The 1919 vaudeville hit, “How Ya Gonna To Keep ‘Em Down On The Farm (After They’ve Seen Paree?)” may be simple, silly, and with a title that is way too long—but at its core, it holds one enduring truth: the lure of Paris is just sometimes too strong to be resisted. For this premiere episode of l’Atelier Balmain, we explore the paths of two provincials—Pierre Balmain, from Saint Jean de Maurienne in the French Alps, and Olivier Rousteing, from Bordeaux in the southwest of France—who were both drawn to the French Capital as young men, with both eventually rising to oversee the collections at Balmain, as they transformed themselves into true Parisians.
CREDITS L’ATELIER BALMAIN EPISODE ONE
HOW YA GONNA KEEP ‘EM DOWN ON THE FARM?
Balmain Creative Director: Olivier Rousteing
"How You Gonna Keep Them Down On The Farm After They’ve Seen Paree?" by Eddie Cantor
Extrait :INA broadcasts of Pierre Balmain
Additional music: Jean-Michel Derain
Episode Directed and Produced by: Seb Lascoux
Balmain Historian: Julia Guillon
Episode Coordination: Alya Nazaraly
Research Assistance: Fatoumata Conte and Pénélope André
Digital Coordination/Graphic Identity: Jeremy Mace
Episode researched, written and presented by: John Gilligan
Podcast Webpage layout and text: John Gilligan
To explore further:
The Autobiography of Alice B Toklas by Gertrude Stein, Illustrated by Maira Kalman (Penguin 2020)
Horst Photographer Of Style; Susanna Brown (Victoria and Albert Museum)
Pierre Balmain’s Autobiography: My Years and Seasons, Doubleday, 1965
This Episode’s Music
Balmain’s Creative Director, Olivier Rousteing, makes clear—collection after collection—that he believes that fashion can never be separated from music. Inspired by Rousteing, each l’Atelier Balmain podcast carefully selects artists and music that reflect and strengthen the story being told.
More than 100 years ago, way back in 1919, one of America’s biggest musical hits was a short little ditty with a very long title: How You Going To Keep Them Down On The Farm After They’ve Seen Paree? It was just a simple and very silly tune—but the truth is, it reflected some significant changes that were taking place in the country at that time, as well as an enduring truth that we can easily understand today.
World War I had just ended—and the costs of that war had been incredible. After all that pain and all that sacrifice, American popular culture seemed eager to turn the page, to quickly switch the focus to lighter and more carefree subjects. For example, instead of focusing on the soldiers’ suffering, this song focused on what the young men had seen over there—sights that many of them could never have imagined earlier. Paris, for example. The city was a complete contrast to what many of those young boys were used to. It was open. Exhilarating. Filled with beauty, inspiration and creativity. Seriously—how could anyone expect those young soldiers to be satisfied with returning to their past lives in small towns and isolated farms after having had an injection of the beauty, elegance and excitement of The City of Lights?
And all of us—immediately—we get it. The song title says it all. Really… How the hell do you think you’re going to keep them down on the farm after Paris? It’s an age-old, often-repeated question. And it’s definitely not only the Americans who have been asking it. Anybody who has ever visited the city can easily understand. Paris, with its famous avenues, impressive architecture and beautiful elegance, has held an almost magnetic attraction for centuries. And, perhaps most notably, it has always been a favorite destination of artists and other creative talents—those who often find it very tough to leave, once they realize just how inspiring the surroundings can be.
How ya gonna keep 'em down on the farm
After they've seen Paree'
How ya gonna keep 'em away from Broadway
Jazzin around and paintin' the town
How ya gonna keep 'em away from harm, that's a mystery