He never really left. A hero in his home-country, beloved to foreigners we now call “hipsters” since, well, before The Bollock Brothers covered his “Harley David Son Of A Bitch.” A carefully disheveled fashion icon, he managed to pull Bridgette Bardot and Jane Birkin (amongst other 60s and 70s nymphs) despite his rumpled white dress shirts and hawk-like profile. Serge Gainsbourg passed away a legend at the age of 56 in 1991. Sure, towards the end he caricatured himself with his slouchy lout of an alter ego, the rheumy-eyed Gainsbarre, and tortured a young Whitney Houston on one of the television’s greatest moments. But open the gatefold to his 1970 masterpiece Histoire De Melody Nelson and bask in the glow of Serge in his prime – I often do, now that I’m thirty and grey streaks my black hair. My barber laughs every time I show up for a cut, carrying the album, humming “En Melody” and reminding him of the cut I hope to wear with half of the maestro’s panache.
But, while he seems to be enjoying quite the fashion revival lately, his late 60s and early 70s soundtrack work has still remained a footnote in his lengthy career. By the time 1968 rolled around, Gainsbourg had retired collaborator Alain Goraguer (sadly before the maestro composed his soundtrack to Le Planete Sauvage) and embraced two then unknowns: Michel Colombier and Jean Claude Vannier. Both are now legends in their own right, but the work that they put into Gainsbourg-penned scores such as Le Pacha and La Horse ensured that they too would see as many musical turns as Gainsbourg’s well-tailored pea coats.