Back in the sixties, the phenomenon that was ye-ye music swept through much of Europe. This included Italy, Luxembourg, Portugal and Spain. However, France was undoubtably the ye-ye capital of Europe. Especially after Serge Gainsbourg success helped popularize the genre. It was French female singer-songwriters that recorded some of the finest ye-ye music of the sixties. Among them were Françoise Hardy, Anne Kern, Jacqueline Taïeb, Michèle Arnaud, Valérie Lagrange, Annie Philippe and France Gall. Each of these artists feature on Ace Records recent compilation, Tres Chic! More French Girl Singers Of The 1960s. It’s the followup to C’est Chic: French Girl Singers Of The 1960s. For anyone yet to discover ye-ye music, Tres Chic! More French Girl Singers Of The 1960s is the perfect starting point. You’ll realize why when I tell you about Tres Chic! More French Girl Singers Of The 1960s.

Three years after Ace Records released C’est Chic: French Girl Singers Of The 1960s, in 2010, comes the followup C’est Chic: French Girl Singers Of The 1960s. Given how well received the first installment was, many people will welcome Tres Chic! More French Girl Singers Of The 1960s. Compilers Malcolm Baumgart and Mick Patrick have dug deep into the vaults of RCA, Riviera, Mercury, RCA, Phillips, Columbia, Disc, Pathe, Fontana, Impact/Festival and Ducretet-Thompson. Hidden in the vaults of these record companies, is the equivalent of ye-ye gold. For it’s within the illustrious back-catalogues of these record companies that some of the best ye-ye music every recorded can be found. Having dug deep into the vaults, Malcolm and Mick chose the twenty-four tracks that became Tres Chic! More French Girl Singers Of The 1960s. Before I pick the highlights of Tres Chic! More French Girl Singers Of The 1960s, I’ll briefly tell you what ye-ye music is.

Although ye-ye music’s origins can be traced back to the late fifties, it wasn’t until the sixties that what’s essentially a style of pop music grew in popularity. Sweeping Europe, this pan-European phenomenon didn’t have one “sound.” Instead, ye-ye, which is derived from “yeah-yeah,” came to incorporate everything from pop, R&B, rock ‘n’ roll, sixties girl groups, jazz and beat music. Many of the artists who ye-ye music were young, and sang in their own language. Across Europe, each country had its own ye-ye scene. This included both male and female singers. However, the majority and best ye-ye music came from female singers, especially French female singer-songwriters.

Soon, France became Europe’s ye-ye capital. That was where some of the best ye-ye music was being recorded. Much of this was being recorded by French female singer-songwriters. Many of them were young, charismatic, mysterious and attractive. Often they exuded an air of naivety. This was far from the case. Instead, they were crafting an image. While the artists were deliberately crafting an image, some of the lyrics they wrote would prove controversial.

While many people think of ye-ye music as throwaway pop music, that’s far from the case. It was often controversial. Lyrics were often full of sexual symbolism, double entendre and strewn with innuendo. Incredibly, given the early-sixties were less liberated times, these records were played on radios across Europe. Not all the lyrics to ye-ye records would prove controversial. Like pop music, any number of subjects were covered. This is apparent on Tres Chic! More French Girl Singers Of The 1960s, which I’ll pick the highlights of.

Opening Tres Chic! More French Girl Singers Of The 1960s, is Annie Philippe’s 1965 single On M’a Toujours Dit. This is the first of two tracks Annie contributes. The other is 1967s Pas De Taxi. Annie was just eighteen in 1965, when On M’a Toujours Dit was released. She’d made her debut in 1965. Later that year, Annie enjoyed a huge hit with a cover of The Supremes Baby Love. Sadly, neither the driving, dramatic On M’a Toujours Dit nor grandiose Pas La Taxi matched the success

Parisian Violaine was a reluctant ye-ye singer. Instead, musical dream was to be a folk-rock singer. Eventually, she relented and signed to Eddie Barclay’s Riviera label. Her debut E.P. featured J’ai Des Problèmes Décidément. It’s a stomping fusion of blues, pop and jazz. This gung-ho slice of ye-ye features a vocal that’s a mixture of charisma, confidence, emotion and power. As for her other contribution Il N’a Que Des Chansons, it featured on her second E.P. There’s a Dylan-esue sound to the arrangement, while Violaine’s vocal is pensive, mysterious and thoughtful. Sadly, Violaine’s career at Riviera ended after the commercial failure if her second E.P.

Released in 1966, France Gall’s Attends Ou Va-T’en has a quintessentially French ye-ye sound. France’s career began in 1963, when she was just sixteen. After that, she was constantly touring and recording. Attends Ou Va-T’en was released in 1965 and has a wistful, hopeful sound. Her other contribution is 1964s Jazz À Gogo, which demonstrates her vocal versatility. Proof of this is her scatted, jazzy vocal, which seamlessly copes with the rhythmic compilations of the track. Given her vocal prowess, it’s no surprise that in 1968, aged twenty-one, France decided her ye-ye career was over. Far from over was her musical career. She enjoyed a long and successful career, including working with Serge Gainsbourg.

