I was hoping to do a Christmas mix this year but haven't had a chance, so I thought I'd share one I made very last minute last year. It features Christmas-themed and seasonal yé-yé and rock songs from 1960s France and Québec.
- Alice Dona - Le Noël des copains (France, 1964)
- Jacques Dutronc - La Fille du Père Noël (France, 1966)
- Les Frères Flamingo - C'est Noël dans notre village (Québec)
- Les Milady's - Les Anges dans nos campagnes (Québec, 1967)
- Les Bel Canto - Le Père Noël a pris un coup (Québec, 1967)
- Les Loups - Cette étoile (Québec, 1965)
- Cathie Arel - En rêvant à Noël (France, 1962)
- Richard Anthony - Dis moi pourquoi Noël (France, 1961)
- Guy Boucher - Neige à gogo (Québec, 1965)
- Christie Laume - L'Adorable Femmes des neiges (France, 1967)
- Michèle Richard - Cloches d'argent (Québec, 1965)
- Les Intimes - Nous allons nous amuser (Québec, 1965)
- Les Baronets - Cet hiver je n'aurai plus froid (Québec, 1965)
- Les Roche Martin - Il est temps de penser à la neige (France, 1967)
- Christophe - Noël (France, 1965)
- Delphine Desyeux - L'hiver (France, 1967)
- France Gall - Chasse-neige (France, 1971)
- Les Chantels - La Fée des étoiles (Québec, 1966)
In case you were wondering, "dans le vent" (literally, "in the wind") is a term that was used in France at the time to denote something was hip, trendy, in fashion. A source I have from 1967 says the term came about as an equivalent to the English "up to date", which other terms like "avant-garde" and "à la page" didn't quite convey. If you've seen any sixties French youth magazines from the time like Salut les copains or Mademoiselle age tendre, you'll see the phrase plastered all over its pages, in article headings and advertisements. I'm not sure exactly when it started but it was around by 1963 and had really taken off by 1964. The Beatles film A Hard Day's Night was released as 4 garçons dans le vent in France and Quatre gars dans le vent in Québec – essentially, "Four hip guys".
An eleventh-hour discovery in the RTS archives as I was about to publish the last entry, this video was too good a find to tack onto the end of that post as an afterthought. It's a terrific 1966 Swiss television special starring Jacques Dutronc entitled Rendez-vous au bowling. This is the year the 23-year-old Dutronc launched his singing career and became an instant megastar in France, topping the charts with his first single 'Et moi et moi et moi' and selling over a million copies of his debut album. Here, Dutronc is as charismatic and dapper as ever as he performs some of the best tracks from his first album, like 'La Compapade', 'La Fille du Père Noël' and 'Les Playboys', and shows off his comedic skills in skits between songs. Most of the performances are lip-synced but Dutronc and his backing band, including Alain Chamfort on organ, do a dynamic live rendition of 'Les Cactus'.
A welcome surprise was the appearance of yé-yé girl Pussy Cat performing 'Ce n'est pas une vie', her cover of the Small Faces' 'Sha-La-La-La-Lee'. Born Evelyne Courtois, Pussy Cat is a very interesting figure in the 1960s French pop scene. A songwriter and multi-instrumentalist, she founded the only all-female band of the decade, Les Petites Souris, before going onto a solo career where she recorded some excellent, mostly Anglocentric covers, and later some self-penned material.
When the credits rolled, I noticed the name of another of the era's most fascinating girls, Stella, who wrote biting satires of the yé-yé scene. I was bummed that she was missing from this video, but luckily found her in another clip from the show:
Spiked Candy kicked off with a France Gall video and a Quebecoise France Gall cover, so for old times' sake, I thought I'd start again the same way:
This is a clip from an episode of a music show called Au risque de vous plaire which originally aired on the 10th of January, 1969. The episode, directed by Jean-Christophe Averty, is creative and colourful, making the most of the relatively new colour format. They've gone a bit nuts with the technique of using graphics to frame the footage, with fun results like those seen here. (The video may take a few moments to load).
I love Canadian girl Claire Lepage's take on France Gall's 1964 single, 'Le Premier Chagrin d'amour', which has lyrics by France's father, Robert Gall, and music by Claude Henri-Vic. In her slowed-down, more grown-up-sounding version, the 'first heartbreak' of the title sounds like it's about something that had more at stake than France Gall's lost teen love. Claire's version comes two year later, in 1966, which is a little unusual as international covers tended to appear soon after the original.
I've also made a playlist* of France Gall covers - 30 of them!
The clip above is a fab girls-with-guitars sequence from the 1967 Greek musical comedy Oi thalassies oi hadres (Οι θαλασσιές οι χάντρες, "The Blue Beads"). A group of men have been lured to the modern club Crazy Girls, hearing rock refrains drifting into their own club, situated nearby in the Plaka, where they play traditional bazouki music. Sitting in on the rehearsal of the house band, the men appreciatively gawk at lead singer Mary, played by Zoe Laskari (Ζωή Λάσκαρη), who cuts a stunning figure in her red sweater and gorgeous knee-high red boots. Toward the end of the clip, we see the band perform to a packed, groovy dancefloor that night. Mary will soon fall for one of the bazouki players, setting up a theme of modern versus traditional values and how a traditional place handles the influence of modernity.
