On “Zou Bisou Bisou,” or That French Song from Last Night’s Mad Men

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03/26/2012 10:20 AM |


It wasn’t until the new Mrs. Don Draper sang a siren song at her husband’s awkward birthday party that Mad Men felt like it was really back. It brought all the characters into one uncomfortable setting, with some revealing too much of their real feelings after having a drink too many (Peggy), while others ogled and mentally undressed their co-workers wives (pretty much all the men). But mostly: that song, “Zou Bisou Bisou.”

Megan’s rendition is closest to the version recorded by Gillian Hills, an actress-turned-“yéyé” singer best known for her performances in Blowup and A Clockwork Orange, where she played one of the girls picked up by Malcolm McDowell’s Alex DeLarge in a record store. Hills’s “Zou Bisou Bisou,” which roughly translates to a kiss on the cheek, was released in the summer of 1960, and the Brigitte Bardot look-alike had a hit.

But the better-known version of the song is by Sophia Loren, who sang “Zoo Be Zoo Be” in English for the film The Millionairess, starring herself and Peter Sellers. Her take (produced by the real fifth Beatle, George Martin) isn’t nearly as interesting, though; oddly, much of the sexuality has been removed, and it sounds like it was sung by a young girl. It’s too precious to be provocative.

Unlike this: