantes de la chanson : elle est dans Marilu, dans Comic strip. Et, aprs Melody,
il aura aussi ses petites surs, Marilou et Samantha.
Cest, indubitablement, la rencontre avec Jane qui va cristalliser enfin le fantasme et catalyser
linspiration. Melody, cest Jane Birkin. Sans Jane, il ny aurait pas de disque, rptera-t-il
lenvi aprs la sortie de lalbum.
Histoire de Melody Nelson peut tre, bien des gards, considr comme un cadeau de
Serge sa compagne : lorsque, dans les annes quatre-vingt, le disque sortira enfin de son
relatif anonymat, Serge fera prsent Jane du tardif disque dor que Melody lui aura rapport.
Malgr leur sparation.
Nous sommes donc en 1968. Serge tourne Slogan de Pierre Grimblat, avec cette jeune
comdienne frachement dbarque doutre-manche. Aux premiers rapports plutt houleux a
succd une idylle au romantisme (et lrotisme) enflamm. Vex de lignorance totale de
ses chansons dans laquelle se trouve sa jeune amante, Serge lui offre un exemplaire de son
petit recueil de Chansons cruelles et le lui ddicace ainsi : Il y manque ici la Chanson de
Mallory que jcrirai pour toi, galement Histoire de Mlodie [sic !] Nelson.

Melody Nelson nexisterait pas sans Jane, son Histoire naurait sans doute pas non plus vu le
jour du moins pas sous les couleurs quon lui connat sans un autre personnage clef de
lentourage de Serge : Jean-Claude Vannier. peine plus g que Jane, Jean-Claude Vannier
a remplac Michel Colombier et Arthur Greenslade dans le rle de larrangeur, du complice
musical. Sur Melody, il est crdit des Arrangements et de la Direction musicale de
lalbum, mais son rle est en ralit bien plus central : cest un artiste visionnaire, lui aussi,
et un collaborateur essentiel. Serge, qui est pour lui la fois un mentor et un ami lui dira un
jour : Toi tu es Cole, moi je suis Porter. Sans Vannier, Melody naurait pas cette richesse
orchestrale, laquelle donne lieu son traitement si particulier des cordes, aux sonorits
insolites, voire dcales.
La rencontre de Gainsbourg et Vannier sest faite Londres aux alentours de la Nol 1968,
par lentremise de Jean-Claude Desmarty ce mme Jean-Claude Desmarty qui sera le producteur dHistoire de Melody Nelson.
Ensemble, Serge Gainsbourg et Jean-Claude Vannier produisent quelques musiques
de film, Paris nexiste pas, Slogan, Les chemins de Katmandou, La Horse, Cannabis et Le
Tratre ?, puis, aprs Melody, ce sera celle de Sex-shop et le trs bel album Di doo dah pour
Jane Birkin. lpoque de Melody, le duo fonctionne merveille : On discutait bien sr des
diffrents lments, textes et musique, mais aucun moment nous nempitions lun sur le
domaine de lautre. Au final, cest toujours moi qui lemportais sur les questions musicales,
lui sur les textes.
En avril 1970, toutes les pices du puzzle sont runies pour donner naissance Melody.
La premire sance denregistrement sorganise cependant de manire assez impromptue.
Je me souviens que la sance a t monte assez tard, Londres par Jean-Claude Desmarty, dit Jean-Claude Vannier. Jai le sentiment que jtais dj sur place.
Je savais que nous devions commencer travailler sur le nouvel album de Serge, mais
nous navions presque rien de prt et je ne parle pas des textes, qui sont venus bien des
mois plus tard ! On a donc chacun apport deux-trois petits bouts de chansons, des fonds
de tiroir. On a coll la Valse, que Serge avait crite un peu plus tt et stait garde sous le
coude. Puis on a improvis quelques bribes de mlodies. On navait absolument aucune ide
de la forme quallait prendre lalbum, on a simplement essay davoir assez de chansons pour
le remplir. Je navais mme aucune ide de ce que nous allions y ajouter du point de vue de
larrangement musical. La dcision dy ajouter les cordes nest venue que plus tard.

Blow up

LES SANCES LONDRES


par Andy Votel

LL
M
3

e Mystre de Melody Nelson : avec une intrigue digne des plus grands polars,

cette enqute sur lidentit vritable des musiciens qui composaient la base

rythmique de lalbum est reste bien des annes irrsolue. Les hypothses se
succdent pour tre lune aprs lautre irrmdiablement rfutes : on a ainsi vu dfiler, au gr
des dtectives et des faux espoirs, les noms des guitaristes Big Jim Sullivan et Vick Flick, des
bassistes Brian Odgers et Herbie Flowers.
Lingnieur du son Peter Olliff, qui a pass vingt ans, sept jours sur sept, Marble Arch,
garde dexcellents souvenirs de sa collaboration avec Serge, mais on comprend aisment
combien ces lointaines journes, o les musiciens se succdaient au rythme de trois sances
par jour, se mlangent aujourdhui dans son esprit. Qui dit polar dit nigme photographique,
et cest ainsi que le photographe Tony Frank a relanc lenqute, en 2010. Quarante ans aprs,
alors que Sbastien Merlet, spcialiste gainsbourgeois mrite, lui rend visite un aprs-midi
pour lui poser quelques questions propos de lalbum le plus risqu et le plus os de Serge
Gainsbourg, une planche contact glisse dun autre dossier et tombe terre. Sur les clichs
sous-exposs, Serge assis la console du Marble Arch. La pnombre qui rgnait dans le
studio avait trs probablement dcourag Tony de poursuivre ses prises de vue, Serge tant
en outre tout habill de noir. Mais laccoutrement de Serge est loin dtre llment le plus
essentiel de la photo. Linformation vitale se cache larrire-plan, obscurcie par quelques
reflets sur la vitre de la cabine, ainsi que par les ombres du studio et les panneaux acoustiques
qui entourent la batterie. En lexaminant de plus prs, on dcouvre deux silhouettes, qui se
rsument deux coiffures surmontant deux fronts quasi indiscernables.
Lorsquil sagit de dterminer les diffrents acteurs dune sance denregistrement vieille de
quarante ans, le dsaccord est souvent la rgle. Mais sil y a une chose sur laquelle lchantillon
de vtrans musiciens rassembls pour loccasion est sans hsitation tomb daccord, cest
bien lidentit visuelle de Dave Richmond.

