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 Femme 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".
I won't go into detail on all the artists and songs here, but I do want to briefly talk about the first track, Alice Dona's 'Le Noël des copains', a wonderfully jazzy pop number from 1964. With such a strong jazz scene in France prior to the advent of rock, it's probably not surprising its influence is heard in a number of yé-yé songs. Dona, accompanied here by Jo Moutet and his orchestra, wrote the music and lyrics to this and two of the other songs on the EP, and co-wrote the other track. Though it wasn't particularly unusual for many of the minor female French artists to have songwriting credits, it was rarer for them to be auteur-compositeurs – responsible for both the music and the lyrics. Dona was an alum of the legendary Petit Conservatoire de Mireille and went on to become a very successful songwriter for many major stars in the 70s.
"Copain" was the buzzword of the era, meaning "buddy" but communicating a concept that ran far deeper for French youth united by their love of yé-yé music. Defined and sustained largely by the Salut les copains radio program and magazine, the "copain" concept represented friendship and a shared understanding among pop music fans, as well as between fans and artists. A performer referencing copains was not only singing about their audience, but letting them know they were also was their copain. Record labels, of course, sought to cash in on this ready familiarity and hoped throwing in the word would help them score a hit. But perhaps there is more sincerity to a song like 'Le Noël des copains', since it was written by the 18-year-old Dona. Part of the philosophy of the copains was that young people around the world were connected by their love of rock music and this is reflected in the song's lyrics, where Dona calls out to some imaginary copains from various countries, like "Tania from Moscow" or "Billy from Texas". The song is a hopeful young slice of idealism, imagining a joyous Christmas shared with friends from all over the world, bonded by their love of music.