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.
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'.
An amazing piece of footage featuring Johnny Hallyday blowing smoke rings with a pre-fame Jimi Hendrix. This is from October 1966, when The Jimi Hendrix Experience played their first ever shows, supporting Hallyday on his French tour.
I find something charmingly off-kilter and natural about Chantal Goya's sixties songs, several of which are used so effecitvely in Masculin Feminin, the 1966 Jean-Luc Godard film in which she starred. As with France Gall's recordings, there's the untrained, slightly off-key voice combined with some cream-of-the-crop songwriting and production. Gall at the time had Gainsbourg, Alain Goraguer, her father and others crafting her songs, while Goya had Jean-Jacques Debout (who soon became her husband) writing tracks for her like 'C'est bien Bernard', and the brilliant American expat guitarist, producer, and arranger Mickey Baker at the helm. Unlike Gall, Goya's vocals are also a little timing-challenged, but this just adds to the odd appeal of her songs.
Françoise Hardy was unlike a lot of her pop peers in that she not only composed the bulk of her material, but continued to make quality records well after yé-yé's heyday. This 1971 performance is a cover of 'Sunshine', an arrestingly beautiful song by American singer-songwriter Sandy Alpert. Hardy first covered it in English on 1969's Alone (also released as One-Nine-Seven-Zero and English 3), and later translated it into French for her 1970 album, Soleil. Alpert's own version is quite obscure, only surfacing as the B-side on a Spanish-released single and a promotional radio single in the USA.
There is much more on the site for fans of sixties French pop to delve into – try L'âge d'or des yé-yé or Les tubes des années 60 as a starting point. And here are some links to a few more of my favourites (if I embed everything I'm enthused about, this post won't load!):
- Carrefour: Serge Gainsbourg: This sixteen-minute excerpt from a 1968 episode features an interview with Gainsbourg bookended by performances of 'La Javanaise' and 'Docteur Jekyll et Monsieur Hyde'.
- Le Magazine: Eric Charden: A clip from a 1966 show where Charden is interviewed and performs 'Le 8 décembre' and 'La Fête au village'.
- Christine Delaroche - Une fleur: There aren't many videos around of actress and singer Delaroche performing her 1960s songs, so this is a nice find.
- Arlette Zola - Deux garçons pour une fille: A French production and release from Swiss singer Zola, later covered by April March on her cult album Chick Habit.
- Hugues Aufray - Le rossignol anglais: A 1965 clip of folk singer Aufray, featuring some mean autoharp action.
- Carrefour: Minouche Barelli: Barelli competed in Eurovision in 1967 with Gainsbourg's wonderfully strange song about nuclear fear, 'Boum badaboum'. In this 1968 clip, she is briefly interviewed and performs the much tamer 'Il faut dire'.
- Chansons à aimer: France Gall: This 1969 episode spotlights France Gall, who chats with a reporter and performs 'Y'a du soleil à vendre', 'Bébé requin' and '24/36'.
- Continents sans visa: Salut les Copains: A 1963 program about the Salut les copains radio show and magazine, yé-yé and youth culture.