Serge Gainsbourg avec Jean Claude Vannier – La Horse (Editions Hortensia, early 70s)

Listen: “LaHorse.”

I shall not attempt to edit Mssr. Gainsbourg’s biography into a sentence or two, as that wouldn’t do the French genius justice. If you’re interested, there is a decent (and the only English language) bio by Sylvie Simmons you might want to check entitled A Fistful of Gitanes. Rather, I’ll start by saying that there was a time when Serge’s proto-rap classic “Requiem Pour Un Con” completely twisted my generations’ wig back. Some of us, myself included, heard it first by watching the Jean Gabin-venue Le Pacha, the late ’60s neo-noir that featured a mini music video of a pea-coated, chain-smoking Serge breathing his way through the song.

Well, in those pre-eBay days, we all thought that if we were ever able to get ahold of a copy of the picture sleeve 7-inch OST to Le Pacha, our Serge collections would be complete. We all already owned copies of Histoire De Melody Nelson, you know? How mistaken we were.

I’ll never forget the phone call from The Heliocentrics’ Malcolm Catto when he asked me if I’d ever heard of this promo-only 7-inch “La Horse.” Of course I hadn’t, and he went on to describe in vivid detail this track, composed by Serge and his long time arranging partner Jean-Claude Vannier that stood not only as one of Serge’s best instrumental releases, but also his rarest. The record was released by Serge’s publishing company, Hortensia, around the time of the release of the film, as a promotional-only item to be given to theater goers.

A few years and missteps later (including one in a Parisian flea market, when the Euro was worth about a dollar, when the going rate for the record was about 900 E), I finally scored a copy from a collector based in, of all places, Oxnard. This one hasn’t left my box in years, and I DJ it out constantly. The banjo break is a bit hokey, but whatever – the film, another Gabin feature, took place in the countryside, so I guess Serge was just shouting out the hicks. Who cares? It follows one incredible drum break, doesn’t it?

Oh, one last thing: that cover is a “paste on…”

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