SOME SONGS ARE GREAT SHORT STORIES (Chapter 42)

A GUEST POSTING by KHAYEM

Les ailes de la Rolls effleuraient des pylônes
Quand m’étant malgré moi égaré
Nous arrivâmes ma Rolls et moi dans une zone
Dangereuse
Un endroit isolé

Là-bas, sur le capot de cette Silver Ghost de 1910
S’avance en éclaireur
La Vénus d’argent du radiateur
Dont les voiles légers volent aux avant-postes

Hautaine, dédaigneuse
Tandis que hurle le poste de radio
Couvrant le silence du moteur
Elle fixe l’horizon
Et l’esprit ailleurs
Semble tout ignorer des trottoirs que j’accoste

Ruelles, culs-de-sac
Aux stationnements interdits par la loi
Le cœur indifférent
Elle tient le mors de mes vingt-six chevaux-vapeur

Princesse des ténèbres, archange maudit
Amazone modern style que le sculpteur, en anglais
Surnomme “Spirit of Ecstasy”

Ainsi je déconnais avant que je ne perde
Le contrôle de la Rolls
J’avançais lentement
Ma voiture dériva
Et un heurt violent
Me tira soudain de ma rêverie
Merde
J’aperçus une roue de vélo à l’avant
Qui continuait de tourner en roue libre
Et comme une poupée qui perdait l’équilibre
La jupe retroussée sur ses pantalons blancs

“Tu t’appelles comment?”
“Melody”
“Melody comment?”
“Melody Nelson”

Melody Nelson a les cheveux rouges
Et c’est leur couleur naturelle

And so begins the Histoire De Melody Nelson with another contender for an Opening Tracks ICA, Melody by Serge Gainsbourg. This is of course chapter one, so it focuses on the narrator’s first encounter with the titular character, knocking her off a bicycle whilst driving around night-time back streets in his Rolls Royce. The implication is there from the start, but the narrator is subsequently painted as an obsessive who seduces and objectifies the 15-year old Melody. I won’t spoil the ending if you’ve not listened to the album. Gainsbourg’s spoken word narration is underpinned by Herbie Flowers’ bass, with Jane Birkin briefly giving voice to Melody Nelson at the end. The original 1971 album version runs for seven and half minutes, but the 2011 deluxe edition includes an alternative version, extending the climatic wig-out for another two minutes.

Melody (Prise Complète)

Roughly a quarter of a century later, David Holmes covered Melody on his album Let’s Get Killed, albeit as an instrumental track retitled Don’t Die Just Yet. It was released as a single and the CD contained ‘remixes’ by Arab Strap, Delakota and Mogwai.

SWC posted about the Arab Strap version way back on Christmas Eve, 2013 as an example of a great remix, and he’s spot on. Each of the versions radically rework the song, taking it in very different directions. However, in a nod back to Gainsbourg’s original, each version reintroduces a new, spoken word narrative: Arab Strap recalls ‘The Holiday Girl’; Delakota recounts another tale of abusive, destructive love; Mogwai reads a transcript of US astronaut James Lovell’s alleged sighting of UFOs, set against a musical mash up of the Melody bass and strings with Slint’s Good Morning, Captain.

I’ll be honest, the transcripts are a bit questionable: a ropey Arab Strap version is ubiquitous on t’internet although I’ve tried to correct the mistakes where I can; Delakota’s narrative is a little more straightforward; I gave up on Mogwai completely after a few attempts. Musically, all of the versions are worth your time.

I’m telling you it’s the same girl
She’s always there on holidays when you’re wee
She never grows up and she’s everywhere
She was in the lift in Covent Garden underground last week and she was in Torquay when I was thirteen
She said she was called Tina then and she claims she was from Germany
I watched her from the balcony as she swam in the pool and tanned herself all day
And spying her from hotel windows when she played tennis with her mum and dad
I would try and impress her with my sensitive side by being unusually affectionate to my wee brother When she passed us in the lobby
There was a royal wedding, I dunno which one
But the hotel was having a fancy do, some sort of celebration thing
She sat at the table she usually sat at at dinner just across from ours
It was the first day I’d had a drink in the four of us
A champagne on ice cocktail affair
Later when there was a dance and all the parents were drunk
And her dad tried to make me dance with him in this conga
I wasn’t into it so I went outside and stood on the patio, staring at the night sea trying to look deep
She came out and she stood beside me
Her naked elbow touched mine, she turned round and smiled…but I couldn’t say a thing

The Holiday Girl (Don’t Die Just Yet) (Remix By Arab Strap)

“Hi man, I was just gonna leave a little message to tell you about a story that I just read
It might be of some help to you in your present predicament
I just read about this Australian couple, I don’t know, I think they were newly weds”

Well, I guess they must have been fighting for two or three hours
Before she reached beneath the seat, pulled out the knife and stuck it in his throat
And the car they were driving just came off the road as he was grabbing her
Holding her down and stabbing her back

Out in the middle of nowhere
Slumped in their seats like a couple of stuck pigs
Hand in hand, smoking away their time
As they know they’re dying

And they left the hospital, arm in arm, not long after they came round
And they’re rescued by some trucker guy, who was still shaking by what he found
And the doctor shook his head and turned to the man and said
“Oh, don’t worry son, these two do this all the time”

Hand in hand, we’re together, man
Yeah, hand in hand, we’re together, man
Hand in hand, we’re together, man
Yeah, hand in hand, we’re together, man
And hand in hand, we’re together, man
Yeah, hand in hand, we’re together, man
Ah, hand in hand, we’re together, man
Yeah, hand in hand, we’re together…man

“I believe that’s a real strong love
And if you ask for my advice
If I could find love as strong as that
I think I could be satisfied”

Don’t Die Just Yet (Delakota Mix)

Don’t Die Just Yet (Mogwai Mix)

KHAYEM

 

2 thoughts on “SOME SONGS ARE GREAT SHORT STORIES (Chapter 42)

  1. Great post Khayem. I remember being in a record shop and Melody Nelson playing on the shop’s system and trying to place it before the David Holmes penny dropped.

  2. Swiss Adam, yes, it was a couple of years after the David Holmes song that I finally heard the Melody Nelson album and realised it was a cover. Likewise, the Slint sample on the Mogwai remix bugged me for years as it was so familiar. A friend that I’d since lost touch with was really into Dinosaur Jr. and Sebadoh (I remember now) had the Kids movie soundtrack regularly on in the background. He’d obviously got it for the Lou Barlow connection – it’s mostly Folk Implosion songs – but Slint’s Good Morning, Captain was the final track. It was a nice feeling years later, when I heard the song again and finally made the connection with Mogwai’s remix of Don’t Die Just Yet.

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