MICHAEL BURDEN has fond memories of the 1960s and this song
Towards the end of the decade there was one famous (or infamous) song that was banned, and that was "Je t'aime… moi non plus" (French for "I love you… me neither") by Jane Birkin and Serge Gainsbourg.
The story of this song began in late 1967 when it was written by Serge Gainsbourg and recorded by him with hos then girlfriend Brigitte Bardot. She asked him to write the most beautiful love song he could imagine and that night he wrote "Je t'aime…moi non plus”. They recorded an arrangement of "Je t'aime….moi non plus” at a Paris studio in a two-hour session in a small glass booth, where there was "heavy petting" petting according the sound engineer. However, news of the recording reached the press and Bardot's husband, German businessman Gunter Sachs, was angry and called for the single to be withdrawn. Bardot pleaded with Gainsbourg not to release it. He complied but observed "The music is very pure. For the first time in my life, I write a love song and it's taken badly."
In 1968, Gainsbourg and English actress Jane Birkin began a relationship when they met on the set of the film Slogan. After filming, he asked her to record the song with him. Birkin had heard the Bardot version and thought it "so hot". She said: "I only sang it because I didn't want anybody else to sing it", jealous at the thought of his sharing a recording studio with someone else. Gainsbourg asked her to sing an octave higher than Bardot, "so you'll sound like a little boy".
In 1969, Gainsbourg recorded the best known version with Jane Birkin. It was recorded in an arrangement by Arthur Greenslade in a studio at Marble Arch. Birkin said she "got a bit carried away with the heavy breathing – so much so, in fact, that I was told to calm down, which meant that at one point I stopped breathing altogether. If you listen to the record now, you can still hear that little gap." There was media speculation, as with the Bardot version, that they had recorded live sex, to which Gainsbourg told Birkin, "Thank goodness it wasn't, otherwise I hope it would have been a long-playing record."
“Je t’aime… moi non plus” was released in February 1969 and and the record company changed the label from Philips to its subsidiary Fontana. The song was a commercial success throughout Europe. By 1986, it had sold four million copies. In the UK, it was released on the Fontana label, a subsidiary of Philips, but, after reaching number two, it was withdrawn from sale. Gainsbourg arranged a deal with Major Minor Records on re-release it reached number one on 11th October 1969 and stayed there for one week, but was in the charts for 31 weeks. It made the Top 100 in the United States, reaching number 58 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. It was re-released in the U.K. in late 1974 on the Atlantic Records subsidiary Antic Records and charted again peaking at No. 31 and charting for nine weeks.
I attach below a link to the recording of “Je t’aime…..moi non plus”.
The song was banned by the BBC and so could not be heard in any of their radio programmes. It was the first banned number one single in the UK and the first single in a foreign language to top the U.K. charts. However, although it was banned by the BBC, it could still be heard on Radio Luxembourg’s English language pop music programmes in the evenings, where it was played frequently. In the U.S. Mercury Records, the U.S. distributor, faced criticism that the song was "obscene" and there was limited airplay, limiting US sales to around 150,000.
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