The entire movie can be watched here. Though it has no English subtitles, you may still find it enjoyable, as I did. It can be vaguely followed, particularly at the beginning when the American character says quite a few basic pieces of dialogue in English. The musical numbers alone, especially the gloriously choreographed fantasy sequences, are worth watching it for. 'Crazy Girl' is the only rock song, but the more traditional music is beautiful.
That said, I do hope to see a subtitled version one day, because the film has more to offer than being a light romp with optional dialogue. Greek blog Zalmoxis discusses viewing the film with a fresh perspective after reading an academic article by Michael Kokkoni which credits Oi thalassies oi hadres as representing an important turning point in Greek cinema. It was an unusually high quality production for the time, no easy feat considering the film industry faced "indifference from the state [and] heavy taxation".
Until I watched the video above and the Zoe Kouroukli clips posted in the last entry (all originally posted by balubashake), I thought Zoe Kouroukli and Zoe Laskari were the same person and was about to print Laskari's life story as Kouroukli's. You see, Laskari was also born Zoe Kouroukli, and between attempting to read poorly translated Greek and coming across sites understandably confusing the two women, I came to the wrong conclusion. The excellent Vangelis Movements site, for example, has a page on Zoe Kouroukli which states singer Kouroukli competed for Greece in Miss Universe in 1959, which was actually Laskari. Another article mentions Laskari in a blurb on Zoe & The Stormies, and with auto-translators not providing any clarity, I guessed the name was mentioned as an alias or stage name.
I'm sure if Emily Post had foreseen to write etiquette guidelines for music bloggers, having a Christmas post as one's latest entry as we begin, *gulp*, May would be considered a dreadful faux pas. Once again, I've found myself on an unintended hiatus from blogging, and I'm hoping to get back to posting regularly. For now at least, it's time for my blog to cease to be the virtual equivalent of a home strewn with tattered decorations and a sad Christmas tree wilting away months after 'twas the season.
Recently, I picked up an excellent CD compilation called Greek Beat Greats, released by Gyro Records. This is definitely not a CD to judge by its cover: the artwork alone, with a polite-looking combo hovering in the sky over a generic picture of the Acropolis, would make me fear I'm in for something supremely dodgy, akin to what I'd find in my parents' vast collection of 70s Greek "easy"-listening records. Thankfully, that's not the case. Instead, it's packed with 29 fun, melodic, upbeat tracks from the 60s Greek garage scene. Greek Beat Greats is Vol. 4 in a Gyro's Wildworld series (Vols 1, 2 and 3 featured 60s garage from around the world, Japan and Italy respectively).
The entire CD is worth getting your hands on, but I was particularly excited by a surprising find in the form of the very last track. 'Let's Shake, Baby'* by Zoe & The Stormies is an English-language cover of France Gall's 'Laisse tomber les filles'. A Greek 60s cover of 'Laisse tomber les filles' in English! Who knew?! (Just the one mention of it online is at Garage Hangover - one that, likely due to the misspelling, escaped even my prided Google super-skills at first).
I've saved the best for last! A full-length album of Christmas tunes from Québec duo, Danièle et Michèle. I haven't come across any other Christmas albums from 60s female Francophonic pop singers before. I only know of a handful of remotely Yuletide-esque songs performed by girls from 60s France, and I'm not sure they were very common for the Québecoises, either. So an entire yé-yé girl Christmas LP feels like a bit of a treasure - well, certainly to someone obsessed with both genres!
Daniéle et Michéle are definitely more on the pop side than the rockin' side of yé-yé and certainly not lacking in a certain cheese factor. But I would wager most of my readers, like me, aren't afraid of a little kitsch. Plus, that somehow addictive sound of girls singing 60s pop in French probably goes a long way to making a record like this more appealing to our ears, even though you can be certain there's someone in Québec it would likely induce some serious cringing for. Overall it's pretty darn cute and fun, with a couple of upbeat numbers that remind me of Les Parisiennes, and there are some quite genuinely lovely moments on here, too. The softer numbers have a sweet, soothing lullaby feel to them. I'm not sure if this record was aimed at children, but the Disques Mérite link below would suggest so.
Phew, this is now the final post in what has turned out to be a Christmas Eve blogging marathon for me. I hope these tracks reach you if not by Christmas day, then at least while you're still feeling festive. And I hope you enjoy them immensely!
Merry Christmas, everybody!
This blog has gained many new readers since I first posted my Spiked Candy Canes mixes in 2005, so I thought I'd share them again for anyone who missed out the first time around. Hopefully they'll give you an idea of the abundance of lesser-known but fun, interesting, weird or sometimes beautiful Christmas songs that are out there, and maybe introduce you to some artists you haven't heard before. If you're looking for more info and links to purchase anything that's still in print, have a look through the December 2005 and the December 2006 archives.
out of print
- February 19 2017
- February 2 2017
- December 24 2016
- December 23 2016
- November 25 2016
- November 19 2016
- November 11 2016
- October 29 2016
- October 7 2016
- September 1 2016
- August 29 2016
- July 30 2016
- July 19 2016
- July 14 2016
- Sun, Jun 26 2005
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