Françoise Hardy is one of the biggest names in ye-ye music. She recorded in German, Italian, Portuguese, English and French.During the seven years Françoise was signed to Vogue she released twenty-nine singles. One of the best-known is Comment Te Dire Adieu, released in 1969, the year she left Vogue. Sultry, sensual and filled with sadness, her version of Margaret Whiting’s It Hurts To Say Goodbye surpasses the original for sheer emotion. Françoise also released Il Voyage in 1969. Dramatic, emotive and elegant thanks to the harmonies, Françoise delivers a truly heartfelt and captivating vocal.

Gillian Hills is proof that English singers were capable of becoming successful ye-ye singers. Born in Egypt, her mother was Polish, her father English and she went to school in Paris. She signed to Barclay Records in 1960, releasing twelve singles during the next five years. The three singles that feature on Tres Chic! More French Girl Singers Of The 1960s are all from 1965. Tomorrow Is Another Day was written by Gillian, who from 1963 onwards, wrote most of her own songs. Wistful, but filled with hope Gillian tenderly breaths life and meaning into the lyrics. Tut, Tut, Tut, Tut is a track from Gillian’s final E.P. Sung in French by Gillian, it’s a charismatic cover of The Lollipops’ Busy Signal. Her final single was the rueful, Look At Them, which features a heartbroken Gillian. Sadly, it didn’t sell well, and is something of a rarity, that’s much in-demand by connoisseurs and collectors of ye-ye.

For anyone whose not at their best early in the morning, Jacqueline Taïeb’s 7 Am is for them. In under two minutes, Jacqueline captures what it’s like and tells the story of those tortuous early mornings. Just the celebratory Bravo, it was written by Jacqueline and released on Fontana in 1968. Although born in France, Jacqueline was just as comfortable recording in English, as 7 Am proves. Multi-lingual and multitalented, that’s a fitting description of Jacqueline Taïeb.

Anna Karina’s Sous Le Soleil Exactement closes Tres Chic! More French Girl Singers Of The 1960s. Born in Denmark, Anna’s career encompasses music, modeling and acting. Written by Serge Gainsbourg, and released on Phillips in 1967, it’s a track that’s best described as evocative, dramatic, sensual and sultry. Quite simply, not only is this one of the highlights of Tres Chic! More French Girl Singers Of The 1960s, but given the drama and sensuality, is the perfect way to close the compilation. 

For anyone yet to discover the charms and delights of ye-ye music, then Tres Chic! More French Girl Singers Of The 1960s is the perfect starting point. Recently released by Ace Records, it’s the followup to 2010s C’est Chic: French Girl Singers Of The 1960s. With these two compilations, you’ve the perfect introduction to ye-ye music. Or to misquote Woody Allen: “all you’ve ever wanted to know about ye-ye music but were afraid to ask.” Indeed, not only is Tres Chic! More French Girl Singers Of The 1960s an introduction to the ye-ye music, but to what was a pan-European phenomenon. 

Back in the sixties, not many musical scenes swept Europe. Often they were only popular in parts of Europe. Not ye-ye music. It was popular throughout Europe. Thriving, exciting, vibrant  and colorful is how Malcolm Baumgart and Mick Patrick’s sleeve-notes describe the ye-ye music scene. Their sleeve-notes give you an insight to the artists, record companies and the characters who populated the scene as it spread the length and breadth of Europe. Luckily, many of the artists were cosmopolitan. Françoise Hardy recorded in German, Italian, Portuguese, English and French. Other artists, including Jacqueline Taïeb was just as comfortable singing in English and Europe. Indeed, many of the ye-ye singers that feature on Tres Chic! More French Girl Singers Of The 1960s were bilingual and not averse to recording in numerous languages. This proves that ye-ye music was far from the throwaway pop that some of its critics said. 

Populated by colorful characters, the ye-ye music scene lasted longer than most musical genres. Lasting the whole of the sixties, it outlasted even The Beatles. Sadly, ye-ye music wasn’t as successful. It did make a lasting impact on many people, and for a few short years, united Europe. That’s quite a feat, considering most politicians never have, and never will unite Europe. However, one country was responsible for the best ye-ye music..France

Ye-ye music is also a reminder of one of the most important, innovative and influential decades in history…the sixties. During this period, although there was a political, social, cultural and musical revolution throughout Europe. France however, was transformed during the sixties. By 1969, it was a very different country than it had been in 1960. For some, the changes made the country unrecognizable. While this major upheaval was taking place in France, a genre of music that epitomizes the sixties was providing the backdrop….ye-ye music. This includes the timeless music on Tres Chic! More French Girl Singers Of The 1960s, which epitomize the sights, sounds and changes of the sixties. Standout Tracks: Annie Philippe On M’a Toujours Dit, Violaine J’ai Des Problèmes Décidément, Jacqueline Taïeb’s 7 Am and Anna Karina Sous Le Soleil Exactement. 


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