|I wrote many of these songs in Europe last
summer, most of them in collaboration with Jacques Brel and Gilbert Becaud. I once
commented to Becaud, that since he was France's most admired popular composer and as Brel
wrote the best Iyrics in that country, how was it that the two had never collaborated.
"We tried it," he replied. "When we met it was Versailles, when we parted
it was Berlin."
It would seem I have the best
of all possible worlds being able to work with each of them individually; however, they
are as hard to please as I am. Since Brel writes Iyrics, I try to stay as faithful to his
original idea as possible, in the manner of Gene Lees and Aznavour. Often Becaud's
melodies turn me on to a Iyric line far from the original in meaning.
Nathalie and I'll Say Goodbye are the
most literal translations of the Becaud melodies I've added words to. I'll Say Goodbye
was written in a bathtub at the Hotel Crystal in Paris one morning. Nathalie was
more difficult to adapt, and took longer; since it deals with East-West relations it had
to be just right. My version is a little less East-West and a little more me-she than the
There is a point in every Brel concert where he brings out
his guitar and accompanies himself on a ballad, usually Le plat pays, which literally
means "the flat lands," and it's a hymn to the countryside he knew as a boy. I
have adapted it into The Far West where I grew up. Both Brel and I have felt the need to
run, only to discover that once away we were unable to hide from ourselves. To this end
Brel has given up performing altogether in order to concentrate on writing and recording.
It is hoped that his retirement will be like Betty Hutton's - frequent, but never
permanent. For he is undoubtedly the world's greatest living entertainer.
Brel is able to put his finger on a particular kind of
bourgeoisie living in Belgium, his home. As a result many of his songs are banned there.
My translation of Le bourgeois is pretty faithful. Since it is neither
anti-Vietnam nor pro-Republican it can be played in this country in Boston as well as in
Like a Child was written with affection for Petula
Clark. I listen to more Pet Clark records than those made by any other popular
entertainer. To hear her sing the Lennon-McCartney song Here, There, Everywhere
is to go instant bananas. As a matter of fact, the first time I heard the French version
of Brel's Like a Child (Un enfant) it was sung by Miss Clark. Petula is a
marvelous writer. She wrote both the words and music to Two Rivers and has collaborated on
many songs with England's Tony Hatch and France's Pierre Delanoe. My favorite Clark song
is called, incongruously, Plastic Rose.
I have changed Louis Amade's Mon arbre (My Tree)
to Paris. The two Iyrics have absolutely nothing in common; I hope Monsieur Amade
doesn't mind since, in addition to being an extraordinary Iyricist, he is also the Paris
Prefect of Police. The melody is by Becaud.
On the Road Again has a contemporary theme. La mer sans
soleil is a bit baroque, and Jacques Brel's Song Without Words (Chanson sans paroles)
is ageless in its description of lovers taking one another for granted—until one gets
bored and moves on.
L'amour avec toi was the Number 1 selling record for many weeks in France by its
author Michel Polnareff. It's what the French call a "yeh-yeh" song. I've
renamed it Baby Be My Love.
The epic song intrigues me. By epic, I mean longer than the
standard thirty-two bar phrase. The Lovers, The Women, The Hunters,
If You Go Away and Reflections are among those works of mine that fall
within this framework. Through European Windows changes tempo seven times and has a
continuing story to tell, so it is longer than most songs. It was a verse and chorus
longer, until we edited it. The idea of doing everything in your lifetime and finding in
the end that you've done nothing is not a new one, but it's seldom employed in song form.
The Ever Constant Sea, Pushing the Clouds Away,
Do You Like the Rain? and Gifts from the Sea have my words and Anita
The arrangements in this album are also the work of Anita.
Being a singer herself she knows how to frame a vocal, never crowding the frame with
excess notes. Her charts always complement and never detract from the vocalist. To that
end, she is the most gifted arranger I've yet had the good fortune to work with, and this
is the first album I've recorded in a long time for which all the arrange ments were done
by one individual.
I like these recordings because they bring to mind some
recent and happy experiences and because they chronicle a particular time in my life.
Maybe this isn't a very commercial album, so I give thanks to RCA Yictor and Neely Plumb
for their indulgence in letting me do something I've really wanted to do for a long time.