This was the first single to be released from Carla Bruni’s fourth album, “Little French Songs”. The complete album was released on April 16th 2013 and "Chez Keith et Anita" was the second song on it.
It expresses total nostalgia for the 1970's. Looking at photos of the period, Carla imagines herself present in the company of the Rolling Stones, when they were recording the album, "Exile on main street", in the South of France.
In this song she says that there are many different places and circumstances that she might find herself, but only place she would want to be is in the house of Rolling Stone, Keith Richards, and his partner Anita Pallenberg in the summer of 1970. The alternative places will seem totally chaotic in the translation, but they are usually chosen for the association of the sounds, which is heard in the French original - in the first verse, for example,we have the "oll " sound and the "ool" sounds. The music of sound is, of course part of the craft of the poet, but some of Carla Bruni's associations are light-hearted. She enjoys the incongruous
There is a twist in the theme of the song too, when finally Carla Bruni confesses that in 1970 she was far too young to be in the company of the Rolling Stones. (Her affair with Mick Jagger was at a much later date.)
I discuss the background to the song later in this this post.
THE BACKGROUND OF THE SONG “Chez Keith et Anita,”
In the song Carla tells us:
Je suis chez Keith et Anita,
Carla Bruni is at Keith’s and Anita’s place and she realises suddenly that it’s early morning and no-one there has had any sleep yet. Keith is Keith Richards, the very accomplished guitarist and a founder member of the “Rolling Stones”. It is said that whereas Mick Jagger is the brains of the Rolling Stones, Keith Richards is the heart.
Anita in this song is Keith Richards' girlfriend, the beautiful Anita Pallenberg, a model, but not in the big time.
Picture above: Anita and Keith in the 1970s
Anita’s association with the Rolling Stones had begun after a Rolling Stones concert in Munich in 1965, when a visit to their dressing room had marked the start of her two year affair with another member of the group, Brian Jones. Unfortunately drug and drink had a harmful effect on Jones’s character and he became progressively more abusive towards her. Their breakup came after a bad incident in 1967. Keith Richards saw his colleague, Brian Jones violently attacking Anita Pallenberg and intervened to rescue her.
After this, Keith Richards and Anita Pallenberg began a relationship, which lasted until 1979, surviving the strong suspicion of Anita's affair with Mick Jagger, when they were acting together in the Donald Cammell's film "Performance". Keith and Anita's years together were marred by drug abuse, which had particularly harmful consequences on the life and health of Anita. They never married but have two surviving - and successful- children. In view of the title of this song, it is nice to learn that Keith and Anita have maintained a cordial relationship.
THE GLIMPSES OF THE WORLD OF THE "ROLLING STONES" SEEN IN CARLA BRUNI'S SONG
Carla Bruni tells us something about the party:
Quelqu'un se roule un joint,
Some-one is rolling a cannabis joint but she doesn’t smoke. The young groups of the 70s and 80s, such as the Beatles sang openly about their drug fuelled musical inspiration.
The song mentions another famous personality present in Keith and Anita’s house, who is called Marianne - she has a scent of vanilla and is all velvet and silk:
Marianne sent la vanille,
Marianne Faithfull is the famous English singer, songwriter and actress. Wikipédia tells me that she was born at the very end of 1946, and that “from 1966 to 1970, she had a highly publicised romantic relationship with Rolling Stones' lead singer, Mick Jagger. She co-wrote "Sister Morphine", which is featured on the Stones' Sticky Fingers album.”
Carla tells us that she was too young to have known personally the events she describes in her song.. She says it is the Summer of 1970, and in that year, as she says, Carla was only a little girl..
C'était l'été soixante-dix,
Carla Bruni was, in fact, born on 23th December 1967, and so, even at the end of the 1970s, she would have only been eleven years old ! Biographies of the Rolling Stones give us the later dates. They tell us that Carla Bruni had a very passionate affair with the Stones lead singer, Mick Jagger, when she was a twenty-three year old model at the end of the 1980s. She was deeply in love with him and the end of the relationship caused her great heartbreak.
As we read this biographical detail, we realise that Carla Bruni is dealing with memories and events that must be very emotional to her and at times very painful. It is her frank sincerity which is one of the most remarkable features of her art.
Below- A photo of Marianne Faithfull and Mick Jagger in 1969. He was appearing before a London court, charged with illegal possession of drugs. Thirty-three years later in 2003, he became Sir Mick Jagger, having been made a knight of the realm during the government of Tony Blair. This distinction was seen as inappropriate by traditionalists and even his fellow Rolling Stones were displeased. The group's drummer Charlie Watts is quoted as saying:
"Anybody else would be lynched: 18 wives and 20 children and he's knighted, fantastic!