Si lon considre la chronologie, Dave semble en effet tre le candidat idal on pouvait
dj entendre, haut et fort, son inimitable son de basse sur le single de 69 anne rotique ,
mais ce stade de notre enqute, un doute pernicieux subsiste encore. Et naturellement la
personne la mieux place pour identifier le bassiste est alors le suspect lui-mme.
Whaou, je navais encore jamais entendu cet album, sexclame Dave, cela ne fait aucun
doute, cest moi, sur toutes les chansons. Cest le son et le style que javais lpoque,
affirme-t-il avec conviction. On nous donnait souvent une suite daccords en nous demandant
dimproviser en partie, rvle-t-il. Cette fois-l, le directeur musical nous a indiqu prcisment
les passages o nous devions jouer plus ou moins fort. Autre clef didentification de Dave :
la basse Burns, indissociable du son de basse que lon entend tout au long de lalbum : La
basse Black Bison se reconnat aisment son long manche, qui part approximativement
3,5 cm plus gauche que, par exemple, une Fender Precision.
Le bassiste et le guitariste font appel la mme technique de double corde, nous apprend
Dave. Jessayais galement de donner plus corps la ligne de basse en jouant presque
lunisson sur une autre corde de la basse avec mon troisime doigt, cest une technique que
jai reprise au guitariste Alan Parker et transpose la basse ctait parfait pour la musique
quon enregistrait et on peut lentendre dun bout lautre de lalbum, autant la basse qu la
guitare. Cette rare symbiose entre deux musiciens de cette trempe tait essentielle pour une
section rythmique aussi nue que celle de Melody Nelson et cela nous amne naturellement
au deuxime personnage que nous montre la photographie. Un musicien au look si singulier
dans sa jeunesse que, dans ce petit monde des lgendes des musiciens de sances, il lui avait
valu le surnom de Noddy (NdT : Oui-Oui) : Alan Parker.
Compar Richmond, Alan Parker faisait partie dune nouvelle gnration de musiciens ;
il tait jeune, talentueux, aventureux et trs professionnel. Il arrivait toujours au studio
avec plusieurs guitares de haut vol, explique
Peter Olliff. Il tait dune grande souplesse
et pouvait sadapter nimporte quel style,
en lectrique comme en acoustique. La
prsence de Parker sur Melody reprsente
la premire tincelle dune collaboration
longue de huit annes avec Serge en tant que
son guitariste principal, collaboration qui se
poursuivra jusqu la mort de Gainsbourg,
pour toutes les sances enregistres en
Grande-Bretagne.

Au Marble Arch Studio : Serge Gainsbourg et Dave Richmond en dcembre 1968, Alan Parker en 1970.

Les souvenirs dAlan Parker sont dune grande clart lorsquil sagit didentifier les
instruments quil utilisait alors : une Gibson Les Paul de 1964 avec un amplificateur Fender
deluxe reverb pour les passages en lectrique et une Martin D45 pour lacoustique.
Le batteur Dougie Wright, qui a jou avec Alan durant toutes les sances de la priode Alan
Hawkshaw, soutient lui aussi : Alan Parker matrisait ce son merveille. Ctait lun des
meilleurs et un bosseur, avec a. Ctait un musicien de sance n, et parmi les plus dous
artistiquement.
Comme toujours lorsquil sagit de Melody Nelson, les bribes dinformation qui nous sont
parvenues et nous parviennent encore sont tout au plus approximatives, et mes indiscrtes
investigations dans les agendas des musiciens de lpoque laissent un abyme bant quant au
nom du batteur. Celui de Dougie le situe tout fait ailleurs pour les dates des 21, 22 et 23 avril
1970 ; sur deux sances sans aucun lien entre elles chez Decca et aux studios De Lane Lea...
Et la question demeure : qui diable tait la place de Dougie en avril 1970 ?
La rcente disparition des deux candidats les plus plausibles du dpartement batterie
de Marble Arch rend toute conclusion incertaine. Barry Morgan serait le suspect numro un.
Inutile de prciser que ni Dave, ni Alan, ni Peter Olliff ne se souviennent qui se cachait derrire
le panneau acoustique de la batterie et, de plus, leurs opinions sur le sujet diffrent quelque peu.
Brian Bennet (un ex-Shadow, membre des Mohawks et du KPM all-stars reconstitu) ferait
un candidat tout fait crdible, du fait de sa longue amiti avec Alan Parker, que lon peut
imaginer percevoir sur le disque. Mais Brian ntait-il pas trop rocknroll pour les passages
volubiles et jazzy de la fin de sance ? Ne pourrait-on pas entendre dans ces idiotismes le
regrett batteur de jazz Ronnie Verrell (ce mme Ronnie Verrell qui tenait le rle de lAnimal
dans la version britannique du Muppet Show) ?
Alan Parker suggre le nom de Terry Cox, pour son style jazzy et son sens irrprochable du
tempo. Mais, lpoque de lenregistrement, Terry Cox faisait partie du groupe Pentangle, en
tourne en Amrique du Nord pendant les mois davril et mai 1970...
lheure o jcris ces lignes, lenqute est donc encore ouverte. Passant les reliques en
revue, je me dcide appeler Jean-Claude Vannier pour linterroger une nouvelle fois quant
lidentit des musiciens qui ont particip ces sances et ont contribu au plus grand conceptalbum europen de tous les temps (exception faite, peut-tre, de Pierre et le loup de Prokofiev
et Les Plantes de Holst). Ne vous souvenez-vous de rien dautre ? Jaimais beaucoup
les tapis qui recouvraient le sol du studio et le th cinq heures me rpond-il. Limportant,
finalement, cest lattention aux dtails.

