Serge Gainsbourg: A Fistful Of Gitanes
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Serge Gainsbourg: A Fistful Of Gitanes

3.79 of 5 stars 3.79  ·  rating details  ·  232 ratings  ·  26 reviews
In this, the first English biography to capture Gainsbourg in all his contradiction and gleeful outrageousness, Simmons tells the fascinating story of the Gallic star. Drawing on hours of new interviews with his intimates-among them Jane Birkin, Sly & Robbie, Marianne Faithfull, and celebrated producer Philippe Lerichomme-Simmons describes in crackling prose the scope...more
Paperback, 208 pages
Published September 19th 2002 by Da Capo Press (first published 2001)
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Jonfaith
Stumbled upon this in a filing cabinet just now. I inhaled this bookt back in 2008, took its wayward magic into my lungs and held it. Historically I haven't read much about performers. Perhaps I stoned form the novelty of it all. Serge's televised encounter w/ the late Whitney Houston was astonishing as was his less than cereberal time in Yugoslavia. Beyond such, Gainsbourg was an unflinching artist, one compensating for his own insecurites and baggage. He stormed across borders and perforated g...more
Tyler
Aug 27, 2014 Tyler rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Francophiles and dirty old men
Shelves: musik
This is a great portrait of the brilliant Serge Gainsbourg, who elevated filth to the level of cosmopolitan art with his music. The book could have been twice as long and I wouldn't have been bored; I guess I'm just fascinated by lecherous Europeans. My favorite passage describes how a young Serge, who was dating Salvador Dali's assistant at the time, broke into Dali's place and fucked her in his all-black living room: he "left the apartment with...a future wife on his arm...a small black-and-wh...more
Andrew Bishop
The greatest French composer of the twentieth-century not named Olivier Messiaen! Warning: anyone immune to the charms of French culture should probably leave right now. This is a short biography, but one fully packed with information about Serge and his music. Letting you know everything of worth about the man, Simmons does a great job with extraordinary material and leaves no stone unturned. I daresay that anyone who hasn't heard a note of the man's music could still walk away having been ente...more
Tosh
At the moment the best biography in English on the great songwriter and pop artist Serge Gainsbourg. Sylvie Simmons did a really nice job in telling his essence and story.

In 2009 my press TamTam Books is going to be putting out a 600 page bio on this fascinating figure. Written by Gilles Verlant, "Gainsbourg" is really going to be something.
Eric
Jan 20, 2008 Eric rated it 2 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Plumbers
Kinda shoddy, really. Made me want to smoke, though.
Kim Bülow
Some great artists are not merely superior craftsmen, but so unique, they stand aside from all their contemporaries. Serge Gainsbourg was one such artist.

I noticed this book got some bad reviews - mainly from French and international Gainsbourg afficionados - to whom most of the content will be common knowledge.

But as a relative newcomer, I was pleasantly surprised by this short and easily-read biography. It was unfortunately written after Gainsbourg's death - the author never met him - and it i...more
Eric
An entertaining, yet unfulfilling biography of Gainsbourg. I like a little more of an attempt at unbiased writing with these and Simmons was too much of a super fan to make this happen. It was pretty informative though. Serge was your typical egotistical songwriting master with a pretty big penchant for self-destructive tendencies. I mean, multiple bottles of wine, 60 cigarettes, and one meal per day? Ouch.j
Bridget
So far I've learned:
Serge Gainsbourg only smoke Gitanes.
He was a twin.
Cute girls on the bus will talk to you when they see you reading this.

Jane Birkin commenting on the cover of "Ballad de Melody Nelson" - "I'm holding my monkey- which I buried with Serge because he always wanted it- in front of my jeans." Serge Gainsbourg coveting a stuffed monkey!!!!! jesus wept and so did I.
Gunnar Hjalmarsson
Gainsbourg var snillingur og það er gaman að lesa þessa bók. Er þó frekar þunn og ekki mikið kjöt á beinunum. Vantar meiri djúsí sögur og díteila. Dálítið í kynningarstíl, verið að kynna meistarann fyrir enskumælandi. Maður fær örugglega ekkert kjöt fyrr en maður lærir frönsku og fær sér innanlandsbók.
David
Is this the best I'm going to get for an English-language bio of S.G.? I really hope not...This one is fine -- hits all the major moments of his life and career, and seems to have at least the tacit approval of Jane Birkin -- but its like a 30-minute History Channel doc...no context, no depth, and no lyrics translated. Solid but I want more.
Betsy Lewis-moreno
Interesting overview of someone whom I knew little about. It's fairly short and to the point. A good book for someone who doesn't want an exhaustive biography - or someone whose French isn't good enough to get through a 700+ page bio in French of Gainsbourg. It inspired me to listen to his music and work on my French. A fascinating character.
Chadwick
Three stars only because it's the only one we have in English. She did her homework, but there's really no insight into Gainsbourg's work process or where his songs came from. No real illustration of his recording sessions. The best parts derive from the openess that Jane Birkin gave her in her interviews.
Natalie
Jun 10, 2011 Natalie rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommended to Natalie by: Derick Dupre
Shelves: rock-roll
LOVE Serge. I love that I learned a new word in French reading this: "pudique." Don't be confused, it doesn't exactly mean demure-modest: there's no word in English for it. Serge is so distinctly his own thing, it has to be admired. Read this in two sittings! He treated his women so beautifully.
cassady cooper
Dec 20, 2007 cassady cooper rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: jude and francophiles
When I picked this book out of the cluttered mess of Jude's room, I knew next to nothing of Serge, except for "Je T'Aime, Moi Non Plus" and "Bonny and Clyde". Now, through this chain-smoking nuerotic ladies-man, I feel closer to the French pysche. Plus it made me want to smoke Gitanes.
Jeremy
It was nice to read the backstory of ol' Serge. I've ben listening to his records for years but he'd sort of become this mythical poet/barfly/gentleman and so I needed to really find out the basic story. It's not a bad read if you love the records.
Cody
My favorite pop/rock biography. It was refreshing to read this and not feel as though I was merely trudging through an 150 page article out of *Spin.* I think the subject probably aided Sylvie Simmons in the effort, but kudos to her, regardless.
Jill
Jul 14, 2007 Jill rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: anyone liking Serge or music bios
Shelves: biography
Wonderful and concise overview of Serge Gainsbourg's life with many direct interviews with people who knew him intimately such as Jane Birkin. Lots of photos of him, his albums, posters for his movies, etc. Quick read of a fascinating individual.
Chris Bernhardt
Mar 22, 2007 Chris Bernhardt rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Anyone who likes Serge.
Ha, this book was great. Everything you ever heard is confirmed. An amazing life. The book is written lightly and it flies by. His all black rooms and him having sex in salvador dali's house were highlights.
Emile Terblanche
Facinating biography of singer/songwriter Serge Gainsbourgwho died as a national hero in France but was and still is almost totally unknown in the rest of the world
Mark
Delicious. I need a fag. A template for life. Witness our hero, midst heart attack, running upstairs to get cigarettes to take with him in the ambulance.
Yuki
3,5 stars. It was good, but I want to know more. It seems I need to learn French.
Agnieszka
sometimes funny, mostly sad , i've learnt many things
Leigh
Pretty sparse biography but the best I can find in English.
Schwitters
excellent, the best english language biog
Lana
Apr 16, 2008 Lana marked it as to-read
I want to check this out. Has anyone read this?
Ian
Aug 15, 2008 Ian added it
Recommended
Flavia Coe
Flavia Coe marked it as to-read
Sep 11, 2014
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