Tuesday, 29 April 2014

My Top Ten French Songs

No, this isn't a chart full of Serge Gainsbourg and Plastic Bertrand (don't tempt me). Instead, it's ten songs about French things. And no, Lost In France doesn't count. And neither does Parisienne Walkways. Look, it's got to have French in the title, OK? Do try and stick to the rules.

Special mentions to The French Impressionists, The French Horn Rebellion and Everybody Was In the French Resistance...Now! I swear I'm not making them up.

10. John Mellencamp - French Shoes

John doesn't think men should wear French shoes.

9. Sonic Youth - French Tickler

This is about sexy-time stuff, right? That, or it's about Kim Gordon's love of mille feuille.

Anything's possible.

8. Joan Jett & The Blackhearts - The French Song

Whereas this one's definitely about sexy-time stuff.

J'aime faire l'amour sur tout a trois

Really, Joan? A threesome? How very continental.

7. Cosmo Jarvis - Girl In The French Film

Cosmo falls in love with a typically French movie heroine, the kind who obviously has no interest in men... and that's what makes her so attractive.

The film ended so beautifully,
Things like that do not happen
To people like me.

6. Debbie Harry - French Kissing In The USA

The obvious one. Debbie Harry's biggest solo hit, yet hardly her finest moment. Apparently, this was written by the creator of the sitcom Two & A Half Men. Which would explain a lot, if it's true.

The video is mesmerisingly bad.

5. Black Box Recorder - French Rock 'n' Roll

The sultry Sarah Nixey has an icy sangfroid which is definitely verging on the Gallic. Here she tells us how a little la la la saved her life...

I was at my wit's end
Things were looking black
It was getting pretty obvious
I was never coming back
I threw open window
And I stood out on the ledge
When the sweetest sound I've ever heard
Pushed me back from the edge

Written by John Moore and Luke Haines, from whom we'll hear more shortly...

4. Stereolab - French Disko

The only band on this countdown with an actual French singer, Lætitia Sadier, though she keeps the lyrics English here...

Though this world's essentially
An absurd place to be living in
It doesn't call for bubble withdrawal
I've been told it's a fact of life
Men have to kill one another
Well, I say there are still things worth fighting for
La resistance!
All of which existential angst is a little bit deeper than French Kissing In The USA, isn't it?
Tracey Anne Campbell meets a French sailor and love is definitely on the cards... but will his dietary restrictions get in the way?
2. The Auteurs - New French Girlfriend

The price of success, according to Luke Haines?

Want a girl to hold my hand
When the plane lands

Me, I want one to hold my hand when it crashes.

1. Warren Zevon - The French Inhaler

Another artist I've been listening to a lot in my dotage. Back when I had money, I bought a cheap box set of his early albums which has sat on the shelf gathering dust until poverty and desperation led me to dig it out. Wow. Thank you, poverty and desperation.

I'd always considered myself a Greatest Hits fan of Zevon but had never listened to any of his full albums. What a songwriter! Witty, acerbic, world-weary lyrics tied to some marvellous melodies... with a host of famous names helping him out in the studio. The French Inhaler is from his self-titled 1976 album and it features Glenn Frey and Don Henley on backing vocals. Elsewhere on the record are Phil Everly, Jackson Browne, Bonnie Raitt, Carl Wilson and half of Fleetwood Mac. And yet, this was never a hit. It's a great shame Zevon will go down in history as just the "Werewolves Of London" guy (great song though that is) because there was so much more to enjoy.

The French Inhaler is a bitter, post-break-up kiss-off to an ex. Yet despite the lyrical rancour, there's a real tenderness to the way Zevon sings it... even the lines below.

Loneliness and frustration
We both came down with an acute case
And when the lights came up at two
I caught a glimpse of you
And your face looked like something
Death brought with him in his suitcase...

See also French Inhale by Snoop Dogg, which goes into rather too much detail about the whole filthy process for my liking. Still, it's Snoop.

L'enfer, c'est les autres comments.


  1. Lucille Starr - "The French Song". Available on Youtube and spine-tinglingly good.

  2. French Kissing with Debbie Harry.. a pleasant way to spend an afternoon

  3. a search of my ipod revealed that I do not have one song in my collection with "French" in the title....so this is one of my less informative posts today.

    Thanks for coming up with another good list though! I will improve the quality of my post for next time.


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