Where Do You Go To (My Lovely)?

I spend a lot of my time listening to music. I’ve listened to lots of songs and I’ve even heard some of them more than once. So, I know the lyrics of songs that I like and even some that I don’t care for. Nowadays it’s no trouble tracking down a recording and not too hard to find its text. Of course, it wasn’t always like this. When I was growing up, I’d no access to mp3s, compact discs, YouTube or most of the other methods of listening to music that now exist. I didn’t even have compact discs because they hadn’t been invented and there were no records or cassettes in my house when I was young. The only place I heard music was on the radio and that was mostly controlled by what my mother was listening to. Occasionally, a song would grab my attention but it would be gone in a few minutes as I had no way of recording it. One song I heard at this time that aroused my curiosity was sung by a guy with a dodgy French accent about an intriguing woman with exotic tastes in men and holiday destinations. I found out a few years later that the song was called Where Do You Go To (My Lovely)? and it was performed by its writer, Peter Sarstedt. The song is mainly set in France and even features a typically French-sounding accordion that adds some colour to the constant strum of the acoustic guitar. The song was a 1969 number one hit in the UK, but didn’t do so well in France. This is not such a surprise as Sarstedt isn’t actually French. He was born in India and moved to England with his family when he was a teenager

Sarstedt’s faux French chanson may have fooled me, but it was the lyrics and the tale they told that really fascinated me. The narrator addresses his song to a jet-setting, single lady in her twenties named Marie Claire. He highlights many of her appealing characteristics such as her Germanic accent, her graceful dancing and her chic fashion sense. She lives in a swanky Paris apartment, has unspecified qualifications from the Sorbonne and speaks Russian and Greek. She goes to the best parties, has a devoted following of young men and takes her holidays in Juan-les-Pins and St Moritz. At the end, the singer reveals that the two of them grew up in poverty in Naples and alludes to some kind of relationship between them. He urges her to forget him, but wonders what she thinks about when she’s alone in bed. He claims to know her better than her rich and famous companions and seems to be suggesting that she is unhappy despite her wealth and lifestyle. In reality, he appears to be envious of her new life and acquaintances and makes some fanciful revelations about her. He claims the Aga Khan gave her a racehorse for Christmas and that she stole a painting from Picasso. Of course, all of this would have gone over my head when I first heard the song on the radio. Recently, I must admit I raised a smile when the song cropped up in The Darjeeling Limited by Wes Anderson. It was used even more extensively in that film’s prologue, Hotel Chevalier, in which the male character plays it during a liaison with a former lover. The use of the song made me consider those characters in a certain way because, well, I was quite familiar with its lyric at that stage

Where Do You Go To (My Lovely)? – Peter Sarstedt

30 Day Song Challenge Archive


4 thoughts on “Where Do You Go To (My Lovely)?

    • So, you know all the words as well, Mike? I must admit that I sing along to it even when I’m sober

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