Bon Anniversaire!

Sunday, April 3rd, 2016

Unknown-1 copy 2If Serge Gainsbourg hadn’t died a quarter of a century ago, today he would be celebrating his 88th birthday. Quel homme – et quel enfant terrible!

Sylvie is working with Light In The Attic records on a podcast devoted to Gainsbourg and his music.

Meanwhile, if you want to check out the expanded digital edition of Sylvie’s acclaimed biography Serge Gainsbourg: A Fistful of Gitanes, here’s the link.


Closing the Book

Thursday, January 28th, 2016

9780306811838_p0_v1_s1200x630Sylvie’s epic daily Tweeting of  Serge Gainsbourg: A Fistful of Gitanes, which she  began to celebrate its first-time release as a digital book, came to an end today – nine months and 3232 Tweets later!  You can check out the closing moments @sylviesimmons and if you want to read it piece by piece you can follow the numbers right back to number one.  The final #SergeTweets turned out to coincide with Holocaust Memorial Day. Gainsbourg, who was a child when the Nazis invaded Paris, never forgot the humiliation of having to wear a yellow star marking him as a Jew.

Here’s a link to the expanded edition of the book:

March 2nd 2016 will mark the 25th anniversary of Gainsbourg’s death in Paris, aged 62. Sylvie is hoping to set up a tribute show soon – so please keep checking the Tour page for details.

A Fistful of Serge Gainsbourg

Monday, August 3rd, 2015

There’s a brand new excerpt from ‘Serge Gainsbourg: A Fistful of Gitanes’ in the influential UK web magazine The Quietus – the chapter on Gainsbourg’s best-known song, the sexy and controversial Je T’Aime…Moi Non Plus and the lovers who inspired it and sang it. You can read it here.

For anyone who missed US webzine Salon‘s excerpt from Sylvie’s acclaimed biography of Gainsbourg – this one about how a shy French Jew, forced to wear a yellow star by the Nazis as a child and mocked by prostitutes in his teens, became the sexiest man in Paris – here’s a link.

And here’s an in-depth interview with Sylvie – in English and in French – about her and Gainsbourg and how she came to be his English biographer.


Serge Gainsbourg: A Fistful of E-Cigs!

Monday, April 27th, 2015

Serge G burn record

He’s back, he’s smoking – and he’s digital: ‘Serge Gainsbourg: A Fistful of Gitanes’, long out of print, has risen from the ash-tray and is being released today as an e-book in five different languages!

Here’s the Press Release:
For the first-time on e-book, a New Expanded Edition of Serge Gainsbourg: A Fistful of Gitanes by Sylvie Simmons, the award-winning rock writer and the New York Times Best-selling author of I’m Your Man: The Life of Leonard Cohen. Originally published in 2001 to worldwide acclaim and never-before available digitally, A Fistful of Gitanes was the first biography in English to capture Gainsbourg in all his gleeful outrageousness and contraditions, and counted Gainsbourg’s longtime partner Jane Birkin and legendary novelist JG Ballard among its avid fans.
Simmons’s work will stand as the definitive take on a dizzying genius.This new edition, which includes an expanded new discography and additional photos, will be available digitally in English, Spanish, Portuguese, German, and Japanese will be available exclusively through starting April 27, 2015.

You can order here:

And here’s what people have been saying:

“I highly recommend A Fistful of Gitanes by Sylvie Simmons, a highly entertaining biography of the French singer-songwriter and all-round scallywag.” – J.G. Ballard
“Wonderful! Serge would have been so happy.” – Jane Birkin
“An excellent piece of writing.” – Leonard Cohen
“A marvellous book.” – Mariannne Faithfull
“Gitanes is a stone masterpiece!” – Stephen Davis, Hammer Of The Gods.
“A wonderful introduction to one of the most overlooked songwriters of the 20th century.” – The Times
“Anyone interested in learning more about Gainsbourg’s ravishing, Gallic, (spell-binding too) degeneracy would be well advised to check out A Fistful of
Gitanes.” – Mother Jones
“A riveting read.” – OK Magazine
“This dizzying biog recounts the holy-fool highs and sad-bastard lows of the French cultural icon. Converts will relish this ribald tale and newcomers will be correctly corrupted. Smoking!” – Uncut
“The most intriguing music-biz biography of the year.” – The Independent
“Sylvie, a fluent Francophone, brings him to life, guides us through the subtleties [and] perfectly evokes her subject.” – MOJO
“Impeccably researched and eminently readable.” – The Guardian
“Fascinating and superbly written, this proffers insight and constant entertainment.” – Time Out
“Superbly written.” – The Jewish Chronicle
“Simmons’s work will stand as the definitive take on a dizzying genius.” -Goodreads

