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:
It's my first post of the new year and, though late to the game, I wanted to share my favourite music from last year. 2016 was a notoriously terrible year (not that this year is exactly peachy so far!), but thankfully the same can't be said of the music that came out last year. It was, to quote Lisa Simpson's insensitive future fiancé, like a flower that grew out of a pot of dirt. I feel spoiled by the amount and variety of quality music I've been enjoying from last year's offerings. There are the gorgeous vintage European pop sounds of The Yearning and Lia Pamina, the visionary retrofuturism of Adrian Younge, the moving, classic songwriting of Big Smoke, the raw garage rock of The Mystery Lights, some fresh takes on dream pop, and many outings in psychedelic-influenced, experimental pop. Some of these albums have quickly become all-time favourites, not just favourites of the year. Below is a playlist of songs from my most-loved releases of 2016, including albums, singles and EPs, in no particular order. A list of my top eleven albums (I could not narrow it down to ten!) of the year – again, in no specific order – follows it.
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- Britta Phillips - Daydream (Luck Or Magic)
- Big Smoke - Honey, I (Time Is Golden)
- Margo Price - Hands Of Time (Midwest Farmer's Daughter)
- Kadhja Bonet - Fairweather Friend (The Visitor)
- The Yearning - When I Lost You (Evening Souvenirs)
- Le Super Homard - Maple Key (Maple Key)
- Gloria - Show Me Your Trail (Gloria In Excelsis Stereo)
- Lake Ruth - Helium (Actual Entity)
- Adrian Younge Presents Venice Dawn - Ready To Love (Something About April II)
- Hope Sandoval & The Warm Inventions - A Wonderful Seed (Until The Hunter)
- Julia Jacklin - Pool Party (Don't Let The Kids Win)
Name your price download.
- Beverly - Victoria (The Blue Swell)
- Nice As Fuck - Door (Nice As Fuck)
- The Limiñanas - Dahlia Rouge (Malamore)
- The Mystery Lights - Follow Me Home (The Mystery Lights)
- Gaye Su Akyol - Eski tüfek (Hologram İmparatorluğu)
- La Femme - Le vide est ton nouveau prénom (Mystère)
- Lia Pamina - Créeme (Love Is Enough)
- Cat's Eyes - Everything Moves Towards the Sun (Treasure House)
- Innerspace Orchestra - One Way Glass (One Way Glass single)
- Whyte Horses - Peach Tree Street (Pop Or Not)
- Charlie Hilton - Pony (Palana)
- Prudence Rees-Lee - Fair Witness (Fair Witness single)
- Olympia - Smoke Signals (Self Talk)
- Juniore - Panique (Panique single)
- September Girls - Quicksand (Age Of Indignation)
- Heron Oblivion - Your Hollows (Heron Oblivion)
- Delphine Dora - Alpha centauri (Le Fruit de mes songes)
- Morgan Delt - Sun Powers (Phase Zero)
- Charles Bradley - Ain't Gonna Give It Up (Changes)
- The Honey Pot - Almost Exactly Beautiful (Inside The Whale)
- Beautify Junkyards - Constant Flux (Other Voices 08 single)
- Lush - Lost Boy (Blind Spot EP)
- Exploded View - Stand Your Ground (Exploded View)
- Bat For Lashes - In God's House (The Bride)
- Adrian Younge presents The Electronique Void - Black Noise (Black Noise)
- TOY - Dream Orchestrator (Clear Shot)
- Jarvis Cocker - Theme From "Likely Stories" (Likely Stories EP)
- The Galaxy Electric - Nightmares (Everything is Light and Sound)
- Jenny Hval - Female Vampire (Blood Bitch)
- Leonard Cohen - Traveling Light (You Want it Darker)
- John Cunningham - I Can Fly (Fell)
- Paul Kelly - Sonnet 73 (Seven Sonnets & A Song)
- The New Lines - Love and Cannibalism (Love and Cannibalism)
- Mild High Club - Homage (Skiptracing)
- COTE - London (London single)
- Samara Lubelski - What's Up Rider (The Gilded Raid)
Top 11 albums:
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".
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.
