Wednesday, 2 December 2009

Dec. 2nd: Salut Les Copains!

Various Artists: Sixties Girls Vol. 1 (Magic Records, 1998

This is a cheap French repackaging of four 1960s yéyé EPs by various French girl singers, of whom the best known by some margin is Françoise Hardy. Yéyé is a musical style originating from 1960s France in response to nascent American youth culture and rock and roll. There are numerous conventions which usually pop up; for example choral backing vocals, brushed drums,  French language adaptations of English hits, and fairly interchangeable singers with few writing credits to their name (the exception is Hardy, who has far transcended her yéyé beginnings).
The songs here, 16 plus a bonus track of the theme tune and jingles to 'Salut Les Copains' , one of the first French youth programmes- are all pretty much archetypal examples of high-quality yéyé, particularly Christine Lebail's 'Les Livres d'École' and 'L'an prochain sur la plage' and Christine Delaroche's 'La Porte à Coté'. All very good for dancing to and singing along-whether you know French or not.
The only slight disappointment, ironically, is Françoise Hardy's contributions; all English versions of her French hits when her English pronounciation was 'interesting'-far inferior to the originals. These serve as a terrible introduction to her work in general, most useful for trying to decode what's she's singing (e.g. 'I'm asking zee stars up a bow'). The widely available Vogue Years compilation contains all her songs here in their original forms and far more of some of the best music of its type, and of France in general.

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