LM

,
J

Vannier la baguette

AI toujours t convaincu de la ncessit davoir au moins une ide par morceau,



poursuit Jean-Claude Vannier. Au moins une, comme une contrainte, dont dcou
leront toutes les autres intentions. Pour Melody Nelson, lide principale tait
celle de lconomie de moyen, dune pure de lcriture. Tout a donc t fait pour supprimer
le superflu et rendre au silence son rle musical. Rsultat : une formation unique qui, malgr
son ampleur, est rduite lessentiel. Il ny a quune unique guitare, une basse, une batterie, et
les cordes qui sont, la plupart du temps, mlodiques, lunisson (tout le monde joue la mme
chose des octaves diffrentes) ou en miroir. Le piano est absent et la guitare traite comme
un instrument mlodique et non harmonique : les cordes suffisent la dimension harmonique
de lensemble.

Tout est affaire de raret : si lon ne joue pas toujours fort et pas tout le temps, si lon ne joue
que les notes ncessaires, la musique nen est que plus loquente.
lpoque, on ne faisait jamais de nuance [variation dintensit sonore] dans ce genre de
musique. Aujourdhui encore, du reste. Dans Melody Nelson, en revanche, mme la batterie
fait des nuances, avec de vritables piano, de vritables forte, et, entre les deux, des crescendo
et decrescendo. videmment, ce genre dintentions musicales ne peut se raliser sans une
vritable direction musicale.
Une fois les rythmiques enregistres, il faut attendre quelques semaines pour mettre en bote
les cordes, en mai 1970.
Si je me souviens bien, dit Jean-Claude Vannier, nous ne nous sommes dcids pour les
cordes quaprs lenregistrement de la rythmique. Lorchestration sest faite trs rapidement.
Je me souviens lavoir ralise dans mon grenier, Saint-Cloud. Elle est dans le mme esprit
dpure et de nuance que la rythmique. Tout est compltement transparent, audible. Pas un
instrument ne vous chappe.
Lenregistrement se droulera sur quatre journes, au Studio des Dames (rue des Dames dans
le quartier des Batignolles). La prise de son est ralise par Jean-Claude Charvier, dont loreille
et la technique sont en grande partie responsables de lexcellente image sonore de lensemble.
On lui doit beaucoup. Il avait un vrai don pour placer les micros et ne pas dnaturer le son des
instruments dit Jean-Claude Vannier.
Lorchestre est pour lessentiel compos de musiciens de lOpra de Paris, runis autour du
violoniste Jean Gaunet et de son pouse, avec lesquels Vannier a lhabitude de travailler. Les
churs, quant eux, sont ceux des Jeunesses Musicales de France, dirigs par Louis Martini.

Serge Gainsbourg et Jean-Claude Charvier au Studio des Dames en mai 1970


Page de gauche : Jean-Claude Vannier dans son grenier de Saint-Cloud en 1973

la grande forme prend forme


Lcriture des textes

RL

este enregistrer les voix. Ce qui exige bien sr dcrire les textes. Et, l,
Serge est dans limpasse. Il lui faudra pas moins dun an et demi, entre les

premires esquisses crites et les textes aboutis.
Aprs la premire apparition du personnage en 1968, dans la ddicace faite Jane sur
son exemplaire de Chansons cruelles, on retrouve Melody dans de nombreuses coupures de
presse ds lautomne 1969. Ainsi, dans LAurore du 31 octobre 1969 : Lhistoire de Melody
Nelson contera par le menu linitiation amoureuse dune jeune fille renverse un jour dans
la banlieue parisienne par un quadragnaire en Rolls, alors quelle se promenait bicyclette.
Bien entendu, la banquette du vhicule servira de cadre laction. Lide directrice est donc
pose mme si les dtails de laction sont encore un peu flous.
Gainsbourg pense-t-il ds le dpart la vaste forme que prendra lalbum ? Rien nest sr.
Melody nest pas sa premire exprience dune narration denvergure. Ds 1962, il dit la
radio son dsir de composer une comdie musicale. Jean-Louis Barrault, alors directeur de
lOdon, le prend dailleurs au mot et lui donne carte blanche. Mais le projet naboutira pas.
Entre-temps, il y a eu Anna avec Anna Karina, Jean-Claude Brialy, Marianne Faithfull.
Conu en collaboration avec son ami le cinaste Pierre Koralnik, cest un petit bijou de
comdie musicale tlvisuelle, ancre dans les sixties et bourre de rfrences tous azimuts, de
Un homme et une femme de Lelouch et Une femme est une femme de Godard aux surralistes,
en passant par Warhol et Dali.
Si la grande forme nest pas bien loin, les premires esquisses dHistoire de Melody Nelson
nous montrent une structure bien diffrente de celle quaura finalement lalbum. Il semble
en effet que Melody devait au dpart connatre des aventures pisodiques. Lalbum se serait
alors prsent comme une srie de courtes histoires, la manire des livres pour enfants
comme Bcassine, ou Martine qui dclinent un mme personnage, dpisode en pisode :
Martine la Plage, Martine la campagne...

