“Where Do You Go To (My Lovely)?” is one of those love-it-or-hate-it songs. John Peel, the ultimate arbiter of good taste in British popular music for four decades, hated it, allegedly. I’ve always rather liked it.
Yes, of course, it’s very much a song of its time in the late 1960s, and I suspect you’d never be able to make a song like it today. But for me, that’s all part of what makes it great.
Peter Sarstedt wrote, as well as performed, this charming, poignant song. The music is evocative of something you might hear in a Parisian street café. And it artfully paints a picture of what life was like in the late 1960s jet set.
In fact, “Where Do You Go To (My Lovely)?” reminds me a little of Cole Porter’s “You’re The Top” in which a variety of objects and places considered classy in 1934 are used to describe how highly someone is regarded, in admittedly slightly hyperbolic terms.
In a similar vein, “Where Do You Go To (My Lovely)?” has name-checks aplenty for places, people and events that would have been considered the height of good taste in the late 1960s.
I completely understand why John Peel, and numerous other people, might have hated the song. But the reason they hate it is precisely the reason I love it.
Peter Sarstedt also tells a story in his song, and I have a particular weakness for songs that tell stories.
It’s a rags-to-riches tale, thought by some to be based on the life of Italian movie star Sophia Loren. But, according to an interview Peter Sarstedt gave, it wasn’t. He intended the song as a generic story.
In another quirky…and for me, loveable…feature, we don’t get the story of “Where Do You Go To (My Lovely)?” in chronological order, which is a neat bit of storytelling.
It’s only right at the end we discover the true story of this jet-setting style-leader’s life. I can imagine it’s a heritage that someone in her position might work very hard to scrub from their life story, so she could be seen as a genuine equal in the lives of the rich and famous.
That little twist elevates Peter Sarstedt’s lovely story from being a list of aspirational indulgences which, in concept if not in detail, wouldn’t be…