The CLUAS Archive: 1998 - 2011

Entries for 'Aidan Curran'


In the late afternoon of New Year's Eve 2002 I was in a record store in Pamplona, Spain. The shop was in a modern quarter full of apartment complexes, not the old bull-running town centre. There wasn't a great choice of records to buy. The only one that interested me was 'I'm So Confused' by Jonathan Richman, because one of the songs, 'When I Dance', had caught my ear late one night on the radio and it sounded like my kind of catchy alt-pop.

I'm So Confused by Jonathan RichmanBut I wanted to save my money for going to Paris two days later, so I left the CD on the shelf. I didn't buy 'I'm So Confused' by Jonathan Richman in that small music shop in Pamplona, and that decision has had a disproportionately huge effect on my life.

In Paris I looked for the album but I couldn't find it. I went to nearly every record shop across the city and it wasn't there. I became a bit obsessed with it. This was bad news for the French girl with me, who was being dragged across town and back so that I could find some obscure CD. Later, I would wonder why things didn't work out with her.

Back in Dublin, it wasn't in any record shop either. I knew this because I forensically searched all of them. And so, instead of picking it lovingly from the tree of music, I had to descend to the level of ordering it from some warehouse in Arsebucket, Illinois. (Not only do I never order music, but I never download it either. Like with books, I have to find records in the shop after much traipsing over town and rummaging through racks.)

The album arrived and I loved it; multicoloured alt-pop songs with a pitch-black undercoat of despair and loneliness. The songs are from the time of Richman's divorce, and in all of them he's at less than top-of-the-morning form. He's either feeling socially awkward ('When I Dance'), physically threatened ('Nineteen In Naples'), rejected ('The Lonely Little Thrift Store'), insecure ('Love Me Like I Love'), heartbroken ('True Love Is Not Nice') or depressed ('I'm So Confused'). And these are the uptempo numbers.

Of course, listening to the album got me thinking of the French girl, which made me feel like Richman in those songs. So, I was consoling myself with a record which went some way to bringing me down in the first place. "What if I had bought it in Pamplona...?" I wondered.

The following year Richman brought out a new album, 'Not So Much To Be Loved As To Love'. He was happily in love again, and his new songs were every bit as drippy and naff as the title. I was so appalled that I felt the need to warn the wider world. So I wrote my first CLUAS review. Four years later, here I am back in Paris and still writing for CLUAS.

Jonathan Richman in concertIt feels somewhat strange and significant, then, to see Jonathan Richman play here in Paris last night at the Nouveau Casino. These days he's still relentlessly lovestruck and happy, so there's no room on the setlist for any of those dark songs from 'I'm So Confused'. 

However, Modern Lovers fans still get to hear acoustic versions of 'Pablo Picasso' and 'Girlfriend' (spelt "G-I-R-L-F-R-E-N"), and the more recent cult favourite 'I Was Dancing In The Lesbian Bar'. But Richman's uneasy relationship with his own back catalogue, like your blogger's discomfort with using the first person singular pronoun, means that he doesn't play the remarkable 'That Summer Feeling'. (He didn't sing 'Give Paris One More Chance' last night, so Irish fans shouldn't hold their breath for 'Rockin' Rockin' Leprechaun' or 'Just Because I'm Irish'.)

Richman plays the whole show in Spanish-guitar style, as well as singing several numbers in Spanish, so the set tends to blur into one flamenco-lite medley. His only accompaniment is his long-serving drummer, the admirably stoic Tommy Larkins (also his wingman in 'There's Something About Mary'), who gets plenty of solo time whenever Jonathan decides to drop the guitar and start dancing. You'll either buy into Richman's innocent joie de vivre or you won't.

After Paris last night and London tonight, Richman has a short Irish tour this weekend, starting at Whelan's in Dublin on Saturday night (10 May). He then heads up to Belfast on Sunday for the Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival, and finishes at the Roisin Dubh in Galway on Monday 12 May. Go and see him.

Here's a song you probably won't hear Jonathan Richman play this weekend; the title track from 'I'm So Confused'. You know a bit too much about your blogger now, we fear:

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We've been bemoaning the dearth of Irish acts taking the ferry to France these days. All that's on the agenda at the moment are two Divine Comedy shows in Paris in September; we'll bring you more about that in due course.

