Before the days of ugly grey machines and electromagnetic tickets, every Parisian Métro train had a ticket inspector (a ‘poinçonneur’), whose lonely and repetitive job it was to stamp holes in passengers’ tickets, stuck in a dull and lightless underground limbo. In 1958, getting his career off to a typically morbid and subversive start, Serge Gainsbourg would compose and release debut single ‘Le Poinçonneur des Lilas’, which minutely describes the dark inner workings of the job. Describing the Métro as a ‘drôle de croisière’ (a ‘funny kind of cruise’) and a ‘cloaque’ (‘cesspit’), Gainsbourg’s poinçonneur explains how his daily activities are so dreary and demoralising that he even considers punching a hole in his own head. The provocative musician would later have a crack at yé-yé, funk, rock and reggae, but this song is firmly rooted in the chanson tradition, with the silly, echoing chorus of ‘J’fais des trous, des p’tits trous, encore des p’tits trous’ (‘I make holes, little holes, more little holes’) totally at odds with the bleak yet consolatory message that surrounds it. In 2010, in tribute to this brilliant, career-launching song, the ultra-modern Jardin Serge-Gainsbourg was inaugurated near the Porte des Lilas, and in 2020 a new station on the line 11 will also bear Gainsbourg’s name.