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.
|1||La Romance de Paris||Charles Trenet|
|1||J’ai vu Paris||Charles Aznavour|
|1||I Love Paris||Cole Porter|
|1||Paris Sera Toujours Paris||Maurice Chevalier|
|2||J’ai Deux Amours||Josephine Baker|
|2||J’aime plus Paris||Thomas Dutronc|
|3||Libre Comme Picasso||Pascal Obispo|
|4||Notre Dame||Edith PIaf|
|4||La Seine||Vanessa Paradis|
|5||Place de la Contrescarpe||Jacques Brel|
|5||Souvenir, Souvenir||Johnny Hallyday|
|5||Si J’amais J’oublie||Zaz|
|5||Take Five||Dave Brubeck|
|5||Il est Cinq Heures Paris s’éveille||Jacques Dutronc|
|6||Jardin du Luxembourg||LAURA|
|6||Emmenez Moi||Charles Aznavour|
|7||La Tour Eiffel est Toujours Là||Mistinguett|
|7||The Girl Who Stole the Eiffel Tower||Frank Sinatra|
|8||Les Champs-Elysées||Joe Dassin|
|9||Place Pigalle||Maurice Chevalier|
|10||Canal St. Martin||Maria Remusat|
|11||Jardin Perdu||Tino Rossi|
|12||Plus Bleu que Tes Yeux||Charles Aznavour|
|12||Blue Train||John Coltrane|
|13||La Mer||Charles Trenet|
|14||Le Poinçonneur des Lilas||Serge Gainsbourg|
|15||Le vent nous portera||Noir Désir|
|16||Douce France||Charles Trenet|
|17||A bicyclette||Yves Montand|
|18||La Bohème||Charles Aznavour|
|19||Variations on O Trauigkeit, O Herzeleid||Bach|
|20||Sous le Ciel de Paris||Edith 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.
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.
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.
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).