Nostalgia and Serendipity


I have been slowly—very, very slowly—recording my old vinyl albums to add to my iTunes library. I don’t worry about the argument that analogue is better than digital: my hi-fi kit is probably not good enough, and my ears certainly aren’t, for me to discern any difference. Any potential fetishist satisfaction derived from slipping the album from its cover, placing it lovingly on the turntable and then wiping with the preferred dust removal tool is easily over-ridden by the simplicity of  <play><click>.

Anyway, the other day I pulled Roulette Russe by Alain Bashung off the shelf  for processing.  I discerned from the plastic outer that I’d bought this album in Paris at the delightfully named Maillot Musique  (probably not meant to be translated as Swimsuit Music, but was a nod to the Maillot Jaune of the Tour de France) in the shops at the Palais des Congrès. I have no recollection of buying this; it must have been after 1979—that being the copyright date on the disc. Wikipedia can tell you lots about Bashung, who was and probably still is a huge star in France. Roulette Russe is one of his earlier albums.

The first track on the album is the somewhat amusingly entitled Je fume pour oublier que tu boisI smoke to forget that you drink. The lyrics are not quite so amusing. I was trying to produce my own translation when I discovered this blog that had already done the job. The following is a simplified version leaving out some of the repetitions in the actual song and with a few changes that seem to me to be improvements in the English:

It’s not easy to off yourself
It costs, it costs a lot
I’m going to kill myself, I’m going to flush the toilet
In the bathroom of my little studio

It’s not easy to off yourself
Sleeping tablets are for the rich
Russian roulette is completely idiotic
When you can die with one flush of the toilet

I smoke to forget that you drink
I act like I’m home
I blow smoke on a picture of you

Life’s like an overdose
You take everything all at once
You die of it and fast
And if you don’t take it, life takes you

I am well, very well in my cubbyhole
There are newspapers, so I read them
They say that happiness
Perhaps it’s just a lie
I don’t care, I’m not gonna wait for the end of my story

I smoke to forget that you drink
I act like I’m home
I blow smoke on a picture of you

Life’s like an overdose
You take everything all at once
You die of it and fast
And if you don’t take it, life takes you

Yes but for an apple tart, two or three goldens*
A shot of rum, a cinnamon stick
Roll, roll out the dough well, bring it to the fire
This costs me drop by drop
Taste, taste it !

I smoke to forget that you drink
I smoke…
To forget that you drink…

* I think this this is a reference to golden delicious apples, presumably used in the tart aux pommes.


While I was YouTubeing Bashung, I stumbled across a cover of one of his most famous song, Osez Joséphine, by Christine and The Queens.

It turns out that Christine and The Queens is really Heloïse Letissier and the queens are purely imaginary—a reference to real tranvestites whom Heloïse met when she came to London. Christine has a beautiful, haunting voice so I searched further on Youtube and found a bunch of videos of some great songs. Christine sings in  French and English—sometimes in the same song.

Here are a couple of my favourites, War and another cover, Michael Jackson’s Who is it?

You can find more videos on the Christine and The Queens YouTube page. There’s also an EP, Nuit 17 à 52 on iTunes.

I’m happy that I discovered Christine and will certainly be looking out for her in the future.

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