The second album I ever listened to by New York-based dream pop band, Luna was their third album, 1995’s “Penthouse”. I brought home the CD with me one day a few years after its release and put it right in my player, where it stayed for a few weeks. There was a hidden bonus track on the CD, a French-language number that told the story of legendary criminal lovers, Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow, and it quickly became a favourite of mine on the album, even though my knowledge of French was limited at the time. And of course, back then, I had no idea it was a cover.
The original version of “Bonnie and Clyde” was recorded by legendary musician/artist Serge Gainsbourg with French film actress Brigitte Bardot in 1968. Theirs was much more sped up than the version I first heard but with just as dreamy a feel, and just as timeless. It definitely doesn’t sound like something I imagine coming out the sixties. Relentless guitars in a wind tunnel on one channel and a weird vocal effect that sounds like a hiccup repeating on the other. I don’t know much about Gainsbourg’s other work but this duet with actress Brigitte Bardot is practically spoken word, which is apt given that the words were based heavily on an English language poem written by Bonnie Parker herself.
And yeah, this is just one of the many excellent covers that Luna has done over the years. This group seems to love doing them and remaking them into something that completely fits within their oeuvre so that it sounds all their own. In fact, Luna has done so many of them that when they released their “best of” compilation in 2006, the deluxe release included a bonus disc called “Lunafied” that gathered up all of their best covers from over the years and of course, this one was included.
Luna’s version of “Bonnie and Clyde” included the work of Stereolab’s Laetitia Sadier, performing the vocal parts originated by Bardot. The bonus track that I knew and loved was later re-released as a single and renamed as the Clyde Barrow version and a slower version was also made available as the Bonnie Parker version*. Both of these are just incredible explosions of surreal dream worlds, full of echoes and images and imaginings in French. And now that I actually understand the language somewhat, I enjoy the song even more.
Which do I prefer? Sorry, Serge, I might just have to go with the cover here.
*Both of these appeared on the aforementioned “Lunafied” compilation, which when released by Runout Groove Records on vinyl a few years ago, I just had to purchase for my collection.
For the rest of the 100 best covers list, click here.