Sunday, September 30, 2007

Peter Sarstedt Revival

Just as the SNL offshoot, Waynes's World, brought out Freddie Mercury and Queen freshly remastered for Generation Next to make their own, so too does Hotel Chevalier, the thirteen minute outtake and/or prequel from from Wes Anderson's new movie, The Darjeeling Limited, bring us back to 1969 and Peter Sarstedt's London megahit of that year, Where Do You Go To My Lovely? with digitized and remastered immediacy

Peter Sarstedt was born in Delhi, and spent his infancy in Kurseong at the foot of the Himalayas, at a tea garden where his father worked, and was therefore a real Indian-Anglo-Indian, obviously more privileged than the folks depicted in Bow Barracks Forever-- since his parents chose to leave for England in 1954, a few years into Independence, like other Anglo-Indians who believed the end of the British Empire would bring them harm and left in numbers for Australia and Canada as well as England through the sixties-- but they really were of Indian blood nevertheless. Wes Anderson must have learned about this while making
The Darjeeling Limited, because it was a hidden factoid in 1969 that would have earned Sarstedt wild fans in India, but at the expense of his following in England. It only surfaces now, when India is on a roll and all that doesn't matter so much any more, but is still not seen on his own web site. It's easy to see in these less hairy days that he is Indian, and I wonder how acknowledging that will play out.

In 1969. of course, I had no idea Peter Sarstedt was Anglo-Indian, and would have counted him less hip and more Cliff Richard if I had. But I was struck then, no doubt like everyone else, by his crisp and easy delivery of the franglais back and forth lyrics, the clarity evident even through the fuzzy recordings of the day. I had no idea who Zizi Jeanmaire was, nor how to spell her name, nor even for that matter who her husband, the great choreographer Roland Petit was, but I had heard Sacha Distel's cover of
Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head, did know that Karīm al-Hussaynī, Aga Khan IV, was gorgeous as well as being the astonishingly wealthy leader of all Shia Muslims, that the Dowager Begum Aga Khan always wore saris, and last, but by no means least, that it was as cool to wear Balmain as to keep your Rolling Stones records at a swank address, nothing to do with the Beatles, much as one might love them.

Hotel Chevalier is famously available for free download at the iTunes Store, and so represents new and adventurous thinking in movie marketing as well as being a vehicle for reintroducing a worthy megahit of the 60's. As it happens, I went to the first ever, high-octane SAMMA conference this weekend, and
Nusrat Durrani, SVP at MTV Networks, was one of the stellar presenters at the dinner reception, along with Aasif Mandvi. After dinner and outstanding performances, during which Nusrat Durrani showed a pastiche of his clips from the New York Marathon set to Pink Floyd's Breathe, I couldn't resist asking him if he had added Pink Floyd because they had been signed by Bhaskar Menon. He said no, he just likes them. But it turned out he hadn't heard about Peter Sarstedt being Indian-- so I hope something will come of that, because in these times, it's well to celebrate another Desi, in disguise for too long.