TOJOURS CHIC! MORE FRENCH GIRL SINGERS OF THE 1960s.

TOJOURS CHIC! MORE FRENCH GIRL SINGERS OF THE 1960s.

Although Ye-ye music’s origins can be traced back to the late fifties, it wasn’t until the early sixties its popularity began to grow. Suddenly, it became a pan-European phenomenon. From France, Luxembourg Italy, Portugal and Spain ye-ye music’s popularity was on the rise. However, France was undoubtably the ye-ye capital of Europe. Especially after Serge Gainsbourg success helped popularise the genre.

Soon, France was producing some of the best, and most popular ye-ye music. France Gall, Annie Philippe, Valérie Lagrange and Françoise Hardy were at the forefront of the genre. However, there was a problem. Some people struggled to define ye-ye music.

Some critics saw ye-ye music as a style of pop music. However, 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. Ye-ye music was a board musical church. Across Europe much of mainland Europe, ye-ye became popular.

Many of the ye-ye singers were young. They sang in their own language. In France, Luxembourg Italy, Portugal and Spain, 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 Tojours Chic! More French Girl Singers Of The 1960s, which was recently released by Ace Records. It’s the third in Ace Records’ series which looks back at France’s vibrant ye-ye scene.

The series began nearly five years ago, when C’est Chic: French Girl Singers Of The 1960s was released in November 2010. Just under three years later, and Chic! More French Girl Singers Of The 1960s followed in July 2013. Since then, compiler  Mick Patrick has been working on Tojours Chic! More French Girl Singers Of The 1960s. The result is a twenty-four track compilation that features not just the great and good of the French ye-ye scene, but some new names.

Among the twenty-four tracks on Tojours Chic! More French Girl Singers Of The 1960s France Gall, Annie Philippe, Valérie Lagrange and Françoise Hardy rub shoulders with Brigitte Bardot, Charlotte Walters, Christie Laume, Fabienne, Laura Ulmer, Pussy Cat, Sheila, Stone and Zouzou all feature. The majority of the tracks were released between 1964 and 1970. That’s apart from Laura Ulmer’s Amoureux D’une Affiche. It’s never been released before, and makes its debut on Tojours Chic! More French Girl Singers Of The 1960s, which I’ll pick the highlights of.

Opening Tojours Chic! More French Girl Singers Of The 1960s is the first of two tracks from singer-songwriter Fabienne. The other is Quand Tu Verras La Pluie Tombe. It’s the title-track of  Fabienne’s 1964 E.P. Originally, it had been released as a  single on Pathé’s short-lived label Pat. When the E.P. failed to make an impression, it was repacked a year later as part of the  Quand Tu Verras La Pluie Tombe E.P. Although both tracks ooze quality, the jazz-tinged Cours Si Tu As Peur is the best of the two. Both tracks were penned by Fabienne, who many felt would enjoy a successful career. That wasn’t to be, and despite her talent, Fabienne’s recording career proved short-lived.

By 1966, Zouzou was a model, film star and socialite. Her social circle included Bob Dylan, George Harrison, Brian Jones and Andy Warhol. Zouzou was about to add to hear already impressive C.V. when she signed a recording contract with Disques Vogue. She only released two E.P.s Her debut E.P. Il Est Parti Comme Il Etait, was released in 1966. The title-track features on Tojours Chic! More French Girl Singers Of The 1960s. So does Demain, a track from Zouzou’s 1967 E.P. Petit Garçon, Tu Fais Partie Du Passé, Ce Samedi Soir and Demain. Both tracks epitomise the ye-ye sound. However, despite not lacking talent, Zouzou turned her back on music after two E.P.s, preferring to concentrate on her career as an actress.

Laura Ulmer came from a talented family. Her father George was a singer and actor. So when Laura left high school, she embarked upon a career as a singer. Her career began in 1965, and by 1966 Laura had already made her acting debut. By then, she had released three E.Ps, which were mostly popular in Canada. A fourth was recorded, but never released. One of the tracks was  Demandez Speciale Dernièr, which makes a belated debut on  Tojours Chic! More French Girl Singers Of The 1960s. So does Laura’s 1967 single Amoureux D’une Affiche, and the B-Side Les Cover-Girls. It was released on the Barclay label, but wasn’t a huge commercial success. Not long after this, Laura turned her back on music. Her musical legacy included three E.P.s and one single. They’re a reminder of one of ye-ye music’s lost stars. 

France Gall’s career began in 1963, when she was just sixteen.  After that, she was constantly touring and recording. By 1966, she released her FG album on the Phillips label. One of its highlights is La Guerre Des Chansons. It has has a quintessentially French ye-ye sound, veering between wistful and hopeful. Two years later, in 1968, 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 some of the biggest names in music,including Serge Gainsbourg and Michel Berger.

By 1967, Annie Philippe was one of the biggest names in Pour La Gloire. That’s despite her career only beginning in 1965. Two years later, she was now signed to Phillips and had released her Pour La Gloire E.P. Although not as well known as Ticket De Quai, Mes Amis or C’est La Mode, Pour La Gloire is one of the hidden gems of Annie Philippe’s career.

