12.13-ORLEANS (David Crosby)

David Crosby


Orléans, Beaugency, Notre-Dame de Cléry
Vendôme, Vendôme


According to the 4WaySite, the song “Orleans, originally titled Le Carillon de Vendôme or Les Cloches de Vendôme, dates back to the 15th century and is the oldest known French song. The actual melody was the one played by the carillon or chimes in the church towers of the cities of Vendôme and Beaugency. The song Orléans takes us back to the period of The Hundred Years' War, which was a conflict between England and France, lasting 116 years from 1337 to 1453. The Dauphin was Charles VII, and during the war, he [had lost his royal seat] in Paris. The kingdom of France was reduced to a small area and these were the cities he was still controlling: Orléans, Beaugency, Cléry, Vendôme. In memory of this time, the chimes of the churches of Beaugency and Vendôme, which were faithful to the king, play Orleans three times per day.”

The engineer of If I Could Only Remember My Name, Stephen Barncard, states on 4WaySite that this was the first song David Crosby recorded for the album, recording multiple tracks himself, doubling up on acoustic guitar and layering in his own voice for harmonies. The song shares, then, the self-recording method Paul McCartney had used in Maybe I’m Amazed, and Skip Spence had applied to War In Peace. Running less than a couple of minutes, Orleans repeats the names of the churches under the domain of Charles VII, and then the song drifts off, slowing down on individual guitar strings as if, after having rung out the melody, the bells were still swinging back and forth of their own momentum.

Orleans recalls to me another song, written by Pete Seeger and recorded by David Crosby, called the Bells of Rhymney, which was included on the Byrds’ first album. Though Rhymney is based on a Welsh poem, both songs dramatize church bells talking to one another. In Rhymney they complain of the poor lives of the coal miners that are their parishioners; in Orleans they complain of the reduced sovereignty of the French king. Further lyrics of the traditional song Orleans, which Crosby does not repeat, state in French something like With what sorrow, what chagrin, do you count all the hours? With what sorrow, what chagrin, do you count to midnight? Is it too far a stretch to imagine that Crosby was attracted to the song in order to indirectly grieve the reduced circumstances of the psychedelic realm?