C'est Chic: French Girl Singers of the 1960s, Ace International

France Gall
  • Ace International
  • Eurovision winner France Gall

Since my French music collection consists primarily of "male singers of the 1960s"—Serge Gainsbourg, Jacques Dutronc, etc.—this 24-track yé-yé compilation helps to even things out. I've got a Jane Birkin record and an Anna Karina set, but I don't own any albums by France Gall or François Hardy (though a fellow Gallic enthusiast compiled cassettes of their material for me several years ago).

This finger-snapping compilation includes every lady mentioned above, except for Birkin, but then she's well represented on a rash of Gainsbourg releases, as well as plenty of solo efforts, one of which was recently reissued by Light in the Attic.

If you want to nitpick, Sylvie Vartan also counts as an oversight, except she shows up on another of my French comps, 2003's semi-legit Pop! Pop! Pigalle!, which covers the 1960s and '70s, but doesn't duplicate any of the same songs.

Sounds like Gainsbourg’s response to "Wild Thing."

Of the other big names, C'est Chic includes Brigitte Bardot ("Ne Me Laisse pas L'Aimer"), who previously found a place in my stacks through her collaborations with Gainsbourg, while Britain's Petula Clark makes the cut with "Donne Moi."

That leaves 15 acts with which I'm not familiar: Jacqueline Taïeb, Arlette Zola, Charlotte Leslie, Christie Laume, Ria Bartok, Marie Laforet, Annie Philippe, Jocelyne, Alice Dona, Louise Cordet, Les Gam's [sic] with Annie Markan, Sheila, Les Surfs, Michele Torr, and Liz Brady. Granted, I am familiar with Laforet's most famous film role: as the female lead in 1960's Plein Soleil with Alain Delon.

Naturally, Gainsbourg has a few fingerprints on this thing. He wrote the Karina and Torr tracks ("Roller Girl" and "Non, a Tous les Garcons") and one of the two Gall numbers ("Laisser Tomber les Filles" with Alain Goraguer and his Orchestra).

As Malcolm Baumgart and Mick Patrick write in the 24-page booklet, "The very James Bond sounding 'Laisser Tomber les Filles' was a summer-time smash in 1964. If it sounds familiar, you may have heard it on a Tarantino soundtrack translated as 'Chick Habit' by April March." (They’re referring to Deathproof.)

As for "Roller Girl," they note that it comes from Gainsbourg's 1967 made-for-television musical Anna and describe the song as "striking, almost punkish."

In addition, Gerry Goffin and Carole King co-wrote Bartok's "Tu la Revois" and Sonny Bono co-wrote Sheila's "La Meme Heure." In the US, the Tokens, of "The Lion Sleeps Tonight" fame, had a top 5 hit with the Goffin/King composition—in English, "He's in Town"—while the Rockin' Berries did the same in the UK.

The booklet also provides cover art and refreshingly unbiased biographies. About Bardot, for instance, they write, "The 67-year-old animal rights activist has attracted a certain notoriety for a string of anti-Islamic diatribes, which have earned her five convictions for inciting racial hatred." It seems fitting then for her to end up on a release that includes Malagasy sextet Les Surfs and Tunisian-born singers Taïeb, Jocelyne (Jocelyne Esther Journo), and Leslie (Rosetta Aiello).

Most of these ladies are still going strong. Sadly, Ria Bartok perished in a fire at the age of 27, while Jocelyne was killed in a motorcycle accident at 20.

C'est Chic is out now. According to Ace International, "The compilers are currently immersed in the recordings of the yé-yé girls of Italy and Spain."

Meanwhile, singer/actress Jane Birkin pays tribute to her ex-husband, Serge Gainsbourg, at the Neptune Theatre on Tuesday, 11/29 (8pm, $34 adv).