Valérie Lagrange started life as an actress. She also enjoyed a musical career. Her career began in 1964, when she signed to Phillips. That’s where she the next two years. One of Valérie’s final recordings was her 1966 E.P. Ce Que Je Suis. Compiler Mick Patrick has chosen the title-track. It has a tougher, rockier sound. That comes courtesy of Valérie’s feisty vocal. Behind it, swathes of dancing strings prove an unlikely, but perfect foil. This results in a track that nearly fifty years later, has stood the test of time.

Évely Courtois had never thought about embarking upon a musical career. That was until she at attended a show at the Paris Olympia. Then she decided to form her own girl group. They recorded an E.P. and even supported Tom Jones. Then Évely Courtois was persuaded to pursue a solo career. So Évely Courtois adopted the Pussy Cat alias. Pussy Cat released her debut E.P. in May 1966. The Ce N’est Pas Une Vie E.P. was released on RCA Victore and featured a cover of Les Temps Ont Changé (Have Courage, Be Faithful). It’s Pussy Cat’s finest moment on the E.P. By 1969, Pussy Cat was ready to turn her back on the music business. She bowed out on a high, with one of her finest songs, Cette Nuit. It features a soul-searching vocal full of emotion. What a way to bring the curtain down on a career.

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 E.Ps. In 1965, she cowrote Je T’aime, which features on her Tu Peux Bien E.P. It’s tucked away on the  B-Side, and features a vocal that’s heartfelt and hopeful.

After being voted Miss Beaknik, Annie Gautrat secured a recording contract with Polydor. She then dawned the pseudonym Stone. By 1967, Stone was about to release her sixth E.P. Baby Stone. It featured L’antiquité, which was penned by Eric Charden. So was the La Nenuphar, a track from Stone’s 1967 E.P. Viva Le France. Everything from the Beach Boys, Phil Spector and psychedelia seems to have influenced La Nenuphar. It shows just how broad a church ye-ye music was. 

Many people overlook Brigitte Bardot’s musical career. They remember her for her career as an actress. However, Brigitte Bardot enjoyed a long, varied and successful career. By 1970, she had released five albums and close to thirty singles. One of singles Brigitte Bardot released in 1970 was Nue Au Soleil. With a jaunty, jazz-tinged, Latin arrangement, Brigitte Bardot delivers a sassy, sensual vocal.

My final choices from Tojours Chic! More French Girl Singers Of The 1960s, come courtesy of future disco diva Sheila. However, back in 1964, Sheila was an up-and-coming ye-ye singer. Her career career began in 1962. In 1964, Sheila released her Écoute Ce Disque E.P. It featured A La Fin De La Soirée, where Sheila delivers a vocal powerhouse, accompanied by gospel harmonies. Even then, it seemed Sheila was destined to enjoy a long and successful career. Later in 1964, Sheila released her Oui, C’est Pour Lui E.P. Hidden away on the B-Side was the ballad L’ami De Mon Enfance. It shows another side to Sheila. She was already a versatile and talented singer, and in the seventies, reinvented herself as a disco diva with Sheila and B. Devotion.

Just like the two previous volumes in Ace Records’ series, Tojours Chic! More French Girl Singers Of The 1960s is the perfect introduction to the charms and delights of ye-ye music. It became a pan-European phenomenon in the early sixties. However, the ye-ye capital of Europe was France. Tojours Chic! More French Girl Singers Of The 1960s features some of the stars of the French ye-ye scene. There’s also some less well known names. This mixture of familiar faces and new names is the perfect musical combination. It takes the listener to France in the sixties.

Back then, ye-ye music was providing the soundtrack not just to France, but to much of Europe. Across Europe, the ye-ye scene was thriving, exciting, vibrant  and colourful. It was also a cosmopolitan scene. Many of the artists, including Françoise Hardy, were happy to record their singles and E.P.s in numerous languages. They could switch between German, Italian, Portuguese, English and French. This helped the ye-ye scene to spread the length and breadth of Europe. This proves that ye-ye music was far from the throwaway pop its critics would have you believe. 

That’s why the ye-ye music scene lasted longer than most musical genres. It lasted the whole of the sixties, and in the process, outlived even The Beatles. However, ye-ye music didn’t have the same impact or enjoy the same success. Many artists careers lasted just two or three years. Then they turned their back on music. However, for a few short years, ye-ye music, including that on Tojours Chic! More French Girl Singers Of The 1960s, succeeded where generations of politicians had failed to do, and unified Europe.

Looking back, it’s incredible that this musical phenomenon united Europe. That however, was the case. What’s makes this all the more remarkable, was that during this period, Europe was in the midst of a political, social, cultural and musical revolution. In the space of a few short years, Europe became unrecognisable. It was a case of out with the old, and in with the new. One of the biggest changes came in music. By the late sixties, the psychedelic era had begun. Still ye-ye music continued to be popular. However, many of its biggest names turned their back on the genre that once united Europe. A reminder of their musical legacy can be heard on Tojours Chic! More French Girl Singers Of The 1960s, which features some unlikely revolutionaries who once united Europe.

TOJOURS CHIC! MORE FRENCH GIRL SINGERS OF THE 1960s.

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