Serge a dj tt de cette forme courte dhistoriettes en srie la Martine avec Marie


Mathmatique, dite Marie-Math, qui fait figure de grande sur de Melody. Jeune fille riante
et intrpide, prise de comic strip et un brin coquine, Marie-Math est lhrone dune srie de
science-fiction qui compte six pisodes en animation noir et blanc de cinq ou six minutes
chacun. Ralise en 1965, cest luvre de Jean-Claude Forest (auteur de la BD Barbarella)
et de lcrivain de science-fiction et scnariste Andr Ruellan. Le rle de Gainsbourg se
borne composer la musique et chanter les textes potiques de Ruellan des textes qui
lui vont par ailleurs comme un gant, dans le ton comme dans le rythme et le vocabulaire.
Un autre conte a pu linspirer pour la forme de Melody : Lhistoire du Soldat, conte musical du
pote suisse Charles-Ferdinand Ramuz et du compositeur russe Igor Stravinsky, un musicien
quon coutait religieusement chez les Ginsburg. Dans Lhistoire du Soldat, le texte nest pas
chant, mais parl-chant ou parl-rythm, une, deux ou trois voix selon les versions, avec
un contrepoint parfait entre prosodie et musique. Gainsbourg connaissait certainement ce chefduvre de lavant-garde musicale, compos en 1917. Il en interprtera le rle du Diable, pour
une animation tlvisuelle dans les annes quatre-vingt. La morale du conte, mme dans la
version originale de Stravinsky et Ramuz, est dailleurs hautement gainsbourgeoise : rien, ni
largent, ni lalcool, ni les femmes, ne valent la musique dun petit violon !
De cette vision pisodique de lalbum,
il nous reste quelques rares brouillons et
bauches, parpills lessentiel des manuscrits de Melody ne nous est hlas pas parvenu.
Il subsiste nanmoins une trace enregistre, une
chanson aboutie ou presque, qui figure sur les
bandes master : ltonnant Melody lit Babar
dont la trompette, qui sonne comme un jouet,
rpond au cor de Ah ! Melody.
mon avis Melody lit Babar est l pour illustrer le caractre enfantin de Melody, comme
certains vers de la chanson Ah ! Melody : dada
sur mon dos... dit Jane.
Larrive de Jane dans la vie de Serge saccompagne de larrive de sa fille Kate et de
tout lunivers de lenfance quelle vhicule et
qui transparat dans tout lalbum.

Tous les chemins mnent Melody

NK

ette difficult pondre les textes et la dcision tardive de considrer



lalbum dans sa globalit expliquent peut-tre pourquoi les personnages, et

surtout celui de la jeune nymphette, ont moins dpaisseur que ceux de Lhomme
tte de chou, dont la conception globale et narrative a t travaille ds le dpart. Dans
Histoire de Melody Nelson, on reste dans le flou, la suggestion, et le cours des vnements ne
semble pas suivre une logique vritablement romanesque.
Linspiration se dbloque finalement, notamment grce la frquentation des potes.
Serge tait anim dune espce dobsession pour la posie classique, dit Jean-Claude
Vannier. Il se trouve que nous avions tous deux le mme petit dictionnaire de rimes, chez
Larousse, couverture bleue-verte, je crois... Je lai toujours. Lun comme lautre, nous trouvions a superbe. Ce genre de petit objet permet de trouver rapidement le mot quil faut, sans
tomber dans lvident, le trivial ou le sans intrt. a vite de perdre du temps. Or, au dbut
de ce livre, il y a quelques exemples, en particulier des sonnets. Et notamment des sonnets de
Heredia, dont lalexandrin est si ronflant.
Cest ainsi que Melody est, en partie, compos dune srie de sonnets la forme la plus
pure et la plus rigoureuse de la posie , dira Serge Alain Cances en 1979 deux quatrains,
deux tercets et en alexandrins mme si tous les pieds ny sont pas toujours. Certains,
comme les deux qui composent Cargo culte, sont mme ouvertement inspirs dun pome de
Heredia, Les Conqurants. Ils en respectent la structure et le plan de rimes (A-B-B-A / A-BB-A / C-C-D / E-D-E).
Parfois, la musique elle-mme lui donne linspiration du texte, en faisant surgir une image
prcise. Celle du vlo, par exemple : Jean-Claude Charvier et Remy Aucharles se souviennent
dun passage prcis de la musique, o un coup de batterie et une harmonique de guitare lui
ont fait penser une roue de vlo qui tourne en roue libre. Pourtant, remarque Vannier, lors
de la composition, je ne savais mme pas quun vlo interviendrait dans lhistoire.

Idem pour Cargo culte : ce sont les churs qui ont dclench limage. Alors que, pour
crire la musique, je ne me proccupais de rien, pour la simple raison que nous navions pas
de texte. La partition est aujourdhui considre comme une musique programme, alors que,
dans sa conception premire, elle ntait que pure musique : le programme a t projet dessus
aprs coup.
Nous nous trouvions devant une espce dovni, conclut-il. Nous construisions quelque
chose dinou, sans savoir comment les gens allaient le prendre. Nous ntions pas en train
dinterprter une chanson ou une musique prexistante et ce ntait pas non plus un simple
album enchanant les chansons. Nous tions dans une phase de recherche intensive, en mme
temps que de recherche dun terrain commun. Toutefois, je pense parfois que tout ce qui a
suivi, le succs de lalbum et le mythe qui lentoure, est un vaste malentendu : certains aspects
de Melody qui paraissent aujourdhui essentiels taient en ralit compltement anodins pour
nous...
Aprs quelques mois de labeur intensif, les voix sont enfin enregistres, nouveau au Studio
des Dames, avec Jean-Claude Charvier et sous la direction de Vannier, du 11 au 14 janvier. Le
mixage final est quant lui ralis du 1er au 4 fvrier 1971.
Lalbum sort en mars 1971. En pleine campagne lectorale pour les lections municipales,
sa sortie saccompagne dune campagne daffichage sauvage qui annonce, sobre, sibyllin et
mystrieux : Melody Nelson , en bleu Melody sur fond noir. Sans plus dexplication.
On le sait, le succs commercial nest pas au rendez-vous. Il faudra attendre les annes
reggae pour que lalbum sorte de son relatif anonymat et accde son statut de culte. Culte,
en tout cas, Melody lest certainement aujourdhui. Melody, cest la fille-fleur-du-mal, la sensualit peine close, plonge dans lunivers trouble et enfum de lArt nouveau au tournant
du XXe sicle, celui des maisons closes aux dcors baroques et aux volupts tales. Cest la
navet faite femme, la fraicheur dsarmante. Cest lapothose dun rock progressiste et symphonique dfaut dtre progressif. Cest fait unique dans lhistoire de la chanson la
sublimation dune forme classique contraignante en une potique hallucine et labyrinthique.
Cest un formidable contrepoint, une perfection formelle, une voix unique, et un personnage
au destin tragique fait de modernit, qui restera jamais dans les mmoires. Grce Melody,
grce Vannier et Jane, Gainsbourg est, encore aujourdhui, la pointe de lavant-garde.

