Songwriter, Author & Master Coach
Helping people to write their own tickets to success...

Dee Shipman  Dee Shipman  Dee Shipman

"Every song I have translated is well translated, the one who works on the very difficult songs with me is Dee Shipman. I know her telephone number by heart, and her fax. It goes back and forth - 'No! I don't like this word!' And she comes back and says 'Because you don't understand English!' So I have to convince her and she has to convince me, and the rapport is fantastic." 

- Charles Aznavour

"It was a Friday afternoon, and I was getting ready to leave London to go home to Sussex, when the phone rang.

"Dee darling", said Patrick Shart, "we have a bit of a problem. Charles is in the studio, and he needs your help!"

"But I thought we'd finished recording my songs", I replied. I had been in the studio with Charles all that week.

"Does he need to change something in one of our tracks?"

"No, your tracks are fine!", Patrick assured me. "It's just that Charles was waiting for an English lyric to arrive from the States, for one of his other songs; now it's just got here, and he doesn't like it! And it was written by S---- C........!" And he named one of the all-time great lyricists of popular American standards. "Please can you come back to the studio now, and write a new one for it?"

So instead of driving home, I drove back to the mews off Baker Street.

It was about 4 in the afternoon when I got there, and the studio was full of musicians, and Charles was at the microphone, running through one of the other tracks. He followed me into the control booth, and we sat together at the sound desk, as he told me the story of the song, Mes Emmerdes.

I made notes as he was talking, and he also gave me a print-out of the French lyric.

Then he got the engineer to play the backing track, which they'd recorded earlier in the day, and Charles sang along to it in French.

One of his many brilliances is that he speaks about 8 or 9 languages - and colloquially! - so he explains the nuances of his French lyrics really well, mapping them over to English.

I asked him 

"So is the literal translation of Mes Emmerdes 'My Shit Times'? "Yes!", he replied cheerfully, with that wicked twinkle in his eyes!

"So would you like me to give you something equally, how can I put it......basic?"

"Of course.......! You know me!"

"Then let me listen to the track again, but don't sing this time......" (It was only later that I ;laughed to myself at having told Charles Aznavour not to sing!)

The music, the rhythm of the lines, was already suggesting a title, and therefore a last line of the chorus, to me..............

"Charles, can I 'steal a couple of bars of the instrumental arrangement, to extend the lyric on the last line?", I asked him.

"Sure", he said. "Okay, I go back to the recording - you get on with the writing!"

And with that, he left the booth............and I sat there, with the backing track in my head, writing, as the speakers were booming out that unique Aznavour voice, singing the other songs!!

And I have to admit that being so off-the-wall auditorily aware, it was a real challenge for me................. and at one point I finally had to go out and sit at the receptionist's desk, so I could concentrate on the music track imside my head, that I was writing to!

In a tea break, Charles came to ask how I was getting on......

"The title is 'Pretty Shitty days'." I told him. "Is that okay with you?" I sang him the last line of the choruses.

"Great!" he exclaimed. "I've nearly finished the track I'm doing at the moment, so I'll record this one next!"

Which is how I came to be lying on the carpeted floor of the studio at 11.30 that night, writing the lyrics out and handing them up to Charles at the microphone as he sang! 

Some years later, Charles called me, and said

"Sinatra wants to record the song, but he won't sing those title words. What should I tell him?"

"You mean apart from get stuffed?" I replied. "No, seriously, it will be great if Frank Sinatra records it! We can change that title line for him.........."

So it became "My Young And Troubled Days" 

And then Sinatra died before being able to get into the studio to record it!! Pretty Shitty of him, you might say......!!



Pretty Shitty Days
(Dee Shipman / Charles Aznavour)

Those were the days
Hungry days
Needing more
Having less
I learned the game
Wanting fame
And success
I left behind
As I climbed
As I raced 
Against time
My old pals, my sweet gals
And my pretty shitty days

Those early years
Selfish years
Full of me
Full of schemes
A foolish mind
Running blind
Chasing dreams
The bridges burned
Bridges crossed
Were the way 
That I lost
My old pals, my sweet gals
And my pretty shitty days

Crazy times I shared with all my pals
Burning love I made with all my gals
And the shitty days I now recall
Never could have been really so heavy at all

I'm very proud
Of myself
And why not?
I've done well
Got my health
My wealth
What the hell!
Known by all
Life is bliss
But inside 
I still miss
My pals, my gals
My pretty shitty days

All the careless days of fooling 'round
Weighing up the balance I have found
That those shitty days I now recall
Never could have been really so heavy at all

Those were the days
Crazy days
Crazy ways
A parade
The times we crashed
Getting smashed
Getting laid
We had the steam
Had a ball
Had a dream
Had it all
My old pals.......
My sweet gals........ 
And those pretty shitty days..........!



  • ESQUIRE - Charles Aznavour (1978 - MAM)

ESQUIRE - Charles Aznavour (1978 - MAM)


All lyrics and all texts are copyright Dee Shipman and no unauthorised use will be permitted