1967-1969, Serge Gainsbourg & Brigitte Bardot / Jane Birkin – « Je t’aime…moi non plus »
Serge Gainsbourg (1928-1991) was a musician, singer-songwriter, author, filmmaker and actor. Regarded as the most important figure in French pop whilst alive, he was renowned for often provocative and scandalous releases which caused uproar in France, dividing its public opinion, as well as his diverse artistic output, which ranged from his early work in jazz, chanson, and yé-yé to later efforts in rock, funk, reggae, and electronica. Gainsbourg’s varied musical style and individuality make him difficult to categorize, although his legacy has been firmly established and he is often regarded as one of the world’s most influential popular musicians.
Translated as “I Love You….Me Neither,” the track is one of the most controversial duets ever released. Lyrically, the song details the conversation between two lovers during intimacy. Banned in many countries for its explicit nature, the song did attract universal acclaim and eventually reached number one in the UK charts.
The title was inspired by a Salvador Dalí comment: “Picasso is Spanish, me too. Picasso is a genius, me too. Picasso is a communist, me neither”.
It was originally written in 1967 by Gainsbourg at the request of girlfriend Brigitte Bardot. She had asked him to write the most beautiful love song he could imagine and that night he wrote “Je t’aime” and “Bonnie and Clyde”. They recorded an arrangement of “Je t’aime” by Michel Colombier at a Paris studio in a two-hour session in a small glass booth. However, news of the recording reached the press and Bardot’s husband was angry and called for the single to be withdrawn. Bardot pleaded with Gainsbourg not to release it. He complied but observed “The music is very pure. For the first time in my life, I write a love song and it’s taken badly.
In 1968, Gainsbourg began dating English actress Jane Birkin and they recorded the song together. The song was declared by Gainsbourg to portray the impossibilities and desperation of physical love.The French press reported the song as an “audio verite,” and the eroticism was considered offensive which resulted in its expulsion from radio across much of Europe. However, the song is one of the greatest success stories of French chanson, and by 1986 it had sold four million copies. Music critic Sylvie Simmons stated that the lyrical subtleties and French nuances were lost on the late-1960s Brits, confirming the notion that “life across the Channel was one of unchecked lubriciousness.”