This is kind of a Christmas post, though there is no festive-themed music to be found within.
Instead, I wanted to share this magazine ad from the December 1963 issue of French teen music magazine Salut les copains. It's a special Christmas offer for a free record, 'Look', sung by young chanteuse Micky Amline.
Perhaps you know this lively early yé-yé song from Volume 2 of the Ultra Chicks compilations, a series of unofficial CDs from the late 1990s to early 2000s responsible for introducing many to the then largely untapped world of femme French sixties pop.
What you probably don't know is that the song was a promotional single for the Cutex beauty brand, specifically their line called Cutex Look. According to the ad, for 18 francs you could get the Cutex Look box (an eye makeup kit "containing all the essentials to have pretty eyes"), the Micky Amline record, and a surprise gift (damn, I really want to know what that was!).
Now, you could try to present this ad in a French store and see if you can claim the record, but I don't fancy your luck! So instead here's my vinyl rip of the single:
Micky Amline chante Look (320k)
Micky Amline chante "Look", un twist du tonnerre dédié aux beaux yeux et aux regards troublants de toutes les jolies filles.
The promo describes 'Look' as a "thunderous twist dedicated to the beautiful eyes and unsettling looks of all pretty girls". OK. That is probably even stranger a description if you're in the dark about what the "twist" part refers to.
Le twist was the name given to the French pop-rock genre that predated yé-yé, from around 1961-1963. It was named for the worldwide dance craze, but as can happen when terms are adopted into a foreign language, it was applied more broadly and in a way that's a bit hard to make sense of outside the culture of a time and place. It seems to really have just referred to any Anglo-influenced, electric guitar-based pop-rock in France at the time. Le twist was the softer cousin to rock 'n' roll, and represented something of a transitional phase before yé-yé took over. Some twist from late 1962-1963 is retroactively labeled yé-yé, so it's accurate to refer to French pop from that period as either genre.
'Look' was written by André Salvet and Claude Carrère, a team who wrote songs for many of the big French pop names of the 1960s, like France Gall, Françoise Hardy, Petula Clark, and Richard Anthony.
Et sur l'autre face, Micky Amline vous confie ses secrets de maquillage des yeux.
I've included the B-side, 'Les Conseils de Miss Look', though it's really a curio only. On this spoken word track, Micky, dubbed Miss Look, "confides her eye makeup secrets". It's essentially an audio tutorial where Micky explains how to apply the products contained in the Cutex Look box. Someone has transcribed the whole thing at Bide et Musique, and if you run it through Google translate, you get a good idea of what Micky says on the track.
There was another release for 'Look' on an EP with three other songs. I suspect – though I could be wrong – that the promo single came first, since it seems too coincidental that the name of the beauty line is so prominent in the song.
I went looking for some background on Mademoiselle Amline, but there is little to be found online1 other than this brief profile on Rétro Jeunesse 60. But I did find some info on her in a magazine I have called Club des années 60 (№ 46, October 2008), accompanied by the fantastic photo above. There's also a short blurb on her in the book L'Encyclopédie du Rock Francais. Here are a few facts I gleaned about the young singer from these sources:
- She was born Christiane Ameline in 19432, Paris. This makes her nineteen or twenty at the time of the release of 'Look'.
- She was a model in the late 1950s.
- In 1959, she was hired to front a band called Les Boutons Dorés, later renamed Les Satellites. Oddly, this was arranged by someone from the Miss France committee.
- Les Boutons Dorés were regulars on the live early French rock scene, frequently playing popular Parisian rock venues.
- She was signed to Disques Vogue in 1962, and released three EPs for them from 1962-3.
- In 1962, she performed at the famous Golf Drouot club five times, accompanied by Les Cyclones, a popular instrumental band whose line-up also featured Jacques Dutronc at one point (when they were known as El Toro et Les Cyclones).
- She married Bernard Ferraro, the guitarist from Les Cyclones and later a backing musician for the likes of Françoise Hardy and Eddy Mitchell.
Club des années 60 also mentions her giving a "wild and unbridled" performance of the song 'Hey Pony' (recorded by Hédika in 1961) in a short film called Les temps de la fureur. I found this film, directed by Henri Calef, online here. Unfortunately, Micky appears only very briefly during a sequence that is sped up for effect (around 12:36), so you don't really get to hear her sing. But you do get a glimpse of her charismatic onstage presence. The footage is of Micky performing with Les Satellites at an international rock festival held in Juan-les-pins, Antibes, August 1961. Although it's a shame – and probably telling – that the only female act here doesn't get showcased properly, the film is still a fascinating document of the early French rock era and a must-watch in its own right. (An aside: This is one aspect I really enjoy about researching a post, going down rabbit holes that lead me to things like this!)
Since Micky recorded and played live from the late fifties and ended her musical career in 1963, she was more part of the earlier rock and twist eras than of the yé-yé era. It's especially significant that she was heavily involved in the live scene during the early rock period. This era had some amazing young women belting it out on stage, as passionate, talented and committed as any of the men, but the scene could be unkind to them. A young Sylvie Vartan would get tomatoes thrown at her during her early gigs. Another rock girl active in the early scene, Nicole Paquin, quit music in 1961 following a live show, finding it too hard to cope with the hostility she faced as a woman singing rock.
Around 1962-1963, there was a deliberate taming of the growing, wild youth rock scene by the powers that be, who introduced softer female acts and unthreatening male singers like Claude François and Frank Alamo in order to redirect teen fandom toward something more wholesome. Many of the original rock girls fell by the wayside. There's something that seems emblematic about a raw talent like Micky Amline being relegated to sharing beauty tips on a record, before disappearing from the music scene altogether.
Perhaps she was pushed out of music like many of the more daring rock girls were, or perhaps she left for her own reasons. I'm not sure, but whatever the case, her musical achievements in her young years are notable. Fronting a band in the male-dominated rock scene as a teenage girl is remarkable. She deserves to be recognised as one of the pioneering women of rock in France.
- 1. I found this great post on Micky from Hero Culte when I had nearly finished writing this entry (Google once again was favouring the junk results and hiding the good stuff!). Raechel found that Christiane and her husband Bernard now run a tea room in Tusson, southwestern France called L'Échauguette. I then came across this profile on the couple, which discusses L'Échauguette and touches on their musical pasts. It's nice to see they seem happy and fulfilled.
- 2. Birth year is via a commenter on Bide et Musique, whose info seems pretty reliable and usually lines up with my book sources. Club des années 60 mentions she was 18 in 1961. Also, her age given in the 2011 article linked above matches (if born late 1943).