While flipping through my collection of vintage French magazines the other day, I came across an interesting little segment in the October 1966 issue of Salut les copains, France's enormously popular and influential youth music magazine that launched in 1962 to complement the radio show of the same name. It features Françoise Hardy sharing her ten current favourite songs, as part of a running segment where popular music stars were asked to create their own 'hit parade'.
Hardy's tastes encompassed a variety of popular genres of the time, from the easy listening of Frank Sinatra and Petula Clark to the garage rock of Syndicate of Sound and The Troggs, whose 'Wild Thing' she calls "breathtaking". Most of the picks here are from the USA and UK, as was more fashionable by that time than homegrown music. Hardy, though, was no bandwagon jumper and had long been a fan of Anglo-American sounds. She often had the chance to hear new British music when she ducked across the channel to record an album or play some venues, and she mentions buying Syndicate of Sound's 'Little Girl' in London and seeing Dusty Springfield perform 'Goin' Back' on Ready Steady Go! A couple of her fellow Gallic singer-songwriters are represented here in Michel Polnareff ("She could have cited any other of Michel's songs, she loves them all equally"), and Antoine, who had debuted nearly a year earlier and transformed the local scene.
I've playlisted her choices so you can immerse yourself in what the wonderful Ms Hardy was grooving to 50 years ago:
Fans of the peculiar charms of French-born songstress and actress Claudine Longet may know the beguiling 'Electric Moon' from her 1971 album, We've Only Just Begun. The song was written by Donovan – whose brilliance and versatility as a songwriter tends to be seriously underrated, in my opinion – and produced and arranged by Nick DeCaro. Assigned by A&M Records to work on Longet's music in 1966, DeCaro was the chief architect behind her brand of lush easy-listening, arranging and/or producing seven of her eight albums (including 1974's Sugar Me, which remained unissued until 1993). Andy Williams, Longet's then-husband, liked DeCaro's work so much, he hired him to work on his own records.
- Claudine Longet - Electric Moon (1971)
- Claudine Longet - Como la luna (1971)
Longet also released a Spanish language cover of 'Electric Moon' as 'Como la luna'. She appeared on a show called Estudio Abertio on Spain's TVE around early October 1971, performing this and the B-side 'Mucho tiempo mas', a cover of Linda Ronstadt's 'Long, Long Time'.
Donovan never released a version himself but, according to this EIL listing, did record a demo acetate for Longet. The only recording of Donovan performing the song to have surfaced is in a 1970 film called There Is An Ocean, which was unreleased until its inclusion in the 2005 box set, To Try For The Sun.
A guest mix by Jonathyne Briggs, author of a fascinating and highly recommended book on French pop history, Sounds French: Globalization, Cultural Communities, and Pop Music, 1958-1980 (Oxford University Press, 2015):
1971—the transition. The destruction of Les Halles in Paris began in 1971 in order to make way for a more modern marketplace, and this action symbolizes how the French found themselves in a period of transition. Just prior to the economic and social problems that would emerge with the oil shocks of 1973, the French were still very much enjoying the economic boom of the economic miracle and continued to embrace new ideas and technologies, albeit with some hesitation manifest in the protests against expanded military bases at Larzac. The Events of 1968 and the death of Charles de Gaulle were just a few years past and the centenary of the Commune reminded many of the revolutionary hope symbolized by the student protests and strikes. In the realm of popular music, French audiences continued to fragment with more and more stylistic influences emerging in different subgenres with the appearance of new artists. And yet, established artists began to experiment with new styles and ideas. 1971 in many ways is a watershed moment in French pop, in which the adventurousness of the French underground is echoed in the music of more popular acts and there was a moment of brief harmony of leisure and introspection. – Jonathyne Briggs
- Stone et Charden “L’avventura”
- Serge Lama “Superman”
- Jean-Jacques Perrey “Baroque Hoedown” (1971 rerelease)
- Michel Polnareff “Computer’s Dream”
- Serge Gainbourg “L’hôtel particulier”
- Catharsis “Masq”
- Leo Ferré “La solitude”
- Françoise Hardy “La question”
- Johnny Hallyday “Fils de personne”
- Alan Stivell “Pop Plinn”
- Dalida “Mamy Blue”
- Nino Ferrer “La maison près de la fontaine”
- Claude Nougaro “Un grain de folie”
- Catherine Ribero + Alpes “Diborowska”
- Jacques Higelin “Aujourd’hui Blues”
- Mouloudji “Le Temps des cerises”
German born, French-based actress Uta Taeger released one single in 1969, 'Hier, aujourd'hui, demain' (Yesterday, today, tomorrow) backed with the fuzzed-out 'Baudelaire'. Here she performs the A-side, a cover of The Shangri-Las' 'Past, Present, And Future', on the TV special Barcarolles à Barcarès, which aired on August 30th, 1969. The entire show is filmed on a boat in the title location because... well, why not? The French love wordplay so much, I would not put it past them to have conceived of this simply to pair the words Barcarolles and Barcarès. Poor Uta looks like she might blow away, but remains elegant.
