It's that time of year again! The presents have all been opened. The Swedish meatballs are being digested. Snow is(n't) in the air and on the ground, and I'm ensconced in the ancestral home in Minnesota. It's Christmas! Which means it's time for my annual post to this old blog as part of one of the few traditions I've managed to continue for six years running.
I speak, of course, of the annual tribute to my hero, Serge Gainsbourg!
I imagine many of you didn't quite get the presents you were hoping for this year (and even fewer of you actually got anything of substance from _me_). But no more! All of that is over, because I come to you with a sleigh-full of wonderful treats from the Greatest Gallic, Mr. Serge Gainsbourg himself!
Don't say I never got you anything!
But before we get to the tunes, a bit of reflection on the year that was (and will be for another week) 2011.
Work at Paizo continues to dominate most of my life and thoughts. Our Pathfinder Roleplaying Game continues strong sales, at times this year even eking out Dungeons & Dragons as the best-selling tabletop RPG in hobby stores. All of that success has brought new product lines, new staff, new licenses, and new challenges. I've said it countless times, but every year I think "there's no way I could be busier than I am now," and every year I've been busier than the year before. As they say here in Minnesota: Uff Da!
I'm thankful that 2011 has had me traveling less than in the last two years, as it means I can spend more time at home in Seattle with my girlfriend Danica and our pug Ptolemy. Danica and I traveled to Finland this year as guests of RopeCon, probably the most prestigious "invite" an American game professional can get. Our hosts treated us like royalty, and everyone there was wonderful. They tell me they need to let 10 years go by before they can invite a guest back, but I'm not certain I'm willing to wait that long, and I may have to head back some time on my own dime.
As part of that trip, Danica and I visited St. Petersburg, Russia, marking our first trip beyond the Iron Curtain. We both loved that trip as well, which included visits to the Hermitage art museum as well as side-trips to museums dedicated to torture devices and deformed babies. My kind of town, St. Petersburg!
All the while, my buddy Serge Gainsbourg has been by my side (and in my ears), pounding out the soundtrack of my life with a puff of cigarette smoke and a row of alcoholic beverages. It's true, I pick some strange heroes, but I wouldn't have it any other way.
So as my annual tribute to you, the reader (both of you who still read this blog, anyway), let's get on to the festivities!
First up this year is an early hit of Gainsbourg's that bubbled back to my attention thanks to a really fun scene in the French-language Gainsbourg biopic "Gainsbourg: Un Vie Heroique," which we saw at the Seattle International Film Festival. The song is called "Intoxicated Man," and true to Serge's life story, it's about drinking.
Here's the short scene from the movie, which features a neat duet with another French signer, Boris Vian, who had a hit with a very similar subject matter.
In previous years, I've tried to match my Christmas clips to my mood. Two years ago, when the toll of travel and a hideous work schedule made me feel like I was sliding into my own sort of Gainsbourgian decline, for example, I posted songs from the era of Serge's slide into alcoholism and eventual death. This year, I'm feeling much more confident and having a lot more fun with things, so I've selected a few tracks from what I consider to be Gainsbourg's strongest period, from the late 1950s and 60s.
Up first is one of my favorites, a beautiful little number called "Scenic Railway" complete with its own very early music video.
In France, Gainsbourg is perhaps best known for his clever lyrics and double entendres. My four years of high school French let me catch most of it, but at times all I can manage is knowing that he's on fire vocally, even if I don't fully understand what exactly he's saying. This next track is a perfect example, and it's become one of his most frequently covered songs. It's called "Elaneudanla Teiteia," and it is awesome.
Ok, so I'm going to sneak one in from the 70s. While Serge's masterpiece, the concept album "Histoire de Melody Nelson," dropped in 1971, things started to slide by the end of the 70s. You can tell just by looking at him. Apparently you can't drink like a fish every single day of your adult life without it taking a physical toll. Dammit. So he's starting to look a bit like a wreck in this one, but I still love the song (not least because I understand nearly all the lyrics). In the middle of a long, cold winter in Seattle, I often think about the warm feeling of standing directly in a ray of the Sun, and this song comes thundering up from my subconscious. "Sous Le Soleil Exactement." Enjoy!
Lastly, Gainsbourg achieved a great deal of fame and renown writing material for others, particularly younger women that he leered at like a lecher, if not slept with outright. One famous example is France Gall, for whom he wrote a song that won the Eurovision Song Contest. This isn't that song, but it puts the two of them together again in a fun little 60s ditty about LSD. It's one of my favorites (the song, not the drug). It comes complete with the very Serge Gainsbourg title, "Teenie, Weenie, Boppie," and I absolutely love it.
So that's it for 2011. I still blog over at Paperback Flash
from time to time, and I post almost daily to my Facebook fan page
. Stop by and say hello!