And the tumbleweed has been blowing in both directions - there aren't many French acts travelling to Ireland, at least compared to last year. The dance acts are stopping by: a DJ set by Cassius at the POD tonight, Vitalic at the Trinity Ball and Cork in May, Justice at Oxegen. But French indie bands aren't making the trip to Dublin, even though plenty (The Teenagers, The Dodoz) are singing in English and playing up and down the UK. Why is this?

Keren AnnThere's one French-ish Dublin concert to tell you about: Keren Ann (right) is playing at Crawdaddy on 21 June, which happens to be Fête de la Musique, France's national day of music. (How come there isn't one of these in Ireland, self-styled home of world-renowned music?)

True, Keren Ann was born in Israel and grew up in the Netherlands, and she holds dual nationality for both those countries. However, she moved to France as a teenager and started her music career here, becoming reasonably successful in the hushed, poetic chanson française genre.

Her self-titled fifth album, released last year, was the first to give her noticeable international attention - and deservedly so, because it's lovely. "Intimate folk-pop, a lo-fi Feist", the much-impressed CLUAS reviewer called it. We also noted the influence of Leonard Cohen and Lou Reed on her music, especially Len's low murmur and thoughtful lyrics.

So, we had Keren Ann pegged as being quiet and shy. And then at this year's Victoires de la Musique award show in Paris, where the aforementioned CLUAS-approved record was up for Best Album, she performed 'Lay Your Head Down' and swaggered like a rock goddess. Once again, we were smitten like a kitten.

Here's the performance we're talking about. Dreamy and rockin', with plenty of attitude from Keren Ann... but where are the triple-handclaps? Oh, there they are, at 3 mins 54 secs:

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We've given it time to see if it's a grower. It's not. We watched her TV appearances on the off-chance that it works better live. It doesn't. We watched part 1 and part 2 of the making-of documentary in the hope that we'd learn how to decipher its mysteries. There aren't any. The new Camille album, 'Music Hole', just isn't very good, and that's about it.

Camille Music HoleWe had feared as much when we heard 'Money Note', the first track made public before the album's release. The vocal effects were clever and engaging, so we liked it on first listen. Paying closer attention, we were surprised to discover that she was openly criticising MOR divas like Céline Dion and Mariah Carey for their histrionic technique.

This we found a bit rich, as Camille herself showboats all the way through 'Music Hole'. Like Whitney's infamous climactic blaster in 'I Will Always Love You', what else are Camille's vocal effects but a spotlight on her singing technique? And with her hyperactive live persona, she combines "listen to me" and "look at me" as much as any attention-seeking stage-school brat.

The extra attention on Camille has been detrimental to the quality of her material. On 'Le Fil' her vocal effects were subtle and served the song, like for hit single 'Ta Douleur' where her vocalising embellishes an already-brilliant pop song. For her new album the songs serve the vocal effects. This is apparent on the terrible first single, 'Gospel With No Lord'. Like 'Money Note', it's a song about being a singer; one step above 'songs about the war I watched on CNN' on the scale of Bad Lyric Ideas.

In 'Gospel With No Lord' Camille praises the person from whom she received her singing gift - herself. (It starts with her cheering herself on: "Allez Camille, allez Camille".) And, her family, whom she eulogises with a naff riff in a kooky deep voice ("Father in laaawwww - sister in laaawww - brother in laaawwwww"). It's supremely irritating and miles away from the subtle, subversive charm of 'Le Fil'.

The rest of the album follows the same tack: promising songs are sunk by Camille's incessant need to highlight the vocalising that made her name. So, a quiet thing like 'Home Is Where It Hurts' is ruined by the very showboating she criticises in Mariah et al. With depressing predictability, 'Cats And Dogs' breaks into animal noises. And so forth.

Follow-up albums, as we noted above, tend to be written in the spotlight of public praise and expectation, and thus with a great deal of self-consciousness. Like thinking about yourself while dancing, too much self-awareness trips up songwriters every time. With every note and song of 'Music Hole' Camille seems vividly aware that she's Camille, and so she plays at being Camille for the whole album. This may be impeccable post-modernism - but it makes for rotten music.

