> Bellowhead > Songs > Amsterdam


[ Roud - ; Mudcat 3230 ; Jacques Brel, translation Mort Shuman]

Amsterdam is a song from the Belgian chansonnier Jacques Brel. He never recorded it for a studio album. A 1964 live recording was released in 1967 on his album Enregistrement Public à l’Olympia 1964.

Bellowhead recorded an English translation of Amsterdam for their 2010 album Hedonism. A live performance from O2 Academy, Bournemouth, on 2 May 2011 was released in the same year on their DVD Hedonism Live.

Jon Boden also sang Amsterdam as the 8 April 2011 entry of his project A Folk Song a Day. He noted:

I was only dimly aware of Jacques Brel when Pete Flood and Brendan Kelly from Bellowhead suggested we try this song out. I’m still yet to look much deeper into his work, but he was clearly an extraordinary poet and performer.


Jacques Brel’s Amsterdam

Dans le port d’Amsterdam
Y a des marins qui chantent
Les rêves qui les hantent
Au large d’Amsterdam
Dans le port d’Amsterdam
Y a des marins qui dorment
Comme des oriflammes
Le long des berges mornes
Dans le port d’Amsterdam
Y a des marins qui meurent
Pleins de bière et de drames
Aux premières lueurs
Mais dans le port d’Amsterdam
Y a des marins qui naissent
Dans la chaleur épaisse
Des langueurs océanes

Dans le port d’Amsterdam
Y a des marins qui mangent
Sur des nappes trop blanches
Des poissons ruisselants
Ils vous montrent des dents
A croquer la fortune
A décroisser la lune
A bouffer des haubans
Et ça sent la morue
Jusque dans le coeur des frites
Que leurs grosses mains invitent
A revenir en plus
Puis se lèvent en riant
Dans un bruit de tempête
Referment leur braguette
Et sortent en rotant

Dans le port d’Amsterdam
Y a des marins qui dansent
En se frottant la panse
Sur la panse des femmes
Et ils tournent et ils dansent
Comme des soleils crachés
Dans le son déchiré
D’un accordéon rance
Ils se tordent le cou
Pour mieux s’entendre rire
Jusqu’à ce que tout à coup
L’accordéon expire
Alors le geste grave
Alors le regard fier
Ils ramènent leur batave
Jusqu’en pleine lumière

Dans le port d’Amsterdam
Y a des marins qui boivent
Et qui boivent et reboivent
Et qui reboivent encore
Ils boivent à la santé
Des putains d’Amsterdam
De Hambourg ou d’ailleurs
Enfin ils boivent aux dames
Qui leur donnent leur joli corps
Qui leur donnent leur vertu
Pour une pièce en or
Et quand ils ont bien bu
Se plantent le nez au ciel
Se mouchent dans les étoiles
Et ils pissent comme je pleure
Sur les femmes infidèles
Dans le port d’Amsterdam
Dans le port d’Amsterdam.

Bellowhead sing Amsterdam

In the port of Amsterdam
There’s a sailor who sings
Of the dreams that he brings
From the wide open sea.
In the port of Amsterdam
There’s a sailor who sleeps
While the riverbank weeps
To the old willow tree.
In the port of Amsterdam
There’s a sailor who dies
Full of beer, full of cries
In a drunken down fight.
But in the port of Amsterdam
There’s a sailor who’s born
On a muggy hot morn
By the dawn’s early light.

In the port of Amsterdam
Where the sailors all meet
There’s a sailor who eats
Only fishhead and tails.
And he’ll show you his teeth
That have rotted too soon
That can drink down the moon
That can haul up the sails.
And he turns to the cook
With his arms open wide
Bring me more fish
Put it down by my side.
And he wants so to belch
But he’s too full to try
So he gets up and he laughs
And he zips up his fly.

In the port of Amsterdam
You can see sailors dance
Paunches bursting their pants
Grinding women to paunch.
They’ve forgotten the tune
That their whiskey voice croaks
Splitting the night with the
Roar of their jokes.
And they turn and they dance
And they laugh and they lust
Till the rancid sound of
The accordion bursts.
Then it’s into the night
With their pride in their pants
And the slut that they tow
Underneeth the street lamps.

In the port of Amsterdam
There’s a sailor who drinks
And he drinks and he drinks
And he drinks once again.
He drinks to the health
Of the whores of Amsterdam
Who have promided their love
To a thousand other men.
They have bargained their bodies
Their virtue’s all gone
For a few dirty coins
And when he can’t go on
He puts his nose in the air
And he wipes it up above
And he pisses like I cry
For an unfaithful love
In the port of Amsterdam
In the port of Amsterdam.