This morning we remember a singer who wasn’t quite a one-hit wonder, but was forever defined by his first big hit. Subsequent songs (of which there were many) never rose to the same height of popularity, which I think is a pity, because they’re all enjoyable in their own way.
Peter Sarsted was born in India, but lived most of his adult life in Britain. There’s a certain mental attitude in a lot of Anglo-Indians I’ve met, a sense of the mystical in the midst of everyday life, and I think that shows through Sarsted’s music. He never wrote plain pop music, but often added an introspective, spiritual tone that made one think about his subject. I’ll have more to say about that in a while.
Of course, Sarsted will always be known for his only really big hit, “Where Do You Go To, My Lovely?“. It was released in 1969. Despite much speculation whether it referred to Sophia Loren, and Sarsted’s own misleading stories about it during the earlier part of his career, Sarsted later clarified its inspiration:
In 2009, Sarstedt spoke to a gossip columnist for the Daily Express. He admitted he had lied about the song being about a socialite who died in a fire. He said that the song was about his girlfriend at the time, whom he later married and then divorced. According to Mark Steyn, “Anita is now a dentist in Copenhagen. Peter Sarstedt has spent 40 years singing about wanting to look inside her head. And for most of that time Anita has made a living by looking inside yours.”
The original version of the song was shorter than a later, extended release, which I’ve used for this morning’s post.
Sarsted followed it with a sequel in 1997 titled “The Last of the Breed (Lovely 2)”.
He was planning a third song about the same woman, tentatively titled “Farewell Marie-Claire”, which was to revert to the same style as the original and bring Marie-Claire’s story to a close. However, ill-health forced Sarsted’s retirement from the music industry (he died in 2017), and the song was never completed.
Sarsted’s only other real hit, albeit less successful than his first, was “Frozen Orange Juice”.
Sarsted wrote many more songs, and toured extensively for the rest of the 20th century and into the 21st. I enjoy many of his compositions because they’re not simply “pop”, but thoughtful and introspective as well as, at times, upbeat and enjoyable. Here are four selected at random.
His music is very different from modern, plasticized, synthetic pop music. I think it’s rather better, myself – but then, tastes differ.