|LUXEMBOURG 1965 - ”Poupée De Cire,
Poupée De Son”|
Performed at Eurovision by
Music and lyrics by Serge
Finished 1st at Eurovision
Listen to the song (wma)
Watch the performance
(broadband - upgraded)
Voted the 14th best Eurovision song of all time.
Eurovision Song Contest staged in Naples on March 20th 1965 saw the
competition being broadcast in Eastern Europe for the first time.
The estimated television audience of 150 million was a new record, as
was the number of competing nations. Eighteen countries took part in
the contest, including Ireland for the the very first time. Over the
previous couple of years the world of pop music had changed
dramatically, with British bands like The Beatles and The Rolling
Stones dominating the charts all over the world. Eurovision was in
danger of being left behind, but the song that triumphed in Naples
that night made some progress in bringing the contest back to
the mainstream of 1960's pop.
Cire, Poupée De Son" (Wax Doll, Singing Doll) may appear to be
just a chirpy disposable pop song and on first listening may sound
like a French version of the songs of British female stars of the
era like Lulu, Sandie Shaw or Petula Clark, but like much of the
work of its controversial songwriter Serge Gainsboug, there's a
subtext of manipulation and self doubt. At under two and a half
minutes it is also one of the shortest Eurovision winners of all
old Parisian France's Gall's performance of the song at Eurovision
was far from note perfect, but she certainly looked stunning in the
very close-up camerawork of the Italian producer. The song was the
15th to be performed, in what was a pretty lacklustre field.
Interestingly the Eurovision performance is faster than the recorded
version and contains a slightly extended introduction.
When it came to the voting, "Poupée
De Cire, Poupée De Son" took the lead on the votes of the
first jury and led from start to finish. The only country to
seriously threaten Luxembourg was the United Kingdom, who had a very
similar entry "I Belong" performed by Kathy Kirby.
Surprisingly, despite the the fact that Kirby was well known in
Ireland, the Irish jury ignored "I Belong", instead
awarding its top points to Austria, and giving Luxembourg its second
highest vote. Luxembourg got the top points from Netherlands,
Germany, Austria and Finland. Amazingly despite the fact that both
the singer and songwriter of the Luxembourg entry were already
hugely popular in France,
the French jury did not award any points to "Poupée
De Cire, Poupée De Son".
After its success at the
Eurovision Song Contest "Poupée
De Cire, Poupée De Son" shot straight to
the top of the French charts and also went on to be a big hit in
most of Europe, although it missed out in both the U.K. and Ireland.
This might have something to do with the fact that while the song
was also released in Italian, German and even Japanese, France Gall
never recorded an English version. There is however a very rare
English version of the song called " A Lonely Singing Doll"
recorded by British star Twinkle. "Poupée
De Cire, Poupée De Son" has also been
more recently recorded by Belgian star Kim Kay and perhaps more
surprisingly by Scottish indie band Belle And Sebastian.
Isabelle Gall, who was born in Paris on 9 October
1947, grew up in a musical family.
Her grandfather helped set up the famous French children's choir Les Petits Chanteurs à la Croix de Bois, while her mother,
Cécile, was a singer. However it was her father, Robert Gall, who was the star in the family.
He had risen to fame on the French music scene writing songs for a host of legendary French stars such as Charles Aznavour
and Edith Piaf. In her early teens Isabelle went on to form a group with her brothers. Then, thanks to a little help from her father,
and having adopted the pseudonym of France, she recorded her first single,
aged just fifteen. Released in September 1963, "Ne Sois Pas Si Bête" (Don't Be So Silly) went on to prove a huge hit
in France selling over 200,000 copies. Encouraged by this success, France left school and went on to record a second single in 1964. Written by her father,
"Sacré Charlemagne" went on to be another hit. France
Gall went on to make a major name for herself in the yéyé craze (the fashionable 60's sound which fused Anglo-Saxon rock'n'roll with French variété).
During this time, France Gall's career was aided by her union with the legendary singer/songwriter Serge
Gainsbourg, who had already written numerous hits for other French singers.
When RTL approached Gainsbourg to write the 1965 Eurovision entry
for Luxembourg, he personally chose France Gall to sing the song,
and it was her Eurovision victory that brought international
Gall recorded several other Gainsboug compositions including the
controversial song "Les Sucettes" (The Lollipops). The 19 year
old singer apparently failed to grasp the full sense of Gainsbourg's famous double
entendres and this song (which was a thinly veiled ode to oral sex)
eventually helped end the pair's collaboration, although they did
briefy re-unite in 1972 to record "Les Petits Ballons Frankenstein".
In 1966, at the tender age of twenty, Gall was voted France's
number one female pop star. Then, the following year, the young singer went on to score another huge hit with
France Gall then took a break from the music scene while always remaining in the media spotlight, dating 1960's idol Claude François,
and then having a four-year relationship with another popular French singing star, Julien Clerc.
