A twangin’ collection of the finest instrumental bands from yé-yé era France.
When rock’n’roll music hit the shores of France, it was embraced with a fervour more intense than in other European countries. The first wave of French rock bands, represented by Les Chats Sauvages, Les Chaussettes Noires and others, set the stage for the yé-yé scene, with their early rockabilly/rock’n’roll sound leading a generation of Gallic teens to follow suit and launch their own groups. Many were inspired to form combos by the Shadows, the reigning kings of instrumental rock throughout Europe in the early 60s. Every country in Europe had bands vying to be the top instrumental group in their homeland but nowhere was the competition more fierce than in Paris and, more specifically, at the Golf Drouot, a mini-golf/tearoom turned nightclub that became a rite of passage for every French band. Known also as “Le Temple Du Rock”, the club and its owner, Henri Leproux, became central to the fertile music scene in France, forming the connecting thread for all the bands featured on this compilation. Many renowned songwriters, producers and musicians got their start in this second wave of French rock’n’roll, which was rich with instrumental groups now mostly forgotten in favour of their more widely known American and British counterparts.
Many of the bands heard in this compilation included in their repertoires the well-known standards of the day. Their original efforts, though, are often more interesting, illustrating the great French tendency to digest American music as one giant lump, instead of seeing the genre-divided subsets that dictated the way Americans consumed music in their own country. This made for some very original songwriting completely unlike contemporary American offerings, such as Léo Missir’s Django Reinhardt-infused surf rock number ‘T’Shirt’ or the Leo Petit-penned ‘Galaxie’, which featured a melody more akin to European folk music than anything American rock would produce.
Also on display in this music is the production of the era’s French recordings, which are grimier, noisier and less refined than their British, American and even Italian equivalents, due in part to differences in available equipment and also their recording engineers’ level of experience with rock’n’roll. What the final product did not lack was a distinctive vibe or feeling. For all the ways French recordings of the 60s may have been deficient – the tempos were always a little faster, the signal hit the tape a little harder, the effects were at times heavy-handed, the EQs were muddy or unrefined – they made up for in attitude. With time, these recordings have inspired a charming sense of endearment in modern-day listeners seduced by the dense lo-fi grime. Another important sonic distinction exists in reference to guitar effects. Whereas in America the creamy Fender spring units were the reverb of choice, the French (and Europeans in general) relied on tape-based echo effects like the clunky but far more spacey-sounding Klemt Echolette, manufactured in Germany.
Among the featured musicians are numerous who contributed to the sound of celebrated artists such as France Gall, Sylvie Vartan, Johnny Hallyday, Sheila, Charles Aznavour, Dick Rivers, Eddy Mitchell, Richard Anthony and Ronnie Bird by providing their accompaniment. Some of the contributors are expats, such as American jazz guitar great turned French producer/songwriter Mickey Baker, and others hail from closer, among them the UK’s Krewkats, Tommy Brown and Micky Jones, but they all come together to form this quintessentially French collection for your listening pleasure. Dive in and enjoy!