Here's that first single, 'Gospel With No Lord':

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Dateline early 2007, and the CLUAS gaffer is proposing to his Paris correspondent that his leisurely monthly column become a hi-octane, fact-acting blog:

CLUAS gaffer: Your column is becoming a blog. Start posting toot sweet or there'll be no more CLUAS Foreign Correspondent Expense Account. That is all.

French Letter: Yikes!

Luckily for us and our lavish expense account, loads of Irish acts visited Paris in 2007 just so we could write about them. Some, like Nina Hynes and The Immediate, came more than once. Others, like Duke Special, inspired us to write dizzying prose the likes of which hadn't been seen since the last pages of The Great Gatsby. We were nominated for awards and dreamy French actresses started returning our calls.

It couldn't last. Now that there's a recession in Eire and everyone's queuing hours for sold-out stale bread, Irish bands are giving up their Paris trips to concentrate on rocking the lucrative Donegal bingo-hall circuit. Bell X1 supported Nada Surf here last week... and that's all. The Frank And Walters cancelled three French dates scheduled for April. We were starting to panic, and dreamy French actresses don't find that attractive.

JunahAnd then, flicking through pocket-sized Paris listings mag Lylo to look busy, we found Junah (right). Junah have been supporting Kill The Young on their recent French tour, and they have their own show at the Café Montmartre in Paris tonight. Junah. You know... Junah. The Irish band. Junah!

No, neither did we. Junah are a five-piece band made up of four Dubs (from Tallaght and Palmerstown, to be precise) and a French drummer. As they say on their MySpace page, their acoustic folk-rock "[combines] the melodious hum of Irish Folk music charged with an overwhelming and embodied enthusiasm for the progression of the Irish rock scene". Seeing the dreaded Eleanor McEvoy as one of their prominent MySpace friends (they're supporting her at Aras Chronain in Clondalkin on 16 May) tells you all you need to know about that particular genre.

Still, in the spirit of "g'wan Oirland!" and shake-a-shamrock and non-begrudgery, we'll give them a mention. After tonight's show in Paris they'll be in Arles on 30 April and Sanary-sur-Mer (no need for me to tell you where that is, of course) the following night. Then it's off to Switzerland before coming back to Ireland.

Junah were due to compete in Phantom's battle of the bands competition but withdrew due to 'sudden unforeseen complications with schedules'. Never fear - one look at their MySpace page and you'll be able to find out where you can see them (hint: Clondalkin).

From a recent appearance on Balcony TV, here's 40% of Junah performing 'Walk Me Into The Ground':

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French-based music fans have some tough decidin' to do for the start of July, what with three tasty festivals happening on the same weekend at different corners of la hexagone.

We've already featured the Main Square Festival at Arras in the north, and Eurockéennes at Belfort in the east. Both have their charms.

Solidays 2008However, your blogger will be at a different festival, the third panel in our tryptich of French music trips for the first weekend of July. We're staying in Paris. There happens to be a tasty festival just down the road from Château French Letter.

Solidays takes place at the Hippodrome de Longchamp, the west Paris racecourse that holds the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe (won last year by the Irish-trained Dylan Thomas). The festival was conceived as an AIDS-awareness event, but has grown into a bona fide heavyweight summer concert series.

The festival's honorary president is Antoine de Caunes, familiar to UK and Irish TV viewers as the host of Rapido and Eurotrash. If you know Paris then you'll know it's quite appropriate that the presenter of Eurotrash is heading a festival that takes place near the Bois de Boulogne, where all the 'interesting' people come out at night.

Now in its tenth edition, Solidays 2008 hosts a mix of French and international indie and dance acts.

CocoonFriday 4 July features the wonderful Vampire Weekend, the equally-brilliant French folk-pop duo Cocoon (left), Australian airplay-darling Micky Green (is she famous in Eire yet?) and impressive Belgian rockers Girls in Hawaii. There'll also be sets from local heroes Deportivo and Têtes Raides (not our thing), alt-folkies Moriarty and those irritating Hoosiers. Later that night there's a dance stage featuring Vitalic and Laurent Garnier.

