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"POUPÉE DE CIRE, POUPÉE DE SON"
 de France Gall



You should listen to this song if : You want to know more about eyeliner and hairdo in the 60's.

About this song : This song has a special meaning and a special story. I will use the best excerpts from French and English wikipedia to explain them, but if you want to read the articles in their entirety on wikipedia, click on French or on English.

"Poupée de cire, poupée de son" (in English : doll of wax, doll of bran / sound) was the winning song of Eurovision song contest of 1965. It was composed by French music composer (and later famous) Serge Gainsbourg, and sung in French by French singer France Gall, representing ... Luxembourg !
The French public retrospectively reproached Gall and Gainsbourg for having represented [and won for] Luxembourg and not for their own country.

Back in 1965, the 20th March. In front of 150 million viewers, her voice trembling and pale, France Gall sang her song. Praised by the jury with an absolute majority, she is propelled to the first place, and becomes in an instant an international star. In Japan the disc becomes quickly a millionnaire sale. For West Germany, France Gall records a German version (Das war eine schöne party) which becomes n°1 of the foreign best sellers. Italy also wants its version (Io si, tu no). Thanks to the copyrights, Serge Gainsbourg becomes rich too, and can henceforth devote himself to composing music.

The victory came as a big surprise, as all the previous winning songs at Eurovision have been syrupy ballads.
The contest itself was an ordeal for France Gall. She said : " During the contest I scarcely saw Serge (Gainsbourg). The musicians at Naples had booed the song from the first rehearsal. They disapproved of this cavalry tempo when all other candidates were in the sweet and mellow tunes." Besides, everybody was expecting the victory of the English candidate, so France Gall's victory came as a shock. When she phoned her lover Claude François to share her victory, he was mean to her, and instead of congratulating her, he screamed at her that she had sung out of tune, that she was worthless. In the end, she left the phone booth in tears. Her recollection of all this Eurovision : "a slap in the face".

As for the lyrics, the words are filled with double meanings, wordplay, and puns (common with Gainsbourg's lyrics).It makes it difficult for non-French speakers to understand the nuances of the lyrics, and even more difficult to translate them.

First you have to know that "le son" in French means both "bran" (the cereal) and "sound". So the title can be translated either as "wax doll, bran doll" or as "doll of wax, doll of sound".

The central image of the song is that the singer identifies herself as a wax doll (poupée de cire), a bran doll (poupée de son), and a fashion doll (poupée de salon). From this triple metaphor, she will say things about herself and her condition as a girl (melting like wax when too close to the warmth of the boys), as an interpreter of someone else's music (doll= puppet with strings held by the composer), and as a naive beginner in the show business ("poupée de salon"=doll on display, the "no brain" chick you display in your lounge). The song is also about her identity problems, as she identifies herself with these three different metaphors.

Let's see each paragraph :

Je suis une poupée de cire
Une poupée de son
Mon cœur est gravé dans mes chansons
Poupée de cire poupée de son

Here "cire"(=wax) and "son" (=sound) refers to the old vinyl discs (originally made of wax). As a girl of music, her heart is engraved into her songs, on a vinyl disc.

Suis-je meilleure suis-je pire
Qu'une poupée de salon ?
Je vois la vie en rose bonbon
Poupée de cire poupée de son

Because of all the artificiality of the music world, she asks herself if she is better or worse than a fashion doll. She sees life through the bright, rose-tinted glasses of her songs. Life seems sweet like a candy.

Mes disques sont un miroir
Dans lequel chacun peut me voir
Je suis partout à la fois
Brisée en mille éclats de voix

Her discs are a mirror where everybody can watch her. She's everywhere at the same time, smashed in a thousand shards of voice. Once again, she alludes to her identity problem.

Autour de moi j'entends rire
Les poupées de chiffon
Celles qui dansent sur mes chansons
Poupée de cire poupée de son

But the girls who listen and dance to her songs are no better : she hears them laugh like rag dolls.

Elles se laissent séduire
Pour un oui pour un nom
L'amour n'est pas que dans les chansons
Poupée de cire poupée de son

These girls allow themselves to be seduced for any reason or no reason at all (for just a name). (word play : the true expression is "pour un oui ou pour un non"=for a yes or a no ; but here "non" has been substituted for "nom"=name, meaning that the girls are vain, fall in love for appearances). Love isn't only in songs.

Seule parfois je soupire
Je me dis à quoi bon
Chanter ainsi l'amour sans raison
Sans rien connaître des garçons

Alone, sometimes she sighes, she wonders if it's to no avail. She sings about love, but doesn't know anything about it, about boys.

Je n'suis qu'une poupée de cire
Qu'une poupée de son
Sous le soleil de mes cheveux blonds
Poupée de cire poupée de son

She feels empty "under the sun of her golden hair". We're now back to the real character.

Mais un jour je vivrai mes chansons
Poupée de cire poupée de son
Sans craindre la chaleur des garçons
Poupée de cire poupée de son.

But one day she will "live her songs", without fear of the warmth of the boys.

To finish this review, let's see what France Gall herself says about her "set of mind" at that time : "At twenty, I was still quite baby. [...] At that time, I was terrified of the boys and this song was ringing a chord inside me. [...] I had the unpleasant sensation of being sold throughout the day, as a product. [...] Spectator of my life, I was absolutely trusting those around me, who led me. I said nothing, I learned. And that's how I knew one day I did not want to do this job as it was conceived for me. [...] And this world of music is very aggressive, it triggers in the people hatred and jealousy difficult to live with."

Nevertheless, this song was kind of prophetic for France Gall :

- It launched her career and from this moment she will be able to live from her songs ;

- she appeared to be really like a puppet in the hands of her manager and her composer, as they made her interpret a highly polemical song (les sucettes - the lollipops) that has a really dirty double meaning (which she said she didn't understand at that time) about a girl eating lollipop - or doing a blowjob.Gainsbourg, who composed this other hit, continued to write even more "dubious and shocking" songs in his career ("Lemon incest" for instance) but they were not interpreted by France Gall.

Versions of "Poupée de cire, poupée de son" in other languages include:

For those who like their style, you can listen to the version by Arcade Fire ;
And for those who like punk/rock, you can listen to the version by Wizo.

About the author : France Gall is a famous French singer. Her career made a lightning start in 1964 with the song for children "sacré Charlemagne". She had an international success with her collaboration with Serge Gainsbourg and the song "poupée de cire poupée de son". Her career came to an halt in 1966 with "les sucettes à l'anis". After she met Michel Berger (the French composer of "Starmania") in 1974, she made a come back with "La déclaration" and married with Berger in 1976. She intrepreted more of his songs in the 80's, Débranche, Hong-Kong Star, Diego libre dans sa tête, Cézanne peint et Ella elle l'a.To know more about her, follow the links France Gall (in English) or France Gall (in French).


First version : the live interpretation of Eurovision 1965, with an untampered sound... Please appreciate the finesse of the drums at 1min12 (the "cavalry charge")



Second version : the studio recording, with lyrics.




Les paroles, and their approximate translation :
Je suis une poupée de cire                                                        I’m a doll of wax
Une poupée de son                                                                     a doll of sound
Mon cœur est gravé dans mes chansons                            My heart is engraved in my songs
Poupée de cire poupée de son                                                doll of wax, doll of sound

Suis-je meilleure suis-je pire                                                    Am I better or am I worse
Qu'une poupée de salon                                                            than a fashion doll ?
Je vois la vie en rose bonbon                                                    I see life with a candy pink tint
Poupée de cire poupée de son                                                  doll of wax, doll of sound

Mes disques sont un miroir                                                       My discs are a mirror
Dans lequel chacun peut me voir                                            in which everybody can see me
Je suis partout à la fois                                                                I’m everywhere at the same time
Brisée en mille éclats de voix                                                    shattered in a thousand shards of voice

Autour de moi j'entends rire                                                    Around me I hear laugh
Les poupées de chiffon                                                                 the rag dolls
Celles qui dansent sur mes chansons                                    those who are dancing to my songs
Poupée de cire poupée de son                                                   doll of wax, doll of sound

Elles se laissent séduire                                                             The allow themselves to be seduced
Pour un oui pour un nom                                                           for a yes for a name
L'amour n'est pas que dans les chansons                            Love isn’t only in the songs
Poupée de cire poupée de son                                                 doll of wax, doll of sound

Mes disques sont un miroir                                                       My discs are a mirror
Dans lequel chacun peut me voir                                            in which everybody can see me
Je suis partout à la fois                                                                I’m everywhere at the same time
Brisée en mille éclats de voix                                                    shattered in a thousand shards of voice

Seule parfois je soupire                                                               Alone sometimes I sigh
Je me dis à quoi bon                                                                     I wonder to what avail
Chanter ainsi l'amour sans raison                                            sing like this love without reason
Sans rien connaître des garçons                                                 without knowing anything about boys

Je n'suis qu'une poupée de cire                                                I’m only a wax doll
Qu'une poupée de son                                                                 only a bran/sound doll
Sous le soleil de mes cheveux blonds                                   under the sun of my blonde hair
Poupée de cire poupée de son                                                   doll of wax, doll of sound

Mais un jour je vivrai mes chansons                                      But one day I’ll live (from) my songs
Poupée de cire poupée de son                                                 doll of wax, doll of sound
Sans craindre la chaleur des garçons                                     without fear of the warmth of the boys
Poupée de cire poupée de son.                                                 Doll of wax, doll of sound.




 
 

What would I buy for my best friend  ?

(click on the album image corresponding to your country,
it will connect you to the right page on Amazon)
 

 
Your country

 
 
 
 
 
 
 

France Gall
"best" album
on Amazon
(NOT including "Poupée de cire poupée de son")
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 "Poupée de cire"
(single mp3 download)
 
Poupée de cire mp3
 not available,
just the album above
 
Poupée de cire mp3
 
Poupée de cire mp3
 not available, just the album above
 not available, just the album above
 






 

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