Serge Gainsbourg - Qui est "in" qui est "out" (1966)

In this clip from Show Tom Jones, which aired on French television on July 30 1966, Serge Gainsbourg performs his marvellous 'Qui est "In" qui est "Out". The show was a one-off special hosted by Tom Jones and mostly features performances by him, but some French artists show up as well, including Françoise Hardy, Eric Charden, Zouzou and Pussy Cat. There are a mix of live and lip-synched performances – Gainsbourg's here being the latter, though he is as charismatic as ever.

Who needs fancy effects when you have Gainsbourg, a razor blade and some large paper signs? I enjoy his manner here, a mix of his natural shyness and an amusingly affected disinterest. This is one of my favourite Gainsbourg songs – it has that groovy organ, great guitar and a relentless stomping beat, and there's the nerdly satisfaction of the way the first two lines of each verse end with "in" or "out" syllables. And nothing beats upbeat cynicism in pop, of which Gainsbourg is of course the master. But amidst the thick cynicism here – which I think you can feel even if you don't understand the lyrics – there is something about the melody I find oddly moving. I get strangely emotional when I hear this song, both because of that quality and just because I find the song so overwhelmingly good.

Though Gainsbourg's appeal and a sense of emotional connection to his songs transcend language, there is something key those of us who don't speak French miss out on. Luckily, there are some resources that help bridge that gap. My Own Role is an excellent collection of English translations of Gainsbourg's songs, but sadly 'Qui est "in" qui est "out"' is not there. But there is a good translation on the blog French One Song At A Time, though it's worth noting "le Cashbox" in the lyrics actually refers to the music charts magazine Cashbox. There's also Mick Harvey's English cover 'Who Is "In" Who Is "Out"' from 1997's Pink Elephants. I love Harvey's versions – the translations are faithful while being carefully adjusted to suit the English language and to preserve rhyming schemes. Happily, he has just released a new album of Gainsbourg covers, Delirium Tremens.

I have a couple more clips from this show up on Youtube: Marianne Faithfull singing 'Si demain', and Françoise Hardy performing 'La Maison ou j'ai grandi' & 'Il est des choses', briefly chatting with Tom Jones between songs. 

Comment (1)

  • Stewart Browne  
    He's IN! :o B)

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