This time last year we were frantically preparing for the release on Big Beat International of Sheila Burgel’s “Nippon Girls: Japanese Pop, Beat & Bossa Nova 1966-1970” compilation (CDWIKD 288). The CD ended up drawing a very favourable reception, particularly from hip young sophisticates with a yen for something edgy and different to inspire them on the dance-floor. For the inaugural issue on our new Ace International imprint we stray a little less far from home, hopping just over the Channel to France, epicentre of the 1960s yé-yé girl phenomenon.
Comprising 24 tracks by 20 acts, “C’est Chic!” features many of the premier female vocalists to emerge from France during the 60s. Also included are a few French-singing non-nationals, such as Cairo-born Liz Brady, Danish actress Anna Karina and ultra-chic half-French Londoner Louise Cordet, the girl who taught Paul McCartney to hully gully.
Of all the yé-yé girls, only the exquisite Françoise Hardy was afforded the privilege of consistent British releases throughout the 1960s. Her catalogue is so consistently excellent that almost any of her recordings could have graced this collection. The pragmatic fatalism of ‘Voilà’ and the baroque loveliness of Nirvana’s ‘Tiny Goddess’, translated as ‘Je Ne Sais Pas Ce Que Je Veux’ by the lady herself, clinched their inclusion. Adorable cover girl France Gall, cult favourite Jacqueline Taïeb and top Gallic girl group Les Gam’s are also represented by two titles apiece.
The majority of the songs here are French compositions, but not all; astute listeners will recognise some in their original English language versions. ‘We Got A Thing That’s In The Groove’ (a hit for US soul group the Capitols), ‘I’m Going Out With The Girls’ (original version: Barbara Chandler), ‘Laugh At Me’ (Sonny Bono), ‘Around And Around We Go’ (Lonnie Jay & the Jaynes), ‘He’s In Town’ (the Tokens) and ‘The Sha La La Song’ (Marianne Faithfull) are given a distinctive French twist by Charlotte Leslie, Les Surfs, Sheila, Louise Cordet, Ria Bartok and Marie Laforêt respectively.
Co-compiler Malcolm Baumgart and I are currently immersed in the music of the yé-yé girls of Italy and Spain with a view to future Ace International releases. Also in the works is a collection of the compositions of Serge Gainsbourg, enfant terrible of the yé-yé generation, from whose vast catalogue ‘Roller Girl’ by Anna Karina, ‘Non, A Tous Les Garçons’ by Michèle Torr and ‘Laisser Tomber Les Filles’ by France Gall are among this groovy set’s other highlights. If the latter sounds familiar, you may have experienced it on a Tarantino soundtrack translated as ‘Chick Habit’ by April March.
“C’est Chic!” comes with a gorgeously illustrated 24-page booklet featuring a 5,000 word track-by-track commentary. Much of the information was sourced from the Ready Steady Girls! website, a must-visit for all devotees of female yé-yé: