Wednesday, 6 March 2013

Je T'Aime - Sex Please, We're British

Tonight Stuart Maconie presents The People's Songs on BBC Radio 2 - a look at how the British public received Je T'Aime... Moi Non Plus back in 1969. 

It's on air at 10pm, here's a synopsis:

We've always had an uneasy relationship with our European cousins and their continental mores and morals, especially when they come over here and rub our face in it. Here was a bug-eyed Frenchman performing a racy duet with his young lover. And she was blatantly mimicking sexual pleasure. And what was worse was she was British! The cheek of it!

It was the Sixties and sex seemed to be everywhere in the arts. Lady Chatterley's Lover had been banned for thirty years and triumphed in an obscenity trial that same decade. The musical Hair was delayed from opening in London because of censorship. The Rolling Stones' "Redlands" court-case, ostensibly about possession of drugs, had been further mired in suggestive sexual misbehavior. And a little later the counter-culture magazine Oz went through the longest obscenity trial in the UK.

But in the case of Je T'Aime, despite it being foreign, and despite it seeming to be quite rude, we loved it. And unlike many other countries, the UK didn't ban the track. In fact we bought it by the truck-load; it flew into the number one slot.

But perhaps in hindsight this shouldn't have been so surprising. The music hall had been founded on innuendo. George Formby had become a massive star, singing songs that were pretty much predicated on a single innuendo. So we willingly absorbed Je T'aime into our 'nudge-nudge, wink-wink' Benny Hill, Carry On pop culture.

In this episode Stuart will attempt to trace the evolution of British attitudes to sex, scandal and pop music. Do you recall the release of Je T'aime? Were you offended... or aroused? The People's Songs wants to hear from you...