I was at a Tame Impala gig the other week when in the interlude they played a track by France Gall. The girl in front of me was so moved that she spent three minutes trying unsuccessfully to Shazam it. Eventually I told what it was and pointed her in the direction of this – the very first France Gall to get a proper UK release. It does strike me that with new Gallic bands like Melody’s Echo Chamber and Mademoiselle Nineteen saluting their 60s pop heroes as well as psych bands championing the likes of Jacques Dutronc now seems as good a time as any to plug some gorgeous French pop. Here then are my ten favourite 60s French pop videos courtesy of the wonderful YouTube.
There’s also a wonderful French 60s pop Spotify Playlist at the bottom courtesy of the fellas from Modculture.
1 Francoise Hardy – Je Changerais D’avis Francoise Hardy made so many wonderful records during the 60s and early 70s that it is a real struggle choosing just one. But for me Je Changerais nicks it for its dramatic vocal, sweeping strings and slightly bonkers video. The Divine Comedy apparently had a stab at it. The Vogue Years compilation is a good place to start and her English language recordings are well worth tracking down too.
2 Serge Gainsbourg – Initials BB Gainsbourg’s love(?) song for his mid 60s squeeze Brigitte Bardot with whom he was to record the original version of his most infamous track – Je t’aime. Many critics cite 1971’s Melody Nelson as his masterpiece, but for a sheer run of brilliant pop tunes his 66-68 period takes some beating. Shame these days he’s as remembered for being a drunken old lech who wanted to ‘foirk’ Whitney Houston as he is his unique music. Then again if you haven’t seen the Whit video…
3 France Gall – Poupee de Cire Gainsbourg again this time as the composer of France Gall’s monster break through hit Poupee de Cire. Easily the best song to win Eurovision – ok, this might be a rival had it won – France Gall went on from being the Gallic version of Lulu, through a wonderful period as a Psychedelic songstress to more mature stuff in the 70s and 80s. She also recorded some tracks in German, the best of which is this. You have to watch it to see the bemused faces of the audience.
4 Jacquleine Taieb – 7:00 AM This is one of the best mid 60s French beat pounders. Great riff, brilliant drums and a very sexy vocal. She was Moroccan and had several big-ish hits during the decade. This is her English language take. Here are some incredibly cool kids miming to it. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bpo4t-2f9mk&feature=related
5 Brigitte Bardot- Harley Davidson More Gainsbourg in his prime, this one features the lust-object of Initials BB pushing her rather limited vocal skills to the limit. You will have probably heard this before. It has been covered by several English language speaking bands and that riff has been widely sampled.
6 Eric Charden – Le Monde Est Gris, le Monde Est Bleu Seriously huge ballad from one of the unsung heroes of 60s French pop. This tune, the world is grey, the world is blue apparently was a huge hit in France in 1967 and was recorded in several other languages too though not English. In fact it is quite surprising really that Engelbert, Vince or even Cliff didn’t have a crack at it. I love the wonderfully inappropriate drumming – genius.
7 Delphine – La Fermeture Éclair Fabulous French cover of killer psych garage tune In the past, which was made famous by We The People and The Chocolate Watchband. The female French language vocals work brilliantly when layered over those spiralling sitary sounds. Ok, so dodgy vid, but don’t let that put you off.This is what French people did when they took mind expanding drugs – looks very civilised. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SogzcyinZGs&feature=related
8 Jacques Dutronc – Et moi, et moi, et moi Dutronc had plenty going for him in the 60s. A Dylan-esque whine, Stonesy beats, some great tunes and Francois Hardy for a girlfriend he was the epitomy of Gallic cool. In the 90s there was a band who basically played cover versions of his songs. They were impossibly cool too.
9 Annie Philippe – C’est la mode Quite possibly my favourite French 60s tune ever, C’est la mode is a Stonesy romp complete with wicked fuzz guitar and a dash of folk rock. Would love it if someone could explain the bonkers video though. She is still making music and she still looks great.
10 Les Parapluies de Cherbourg From one of the most amazing films of all time – imagine a French Singing in the rain, but one that is way cooler and heartbreakingly beautiful – comes this Michel Legrand penned big ballad. Scott Walker was smitten with it and recorded this and several other Legrand tunes. Any movie that manages to make Cherbourg look sexy has to be a work of genius. Don’t get too upset about the sentiment though. While he’s off getting shot at in the Algerian war she takes up with a decent, but slightly slimy jewel dealer. So true love is dashed once again…