In 1977 I lived in Austin with my girlfriend, Anne. I worked in a record store and was consumed with everything and anything that had to do with records and music. Mostly I listened to country, alt-country, Americana, singer-songwriters, etc. But, I also loved rock and pop music. One day I brought home a brand new single from a brand new artist, “Less Than Zero” b/w “Alison” by Elvis Costello. I stocked the “imports” section of the record store so I often got my hands on new music from the UK before anyone else. Hardly anyone had heard of Elvis in the US yet, but I fell madly in love with this single. From there I discovered Nick Lowe and his first single “So It Goes” b/w “Heart Of The City” which was released the year before on the same label, Stiff Records. I played both constantly. This was before either had a proper “album” released. Anne was mystified. She didn’t care much for either artist and had no idea how I could like this stuff, knowing my other musical tastes. It didn’t seem that complicated to me. We broke up not long after that. But wait, what the hell does any of this have to do with Vence or France I can hear some of you asking. Hold on, hold on.
“I Can’t Stand Up For Falling Down”
In February of 1980 Elvis Costello relased his fourth album, Get Happy!! It wasn’t my favorite, to be honest it was the first album I was a bit disappointed by ( I absolutely LOVE his first three albums). But, I think I was in the minority here as lots of my friends really liked Get Happy. The first single released from the album was “I Can’t Stand Up For Falling Down,” a song written by Homer Banks and Allen Jones, originally recorded by Sam & Dave in 1967. This was right at the dawn of the music video explosion. MTV wouldn’t be launched for another year and a half, but lots of artists were beginning to make more videos than ever before. “Video Killed The Radio Star” by the Buggles had been released in late 1979.
Elvis and his band The Attractions filmed a video for “I Can’t Stand Up For Falling Down.” Now, I’m sure I must have seen the video many times, but it wasn’t until last week that I found out it was filmed in Vence! My friend Patrick grew up in Vence and has lived here for most of his life. He sent me a link to the video on YouTube and I was bowled over. How did I not know about this video and the Vence connection!
So, here’s what I’ve done. I’ve broken the video down in the 18 separate scenes that comprise it. I’ve gone around Vence and taken photos of each of the places where the various scenes were filmed so that we can compare then to now. A difference of about 40 years, yet a lot of things look pretty much the same!
Let’s start with the video. Take a look, it’s pretty short. The quality is not great, but it’s quite watchable. And the song rocks. Now let’s see how it breaks down and where the scenery in Vence might have changed.
Scene 1: Start – 00:07 – Impasse du Grand Four
Impasse du Grand Four is a small, dead end street, located in the Old Town. It can be found just next to Place du Peyra, right where the old market street, Rue du Marché begins. The video opens with the band dancing in the street as we look up from close to ground level. The doorway on the left looks unchanged as does most of the other stuff on the street. Note how the building on the right seems to “bulge” out both in the video and today as well. Those walls are old.
Scene 2: 00:07 – 00:16 – Staircase with stained glass window
My friend Patrick knows someone who lives in this apartment building and was able to send a current photograph. It’s really just a few steps away from the Belvédère Fernand Moutet where the next scene takes palce. At the current time we are all under a lockdown in France due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Once this is all over I hope to visit the building myself and maybe even get a photo of myself on the staircase!
Scene 3: 00:16 – 00:26 – Belvédère Fernand Moutet
Belvédère Fernand Moutet is one of the most popular spots in Vence. It’s a beautiful scenic overlook that provides some of the most magnificent views of Vence, a panoramic scene of the Baous and the valley of the Lubiane River. You’ll often find locals and tourists alike congregated here taking in the view. Town gatherings and celebrations are held here and it’s packed to the rafters when the big fireworks show is held in December. In the back, right behind Elvis you see the walls of the the Old Town, the Vieille Ville.
Scene 4: 00:26 – 00:33 – Avenue Henri Isnard
Avenue Henri Isnard is a well traveled street that runs through the heart of Vence. It runs parallel to Avenue de la Résistance, the main road into the center of town. You’ll find the movie theater, the new Cultural Center and our Monoprix along this street, along with lots of other small shops and markets. Just to the right, out of view in the video is La Chapelle des Pénitents Blancs, one of the biggest and most well known chappels in Vence. Again, note how very little seems to have changed from 1980 to today on this street.
Scene 5: 00:33 – 00:40 – Belvédère Fernand Moutet
For scene five we head back to the Belvédère Fernand Moutet for some more dancing from Elvis and the boys. There is a fountain in the middle of the square which you can’t see in the video, as well as a round stone tablet d’orientation with the names of the elements you see from this vantage point.
Scene 6: 00:40 – 00:53 – Unknown Restaurant
Well, unfortunately, this one is probably lost to time. Elvis is sitting in what appears to be a restaurant (though I guess it could be someone’s home) drinking a glass of red wine. There are no distinctive markings in the video so it’s impossible to know what restaurant this might have been forty years ago and if it is even still around. If by some miracle someone recognizes it please let me know!
