Peter Sarstedt, a singer-songwriter of distinguished talent with a substantial catalog, will always be most closely associated with his anthemic 1969 chart-topper “Where Do You Go To My Lovely.”
Sarstedt was born in Delhi in 1941 and was part of a notable musical dynasty of hitmakers. His older brother Richard, under his stage name of Eden Kane, had a UK No.1 of his own with “Well I Ask You” in 1961 and four other Top 10 hits including “Forget Me Not” and “Boys Cry”; younger sibling Clive had a Top 3 success in 1976 as Robin Sarstedt, with “My Resistance Is Low.”
The family returned to Britain in 1954 and, when the skiffle craze broke, the brothers started to perform live. Peter made his singles debut under the name Peter Lincoln with 1967’s “In The Day Of My Youth,” on Major Minor. He also had a single on Island, “I Must Go On,” before moving to United Artists and releasing the song with which he became synonymous.
His own composition, “Where Do You Go To My Lovely” told the engaging story of the relationship between the narrator and his friend since childhood, Marie-Claire, plotting her rags to riches progression. As he later explained: “I wanted to write a long extended piece because I was working in folk clubs and universities.” Elsewhere, he added: “Marie-Claire was meant to be a generic European girl but if she was based on anybody it was my then girlfriend Anita Atke. I had been introduced by a fellow busker when Anita was studying in Paris in the summer of ’66 and it was love at first sight.”
The song topped the UK charts for four weeks, over the whole of March 1969, and was reported to be a No.1 in 14 countries. It won an Ivor Novello Award, for Best Song Musically and Lyrically, in 1970. Sarstedt then had a No.10 hit with the follow-up “Frozen Orange Juice” and made No.8 with a self-titled 1969 album. He and Anita moved to Denmark, where he became especially popular, and they had two children.
Reaching new audiences
Peter never reached the UK charts again, but continued to release singles and albums and performed live with great regularity, also gaining radio airplay with such releases as “Beirut” in 1978. “Where Do You Go To My Lovely” subsequently reached new audiences when it was featured in the Wes Anderson films Hotel Chevalier and The Darjeeling Limited. Sarstedt died on January 8, 2017 after fighting progressive supranuclear palsy over the previous six years, a condition that caused him to retire in 2010.
Just after his signature hit made No.1 in the UK, Sarstedt told Melody Maker: “Even my bank manager – and this guy’s really conservative – likes the record, though he thinks my hair is too long. When the news came through that the record was at the top I was asleep…I thought I was dreaming when it was in the 30s, it seems ridiculous that so many people are going out and buying it. It baffles me.”
Follow the 60s playlist.