From Gainsbourgh to Gainsbarre

7th arrondissement - 5bis, rue de Verneuil

On Dec. 31, 1967, Serge Gainsbourgh (real name: Lucien Ginsburg) bought this residence at 5bis, rue de Verneuil. I would guess that it was turned into a garish shrine for fans well before Windmill Lane in Dublin for our own U2. SG called it his "visitor's book". Among the ephemeral texts: "J'espère que là-haut notre génie a le droit à ses 'elles'"…"Un dieu avec un dieu. N'y en a-t'il pas un de trop?"….."J'aurais préféré que Gainsbarre se bourre plutôt que Gainsbourg se barre". The last comment is the most interesting, because it hints at Gainsbourgh's transformation from France's most melodic singer-songwriter of the 1960s and 1970s and its most inspired, (albeit provocative) lyricist into "Gainsbarre", a far less appealing character. "Gainsbarre" was a kind of dirty old man in a raincoat, one constantly invited onto TV shows because he could be guaranteed to say or do something nasty. Hence the famous occasion when he burned a FF500 note to demonstrate how much of his earnings went on tax. In the same programme he was asked how he celebrated his birthday: "Par une cuite, comme tous les jours," came the reply. Or on another, classic, evening when he was seated beside 'special guest' Whitney Houston. The interviewer asked Gainsbarre what he'd like to say to the American singer. "I'd like to fuck you," came the straight reply, in English. As a completely dumbfounded Whitney Houston looked around desperately for cover, an embarassed interviewer hastily translated Serge's magical piece of repartee for the benefit of the French audience. "He says he'd like to murmur sweet nothings to her", he said, lying. Through a haze of smoke, Gainsbarre butts in. "Non, je n'ai pas dit ça. J'ai dit que j'amerais bien la baiser."

By the 1980s, Gainsborough-Gainsbarre was a physical wreck after a lifetime of chain-smoking Gitanes, drinking Pastis and consuming various other substances. In the early 1980s, he took up with a young 21-year-old called Bambou (he was 53). She appeared bare-breasted in a video for his big hit of 1984, Love on the Beat. Here's here some of this ditty goes….:

Brûlants sont tous tes orifices
Des trois que les dieux t'ont donnés
Je décide de m'introduire dans le moins lisse
D'achever de m'abandonner
Love on the beat
Love on the beat

Une décharge de six mille volts
Vient de gicler de mon pylône
Et nos reins alors se révoltent
D'un coup d'épilepsie synchrone
Love on the beat
Love on the beat


Now I'm definitely NOT going to translate the above. Suffice to say that it is racy stuff, about 10 times more "suggestive" than the lyrics of Je t'aime, moi non plus. Gainsbourg died in rue Verneuil on March 2, 1991, a month before his 63rd birthday. His grave in Montparnasse cemetery is another shrine. Fans leave various objects with a link to the singer such as: cabbages (one of his albums was entitled L'homme à la tête du chou, the man with the cabbage head, Gainsbourg's description of himself); metro tickets (a reference to Le Poinçoinneur des Lilas, the ticket-puncher of Porte des Lilas Metro station, Gainsborough's first hit, back in 1957; packets of Gitanes, a reference to the song Dieu est un fumeur de havanes, and the lines

Tu n'es qu'un fumeur de gitanes
Je vois tes volutes bleues
Me faire parfois venir les larmes aux yeux
Tu es mon maître après Dieu

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