Histoire de Melody Nelson

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Histoire de Melody Nelson
Studio album by Serge Gainsbourg
Released March 1971
Recorded London, England
Genre French rock
Length 27:57
Label Philips
Producer Jean-Claude Desmarty
Serge Gainsbourg chronology
Jane Birkin/Serge Gainsbourg
Histoire de Melody Nelson
Vu de l'extérieur
Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
Allmusic 4.5/5 stars[1]
The A.V. Club (A)[2]
No Ripcord (10/10)[3]
Pitchfork Media (10/10)[4]
PopMatters (10/10)[5]

Histoire de Melody Nelson is a 1971 concept album by French songwriter Serge Gainsbourg. The Lolita-esque pseudo-autobiographical plot involves the middle-aged Gainsbourg unintentionally colliding his Rolls Royce Silver Ghost into teenage nymphet Melody Nelson's bicycle, and the subsequent seduction and romance that ensues. Histoire de Melody Nelson is considered by many critics and fans to be Gainsbourg's most influential and accomplished album. It is also regarded as one of the greatest albums of all time. The French edition of Rolling Stone magazine named this album the 4th greatest French rock album (out of 100).[6]


At just under twenty-eight minutes, the short running time and the stylistic consistency and similarity throughout the album gives it qualities more in line with an EP or an extended musical piece with a number of movements. Histoire de Melody Nelson‘s mix of freewheeling guitar, funk style bass guitar, near spoken word vocal delivery, and lush, deep orchestrated string and choral arrangements by Jean-Claude Vannier[7] who composed almost the entire music in collaboration with Gainsbourg for the album, have proven to be highly influential amongst later francophone and anglophone musical performers including the French band Air, David Holmes, Stereolab, Pulp's Jarvis Cocker, Portishead, and Beck, whose 2002 track "Paper Tiger" from Sea Change is extremely close to the distinctive Histoire de Melody Nelson sound.


Jean-Claude Vannier performed the album live at London's Barbican on October 21, 2006 with guest vocalists Jarvis Cocker, Badly Drawn Boy, Brigitte Fontaine, The Bad Seeds’ Mick Harvey and lead singer from Super Furry Animals, Gruff Rhys. Vannier performed the album in its entirety alongside his own solo album L'Enfant assassin des mouches.

Publicity for the Barbican concert revealed that the musicians used for the album were Dougie Wright, Big Jim Sullivan, Herbie Flowers and Vic Flick who all joined Vannier for the concert. The BBC Concert Orchestra, the Crouch End Festival Chorus and a children’s string quintet were part of the show.

In October 2008 22nd & 23rd Jean-Claude Vannier performed the album live at the Cité de la Musique with guest vocalists Mathieu Amalric, Brigitte Fontaine, Brian Molko (Placebo), Martina Topley Bird, Daniel Darc, Clotilde Hesme, Seaming To. Also performing were Herbie Flowers (bass), Claude Engel (guitar), Pierre-Alain Dahan (drums).[8] Jean Claude Vannier also performed the L'Enfant Assassin Des Mouches. The Lamoureux Orchestra, the Yound Choir of Paris and a children’s string quintet were also part of the show.

On August 28, 2011, Jean-Claude Vannier participated in A Tribute to Serge Gainsbourg at the Hollywood Bowl. The artists that performed Gainsbourg's songs that evening included Beck, Sean Lennon and Charlotte Kemp Muhl, Mike Patton, Zola Jesus, Victoria Legrand (singer of indie band Beach House), Ed Droste (singer of indie band Grizzly Bear) and Serge's son Lulu Gainsbourg. The second half of the evening included a performance of the album with Vannier conducting. Each of the album's songs were performed by different combinations of the evening's artists, backed by the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra and the Cal State Fullerton chorale. American actor Joseph Gordon-Levitt also participated in the album's performance.

Release history[edit]

After the release of the album, a music video was made for each song, and released all together as "Melody" a short musical.

On October 18, 2011 Mercury Records through Universal Music released the album with a second CD containing alternate takes of all seven tracks as well as instrumental and vocal versions of the excised track "Melody Lit Babar." A limited edition was also released that included a DVD which featured the original album remixed in Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound and a forty minute documentary on the making of the album which includes interviews with Jane Birkin, Jean-Claude Vannier and others. This release also includes a full color booklet of liner notes in both French and English.


Track listing[edit]

All songs by Serge Gainsbourg except where noted otherwise:

  1. "Melody" - 7:32
  2. "Ballade de Melody Nelson" (Music by Serge Gainsbourg/Jean-Claude Vannier) - 2:00
  3. "Valse de Melody" - 1:31
  4. "Ah! Melody" (Music by Serge Gainsbourg/Jean-Claude Vannier) - 1:47
  5. "L'hôtel particulier" - 4:05
  6. "En Melody" (Music by Serge Gainsbourg/Jean-Claude Vannier) - 3:25
  7. "Cargo culte" - 7:37




#21 - Pitchforkmedia: Top 100 Albums of the 1970s



  1. ^ Allmusic review
  2. ^ The A.V. Club review
  3. ^ No Ripcord review
  4. ^ Pitchfork Media review
  5. ^ PopMatters review
  6. ^ Magazine Rolling Stone, n°18 of February 2010, ISSN 1764-107L
  7. ^ [1][dead link]
  8. ^ "Melody Nelson live in Paris (2008)". YouTube. 2008-12-18. Retrieved 2012-02-21. 
  9. ^ A. Votel/J. Szpirglas, Histoire de Melody Nelson, Edition du 40ème anniversaire
  10. ^ Histoire De Melody Nelson, Serge Gainsbourg, Allmusic.com
  11. ^ Trott, Benjamin (2009-06-23). "Meet Melody". MovableType.org. Retrieved 2009-06-24. 

External links[edit]