I’ve loved “Amoureuse” by Kiki Dee from the first time I heard it…probably over the radio of my dad’s metallic blue Hillman Hunter Estate on the way to school back when Radio 1 was still on 247 Medium Wave.
I was too young then to understand what “Amoureuse” was all about. Although a few years later when I did understand the lyrics, I was rather surprised the BBC had broadcast it in the first place.
As a kid, I was swept along by the emotions of the song, Kiki Dee’s lovely voice and the sophistication of the arrangement. That was enough to get me hooked.
Although Kiki Dee has had a vastly more successful career than I’ve ever had, I’ve always been a little surprised the record buying public has not taken her to their hearts more than they have.
Of course, we all remember her as the perfect counter-point to Elton John in “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart” — a 1976 UK and US Number One. “I’ve Got The Music In Me” and “Star” also did well for her, especially in the UK.
Kiki Dee also starred in Blood Brothers in the West End. She’s a singer and performer of considerable talent, and the mellow tone of her voice is something I could listen to all day.
But “Amoureuse” is where I first heard Kiki Dee sing, and I’ve been a little bit in love with her ever since.
By the time “Amoureuse” came along, Kiki Dee had been in the music business for a decade. She had worked as a session singer since the early 1960s and had recorded some records of her own, but they didn’t catch on.
One of the artists she worked with was Dusty Springfield, and when you know that, you can hear straight away how Kiki Dee’s voice made her the perfect backing singer for Dusty — although their voices are not identical , there’s a definite “family resemblance”. They both come from a blue-eyed soul tradition, and so work well together.
“Amoureuse” started off as a French song, written and performed by Véronique Sanson. When I first heard the title on the BBC, I thought it was just someone being a bit pretentious…to be fair, there was a lot of that around in the mid-1970s…I didn’t realise its genuine French heritage.
Although Véronique Sanson’s music stays the same in both French and English versions, the lyrics were re-written for the English-speaking markets by Gary Osborne. Amongst other collaborations, Gary Osborne wrote the lyrics for Jeff Wayne’s “War Of The Worlds” album, along with “Part Time Love” and “Blue Eyes” for Elton John.
Gary Osborne also, without changing the overall feel of the song, slightly changed the story in the verses, although he kept the choruses the same.
Véronique Sanson wrote about being in love. Gary Osborne wrote about experiencing love for the first time…in the physical sense of that word, hence my mild surprise that the BBC played “Amoureuse” on the radio back in still fairly prudish 1970s Britain.
Strands of light upon a bedroom floor
Change the night through an open door
I’m awake but this is not my home
For the first time I’m not alone
Gary Osborne’s lyrics are, of course, masterful. But it’s Kiki Dee who really brings the song home for me. The same lyrics in other hands could have been salacious and seedy. In her hands, they’re wonderfully reflective, contemplative and wistful as she looks back on a night of passion. She doesn’t glorify the act itself, but pulls off the incredibly difficult trick of being sensual without being sensational.
Kiki Dee conveys her feelings in that situation perfectly. She knows what has been done can’t be un-done. The unfamiliar emotions are powerful and she works hard to put them in context, wishing she could live in that moment for ever, before reluctantly accepting that can never happen…
Reaching out I touch another skin
Breathing out as he is breathing in
Deep inside I feel my soul aflame
Can my life ever be the same?
There’s also a suggestion…although not specifically discussed…that whoever she has just spent the night with is someone she should not have spent the night with. Perhaps he belonged to someone else, or was one of those “bad boys” her mother had warned her to stay clear of and who would never be accepted by her family.
Even in the seconds just after she opens her eyes, she already knows this relationship will never go beyond the night they’ve just shared. That’s why she’s so keen to imprint what she’s feeling, awake by herself in the faint light of dawn, in her mind for ever. The minute she gets out of bed, the spell is broken and, like Dorothy, she can never get back to Oz.
I should have told him
I’d do anything if I could hold him
For just another day
For just another day
His love is something I will not forget
When I am far away
When I am far away
I feel the rainfall of another planet
Over the years, that line about “the rainfall of another planet” pops up remarkably often when people discuss nonsense lyrics in pop songs. I think that’s a little unfair — I quite like it.
To be fair to all concerned, though, it’s one element of the original French lyrics Gary Osborne lifted in their entirety into the English version…
Je ressens la pluie d’une autre planète
D’une autre planète
…translates word-for-word into the English language lyrics.
And, although I don’t mind the lyric in English at all, I will concede that when you hear the same passage sung in French it all seems perfectly normal.
Véronique Sanson’s original French version is below, and you’ll hear straight away what a lovely song it is, even if you don’t speak French. My French isn’t good enough to pick up all the subtleties of the French lyrics, but there’s no question it’s a lovely song.
But Kiki Dee’s recording of “Amoureuse” (literally: “in love”) is about as close as anyone can get to pop music perfection in my book.
Véronique Sanson’s music perfectly captures the mood, Gary Osborne’s slight twist on the original story brings an interesting fresh perspective, and the record is beautifully arranged and produced (with Elton John co-producing on the track, which was released through his Rocket Records label).
However it’s Kiki Dee’s voice which takes a great song and turns it into a peak performance. Her tone is lovely, and the way she can run though the range of emotions someone in that situation might feel without getting caught up in any of them is a masterstroke.
With “Amoureuse”, Kiki Dee delivers reflective, contemplative, wistful perfection. And there aren’t many pop songs you can say that about. As one of the comments under her YouTube video rightly says, “Kiki Dee is like the pot of gold you’ll find at the end of the rainbow”. What a singer…
Here’s Kiki Dee with the song I’ve loved since the first time I heard it…keep scrolling for Véronique Sanson’s lovely French original…