Scene 7: 00:53 – 01:00 – Place Vieille
Next we head to Place Vieille, the tiniest little “place” in all of Old Town. Honestly, I’d be hard pressed to give it the status of a “place” (square). It’s right across from a small theater called Théâtre de l’Avant Scène, close to the Place du Peyra. It’s clearly had some work done on it since 1980. The facade has been redone, the window shutters have been replaced and there is a lot more greenery today. Elvis has stepped aside momentarily and it’s just the Attractions dancing wildly in the street for now.
Scene 8: 01:00 – 01:11 – Unknown Street
This is a tough one as there is very little to distinguish this setting from so many roads in and around Vence. I can’t be sure it’s even in Vence, though it would make sense because almost all of the other locations are (except for one in Antibes). The only place I’ve found that looks remotely close to the video location is a spot on Avenue Général Leclerc, the old road heading down from Vence to Cagnes-sur-Mer. The wall is similar, but it’s also different. And there is a big house behind the wall, so I’ve decided it can’t be the correct spot. Maybe this is in Vence? Maybe Antibes? Maybe between the two? If anyone recognizes this location let me know!
Scene 9: 01:11 – 01:18 – Port Vauban in Antibes
We move away from Vence for the first time, down to the Port Vauban in Antibes. Elvis prances around on the boardwalk next to a bunch of sailboats holding a plate of what looks like frites (french fries) or little fried fishes. In the back far right you can see Le Fort Carré, a 16th century star-shaped fort on the outskirts of Antibes. Elvis has lost his tie and it looks like this might be a different shirt.
Scene 10: 01:18 – 01:19 – Belvédère Fernand Moutet
Back to Belvédère Fernand Moutet for a two second close up of Elvis’ feet prancing about.
Scene 11: 01:19 – 01:25 – Rue de la Coste
My favorite street in Vence! I’ve always love rue de la Coste in Old Town. It’s just a perfect street, beautiful old houses, lots of charm and character. Even though I’m very happy with the apartment we found here in Vence, I always used to fantasize about living on this street. These days, as you can see in the next photo, it is full of plants that the locals have set up outside their doors. We’re back to the boys again for a few seconds while Elvis takes a rest.
Scene 12: 01:25 – 01:29 – Belvédère Fernand Moutet
We’re on the Belvédère Fernand Moutet again, but from a different angle this time. Instead of the old town walls we now see the famous “baous” in the background and the houses and villas that dot the landscape around Vence. A “baou” is a very distinctive hill , cliff or escarpment which often has a flat top. It’s a term that is mostly used in the south of France. What we see here is the Baou des Blancs. To the right, out of sight, is the Baou des Noirs and then farther down the Baou de Saint-Jeannet. When I first started coming to Vence in 2008 there was a big sign up on the hill that said “VENCE,” just like the the Hollywood sign in the Hollywood Hills. But, a strong storm blew it down one year and they never rebuilt it.
Scene 13: 01:29 – 01:38 – Port Vauban in Antibes
More fun and games at Port Vauban. Elvis bounces the plate of food back and forth between his hands whille the band looks like they are up to no good in the background rummaging through a boat.
Scene 14: 01:38 – 01:44 – Belvédère Fernand Moutet
A close-up of Elvis dancing on the Belvédère Fernand Moutet, again with the backdrop of the old town walls. These walls were built in the 14th century and have remained mostly unchanged since then. All along the walls you can see the battlements, filled with many arrow-slits, some of which have been partially filled in over the years. Just around the corner of these walls is the “Drawbridge Gate,” the oldest “gate” in the town.
Scene 15: 01:44 – 01:46 – Belvédère Fernand Moutet
Another short close-up of Elvis’ feet. These stones from the surface of the belvédère, which in fact is the roof of a building under it.
Scene 16: 01:46 – 01:50 – Ancien Hôpital
It’s a short scene, but this is my favorite location for the video shoot. This is the old Vence Hospital, located on Avenue Marcellin Maurel, just a block down from where we live. The hospital is set back from the road and there is a large courtyard in front. It’s a beautiful old building with a lot of history. Elvis and the boys dance their way from the back of the courtyard to the street. I’ve included a little more of the top of the building in my present day shot so you can see how cool it really is. It even looks like the same car could still be in the courtyard!
Scene 17: 01:50 – 01:52 – Port Vauban in Antibes
More action down at the Port Vauban in Antibes, just a couple of seconds. The camera is tighter on Elvis here than before and we only see one of the band members. Port Vauban is a very popular with yachts from all over the world and is, in fact, the largest marina in the Mediterranean Sea. Some of the world’s largest and most expensive yachts use Port Vauban as their home port. Paul Allen (co-founder of Microsoft) has a yacht named Octopus and it can often be found here.
Scene 18: 01:52 – END – Belvédère Fernand Moutet
OK, back to the Belvédère Fernand Moutet for our final scene. This little lookout has definitely served as the most popular location for the video. Everyone does a kind of jumping dance and then we fade to black.
OK, there you have it! A breakdown, scene by scene of the “I Can’t Stand Up For Falling Down” video. Most of these sites are easy to find in Vence. They are all just a couple of minutes walk from our front door. If you’re ever in Vence and want to find some of the locations just let me know, I’ll be glad to show you around.
Much thanks to my friend Patrick Vuillaume for the help in identifying some of these locations, and also to the good folks at Vence Canal Hisorique on Facebook who helped me with a couple as well.