Considering April March's version of 'Caribou' is a standout among her French 60s covers on Chick Habit, it's surprising the original has not yet made it onto a CD compilation. I think 'Notre prof' d'anglais' is the only song of Chantal Kelly's to show up on CD so far (on both Pop A Paris, Vol. 1 and the bootleg Ultra Chicks, Vol. 6), but correct me if I'm wrong.
'Caribou' is certainly a notable absence from the world of French 60s comps. It's the best song from Chantal, whose too-cute-for-words look, complete with perfectly-placed bow in every picture, likely has many French pop fans dying to hear more from her. Not only is the song a highlight of her short career, it's also a fine moment in 60s French pop that deserves to be heard. A wonderful example of the experimentalism present in the music of the time, it's an exhilarating marriage of pop and exotic elements. Listen to those incredible pounding tribal drums and eerie backing vocals.
I thought I might never get to hear this song. Chantal's EPs are highly sought-after, and I never have the sort of money that rare yé-yé girl records fetch. But luck was on my side when I found an unsold copy of the 7" single on eBay (often when the seller doesn't take Paypal things don't sell or go for really cheap, but it was still a surprise there were no takers on this at all) and the seller agreed to sell it to me at the bargain starting price. Fresh in the mail today, my excitement at receiving it has prompted me out of my hibernation.
My copy is undated, and most sources have its release date as 1965. But L'Encyclopédie Du Rock Français has it at 1966, and since it's specific - February, it says - I'm going to go with that.
Chantal was born in Marseilles in 1950. Her family was originally from Corsica and her real name is Chantal Bassignani. She credited her family's love of singing - her mother and brother both sang - to their Corsican background. Chantal wanted to be a pop singer but thought it was an unreachable dream. Her family, however, were completely confident she could achieve it, and helped and supported her in getting there.
It didn't hurt that she was well-connected, either. Her singing teacher was the mother of ex-singing star Cris Carol (often written as Criscarol). The teacher recorded Chantal singing and played the tape for her friend Claude Bolling, a well-known jazz pianist and composer. It was Bolling who then set Chantal up with the Philips label, for whom she recorded several EPs. Criscarol wrote 'Caribou' and the 3 other songs on Chantal's first EP, and several more tracks for her subsequently. Bolling is the arranger and producer on 'Caribou'.
An enthusiastic and sweet-natured teen, Chantal had a long list of things she adored, including Jacques Brel, Joan Baez, James Dean, travelling, shopping, all things English, french fries and Coke, sports cars and, in boys, intelligence and personality. One of her biggest passions was singing live which she found "a thousand times more interesting than making a record". She said this after having made some live appearances, but not yet having toured. Presumably, she would have been thrilled when she later got to tour with big names like Johnny Hallyday, Jacques Dutronc and Michel Delpech.
Enjoy the crackly vinyl rip, and the rare pic I've scanned in, a 1966 ad for 'mini' cassettes featuring Chantal (big page, small scanner=can't fit all the text in, sorry). By the way, if you read out Mini-K7 in English, it sounds clunky and perplexing. But K-7 in French is ka-sept... i.e. cassette! Cute.