Thursday, October 16, 2014

One Song at a Time: "Love Me, Please Love Me"

French pop star Michel Polnareff sings his Frenchie heart out.

The song: "Love Me, Please Love Me"
Artist: Michel Polnareff
Released: 1966
Elvis Presley had at least two major hit singles in 1956 which were direct, unambiguous requests for love. "Love Me Tender," which takes its melody from an old folk tune called "Aura Lee," is a swaggering seduction routine set to music. It's audio foreplay, a sexual aperitif etched into wax. The guy in the song is a Lothario type, sweet-talking some innocent girl right out of her poodle skirt. The lyrics are G-rated ("You have made my life complete, and I love you so") and ostensibly wholesome, but you can tell why this guy made parents nervous back then. What did he mean by "all my dreams fulfill?" What kind of dreams did he have in mind? The King had another one that same year just called "Love Me," which I like even better. It's supposed to be about a desperate guy groveling at the feet of a cold-hearted woman. ("Treat me like a fool, treat me mean and cruel, but love me!") But Elvis wasn't really the desperate, groveling type, so the song comes off as kinky and masochistic instead. You get the impression that the guy in the song gets off on the rough treatment he receives from this dame. Topping from the bottom, you might say.

A decade later, over in France, a moody, floppy-haired singer named Michel Polnareff had a #1 hit with his own plea for love, "Love Me, Please Love Me." It's just about the most pathetic I've ever heard someone sound on record, and I love it. Most of the lyrics are in French, but you don't really need a translation to get the gist of it. Not when poor Michel is howling in falsetto like a mournful hound dog. This song demonstrates a level of vulnerability with which Elvis Presley never would have been comfortable. From what I can glean of his delightfully bizarre and eventful Wikipedia entry, Michel was just as troubled in real life as he sounds on this record. You can hear his genuine sorrow in every throbbing triplet he pounds out on the piano. I can just imagine some heartsick Frenchman playing this record over and over again, using his last bit of strength to life the tone arm on his vintage record player. Whenever I want to wallow in misery (which is basically all the time), "Love Me, Please Love Me" is my go-to song.

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