I’m sure all of you at some point will have come across a song that you just can’t get out of your head. Well, it’s happened to me these past couple of days...
The record is 47 years old... it’s not even sung in English, but I must have played the bloody thing dozens of times on the journeys to and from work...
Poupée de cire, poupée de son is the title of the song... performed by Isabelle (but known as “France”) Gall, Paris-born (in 1947), but an honorary citizen of Luxembourg for the 1965 Eurovision Contest... which she duly won (despite the upbeat song being jeered during rehearsal, so far removed as it was from the ballads that had dominated the contest’s early years).
It is to my eternal shame that I have sat and watched parts of the actual RAI (Italian television) coverage... that year’s competition was held in Naples... and even though France Gall’s winning performance wasn’t note perfect, there was something charming, almost captivating about the teenager... especially the way she innocently bit her lip and the every time she delivered the title line from the song.
The song’s title translates as “wax doll, sawdust doll” and was penned by Serge (of Je t’aime... fame) Gainsbourg. I’ve read that the writer’s lyrics regularly had double or inner meaning and as well as creating the image of a person (sawdust doll) not yet able to stand tall without assistance, the French word “son” also translates as “sound” with the inference that la belle chanteuse was no more than a puppet or vehicle for vocalising Gainsbourg’s “message” about young people entering, but only partially understanding the adult world...
Using France Gall in such a way almost amounted to exploitation and as the singer matured, so she grew to resent the controlling influence... even though from a career perspective, the “influence”could be seen as having been positive.
The full realisation dawned after the release of the 1966 record Les Sucettes... a song that outwardly told the innocent story of a girl who liked “lollipops” (the literal translation of sucettes). France Gall was still in her teens... she was naive and unaware of the sexual undertones (you can Google if you haven’t already guessed) contained in the lyrics. Her reputation was damaged by her association with Gainsbourg and decades later, she apparently still refuses to talk about that period in her life or perform the song that brought her worldwide fame.
I completely understand the retrospection, but irrespective of the undeniable Gainsbourg connection in Poupée de cire, poupée de son, the fact remains that it is a more than catchy (as I’ve discovered) pop song that seems (at least to me...) to have stood the test of time.
All my own work... almost.