1974 proved to be a major turning point in France Gall's personal life as well as in her professional career.
She first met the brilliant French singer/songwriter Michel Berger. Berger had started out performing his own work in the 60's and managed to score quite a few hits. But then in the early 70's his songwriting and production work had taken the upper hand and he had gone on to work with Véronique Sanson (producing her début album "Amoureuse") and Françoise Hardy. Shortly after
France Gall's initial meeting with Berger they began a love affair. The
relationship would also result in the spectacular blossoming of her career. Berger created a whole new repertoire for
she soon made a major comeback on the French music scene, rocketing to the top of the charts with her
single "La Déclaration". This proved to be the first of many hits which Berger wrote
for Gall. In 1976 the couple married.
1978 went down in French music history as the year of "Starmania", the legendary rock opera which Berger
co-wrote, casting his wife in one of the lead roles. "Starmania"
proved to be an enormous hit with the French public. In
November 1978 France gave birth to a daughter, Pauline. Then, following her acclaimed performance in "Starmania", the singer returned to the recording studio to begin work on a new series of singles.
She rocketed back to the top of the charts in 1980 with a brand new single entitled "Donner
Pour Donner", a song she performed with Elton John. In 1981 France
Gall released her fourth album "Tout Pour La Musique" which
yielded more hits and later that year Gall took another short break from her recording career after giving birth to her second child, Raphaël.
In the next few years she gained major success thanks to her live
shows, which sold out some of Paris's biggest music venues.
In 1985, Berger and Gall followed
the Live Aid example and gathered together with some of France's
biggest stars, recording the charity single "Chanteurs Sans
Frontières". The couple also became involved with another major fund-raising project,
which encouraged school children and their families to send food to areas hit by famine.
France Gall returned to the studio in 1987 to begin work on a new album entitled "Babacar". This album was largely inspired by the singer's experiences in Africa.
The album also includes the song "Ella, Elle L'a" which
became a massive hit, and introduced a new generation to her music. France's next album, released in 1992, proved to be a major event in the French music world because it was a joint album with Michel Berger.
However later that year while the couple were holidaying in their house
close St Tropez, Berger suffered an infraction and he died on August 2, aged just 44.
France spent several months grieving, but in the end she decided to resume her career,
devoting herself to performing her late husband's
work and she appeared in several high profile events to mark his
life and music. She also recorded an album of his best known songs
in Los Angeles. This album, entitled simply "France", was released to critical acclaim in 1995.
Sadly, in the winter of 1997, tragedy hit France Gall's life once again, when her daughter Pauline died at the age of 19.
France Gall withdrew from the showbiz world completely, and has made
few major public appearances since, preferring to spend time in in
Senegal, where she owns a house. She remains a well known and
popular star in her native France. It is known that she will not be
performing live in the "Congratulations" show.
Serge Gainsbourg (real
name Lucien Ginzburg) was one of twins born in Paris, on April 2nd
son of Jewish Russian parents who had fled their homeland during the revolution.
He originally wanted to be a painter but initially earned his living
as a piano player in bars, which introduced him to the world of jazz music. In
1951 he married Elisabeth Levitsky, the daughter of Russian aristocrats.
After their marriage, he went back to work as an art teacher and spent his spare time directing the local
choir, during this time he also started songwriting. He also began
to get a name as a notorious womaniser, which would follow him
throughout his life and led to his divorce in 1957.
In 1958, Lucien changed his name to Serge
Gainsbourg and finally abandoned painting (destroying all his
artwork in the process). His father found him a job as a pianist/guitarist at the "Milord
l’arsouille" cabaret. It was while working in this cabaret that Serge
met the famous singer/songwriter, author and jazz trumpet-player Boris
Vian who inspired Gainsbourg to perform his own compositions in
public. In 1959 he released his first album, and despite some
critical reviews it became a huge success, yielding the single
"Le Poinçonneur Des Lilas", also recorded by Juliette Gréco
and now considered a classic of French pop music.
By 1960 Gainsbourg was heavily into rock and
roll in songs like "Requiem Pour Un Twisteur". He infused his tunes with rock and roll,
mambo and Afro-Cuban rhythms, and he quickly became one of France's
most respected songwriters. In 1964 Gainsbourg, in his own words "impregnated by American
music" achieved his biggest vocal development; the introduction of Anglo-slang
on tracks like "Ford Mustang".