BIRTH OF AN

accident

J
U

TS the year 1968, Serge Gainsbourg celebrates his 40th birthday. And ten years as

a singer. The huge success of Je taime... moi non plus was for him unexpected,

and as he would explain to Lucien Rioux of Rock&Folk in June 1971, he said
to himself at the time: Now that Ive got some cash, lets do a real project. First port of call:
Melody Nelson.
His Histoire de Melody Nelson truly represents a revolution in the history of song-writing.
If this revolution went largely unnoticed upon its release despite a virtually unanimous
chorus of critical approval, sales didnt take off this first concept album by Gainsbourg is
today rightly considered and appreciated for its true value: as a resolutely visionary landmark.
We might be tempted to describe it as ahead of its time, but that would imply that there have
been successors, or inheritors. But the Histoire de Melody Nelson is even today unique
in its genre (or at least specific to Gainsbourgs world, after which some productions have
provided a continuation, for instance Lhomme tte de chou): nowhere else do we find such
formal conclusions within an album, nowhere else does the narration reach such expressive
heights, or the music reach such symphonic overtures. It was the fruit, not only of a measured
conceptual process of elaboration and scripting, but also of a musical and artistic osmosis
with composer and arranger Jean-Claude Vannier, as well as the result of work inside and
outside the studio over the period of a year. And it was the product of many years of reflection
and dreams around the theme which inspired the whole of Gainsbourgs songwriting: Lolita.
But it was above all an amazing coincidence, a wonderful combination of circumstances, a
misunderstanding some would say... in short: an accident.

The pieces of the puzzle

LL
M
3

olita hit me right on the chin he would say into Nol Simsolos microphone

in 1982. Vladimir Nabokov. Page 296: I wanted to put this poem to music

because I found it extremely modern in its expression. But since they were
making the film, the Americans said: pas question. No way. If only for that reason, Lolita
would be reincarnated in Melody.
Lolita ranked highly within Serges literary pantheon. The nymphet, although distant, can
be perceived in a veiled way in his earliest songs. We glimpse the tip of her pretty nose in Leau
la bouche and Cha cha cha du loup. Next she made a few lightening appearances in Une
petite tasse danxit for example, a duet with Gillian Hills (an actress who, as an anecdote,
appeared naked alongside Jane in Blow up), to become a permanent feature in Confidentiel
within which the nymphet plays a leading role and again as Gainsbourg started to work
with France Gall (Les sucettes) and other little rising stars of the song industry: she is in
Marilu, in Comic Strip and after Melody there would also be her younger sisters Marilou
and Samantha.
It was, without doubt, meeting Jane that finally crystallized the fantasy and was the catalyst
behind his inspiration. Melody is Jane Birkin. Without Jane there wouldnt have been an
album he often repeated after the release of the LP. Whats more, the Histoire de Melody
Nelson can in many respects be considered as a gift from Serge to his partner: when, in the
eighties the album finally lost its relative anonymity, Serge presented Jane with the belated
gold disc that Melody had earned him. Despite their separation.
It was in the year 1968. Serge was staring in Slogan by Pierre Grimblat with this young
actress newly arrived from England. After some rather stormy initial encounters there followed
a relationship of enflamed romanticism (and eroticism). Annoyed by the total ignorance
of his songs expressed by his young lover, Serge offered her a copy of his little collection
of Chansons cruelles with the following dedication: It is only missing the Chanson de
Mallory that I will write for you and also Histoire de Mlodie [sic!] Nelson.

If Melody Nelson wouldnt have existed without Jane, her Histoire would not have seen
the light of day at least not in the way in which we are familiar without the presence of
another key person in Serges entourage: Jean-Claude Vannier. Barely older than Jane, JeanClaude Vannier replaced Michel Colombier and Arthur Greenslade in the role of arranger
and musical partner. On Melody he is credited with the Arrangements and the Musical
Production of the album, but in reality his role was far more key: he himself was a visionary
artist and an essential collaborator. Serge, who was for him both a mentor and friend at the
same time, would say to him one day: You are Cole, and I am Porter. Without Vannier,
Melody would not have had this orchestral richness which gave rise to its truly unique
treatment of the strings and its novel, indeed disjointed sonorities. Gainsbourg and Vannier
first met in London around Christmas time 1968 via Jean-Claude Desmarty the same JeanClaude Desmarty who would produce the Histoire de Melody Nelson.
Together, Serge Gainsbourg and Jean-Claude Vannier produced some film scores, Paris
nexiste pas, Slogan, Les chemins de Katmandou, La Horse, Cannabis and Le
Tratre?, and then after Melody they will record Sex-shop and the excellent Jane Birkins
album Di doo dah. Around the time when Melody was released, the duo was working
brilliantly together: Of course we discussed the different elements of the texts or music,
Vannier continues, but at no time did we intrude into the others field of expertise. In the end,
I always held sway with any musical questions, and he was stronger on texts.
In April 1970 all the pieces of the jigsaw fit together to give rise to Melody. However,
the first recording session was organized in a fairly impromptu way. I remember that the
session was set up without much notice in London by Jean-Claude Desmarty says JeanClaude Vannier. I seem to recall that I was already over there. I knew that we had to start
work on Serges new album, but we had virtually nothing to work with and Im not referring
to the texts which only arrived a good many months later!
Therefore, each of us brought two or three song fragments, bottom of the drawer stuff. We
added on the Valse which Serge had written a little earlier and had kept up his sleeve. Then
we improvised a few spontaneous harmonies. We had absolutely no idea what form the album
was going to take, we were simply trying to have enough songs to fill it out. I didnt even
have any idea of what we were going to add from a musical arrangement point of view. The
decision to add the strings only came later.

