Where do you go to my Lovely?

 Image by Alain Elorza

You talk like Marlene Dietrich and you dance like Zizi Zeanmaire
Your clothes are all made by Balmain and there's diamonds and pearls in your hair...yes there are

Nice to be some
Singer/composer Peter Sarstedt's 1969 magically evocative ode to an  unknown and probably imaginary jet setting beauty, translated into a huge hit for him in England and I have to confess, it's always been a favourite of mine, romantic fool that I am. The song does tend to be more favoured by women than men, perhaps because it's a story song and provides a kind of romanticised female escapist fantasy. Those of us not in a position to steal a painting from Picasso (apart from the fact that he's dead) can listen to the song and imagine for a brief moment what it must be like for the Aga Khan to give one a racehorse for Christmas or more precisely, to be fabulously rich, glitteringly gorgeous and utterly adored...never forgetting of course, at night, alone in bed, that one came from the back streets of Naples. Yes, oh yes, I still bear the scar deep inside...

One significant feature of the song, apart from all the 60s cultural references,  is the inspired addition of a piano accordion (an underrated instrument, I've always thought), which not only conjures images of Bohemian French cafes nestled in chic side streets but also contributes to the melancholy mood. I think there's a violin in there somewhere too, for maximum poignancy.

1969 was a big year for the then 26 year old Sarstedt, who was an Anglo-Indian, born in India but relocated to the UK in the 1950s. His upbeat song Frozen Orange Juice was also a top ten hit that year. Where do you go to my Lovely? was less successful in the US than Britain, only reaching no. 70 in the American charts but overall it has stood the test of time, becoming something of a uniquely flavoured classic, fondly remembered by many nostalgic baby-boomers. Personally, I think it still sounds very cool and if Peter Sarstedt produced nothing else of note in his life, that one song was enough.

As was the case with Carly Simon's You're so Vain, when the song was released, many tried to guess the identity of the mysterious European beauty and various theories were put forward - Sophia Loren was one suggestion, as was Danish singer and actress, Nina, Baroness van Pallandt,  while others posited the French magazine Marie Claire was the inspiration for the song. However Sarstedt long ago revealed that the song was really about "no-one in particular" but at least partly inspired by a girl he met in Vienna in 1965 and fell passionately in love with - alas, she died tragically young, in a Hotel fire.

The Full Song
You talk like Marlene Dietrich
And you dance like Zizi Jeanmaire
Your clothes are all made by Balmain
And there’s diamonds and pearls in your hair, yes there are

You live in a fancy apartment
Off the Boulevard St. Michel
Where you keep your Rolling Stones records
And a friend of Sacha Distel, yes you do

You go to the embassy parties
Where you speak in Russian and Greek
And the youg men who move in your circles
They hang on every word you speak..yes they do

But where do you go to my lovely
When you're alone in your bed
Tell me the thoughts that surround you
I want to look inside your head, yes I do

I've seen all your qualifications
You got from the Sorbonne
And the painting you stole from Picasso
Your loveliness goes on and on, yes it does

When you go on your summer vacation
You go to Juan-les-Pins
With your carefully designed topless swimsuit
You get an even suntan, on your back and on your legs

And when the snow falls you're found in St. Moritz
With the others of the jet-set
And you sip your Napoleon Brandy
But you never get your lips wet, no you don't

But where do you go to my lovely
When you're alone in your bed
Won't you tell me the thoughts that surround you
I want to look inside your head, yes I do

Your name is heard in high places
You know the Aga Khan
He sent you a racehorse for Christmas
And you keep it just for fun, for a laugh..aha-ha-ha

You're in between 20 and 30
A very desirable age
Your body is firm and inviting
But you live on a glittering stage...yes you do

They say that when you get married
It'll be to a millionaire
But they don't realize where you came from
And I wonder if they really care, or give a damn
Where do you go to my lovely
When you're alone in your bed
Tell me the thoughts that surround you
I want to look inside your head, yes I do

I remember the back streets of Naples
Two children begging in rags
Both touched with a burning ambition
To shake off their lowly born tags, they try
So look into my face Marie-Claire
And remember just who you are
Then go and forget me forever
But I know you still bear the scar, deep inside, yes you do

I know where you go to my lovely
When you're alone in your bed
I know the thoughts that surround you
`Cause I can look inside your head