By the mid 1960s actresses and singers were queuing up to get the rights to Gainsbourg
output. Big French stars like Dalida and Brigitte Bardot were joined
by British singers like Marianne Faithful and Petula Clark, in
recording his songs. It was with this background that Luxembourg's
broadcaster RTL made the inspired decision to invite Gainsbourg to
write their 1965 Eurovision entry. The song became one of his most
famous and helped spread his reputation. In 1966, having recently got divorced from his second wife, Béatrice, Gainsbourg went to live at the "Cité internationale des
Arts". Despite the fact that he was by now an established star on the French music scene, Gainsbourg lived in a small student’s room at the "Cité" for the next two
years. Gainsbourg returned to Eurovision in 1967 when he composed
the Monegasque entry "Boum-Badaboum", a seemingly
cheery song, but with the theme of a nuclear
holocaust. It finished 5th and failed to make much impact outside
the contest. During the summer of 1967 Gainsbourg and Michel Simon co-starred in the film "Ce
Sacré Grand Père". Gainsbourg would go on to make a number of movies and TV films in the
1960’s and 1970’s, but none of these proved to be very memorable. The highlight of
his acting career was his role alongside Jean Gabin in "Le Pacha"
in 1968. Gainsbourg wrote the theme for "Le Pacha", and the song "Requiem
Pour Un Con" would soon prove to be another major hit.
In 1968 Gainsbourg met Brigitte Bardot again and the pair began a
passionate love affair. Gainsbourg wrote a number of songs for
Bardot, including "Harley Davidson", "Comic strip" and the famous duet "Bonnie and Clyde".
Gainsbourg also wrote the notorious "Je T’aime...Moi Non
Plus" for Bardot and the couple recorded the song as a duet.
Bardot, who was married to millionaire Gunther Sachs at the time, begged Gainsbourg not to release the song as a
single and he respected her wishes. In November of that year British
actress Jane Birkin recorded four of Gainsbourg’s songs including a new version of
"Je T’aime...Moi Non Plus". Scandal broke out once again at the lyrics of the
song, including a simulated orgasm, but this time Gainsbourg forged ahead and released the
song as a single. It rocketed to the top of the charts all over
Europe shortly and was the first song to top the British singles
chart having been banned by radio and television. After its success Gainsbourg and Birkin became a legendary couple
overnight and began a longterm romantic relationship.
Meanwhile Gainsbourg had continued to write material for other singers, composing two songs for the young
French singer and former Eurovision contestant Françoise Hardy in 1968. Hardy would score a major hit with her double A-sided single featuring "L’anamour" and the famous "Comment
Te Dire Adieu". By the end of the 1960’s Gainsbourg was proving to be France’s fastest-selling musical
export. However after Birkin entered his life, Serge began to compose less material for other female singers and also stopped writing for
himself, instead preferring to devote more of his time to his personal life.
In 1971 Gainsbourg went on to write "Melody Nelson", an album based entirely around
Birkin. The album proved immensely popular with the general public and the critics
who hailed it as a "masterpiece".
By now Gainsbourg’s public image was becoming more and more provocative.
When he was invited onto TV shows he appeared scruffy, unshaven, and he would habitually drink and chain-smoke through interviews.
In later years, on a television show with a young Whitney Houston,
Gainsbourg caused shock by repeatedly telling the American "I
want to f**k you", which was clearly heard by the audience.
However Gainsbourg’s rebellious stance and non-conformist attitudes began to win him a cult following among the teenagers who had hitherto ignored him.
In 1975 Gainsbourg made a film version of "Je T’aime...Moi
Non Plus" which attracted more controversy and was panned by
the critics. Returning to music, he scored a massive summer hit in
1978 with "Sea, Sex and Sun". In the 1970's Gainsbourg
discovered reggae and again attracted controversy when he recorded a
reggaefied version of the French national anthem. Gainsbourg entered
the Eurovision for the third and final time in 1990, writing the
lyrics for the French entry "White And Black Blues" which
finished a very close 2nd in Zagreb. A year earlier Gainsbourg had
been rushed to hospital for an operation on his liver. His doctors insisted that he gave up drinking immediately, telling him it was a matter of life or death.
On March 2 1991 Gainsbourg was found lying dead in his bedroom. He had suffered
a heart attack, which had proved fatal. Gainsbourg's passing was
marked with huge displays of grief in the French public and media.
His reputation as one of the 20th Century's most original and
accomplished songwriters is unquestioned.
BEST EUROVISION SONG
BEFORE THE SHOW I SAID : There's no doubt but
that "Poupée De Cire, Poupée De Son" is an absolutely
great pop song and that it changed the face of the Eurovision Song
Contest in a way that few songs have done since. As for being the
best Eurovision song of all time, some might say that it is now
quite dated and that while it represents its musical era very well, it
does not have the timeless quality of some of the other songs in
competition in Copenhagen. Its chances of victory are also reduced by the fact
that French television is not showing the "Congratulations"
show and that France Gall will not be in Copenhagen. For old time
Eurovision fans however, this will be a great chance to reminisce
and see a new generation of fans getting to hear a true Eurovision
AFTER THE SHOW I SAY : I wasn't overly surprised that this finished last in the "Congratulations" show. The song is very much a period piece and the live performance is very subdued compared to most of the other songs in competition.