Alex Massie

Serge Toujours

Serge Toujours
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Sweet, sweet piece on the great Serge Gainsbourg in Vanity Fair.

Jane Birkin describes their daily routine in the 1970s as follows: they woke up at three in the afternoon; she picked up the children at school and took them to the park, brought them home for a children's dinner, the au pair would give them a bath, and when the children went to bed she and Serge would kiss them good night and go out on the town. They'd come back "with the dustman," wait until the children woke up at 7:30, then go to sleep. Their alcohol-fueled nights would often turn, as Jane puts it, "barmy." Once, at Castel's nightclub, on the Rue Princesse on the Left Bank, Serge turned over the basket that she carried as a handbag, emptying its contents onto the floor. Furious, she managed to find a custard pie and threw it in his face. He walked out; she whizzed by him in the street and headed straight for the river and, after she was sure he was watching, flung herself into the Seine. She was rescued by firemen, Serge was relieved she was alive, and they walked back to the Rue de Verneuil arm in arm.

For some reason I've always thought that though Serge's music is great for many occasions (eg, late night in an almost empty cafe when its raining and the streets are shiny) it's also perfect music for a wake. Cheery and funny yet melancholy and wistful too: just the right mixture.

Written byAlex Massie

Alex Massie is Scotland Editor of The Spectator. He also writes a column for The Times and is a regular contributor to the Scottish Daily Mail, The Scotsman and other publications.

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