The Saturday night line-up doesn't really appeal to your Paris correspondent. Unless there's some wonderful late addition, we'll probably head into town that night to drink wine on the banks of the Seine. But for those sticking with the festival, there's the happy-clappy folk-pop of Apple saleswoman Yael Naim and some are-they-still-around moments with Asian Dub Foundation. The samedi soir home favourites are rocker Cali, balladeers AaRON, singer-songer Thomas Dutronc (son of '60s pop icons Françoise Hardy and Jacques Dutronc) and dreary slam-poet Grand Corps Malade, who we won't be sorry to miss. But the Etienne de Crecy DJ set might be worth catching on our way home.

YelleSunday night: that's more like it. The Gossip and Foals, with two French Letter favourites - Grenoble indie kids Rhesus and disco-pop princess Yelle (right). Also: Toots and the Maytals! Richie Havens! We'll have to check out those two too.

All of that for only €33 for early bookers. The normal three-day price is €45 - still excellent value. Camping on-site costs €8 per person. Tickets are available from FNAC.

You can read up on Solidays and its line-up at the festival's website and MySpace page. Here's Sunday night star Yelle and her hit single 'A Cause Des Garçons' ('because of boys'). If you don't enjoy this, there's no hope left for you:

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The Eiffel Tower as painted by Robert DelaunayThe CLUAS gaffer, in his infinite wisdom, picked the Eiffel Tower as the signature image for this blog. And with good reason - it's by far the most identifiable symbol of Paris and France. (He also did well in picking a photo that makes it seem as if the tower is located by a lake in the middle of lush green fields.)

If you've been to Paris you've surely visited it. The best way to find it is to get out of the metro at Trocadero, where the giant Palais de Chaillot hides the tower from view. Suddenly, you round the corner and there it is, across the river, immense and beautiful. After years of living here, it still takes our breath away. It's the most visited pay-to-enter site in the world.

In its early years it wasn't so loved. Guy de Maupassant hated the tower so much that every day he ate lunch in its first floor restaurant; he said that it was the only place in Paris where you couldn't see the tower. A temporary structure for the 1889 World Exhibition, the tower was almost pulled down after its original 20-year lease expired. It was saved because Radio France needed its height for the huge antenna which still tops the tower today.

Many visitors to the Eiffel Tower try to recreate the famous sequence from 'A View To A Kill' where Roger Moore chases Grace Jones up the steps. (Tourists are generally dissuaded from copying the parachute jump at the end).

Duran Duran at the Eiffel Tower for their A View To A Kill videoThe film's theme song was performed by Duran Duran (left), and they made the video on the tower, playing at being spies.

At the time, the band members were not on great terms, so it's appropriate that the video features them trying to kill each other. The promo photo (left) was apparently taken after much persuasion to make the five bandmates stand together in the same spot.

Inevitably, it ends with the band's singer smarmily introducing himself as "Bon, Simon Le Bon". He shouldn't have been so smug. Performing the song at Live Aid, with a TV audience of half the world or so, Le Bon hit the most notorious bum note in pop history.

Here's the Parisian video, then, for Duran Duran's 'A View To A Kill':


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Belfort is a city wedged into that north-eastern angle of la hexagone where France meets Germany and Switzerland.

Given its crossroads location, historically Belfort has found itself caught up in the Franco-German conflicts through the years. The infamous Maginot Line, supposedly defending the western front against a possible World War I, ran from near Belfort up to the Channel coast.

An earlier conflict, the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-1, inflicted a six-month siege on the city. Unlike in the siege of Paris, the defenders of Belfort won out. Their sacrifice is commemorated by a famous statue called the Lion Of Belfort made by Frederic Bartholdi, who went on to make the slightly-more-famous Statue Of Liberty. (Paris has scaled down replicas of both works.)

Today, Belfort is renowned for two music festivals. The FIMU (Festival International de Musique Universitaire), takes place in May and features the cream of student musicians from various genres and countries.

The other festival is Eurockeenes, arguably France's top summer event in terms of size and quality. This year's edition takes place on 4-6 July - the same weekend as two other big French jamborees; the Main Square Festival in Arras and Solidays in Paris. (Your blogger will most likely be at Solidays.)

Remember how we said that Belfort was a crossroads city? Well, where in the past that attracted armies, these days the invaders are road-tripping music fans from around Europe. We hear there's usually a fair-sized Irish contingent.

Eurockeennes from aboveThe line-up for this 20th edition of Eurockeennes (left, viewed from above) is fairly impressive. Friday 4 July features Massive Attack, The Gossip, dEUS, Cat Power, Calvin Harris and Biffy Clyro, amongst others.

