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.
Click next to tracks for individual players | Show all
- 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:
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”
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:
Radio Télévision Suisse has an excellent online audiovisual archive which includes a number of videos featuring 1960s French pop stars. You'll find all the big names like Serge Gainsbourg, Françoise Hardy, France Gall, Johnny Hallyday, Sylvie Vartan, Sheila and Jacques Dutronc, as well as some rare clips of more obscure artists. There is much to explore on the site, so here are a few of my picks:
Tucked away twelve minutes into a May 1967 episode of news magazine Carrefour is a performance by yé-yé girl Chantal Kelly (I've clipped out her part above). One of my favourite French pop girls of the era, she remains puzzlingly uncomped and unreissued. I wrote about this nine years ago, mentioning she'd only made it onto a couple of compilations, and nothing has changed since. It's hard to understand, as her songs are as worthy as those of the most beloved and frequently reissued girls. Unlike some singers saddled with tame rehashes of American and British hits, Chantal got to record quality originals by top songwriters (the above song is co-written by André Popp), including some highly inventive songs like 'Caribou'. There is more than a whole LP's worth of material begging to be anthologised – someone make it happen.
The rest of these videos are embedded from the RTS site, so require Flash:
Wow, this is twenty incredible minutes of Françoise Hardy in London in 1965. The footage includes Hardy recording her album L'amitié at Pye studios, and walking around the city with her then-boyfriend, photographer Jean-Marie Périer.
Each episode of the Swiss series Chansons à aimer focused on a single music artist, giving the subject a chance to showcase a handful of their songs and be interviewed at some length. In this 1969 episode, Michel Polnareff performs 'La poupée qui fait non', 'Jour après jour' and 'Pourquoi faut-il se dire adieu'.
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.
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, Dec 17 2006
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