Song Stories

“Je T'Aime ... Moi Non Plus”

Serge Gainsbourg and Jane Birkin | 1969

Serge Gainsbourg originally recorded this scandalous song, erotic moaning and all, as a duet with Brigitte Bardot. Understandably, the sultry screen star's husband strongly objected, and that version went unreleased for two decades. Remade with British actress Jane Birkin, it reached Number One in the U.K., despite (or perhaps because of) a BBC radio ban. The song was only a minor U.S. hit, but Gainsbourg proudly displayed in his home a framed copy of the Billboard chart that showed it reaching, appropriately, the Number 69 position. As for the rumor that "Je T'Aime" depicted an actual lovemaking session, Gainsbourg quipped, according to Birkin, "'Thank goodness it wasn't, otherwise I hope it would have been a long-playing record.'"

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Song Stories

“American Girl”

Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers | 1976

It turns out that a single with "American" in its title--recorded on the Fourth of July during the nation's Bicentennial, no less--can actually sell better in Britain. Coupled with the Heartbreakers' flair for Byrds jangle and Animals hooks, though, is Tom Petty's native-Florida drawl that keeps this classic grounded at home. Petty dispelled rumors that the song was about a suicidal student, explaining that the inspiration came from when he was 25 and used to salute the highway traffic outside his apartment window. "It sounded like the ocean to me," he recalled. "That was my ocean. My Malibu. Where I heard the waves crash, but it was just the cars going by."

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