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".
'Noël à Vaugirard' was a short film that appeared in an episode of Dim Dam Dom, broadcast on December 23, 1966. Starring Serge Gainsbourg as Joseph and Chantal Goya as Marie (Mary), it's a comedic telling of the Nativity story updated for its young, modern audience, filmed at the abbatoirs of Vaugirard.
It's been exactly 50 years since this odd Christmas sketch first aired on French TV, so I thought it might be a good time to revisit it, this time in more detail than when I first posted it ten years ago. I have also realised the version I originally shared is abridged, so wanted to post the full version, which is four-and-a-half minutes longer. 'Noël à Vaugirard' was a short film that appeared in an episode of Dim Dam Dom, broadcast on December 23, 1966. Starring Serge Gainsbourg as Joseph and Chantal Goya as Marie (Mary), it's a comedic telling of the Nativity story updated for its young, modern audience, filmed at the abbatoirs of Vaugirard. It's a light, throwaway kind of piece, but irreverent in its own way, with some surreal and highly creative moments that reflect the unique approach of the program.
Premiering in March 1965, Dim Dam Dom was the flagship show of the newly launched second television channel of France's national broadcasting service, ORTF. It aired once a month on Sunday afternoon, for a total of 70 episodes until the end of its run in 1971. Daisy de Galard, who had worked at Elle magazine for fourteen years, was approached by Roger Stéphane, a journalist and an advisor to the head of ORTF, Claude Contamine, to create a television magazine aimed at women. Though she had no experience in television, the fledgling producer set out to make something different to the usual fare offered to female audiences at the time. She created a show that was modern and innovative, taking many risks both aesthetically and in terms of subjects the show covered. The program not only showcased some of the most popular entertainers of the time, but was a springboard for many young journalists and directors. The name Dim Dam Dom was an abbreviation for Dimanche (because it was broadcast on Sundays), Dames (since it was primarily targeted at women), D'hommes (because it also featured segments concerning men, and aimed to hold their interest as well). A hit from its first broadcast, and successful later in reruns, Dim Dam Dom is remembered with a great deal of respect as a pioneering program.
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'.
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!
Hello all! Just a heads-up to let you know I'll be back to blogging again very soon, so get ready for some jumbo sweet treats for you to sink your teeth into.
While you're waiting...
... I'd recommend checking out these blogs:
Babette's Feast - Blog by Zoi Zoi DJ extraordinaire, Mimi La Twisteuse. It hasn't been updated in a while but scan back through the posts for rare French freakbeat, 60s garage girls and boys, and other assorted treasures and curios. All presented with flair, style and wit, as you'd expect!
The Go-Go Club Social!- The name says it all! 60s party tunes from around the world, some yé-yé girls and various other fun odds and ends. This is such a welcome addition to the music blogging community. It's EXACTLY the type of new blog I like to see spring up. Original commentary, courteous crediting of the comps that initially brought us some of these rare songs, loving highlighting of just one song at a time - in other words, all the right moves for an ethical blog that's a pleasure to peruse. And let's not forget, fabulous taste in music and pictures, too! Take note, anyone thinking of starting a blog.
Verlorene Mädchen - German for 'Lost Girls', this is Jens' brilliant blog on exactly that - shamefully forgotten girls of the German 60s pop scene. Anyone who's ever braved the masses of awful schlager you have to wade through to find that rare 60s German girl pop gem will appreciate this blog immensely. This is the best 60s German stuff I've heard - not a dud among the offerings here! (Update: Jens now runs Beat Fräuleins).
Or 1965, at least. For Bastille Day, what could I post but a French song? Of course, Sylvie was not French by birth - she was born in Bulgaria to a father of Armenian descent and a Hungarian mother - but in many ways Mrs Johnny Hallyday was the quintessiential French yé-yé girl.
In the above scan from the December 1966 issue of Mademoiselle Age Tendre, Sylvie is preparing the summer collection for her prêt-a-porter fashion line. Sylvie was not the only star to branch out into a side business: she was in the company of fellow powerhouse popettes, Sheila and France Gall. Sheila also produced a fashion range, while France lent her name to make-up and accessories.
'L'Ami des mauvais jours' was written by Sylvie's brother Eddie Vartan, a musician/composer/arranger whose writing credits include several film soundtracks and a number of songs for various sixties performers, most notably Johnny Hallyday. Sylvie's start in music came courtesy of Eddie, who was working at RCA Records when he recruited her for a duet with Frankie Jordan, 'Panne d'essence', after Gillian Hills dropped out. Eddie went on to write over 50 songs for his little sister.
Interesting bit of trivia: Eddie's son is actor Michael Vartan of Alias and Never Been Kissed fame. I always think of Sylvie when I see his name, but I never knew she was his aunt!
This song was a request from my last.fm Yé-Yé Girls group, and seems to be a little hard to track down on CD. The only compilation I can find it on is this 21-volume set of Sylvie's recordings selling for the whopping price of €305. Any more affordable suggestions?
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
- Sat, Dec 10 2005
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