I'm feeling spoiled this year thanks to all the quality Christmas music I've found online that the artists have generously made available for free download. Below is my list of finds. Got any more to add?
This decade has seen lashings of CD releases for fans of 1960s French pop, like Femmes and Gentlemen De Paris, Sunnyside Café's Pop à Paris series, Girls In The Garage Vol. 10 ('Groovy Gallic Girls'), Atomic Café's French Cuts, Wizzz!, Magic Records' Sixties Girls series and recently, La Belle Epoque. But prior to any of these, there were some exciting 90s comps that launched this stuff from obscurity to a worldwide audience. Ils sont fous ces Gaulois! was one of the first, introducing listeners to sensational French freakbeat and garage sounds. Following it a little later, two of the most well-known comps, Ultra Chicks (Vol. 1, 1996) and Swinging Mademoiselle (Vol. 1, 1999) were the first to compile songs only from French 60s girls (along with a lesser known one, 1997's Belles! Belles! Belles!).
These collections are largely responsible for making many music lovers weak-kneed fans of female French 60s pop - as well as making the original cuts highly collectable. What is that makes this music so addictive? Discovering the French scene is like suddenly doubling the possibilities of what there is to discover musically from the 60s. It's like uncovering an entire secret world of quality music that is both familiar and exotic. Some only hear something silly and disposably cute in this material, and claim that at best these are exactly like Anglophonic tunes but with French vocals, therefore not worthy of special devotion. To the cynical, we devotees are only fetishists who like this music for its novelty factor and/or think something is automatically cool because it's French. To them I'd say - listen closer and perhaps you'll hear the unique appeal that makes the rest of us feel like we've discovered hidden treasure.
Plenty of incredible French pop and rock music was performed by both male and female vocalists of the era, but there's something about the female contributions that is especially intriguing. There's a unique expression of femininity that strikes the listener, something quite different to what we're used to hearing in 60s pop. Though distinctly French, it defies the stereotypically Gallic images we have of the dramatic, lovelorn women of chanson, or overtly sexual types like Brigitte Bardot. There is something naturally girlish and subtly sensual at play here. There's also a tomboyish rock 'n' roll spirit and overall sense of fun free-spiritedness present. The singing style is simultaneously coy, sexy, excitable, coquettish, fun, bold, confident, witty and smart. Many qualities were celebrated in the female voice on French recordings that are less typically present in other 60s girl pop, allowing roles other than the cheerful nice girl or the soulful diva. Fragility, cheekiness and detachment are less familiar elements to our ears that are often quite noticeable in these songs, and clearly considered desirable qualities for a female singer to express. There's also something a bit punk about how the vocals are often not perfectly in tune, and how there seems to be more emphasis on self-expression than technical proficiency. And aesthetically alone, there's an enormous appeal to hearing the French language sung over a rock arrangement in either a high, sweet-toned voice, a lower, sultrier voice, or a combination of both.
Before I bring you Part Deux of Swinging Mademoiselle, I'm going to briefly interrupt with my Halloween special, to ensure these tasty, eerie delights reach your goodie bags in time. We certainly can't miss Halloween! After all, Spiked Candy owes its name to those scary tales of unsuspecting trick-or-treaters receiving a dose of deadly poison in their sweet treats. Apparently these are nothing more than tales: "The number of kids confirmed to have been critically injured by spiked Halloween candy is ... zero" (The Halloween Scare). So while thankfully the grisly act of spiking candy is only a myth, fear not: Spiked Candy, the blog, is very real. Don't believe me? Blast these spook-themed tunes until your ears tingle, just to be sure. Ladies first:
Once again a huge thank you to Carl for sending this one my way! 'Mon joli vampire' is the B-side to 'Herald Tribune', posted here. This seems to be it for all the Jany L. songs ever released, so now you have the complete ultra-rare set! It's in a similar vein to her other tracks, with her rather sensuous voice offset by sweet, tinkly instrumentation. Listen to that catchy toy piano riff that owes more than a little to the Velvet Underground's 'Sunday Morning'.
Also in the waaay-too-cute-to-be-at-all-scary category:
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, Nov 12 2006
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