The events of May 1968 across France signalled the end of the yé-yé era and a new seriousness in French pop. Unlike perky domestic stars such as Sheila or France Gall, Françoise Hardy had always had a moody image – in reality she was chronically shy. A keen astrologer, this is something she has always been quick to blame on her star sign, Capricorn: “You have the longest nights, the longest absence. When the sun is in Capricorn, you are not there. You are below the horizon. You are invisible.” 1968 was also the year she retired from public performance after a rare tour of Britain.
Françoise had set up her own independent Asparagus Productions in late 1967. Initially, her old label Vogue continued to distribute her records, but in 1969 Françoise signed a deal with the small Sonopresse imprint, where she would stay until 1972. For many of her fans this is the most intriguing and exciting part of her career.
From the beginning of her career and into the early 70s, Françoise recorded quite extensively in English, German, Italian and Spanish, but that material is not easy to find these days. This collection, recorded variously in Paris and London between 1968 and 1972, comprises tracks drawn from her albums “En Anglais”, “One-Nine-Seven-Zero” and “Françoise Hardy” (aka “If You Listen”) and offers a very welcome opportunity to hear her perform in English.
1965’s ‘All Over The World’ had given Françoise her only UK Top 20 hit. Although she couldn’t follow it up in Britain, France remained loyal and she was still a huge star there when she made her first full, specially recorded English language album “En Anglais” in 1968.
“One-Nine-Seven-Zero” – released worldwide in 1969, but never in France– was recorded at several different sessions in London and Paris, and with a number of disparate collaborators. Though its variety of studios and arrangers could have made it a patchwork, the album is held together by a clutch of songs written and produced by Tommy Brown and Micky Jones. The opening trio – ‘Song Of Winter’, ‘Magic Horse’, ‘Strange Shadows’ – are especially strong, with warm, full arrangements by Jean-Pierre Sabar.
Jones and Brown also contributed ‘Bown Bown Bown’ to 1972’s “Françoise Hardy”, recorded at Sound Techniques in Chelsea with folk rock producer Tony Cox. Sound Techniques was a bit like a social club for folk musos from Joe Boyd’s Witchseason stable. The Trees album had been recorded there, as had albums by Fairport Convention and Fotheringay. The latter’s Gerry Conway and Pat Donaldson played on the sessions for Françoise’s album, along with Richard Thompson and Fairport drummer Dave Mattacks.
There are precious few enough albums from this golden period of folk rock as it is; this release gives long overdue exposure to a unique coming together of the British folk underground and a French musical legend.
By Bob Stanley