Digital taping

Saturday, March 23rd, 2013

It’s a sunny Saturday afternoon and I’m just back from taking my broken toe for a walk. Big toe, right foot, a week ago exactly, on my last day in Austin, TX but you all know the first rule of SXSW. What happens in SXSW stays in SXSW. Oddly, I broke the same toe exactly ten years ago, in London. That time it was on the way to interview Buffy Sainte-Marie, and tripped in my brand new scarlet Doc Martens and snapped my toe. Pro that I am, I jumped in a cab and hopped into her hotel room not a minute late; sweetheart that she is, she unlaced my boot, rushed off to fill her ice bucket, put my foot in it and would have probably made a splint out of the bedpost if I’d let her. Turns out that all they can do for a broken toe is tape it up, tell you not to play (English) football or let anyone step on it for six weeks, and not to take it personally when everyone falls about laughing and says you walk like a duck.

digital taping

digital taping

So far I’ve followed their advice. But now I’m faced with a wardrobe dilemma. This evening I have to be at Walnut Creek’s Authors under the Stars Gala – it’s a benefit for their library system, where people pay a couple of hundred dollars apiece to sit with me or the participating author of their choice (see list below – and hooray, my table’s sold out!) – and I’m expected to dress for the occasion. Hmm. So it looks like it’ll have to be a little black dress and… Uggs.
But let’s time travel back to the day when all my digits were fully-functional and high heels an option: South by Southwest. I had a brilliant time. There was the usual insane scrum of people, of course (an aerial view of 6th St on Friday night would definitely have been a contender for the Bosch painting lookalike award) and long lines outside a lot of the cool shows, but one of the great things is that you keep running into people on the street that you know and like and don’t expect to see. Like my friend Phil from London, who’d popped over at the last minute on an assignment for Q. Or Thurston Moore, who just happened to drop by South Congress Books – where I was doing a reading and playing some Leonard Cohen songs with Greg Ashley – to buy something. I don’t think I’ve spoken to him at any length since my Serge Gainsbourg book.
But the big highlight of the week for me was my panel ‘Leonard Cohen and his Women’, with three of my favourite such women, Julie Christensen, Perla Batalla and Ronee Blakley. We ended up going overtime, and closed with a few spontaneous songs. To sit next to Ronee while she sang Hank Williams, acapella (Leonard Cohen loves Hank) and Julie and Perla as they duetted on Anthem – and then have them sing backing vocals to me and my uke on Famous Blue Raincoat (and thank you Colin Gilmore for being my uke roadie) is so many kinds of wonderful. If and when SXSW posts their video, I’ll pass it on.

SXSW: ‘Leonard Cohen and his Women’

an organised mind

Friday, October 12th, 2012

Things I managed to lose on the last leg of my book tour:

– two guitar/uke cables (specifically one cable, two different occasions)
– a purple folder full of paper
– any recollection of what those papers were
– a copy of my book with post-it notes picking out the parts I wanted to read
– toothpaste (how does a person lose toothpaste?)
– any belief I might have had in my organisational skills.

Writers don’t get out much – well, okay, music journalists do, we’re tossed all over the place, but writers of 600 page books tend to spend a lot of time within the same four walls, staring at just one of them, which tends to be blank, or have a calendar pinned on it on which you’ve covered the picture of a calm Alpine scene with pictures of- um, let’s see – Johnny Cash in Folsom Prison (September) and a xerox of a naked Iggy Pop (October). But mostly my roadying skills have been restricted to organising my book, my computer desktop and keeping the fridge supplied with chocolate and wine.

Serge Gainsbourg’s refrigerator, I remember Jane Birkin telling me for my book ‘A Fistful of Gitanes,’ had a glass door, so that he could easily check to see that everything in side was in the right place, neat and tidy. Everything in the house they shared had its own designated place and woe betide anyone who moved it. Leonard Cohen, who was acquainted with Gainsbourg, has a similar taste for order – he didn’t have a see-through fridge in his kitchen, but the room, like the rest of his small home, was ship-shape – much more simply-furnished than Serge’s, but extremely tidy, ship-shape. Each of them said, in so many words, that they needed order in their environment to counter the disorder in their head.

Anyway, not long before I go back on the road. I’ll try and develop some organisational skills in the meantime.