Blow up

THE LONDON SESSIONS


by Andy Votel

LT
M
3

he Mystery de Melody Nelson and the true identity of the albums seminal

British personnel has remained unsolved for many years. One hypothesis proved

wrong after the other: the names of guitarists Big Jim Sullivan and Vick Flick,
bass players Brian Odgers and Herbie Flowers have come and gone doubling up as detectives
and decoys along the way.
Engineer Peter Olliff, who worked a seven day week at Marble Arch in the same room for
twenty years, has very fond memories of working with Serge, but its easy to understand how,
over the years, one day could blur into the next with a steady rotation of the same session men
recording up to three sessions in 24 hours.
No respectable detective story is complete without a photographic puzzle and this is exactly
what photographer Tony Frank would bring to the table in 2010. But one afternoon, four
decades after the original session, as Gainsbourg researcher Sbastien Merlet visited him to
ask him question about the makings of Serge Gainsbourgs most risqu and challenging album,
a contact print dropped out of another portfolio case depicting underexposed documentary
shots of Serge sat in the Marble Arch control booth. The dark room was probably a good
reason for Frank to abort a longer photo shoot considering Serge himself was dressed head
to toe in indistinguishable black. But to be frank (pardon the pun) Serges outfit is the least
important thing in the frame. The vital data is hidden in the background obscured by control
room window reflections, shadows and drum shields. On closer inspection a grainy image of
a young Jean-Claude Vannier can be seen almost mirroring Serges pensive solitary gaze and
if you follow his line of vision the subject of his attention lands on two almost indecipherable
hairlines and foreheads.
When it comes to assigning the correct players to forty-year-old recording sessions
disagreement becomes a common thread. But one thing that a cross section of vintage players
has agreed on without hesitation is the visual identity of Dave Richmond.
It seems like an obvious choice, if you look at the chronology of the consecutive sessions,
that Dave was the man for the job his unique bass sound can also be heard loudly and clearly
on the single 69 anne rotique, but until this point there was still an awkward red herring
swimming around. Naturally, the best person to ask about the bass players identity would be
the suspect himself.

Wow, Id never even heard that album before, exclaims Dave. There is no doubt at all
that that is me on all the tracks. Its absolutely typical of my sound and style at the time, he
states with conviction. Quite often in those days we were handed out chord sheets and told to
make up some of our own parts, he reveals. The musical director indicated where he wanted
it to build up and quieten down. The Burns bass guitar is also key to identifying Dave and is
intrinsic to Melody Nelsons unique bass sound: The Black Bison bass is easily identified
because it has a long neck which is set about 3.5cm further to the left than, for instance, a
Fender Precision.
The bass and guitarist both shared the double stopping technique, instructs Dave. I also
tried to give more substance to the the basse line by bending a second bass string almost into
unison with my third finger, he continues, its something that I picked up from guitarist Alan
Parker and converted it to the bass it suited the tracks and happens throughout the album on
both bass and guitar. The rare synchronicity between two players like this was paramount for
an LP with sections as naked as Melody Nelson which brings us on to the second face on
the photograph. A player so distinctive in his youthful looks that he was known amongst the
other session legends as Noddy!

In comparison to Dave Richmond, Alan Parker was part of a new breed; he was young, skilled,
experimental and very professional. He would always turn up to the studio with a selection
of different hi-spec guitars, explains engineer Peter Olliff. He could turn his hand to any
style on both electric and acoustic instruments. The inclusion of Parker on Melody would
signify the first spark of a eight year relationship as principle guitarist for Serge, appearing on
every UK recorded session up until Gainsbourgs death.
Most of all, Alan Parker can clearly remember and recognise the instruments he used on the
tracks, I used a 1964 Gibson Les Paul with a Fender deluxe reverb amplifier for the electric
parts and a Martin D45 acoustic.
Drummer Dougie Wright, who played with Alan on all the Alan Hawkshaw era sessions,
also maintains, Alan Parker had that sound sewn up, and remembers, Alan was one of the
best and he was really hardworking. He was a born session man and not many could keep up
with him creatively.
As with most things Melody Nelson related, any morsel of information become very
moreish and my nosey requests for a full set of band diaries has now lead to a gaping hole
in this article precisely where a drummers name should be. In Dougies diary, the 21st, 22nd
and 23rd April, 1970 shockingly placed Dougie somewhere else entirely; for two unrelated
sessions at Decca and De Lane Lea studios... And the question remains: who the hell was it
that stood in for Dougie in April 1970?
The fact that the top two of our Marble Arch drum department candidates have both passed
away in the last ten years might render any final decisions inconclusive. Barry Morgan would
be a prime suspect. Needless to say, neither Dave, Alan nor Peter Olliff can remember who was
hiding behind the drum shields, and further more, their opinions slightly differ along the way.
Brian Bennett (an ex-Shadow, member of the Mohawks and the re-vamped KPM all-stars) is
a viable living contender due to his tight relationship with Alan Parker, which could arguably
be heard on the record. But was Brian too rocknroll to play those jazzy flourishes at the end
of the session? Were those idiosyncrasies more typical of late jazz drummer Ronnie Verrell
(the real life drummer who plays the Animal character in the UK scored Muppet Show)? Alan
Parker suggested Terry Cox as the Melody Nelson drummer on account of his jazzy flourishes
and impeccable sense of timing. But, around the time of the LPs recording, Terry Cox was part
of a group named Pentangle. But the fact that Pentangle were actually on a two-month North
American tour in April and May 1970 soon shatters the wishful Terry Cox fantasy.
As of August 2011, as these words are being written the case is still open.
Examining the relics, I decide to approach Jean-Claude Vannier one more time about the
identity of the session players on perhaps the greatest European concept of all time (perhaps
outside of Peter And The Wolf and Holsts The Planets). Do you remember anything else?
I ask. I loved the rugs on the studio floor and drinking tea at 5pm. he replied. Its the
attention to detail that is important after all.