Saturday 5 July stars CSS, Vampire Weekend, N*E*R*D, Sebastien Tellier, Camille, The Dø (France's big contenders for 2008) and The Wombats, plus loads more.

Finally, Sunday 6 July offers you Band Of Horses, MGMT, Seasick Steve, Dan le Sac vs Scroobius Pip, Holy Fuck, Battles, Lykke Li, Girl Talk, Babyshambles (!!!) and Gnarls Barkley. In an act of kindness by the promoters, that last night's headliners (The Offspring, Moby) are rotten enough to allow you skip out early for the last train to the next stop on your Eurorail holiday.

A day at Eurockeennes costs you €40.50 and a weekend pass is only €90. To woo would-be Belfort-goers living in Paris, there's a special all-in bus + weekend pass for €166 (the bus leaves from Place Denfort Rochereau, home of the replica of the Lion of Belfort statue). Similar deals are available from most large French cities for much the same price.

You can book your ticket online at this page on the website of French usual outlet FNAC. As for getting there from outside France, Easyjet fly to Basel/Mulhouse Airport, 70km from Belfort (i.e. 30km closer than Beauvais is to Paris).

Full details on the line-up and the getting-there are available in English and French on the Eurockeennes website.

As we mentioned above, The Dø are poised to do well outside France in 2008, building on their Eurosonic appearance earlier this year. Their debut album, 'A Mouthful', is a charming mix of radio-friendly pop and alt-folk oddness. However, singer Olivia B. Merilahti's voice is a self-consciously quirky and whiny weapon of mass irritation. Judge for yourself; here's their big hit, 'On My Shoulders':

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Summer's almost here, when the theoretical possibility of fine weather has bands on the back of lorries in every field, square and football pitch. In the rain. It's the festival season!

Your Paris-based blogger isn't sure if the brand-new Irish recession is going to limit your festival and travel spending power. It might even force you all in Eire to make heart-breaking sacrifices: only five drinking binges per week, no new Celtic jersey, clearing the second mortgage with the fourth credit card. Be strong.

Anyway, if you're thinking of travelling to a festival in Europe as part of your summer holidays, your blogger (like last year) will give you some ideas for outdoor music events in France. They tend to be cheap and sunny, so let's hope that continues for 2008. As soon as substantive line-ups are announced, we'll post about them.

First big event to play its hand is the Main Square Festival. It takes place in Arras, a town in the north of France near Calais, on the weekend of 4-6 July.

Arras 2008 Main Square Festival with Radiohead and othersThe location may not be as sun-kissed and exotic as regions further south, but the festival has attracted some big names. Okay, so the Radiohead show may not really be happening thanks to 'brown energy', but they'll definitely be there, headlining the Sunday night line-up that also features Sigur Ros, The Wombats and French band The Do. And more! If you didn't bother buying tickets for their Malahide show, now you can also not bother buying tickets for their French festival show. Who says globalisation is bad?

The Saturday bill is topped by Mika, born for summer festivals (and Christmas parties), with The Kooks, The Hoosiers, Digitalism and local Libertines-worshippers BB Brunes. And more!

The really impressive night of the show is the dance-flavoured Friday night. In reverse order, it stars the Chemical Brothers, Underworld, Justice, 2 Many DJs and Boys Noize. (Wait for it.) And more!

Tickets are still on sale via this page on the site of French ticket-agent FNAC, who are currently offering a three-day pass for just €95 instead of €135. The Radiohead-night costs €55 and the other two cost just €45. Camping costs an extra €7.50 and can also be booked in advance through FNAC.

So how do we get to Arras? Well, Calais is a well-known port, and the nearest big town is Lille, which is on the Eurostar line as well as the regular networks. You could fly to Paris or Brussels/Charleroi. The French rail system, SNCF, is planning to run a special train service from Lille to Arras for the festival. (As French regional trains are mostly controlled by French regional government, it's quite common to have special subsidised festival train services as support for the arts and culture).

Full details and updates are available in French on the festival's MySpace page - but you can get all your "useful informations" [sic] on the festival's English site.

