Aux armes et cætera (album)  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

Produced by Philippe Lerichomme, Aux Armes et cætera is the thirteenth album by Serge Gainsbourg, released in the early spring of 1979. It was recorded in at the Compass Point Studios in Kingston, Jamaica, with some of the island's best reggae musicians as well as members of the I Threes, Bob Marley's backup chorus which includes Rita Marley. Further expanded by new mixes released in 2003, the album is considered by many as being one of his masterpieces. With the notable exception of Peter Tosh recording a duet with Mick Jagger a few months before, it was the first time a White, European singer recorded reggae in Jamaica. It was also Serge Gainsbourg's first true major success as a singer.


Original Mixes

With the exception of his 1969 international hit duet with Jane Birkin Je T'aime Moi Non Plus (where Birkin's strikingly erotic voice had turned the song into a novelty success), Serge Gainsbourg, by now arguably recognized as France's greatest singer songwriter ever, was then only a cult figure having mainly met success through versions of his songs recorded by other interprets including Brigitte Bardot, Juliette Gréco, Honor Blackman, Jane Birkin, France Gall, Petula Clark and others. The album sold over one million copies in 1979, turning him into a major sensation in France, Belgium and French-speaking Switzerland.

Aux Armes et cætera is also recognized as one of the first appearances of reggae in French music though his own Marilou Reggae, which appears here in a different arrangement with an extra verse, renamed Marilou Reggae Dub (the composition had first appeared on his 1976 album, L'Homme à Tête de Chou, which had been recorded in London with non-reggae musicians).

The title track is a reggae adaptation of La Marseillaise, the French national anthem. Soon after the song's first appearance on television on April 1, 1979 (a controversial appearance followed as the recording was perceived by some as an insult to the French Republic), it became a big success. Gainsbourg received death threats upon release of his cover of the French national anthem. One journalist, Michel Droit of Le Figaro criticized the song writing that Gainsbourg was feeding antisemitism by "trying to make money with the national anthem". Deeply hurt, in turn the singer published a striking reply. Other critics did not like that the original text was truncated, half of the chorus line (including the most military-oriented section of the song) being edited out.

But some years later, Gainsbourg purchased the original manuscript of "La Marseillaise" at an auction. He then showed critics that his version was, in fact, closer to the original than any other recorded version as the manuscript clearly shows the words "Aux armes et cætera..." for the chorus as author Rouget de l'Isle did not bother writing the full chorus each three times, preferring to shorten it with the word etc..

Two other smash hit singles were taken from the album: Vieille Canaille (a French version of the jazz classic You Rascal You written in the 1920s by Sam Theard) and Gainsbourg's own Lola Rastaquouère. A short European tour featuring the Jamaican group The Revolutionaries (see-line-up below) but not the I-Three followed in December 1979, culminating in a series of shows in Paris. At the Strasbourg show in France, outraged, threatening paratroopers showed up in the concert hall and the show was cancelled. Serge Gainsbourg nevertheless came onstage on his own and courageously sung the regular national anthem, stating that he gave "La Marseillaise its original revolutionary meaning back". The soldiers then sung along with him in a military salute posture. The event was shown on TV news, causing more controversy and sarcasm - and boosting album sales. The Paris shows at Le Palace were recorded by Philippe Lerichomme, mixed by Bruno Blum and engineer Thierry Bertomeu and issued as a double CD, Gainsbourg Et Cætera in 2006.

With the same musicians and backing vocalists, Serge Gainsbourg recorded a reggae follow-up studio album in 1981, Mauvaises Nouvelles des Étoiles, a major hit as well. In 2003 that album was also given the "dub style" treatment (see "new mixes" below) by Bruno Blum and Soljie Hamilton.

New Mixes

Aux Armes et Cætera - Dub Style

In 2003, Aux armes et cætera was re-released in a Bruno Blum-produced deluxe double CD version including new "dub style" mixes of the vocal tracks, including some previously unreleased recordings. Disc 2 features dub versions of most tracks and Jamaican artists versions/adaptations of all songs. An English rendition of Lola Rastaquouère sung by producer Bruno Blum is also included on the album, as well as a newly recorded version of Marilou Reggae (using the L'Homme à Tête de Chou vocal) featuring drummer Leroy "Horsemouth" Wallace, bass player Flabba Holt and Blum on guitar. Jamaican versions include Lone Ranger, Big Youth, Buffalo Bill, Lisa Dainjah, King Stitt and Brady. All tracks were mixed by veteran Jamaican sound engineer Soljie Hamilton.

Original Album Track listing

  1. "Javanaise Remake" - 3:05
  2. "Aux armes et cætera" - 3:05
  3. "Les Locataires" - 2:09
  4. "Des Laids Des Laids" - 2:36
  5. "Brigade Des Stups" - 1:57
  6. "Vieille Canaille" - 3:02
  7. "Lola Rastaquouère" - 3:40
  8. "Relax Baby Be Cool" - 2:30
  9. "Daisy Temple" - 3:53
  10. "Eau Et Gaz A Tous Les Etages" - 0:37
  11. "Pas Long Feu" - 2:33
  12. "Marilou Reggae Dub" - 3:48

Lyrics and music were written by Serge Gainsbourg except "Aux Armes Et Caetera" (Lyrics : Rouget de l'Isle - Music : Serge Gainsbourg) and "Vieille Canaille" (Sam Theard - Jacques Plante). Arrangements were by Robbie Shakespeare, Sly Dunbar and Serge Gainsbourg.



  • 1979 : Vieille Canaille / Daisy Temple
  • 1979 : Des laids, des laids / Aux armes et cætera

See also the comprehensive Aux Armes et cætera page in French<ref>See the comprehensive Aux Armes et cætera page in French</ref>

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