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Sound Doll/Bran Doll

eebee's picture

The North Carolina license plates have worked their way through the "E"s, and recently I have found myself with "Ella, elle l'a" stuck in my head after stopping at a traffic light behind an "ELA" tag. I was sad to hear of France Gall's passing today. Her song about Ella Fitzgerald was a hit when I was in France in the eighties. Gall had won the Eurovision Song Contest for France in 1965 at age 18, with "Poupee de cire, poupee de son", written by Serge Gainsbourg.  I had a hard time making sense of the title until I remembered the term 'son de blé', and that a rag doll I guess could be filled with wheat 'bran' (how very 1980s healthy of her). 'Poupee de son' might also translate to 'doll of sound'.  The most popular translation of Gainsbourg's title, however, seems to be "Wax doll, rag doll". 

As I watched the 1965 live video again I wondered how much of an influence this song and performance were for Bjoern & Benny (yes, all my roads lead back to ABBA) with "I'm a marionette". I am now tempted to think the Carol Channing wigs they had the girls wear on stage during their 1977 tour while performing "I'm a marionette" were more in line with France Gall's doll scene, especially since ABBA had also been Eurovision champs 9 years after Gall. The titles are similar but the context differs slightly, as "I'm a marionette" seems to be ABBA's complaint of life on the road. Musically, in my opinion, both songs have an energetic beat but are not particularly happy sounding. 

Maybe I'm alone in this! 

Just for fun, here's an obligatory ABBA puppet version of 'I'm a marionette'



timv's picture


I'll see your ABBA and raise you Mott the Hoople's "Marionette (Live)". I suppose it's a natural motif for musicians, even the ones who write their own songs. A long tour doing the same show every night probably starts to feel that way for everyone.

And that's a sweet tribute to France Gall. I recognized the name and had read a little bit about her, about Serge Gainsbourg writing songs filled with innuendos that she didn't understand at the time, but I hadn't heard the songs. Evidently, from the comments, she had lots of fans all around the world.

eebee's picture

Puppet on a string

They could just as easily have been influenced by that Mott song. :-D Thanks for bringing it up. The piano intro is probably not a coincidence. 

I forgot the obvious one in the same thread, the United Kingdom's winning entry to Eurovision (22 days before I was born!): Sandie Shaw's "Puppet on a string", lyrics by a Bill Martin, who (surprise) wrote the English lyrics for forlorn sixties waif Twinkle in 1965 to the 'Poupee de son' tune. I spent a grand total of one minute discovering that! Mirthful interview with him here (are they holding up 'Cue Girls Screaming' signs off camera in the Cliff Richard clip?).

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