That Friday night looks like great value. Here's 'DVNO' by Justice:

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Our favourite French radio presenter is Bernard Lenoir, who hosts an hour of cracking indie (with regular live sessions and world music specials) at 10pm Paris time on France Inter. You can listen to archived shows and check out his playlists on the C'est Lenoir website.

We have one sizeable quibble, though - he doesn't play enough French acts. Decent French pop bands, we mean. The only homegrown acts he features are godawfully-boring ageing wannabe poets like Alain Bashung or Murat who speak their lyrics over stale rock riffs. We're not even going to link to them.

Anthony Gonzales of M83But maybe that policy is changing. Last night Lenoir played 'Kim And Jessie' by M83, a lovely slice of '80s-sounding indie synthness from new album 'Saturdays = Youth'.

M83 is the project of Anthony Gonzalez (right) from Antibes on the swanky French Riviera.  Regular CLUAS readers may recall Daragh Murray's glowing review for his 2005 album 'Before The Dawn Heals Us'. (M83's album, not Daragh's.) The motorway-sounding name actually comes from an obscure constellation, and also a popular brand of machine-gun. (Again, M83 and not Daragh.)

'Saturdays = Youth' is the fifth M83 album. Action-packed with MBV-style chaussure-gazing and house-y beats and swishy Air/Jarre synths, it's all very nice stuff indeed.

You can see M83 in Dublin on 25 April, when he plays at (of all places) the Andrew's Lane Theatre. (Music at Andrew's Lane? Since when? Your ex-pat blogger now feels completely out of touch with his ex-home of Dubbalin and is pining for Tayto crisps.)

There are plenty of fine tracks on M83's MySpace page. From that new album, here's 'Graveyard Girl':

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The young Lucien Ginsburg. Photo from Lucien Ginsburg (right) was born in Paris on 2 April 1928, eighty years ago today.

In 1944 he changed his name - to Lucien Guimbard. The rest of his family also adopted the temporary new surname: at the time they were hiding from occupying Nazi forces who wished to send them to a concentration camp with other Jewish families. Before fleeing Paris with his family, young Lucien wore the yellow star, which he would later cynically call his 'sheriff's star'.

It's not clear when exactly Lucien Ginsburg changed his name for the second time. We only know that by the end of the 1950s he was playing in Paris piano bars as Serge Gainsbourg. The first name is that of an everyday Frenchman; the Frenchified English surname evokes aristocratic British sang-froid. Throughout his career he would try to embody both aspects.

Serge Gainsbourg As Serge Gainsbourg (left) he made some of pop's greatest music. His golden age was the period bookended by 1967's 'Bonnie And Clyde' and 1971's 'Histoire De Melody Nelson', still two hugely influential albums. He enjoyed a creative (West) Indian summer in 1979 with a reggae album that included his version of 'La Marseillaise'.

Unfortunately, outside France he is only remembered for one throwaway duet he made with his partner - and it's her contribution that made the song (in)famous.

One last time he changed his name. In the 1980s, his years of terminal decline, he became Gainsbarre - a name to put to his increasingly boorish behaviour and ugly appearance. This was the period of his drunken TV appearances: chatting up Whitney Houston and insulting French singer Catherine Ringer.

Serge Gainsbourg's grave at the Ginsburg family plot in the Cimitière MontparnasseLucien Ginsburg, Lucien Guimbard, Serge Gainsbourg and Gainsbarre died on 2 March 1991. They are buried in the Cimitière Montparnasse, Paris, in a tomb (right) covered with used metro tickets in honour of his first big hit, 'Le Poinçonnneur des Lilas' - a song about being the ticket-puncher at Lilas metro station. (Just opposite is the grave of Samuel Beckett, where fans often leave bananas as a reference to 'Krapp's Last Tape'.)

His daughter Charlotte plans to make a Serge museum of his long-time Paris home on Rue de Verneuil, near the Boulevard Saint-Germain.

As 2 April 2008 happens to be the day that Bertie announced his departure, here's Serge Gainsbourg singing 'Je Suis Venu Te Dire Que Je M'En Vais' - in English, 'I've Come To Tell You I'm Going':

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Nuggets from our archive

2001 - Early career profile of Damien Rice, written by Sinead Ward. This insightful profile was written before Damien broke internationally with the release of his debut album 'O'. This profile continues to attract hundreds of visits every month, it being linked to from Damien Rice's Wikipedia page.