A French song for every Paris arrondissement

What is the soundtrack of Paris? Perhaps it’s the sound of the Seine river flowing, a crisp croissant getting bitten into or the sound of an espresso cup hitting a saucer on a sprawling Paris cafe terrace. Those are the sounds of Paris that we all know and love but when it comes to the soundtrack of Paris, there’s a more definite answer and it has been captured by our house musician Pres Maxson.

As part of our Paris Countdown series, we’ve made 20 podcast episodes and 20 short videos around Paris, one for every arrondissement. And Pres Maxson made all of the music to go with it. He joins the podcast this week to talk about how he remade 20 classic French songs, and played ALL the instruments for each piece.

The Earful Tower Podcast Episode

This podcast was recorded live online with Patreon members in the audience. You can become a member here to watch the replay of the audience Q&A that followed the podcast recording.

The full soundtrack: The originals

In no particular order, here are the 30 original songs sampled in the podcast season. Yes, 30. Sometimes there were two or three songs mixed together for the soundtrack by Pres. Note: These are all the original songs. Currently, if you want to hear the re-imaginings by Pres you’ll have to go through all the podcast episodes and YouTube videos. We are working on a CD that we will be gifting to Patreon members in time for Christmas.

The French song for each arrondissement

Here’s the full list, in order. Note: As mentioned above, some arrondissements featured a medley of several songs. And to understand why each song “fits” with each arrondissement, some are quite obvious. The Notre Dame is in the fourth district, of course. The Champs-Elysées is in the eighth. But to understand them all, you’ll have to listen to the 20 podcast episodes, or of course read the liner notes in our upcoming CD. Three examples of the song/arrondissement connections are listed further down.

1ParisEdith PIaf
1La Romance de ParisCharles Trenet
1J’ai vu ParisCharles Aznavour
1I Love ParisCole Porter
1Paris Sera Toujours ParisMaurice Chevalier
2J’ai Deux AmoursJosephine Baker
2J’aime plus ParisThomas Dutronc
3Libre Comme PicassoPascal Obispo
3ParisYael Naim
4Notre DameEdith PIaf
4La SeineVanessa Paradis
5Place de la ContrescarpeJacques Brel
5Souvenir, SouvenirJohnny Hallyday
5Si J’amais J’oublieZaz
5Take FiveDave Brubeck
5Il est Cinq Heures Paris s’éveilleJacques Dutronc
6Jardin du LuxembourgLAURA
6Emmenez MoiCharles Aznavour
7La Tour Eiffel est Toujours LàMistinguett
7The Girl Who Stole the Eiffel TowerFrank Sinatra
8Les Champs-ElyséesJoe Dassin
9Place PigalleMaurice Chevalier
9CarmenGeorge Bizet
10Canal St. MartinMaria Remusat
11Jardin PerduTino Rossi
12Plus Bleu que Tes YeuxCharles Aznavour
12Blue TrainJohn Coltrane
13La MerCharles Trenet
14Le Poinçonneur des LilasSerge Gainsbourg
15Le vent nous porteraNoir Désir
16Douce FranceCharles Trenet
17A bicycletteYves Montand
18La BohèmeCharles Aznavour
19Variations on O Trauigkeit, O HerzeleidBach
20Sous le Ciel de ParisEdith Piaf

Pres’ Top 3 arrondissement soundtracks

When asked for his favourite songs for the season, Pres chose the following three. This is a good glimpse into how deep he sometimes went! (And don’t forget to follow Pres on Instagram, below).

The 5th: Historic Paris soundtrack

In third place is the soundtrack for the 5th arrondissement. In the words of Pres:

“For the fifth, it’s “Place de la Contrescarpe,” by Jacques Brel. And on a personal note, this was my favorite arrondissement as a teenager visiting Paris, and my first CD of French music was Johnny Hallyday, so I give a little nod to his “Souvenir, Souvenir” in the middle of the full version. Then I may have gotten carried away on the “memories” theme and included a bit from of Zaz’s “si jamais j’oublie” before coming back to the “fifth” theme with a short quote from Dave Brubeck’s “Take Five” and Jacques Dutronc’s “il est cinq heures paris s’éveille.” 

You can hear much of the song by clicking on the video below.

More to find in the 5th arrondissement.

The 7th: Paris When it Glitters soundtrack

In second place comes the 7th arrondissement soundtrack. In the words of Pres:

“The song is “La Tour Eiffel est Toujours Là” by Mistinguett. For the 7th arrondissement, I added an opening piano chord that is… you guessed it, an arpeggiated 7th. Then, the piano intro is actually the song “The Girl Who Stole the Eiffel Tower,” a super short tune by Frank Sinatra as heard in the movie Paris When it Sizzles. And since this is the current home arrondissement of the Gees, in the middle I added a little section featuring the chord progression G major 7th, and then two E minor 9ths, essentially baking ‘Gee’ right into the music, in case there was any doubt about which arrondissement the Gees currently call home.”

You can listen to it by clicking on the video below.

More to find in the 7th arrondissement.

1. The 1st arrondissement: The Best of Paris soundtrack

And finally, his overall favourite soundtrack across the entire season is … the first arrondissement. In the words of Pres:

“An epic finale needs an epic soundtrack, so I mashed up a series of legendary Paris songs by an inarguable list of legendary performers and composers. We started way back on episode one of the countdown in the twentieth with Edith Piaf, so it’s only fitting that she kicks off our finale with my take on her song, “Paris,” followed by Charles Trenet’s “La Romance de Paris,” Charles Aznavour’s “J’ai Vu Paris,” Cole Porter’s “I Love Paris,” and finishing off with Maurice Chevalier’s “Paris Sera Toujours Paris.” It’s a veritable Mount Olympus of songs about the city if there ever was one, where the musical gods of Paris sit side by side, smiling down on every sidewalk café table, every person strolling the seine, or picnicking in a park.”

You can listen to it by clicking on the video below.

More to find in the 1st arrondissement.

That’s all for now! If you’d like to find more from Pres, you can check out his Instagram here, and his books are on Amazon here. To listen to all of his Paris Countdown soundtracks, you can watch the rest of the arrondissement videos on our YouTube channel. For all the podcast episodes of the season, scroll around below (or search The Earful Tower wherever you get podcasts).

And to listen to the full songs by Pres, be sure to be a Patreon member where we’ll be sending actual old-school CDs to you soon.

Want more from The Earful? Buy one of our books below, (the PDF guide to Paris comes free for members).

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