Robert Greenberg

Historian, Composer, Pianist, Speaker, Author

Music History Monday: Sex Sells

There was a time, in the not terribly distant past (in our days of relative musical innocence), when a little heavy breathing was all it took to get a recording banned from the airwaves. Today we celebrate just such an event.

Jane Birkin and Serge Gainsbourg
Jane Birkin (born 1946) and Serge Gainsbourg (1928-1991)

On October 11, 1969 – 52 years ago today – a song entitled Je t’aime… Moi non plus, which means “I love you . . . me neither” hit number 1 on the UK singles chart. Written by the French singer-songwriter, author, filmmaker, and actor Serge Gainsbourg (1928-1991) and performed on record by Gainsbourg and the English singer, songwriter, actress, and former model Jane Birkin (born 1946), the song was controversial. Because of what was considered its overtly sexual content, the song was banned by many radio stations across Europe and North America. For the first time in the history of the BBC show Top of the Pops, the show’s producers refused to broadcast Je t’aime… Moi non plus despite the fact that it was the BBC’s “Number 1” song.

*Public Service Announcement*

Aspects of this post and its language are going to be off-color and perhaps off-putting, particularly for those who find sexual references offensive. If you are prone to being so offended, I would humbly suggest you skip the remainder of this post and rejoin me next Monday for a post about the Austrian pianist, conductor, and composer Viktor Ullmann, who was murdered in a gas chamber at Auschwitz-Birkenau in 1944 at the age of 46. Of course, on a scale of “offensive”, what happened to Ullmann far outweighs any heavy breathing we’re liable to hear on a 45-rpm record, but when figuring out what really constitutes “obscenity,” we as a public can be funny that way. …

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