Vannier picks up the baton

LM

,
J

ve always been convinced of the need to have at least one idea per track adds

Jean-Claude Vannier. At least one, as a form of constraint, from which all the other

directions will flow. For Melody Nelson, the central idea was to find the most
economic method, a simplified approach. Everything was done, therefore, to strip away the
superfluous and accommodate the musical role of silence. The result: a unique band which,
despite its size, was reduced to the bare essentials. There was only a single guitar, a bass, a
drum and the strings which were mostly melodic, in harmony (everyone played the same note
on different octaves) or mirroring each other. There was no piano and the guitar was used as
a melodious and not harmonious instrument: the strings provided the overall harmony.
Everything is a question of essence: if you dont play all the time, and not always loudly, the
fewer, more essential, notes you play, the more eloquent the music is.
At the time no attention was ever paid to dynamics [the variation in sound intensity] in
this type of music. Which, moreover, is still the case today. On the other hand, in Melody
Nelson, even the drum has nuances with moments that are genuinely piano and others that
are forte, and between the two there are crescendos and decrescendos. Obviously, this form
of musical intention cannot be produced without genuine musical direction.
Once the rhythmic had been recorded, there was a delay of a few weeks before adding the
strings, in May 1970.
If I remember correctly says Jean-Claude Vannier, we only opted for the strings once
wed recorded the rhythmic sections. The orchestration was done very quickly. I remember
having finished it in my attic in Saint-Cloud [West Parisian suburb]. We adopted the same
simplified approach with nuances that we had applied to the rhythms. Everything was
completely transparent and audible. Not one instrument escapes the ear.
The recording took place over four days at the Studio des Dames (rue des Dames in the
Batignolles district of Paris). The sound engineering was done by Jean-Claude Charvier
whose professional ear and technique were largely responsible for the excellent sound quality
of the whole. We owe him a lot. He had a real gift for the exact placement of the microphones
so that the instruments sound wasnt distorted says Jean-Claude Vannier.
The orchestra was essentially composed of musicians from the Paris Opera, structured around
violinist Jean Gaunet and his wife, with whom Vannier was used to working. As for the choirs,
they were those of the Jeunesses Musicales de France, conducted by Louis Martini.

the great lines


take on their outlinE
The elaboration of the texts

NL

ow only the voices needed recording. Which of course requires texts to be



written. And at this point, Serge was facing an impasse. He will take at least one

and a half years between the first written drafts and the finished texts.
After her character first appeared in 1968, in the dedication written to Jane on her copy of
Chansons cruelles, we rediscover Melody in various Press cuttings from autumn 1969
onwards. As for example in LAurore, published 31st October 1969: LHistoire de Melody
Nelson will tell the sexual initiation of a young girl knocked over one day in the Paris suburbs
by a forty-something-year-old in a Rolls, as she was riding her bike. Of course, the vehicles
back seat will serve as a setting for the action. The central idea has therefore been established,
even if the precise details are still a little sketchy.
Did Gainsbourg imagine from the outset the huge dimensions of the album? Theres no
telling. Melody wasnt his first experience of a lengthy narration either. As early as 1962 he
talked on radio about his desire to write a musical comedy. Jean-Louis Barrault, then director
at the Odeon Theatre, took him literally at his word and gave him a free hand. But the project
never materialized.
In the meantime, there was Anna with Anna Karina, Jean-Claude Brialy, and Marianne
Faithfull. Conceived in collaboration with his friend, film-maker Pierre Koralnik, its a
little gem of a musical comedy for TV, set in the sixties and full of random references from
Un homme et une femme by Lelouch and Une femme est une femme by Godard, to the
surrealists via Warhol and Dali.
Even though its grand format was taking shape, the first sketches of the Histoire de Melody
Nelson reveal a structure very different to that of the final album. It would seem in fact that
Melody was initially planned to have episodic adventures. The album would therefore have
been presented as a series of short stories, similar to childrens books such as Bcassine or
Martine which develop the same character from episode to episode: Martine la plage,
Martine la campagne...

Serge had already explored this form of short stories in series like Martine with Marie
Mathmatique, known as Marie-Math, who can be considered Melodys older sister. A
laughing, intrepid young girl, fan of comic strips and a little mischievous, Marie-Math was
the heroine of a sci-fi series which had six cartoon episodes in black and white lasting five
or six minutes each. Produced in 1965, it was the work of Jean-Claude Forest (author of the
Barbarella comic) and the science-fiction and script-writer Andr Ruellan. Gainsbourgs
role was limited to composing the music and singing Ruellans poetical texts texts which in
fact fitted him perfectly, as much due to their tone as to their rhythm and vocabulary.
Another story may have inspired the framework for Melody: Lhistoire du Soldat
[The Soldiers Tale], a musical story by Swiss poet Charles-Ferdinand Ramuz and Russian
composer Igor Stravinsky, a musician who was listened to almost religiously in the Ginsburg
home. In Lhistoire du Soldat, the text isnt sung, but rather half sung half spoken, or spoken
with a sing-song rhythm by one, two or three voices according to the different versions, with
a perfect counterpoint between prosody and music. Gainsbourg was certainly familiar with
this masterpiece of avant-garde music, composed in 1917. He would later play the role of the
devil in this piece for a TV episode in the eighties. Moreover, the moral of the story, even
in the original version by Stravinsky and Ramuz is most typical of Gainsbourg: nothing, not
money nor alcohol nor women, can equal the sound of a small violin!
Of this fleeting vision expressed in the album, there only remains a few rare drafts and
scattered fragments the bulk of the manuscripts for Melody has sadly been lost to us. But
on the other hand there are extant recordings, a completed song, or almost complete, which
appears on the master tape: the astonishing
Melody lit Babar in which the trumpet,
which rings out like a toy, echoes the horn in
Ah! Melody.
In my opinion says Jane Melody lit Babar
is there to illustrate the childish character of
Melody, as are certain lines of the song Ah!
Melody: Lying on my back...
Janes arrival in Serges life in effect meant
the arrival of her daughter Kate also and with
her, the whole childhood universe that she
brought with her and which surfaces throughout
the album.