In this clip from Show Tom Jones, which aired on French television on July 30 1966, Serge Gainsbourg performs his marvellous 'Qui est "In" qui est "Out". The show was a one-off special hosted by Tom Jones and mostly features performances by him, but some French artists show up as well, including Françoise Hardy, Eric Charden, Zouzou and Pussy Cat. There are a mix of live and lip-synched performances – Gainsbourg's here being the latter, though he is as charismatic as ever.
Who needs fancy effects when you have Gainsbourg, a razor blade and some large paper signs? I enjoy his manner here, a mix of his natural shyness and an amusingly affected disinterest. This is one of my favourite Gainsbourg songs – it has that groovy organ, great guitar and a relentless stomping beat, and there's the nerdly satisfaction of the way the first two lines of each verse end with "in" or "out" syllables. And nothing beats upbeat cynicism in pop, of which Gainsbourg is of course the master. But amidst the thick cynicism here – which I think you can feel even if you don't understand the lyrics – there is something about the melody I find oddly moving. I get strangely emotional when I hear this song, both because of that quality and just because I find the song so overwhelmingly good.
Though Gainsbourg's appeal and a sense of emotional connection to his songs transcend language, there is something key those of us who don't speak French miss out on. Luckily, there are some resources that help bridge that gap. My Own Role is an excellent collection of English translations of Gainsbourg's songs, but sadly 'Qui est "in" qui est "out"' is not there. But there is a good translation on the blog French One Song At A Time, though it's worth noting "le Cashbox" in the lyrics actually refers to the music charts magazine Cashbox. There's also Mick Harvey's English cover 'Who Is "In" Who Is "Out"' from 1997's Pink Elephants. I love Harvey's versions – the translations are faithful while being carefully adjusted to suit the English language and to preserve rhyming schemes. Happily, he has just released a new album of Gainsbourg covers, Delirium Tremens.
I have a couple more clips from this show up on Youtube: Marianne Faithfull singing 'Si demain', and Françoise Hardy performing 'La Maison ou j'ai grandi' & 'Il est des choses', briefly chatting with Tom Jones between songs.
- Eva - Moon River (1974)
- Eddie Lee Mattison - El río de la luna (1972)
A joyous, uptempo pair of covers of the Henry Mancini and Johnny Mercer classic, 'Moon River'. Eddie Lee Mattison's version is a pop reggae take (similar to Greyhound's version, as someone at 45cat notes) sung in Spanish, which I've ripped from the vinyl single.
Eva's funk cover comes from a CD reissue of her 1974 self-titled album. Born Eva Correia José Maria, Eva was usually known as Evinha. At just seven years old, she formed the vocal group Trio Esperança with her brother and sister. The trio, whose recordings mostly fit the Jovem Guarda style, scored a number of hits throughout the sixties. Evinha left them in 1968 and went onto a successful solo career. The group continued without her – replacing her with another sister – until the 90s, when she rejoined them.
Links: Evinha on AllMusic.
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!
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
- Tue, Jul 19 2016
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