In 1989, a survey of French cultural taste revealed that Serge Gainsbourg was both one of the most popular singers and yet a near outcast in his native country. When he died, two years later, President Mitterrand called him “our Baudelaire, our Apollinaire”, claiming he had “elevated chanson to the level of art”. But he might just as well have acknowledged Gainsbourg as the first artist to top the British charts with a single in a foreign language. With the hindsight of almost thirty years, one thing is, in any case, certain: sampled by Beck, De La Soul, Massive Attack and Fatboy Slim, remixed by Howie B. and David Holmes, translated by Mick Harvey and covered by Iggy Pop, Donna Summer, Portishead, Madeleine Peyroux, the Pet Shop Boys and Franz Ferdinand, “the man with the cabbage head” remains the Francophone songwriter whose contribution to the international appeal of French popular music has been the most significant in the post-war era. Continue reading
Nearly half a century after Luciano Berio praised the Beatles in his ‘Commenti al Rock’ (1967), this special issue of Volume! surveys the research carried out on the band that was, according to John Lennon, ‘more popular than Jesus’. In light of an extensive bibliography covering the first 50 years of what we now call ‘Beatles Studies’, one learns, for example, that the British Invasion originated in Paris, that Popular Music Studies began with the musicological study of popular music, that the theory of harmonic vectors can help analyze pop music or that Marshall McLuhan’s concepts shed an interesting light on albums such as Abbey Road.