It was on 8 January 2017 that we lost Peter Sarstedt, the singer-songwriter forever to be associated with his anthemic 1969 chart-topper ‘Where Do You Go To My Lovely.’ He had fought progressive supranuclear palsy over the previous six years, a condition that caused him to retire in 2010.
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 ten hits including ‘Forget Me Not’ and ‘Boys Cry’; younger sibling Clive had a top three 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 recorded singles in the later 1960s for such labels as Major Minor and Island before writing the song with which he became synonymous. ‘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 story.
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 in 1970. Sarstedt then had a No. 10 hit with the follow-up ‘Frozen Orange Juice’ and reached No. 8 with a self-titled 1969 album.
He 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 1978’s ‘Beirut.’ ‘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.
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.”
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