All roads lead to Melody

LT
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3

his difficulty he had in writing the texts and the last-minute decision to

approach the album in its entirety explains perhaps why the characters, and

especially that of the young nymphet, have less depth than those in Lhomme
tte de chou, whose overall concept and narrative had been developed from the start. In
Histoire de Melody Nelson, we are left with vague notions and suggestions, and the train of
events doesnt seem to follow a truly literary logic.
Inspiration finally came, in particular thanks to time spent with the poets.
Serge was virtually obsessed with classical poetry says Jean-Claude Vannier. It so
happened that we both had the same little dictionary of rhymes, published by Larousse, with
a blue cover I believe... I still have my copy. Both of us found it to be a superb help. This
kind of little gem enables you to quickly find just the right word without resorting to the
glaringly obvious, the trivial or the boring. Its a real time-saver. And, at the beginning of this
book a few examples are quoted, including a few sonnets. Notably Heredias sonnets, whose
Alexandrian style is so bombastic.
Therefore Melody is partially composed of a series of sonnets the purest and most
rigourous form of poetry, will say to Alain Cances in 1979 two quatrains, two tercets and
in Alexandrian even if all the feet are not always present. Some of these sonnets, like the
two comprising Cargo Culte are even directly inspired by Heredias Les Conqurants.
They follow its structure and particularly the rhyming scheme (A-B-B-A / A-B-B-A / C-C-D /
E-D-E).
Sometimes the music itself provided the inspiration for the text, by conjuring up a specific
image. That of the bike, for example: Jean-Claude Charvier and Remy Aucharles remember
a specific point in the music where a drumbeat and a guitar harmony reminded him of a bike
wheel that was spinning freely. However, comments Vannier, at the composition phase, I
didnt even know that a bike would be part of the story.

It was the same for Cargo culte: the choirs generated the image. In fact, when writing the
musical scores, I wasnt concerned about anything else, for the simple reason that we didnt
have any texts. Today the score is considered like a musical program, whereas at conception
stage it was purely music: the program was added at a later date.
We found ourselves working with a sort of UFO he adds. We were building something
completely unprecedented, without knowing how people were going to react to it. We werent
in the process of interpreting a song or an existing score, nor was it merely a simple album
with a series of songs. We were in an intensive research phase and at the same time we were
seeking common ground. However, I sometimes think that all that followed, the success of the
album and the myth that surrounds it now, is part of a huge misunderstanding: certain aspects
of Melody which today seem essential were in fact completely insignificant for us...
After a few months of intensive labor, the voices were finally recorded, again at the Studio
des Dames, with Jean-Claude Charvier and the oversight of Vannier, from 11th-14th January.
As for the final mix, that was completed from 1st-4th February 1971.
The album was released in March 1971. Right in the midst of an electoral campaign
for municipal elections, its release was accompanied by a basic poster campaign which
announced soberly, cryptically and mysteriously: Melody Nelson, in blue Melody on a
black background. With no further explanation.
As we know, commercial success did not immediately follow. It would take the arrival of
the reggae years for the album to lose its relative anonymity and achieve its cult status. In
any case, Melody certainly is cult today. Melody is the girl-flower-of-evil, barely awakened
sensuality, thrust into the troubled and smoky world of Art nouveau at the turn of the twentieth
century, that of brothels in Baroque dcor and unbridled sensuality. A time of naivety becoming
womanhood with disarming candor. Its the apotheosis of a progressive and symphonic rock
style. It is a unique achievement in the history of songwriting the transformation of a
constrictive classical form into an elusive and complex poetic declaration. It is a stupendous
counterpoint, a formal perfection, a unique voice and a character of tragic destiny produced
by modernity, who will forever remain in our memories. Thanks to Melody, thanks to Vannier
and Jane, Gainsbourg is still today at the cutting edge of the avant-garde.

Rdition conue et ralise par Sbastien Merlet et Xavier Perrot


Coordination gnrale : Xavier Perrot - Direction artistique : Sbastien Merlet
Rdaction du livret : Jrmie Szpirglas - Traduction anglaise : Steve Blackah
Texte Blow up : Andy Votel - Traduction franaise : Jrmie Szpirglas
Conception graphique : Gros et Dtails
Fabrication : Anne Carlier, Claude Chabane, Andre Lebrun et Edwina Turcat
Studio Universal Music France : Julien Broyer, Nolle Debailleul et Vincent Malet
Mastering : Poussin, studios D.E.S. Aubervilliers
Photos
Tony Frank (Digipack et livret pages 1, 6, 23) - Benjamin Auger / Archives Filipacchi (page 2) - Dominique Petrolacci (page 8 : gauche)
Collection personnelle Alan Parker / droits rservs (page 8 : droite) - Claude Delorme (page 10)
Collection personnelle Jean-Claude Charvier / droits rservs (page 11) - Giancarlo Botti / Stills / GAMMA (pages 12, 15 et 27)
Stills / GAMMA (pages 14) - Patrick Bertrand (page 18) - Keystone France (page 31)
Iconographie
Universal Music France : Sverine Hamonou, meline Perrin, Brigitte Frick et Laurence Ferracci
Gamma-Rapho : Laetitia Payen et Elodie Pomet - Scoop : Nelly Dhoutaut et Yasmina Guerfi
Universal Catalogue : Eric Perchais
Mercury France : Olivier Nusse et Eric Lelievre
VMA : Catherine Laignel, Christine Jacquemin et Fabien Perrault
Service juridique Universal Music France : Hlne Voglieri, Alexandra Bariatinsky, Camille Aveline et Franois Clarou
Remerciements
Jane Birkin, Jean-Claude Vannier, Jean-Claude Charvier, Andrew Birkin et Tony Frank pour leur troite collaboration
ainsi quaux ayants droit de Serge Gainsbourg
Rmy Aucharles, Kate Barry, Jean Gaunet, Peter Olliff, Alan Parker et Dave Richmond
Daniel Vandel pour sa prcieuse collection et sa disponibilit - Youri Zakovitch pour sa fidlit et son enthousiasme
La ralisation de cette rdition a bnfici du travail effectu chez Universal Music France
par Jean-Yves Billet, Jean-Pierre Haie et Jean-Marie Gurin. Merci eux.

Melody, Valse de Melody, Lhtel particulier, Cargo culte (Serge Gainsbourg) Editions Melody Nelson Publishing / Warner Chappell Music
France / Sidonie - Ballade de Melody Nelson, Ah ! Melody, En Melody (Serge Gainsbourg / Jean-Claude Vannier) Editions Melody Nelson
Publishing / Warner Chappell Music France / Sidonie / Jean-Claude Vannier - Melody lit Babar (Serge Gainsbourg / Jean-Claude Vannier) Droits rservs.