Saturday, 14 July 2012

Baby doll dresses, twee voices, false eyelashes, oversized eyewear, excess lipstick

Bastille Day, Eiffel Tower, Paris, 1936, photo by Andre de Diene

Today is Le quatorze juillet, the French National Day (or Bastille Day, if you are feeling particularly revolutionary).

To mark this eminent day for our Gallic chums, I thought I'd focus on the quintessentially French musical style - yé-yé!

As Rohin Guha writes for the website Crushable:
It’s a fad that many of us would be hard-pressed to term, but many of us recognize: The baby doll dresses. The twee voices. The false eyelashes, oversized eyewear, excess lipstick. The two-and-a-half minute jingles. Though it was dominated primarily by French, Quebecois, and Spanish popstrels who were easily interchangeable, yé-yé performers’ hallmarks seeped through the ages. Everyone from Baby Spice to Ke$ha have co-opted some element - affected naïveté, hemlines, bubbly hooks - from the yé-yé girls. During the height of its success, Susan Sontag wrote of the movement in her essay Notes On Camp:

"In the last two years, popular music (post rock-’n'-roll, what the French call yé-yé) has been annexed into the camp sensibility."

The movement takes its name from the yells of “Yeah! Yeah!” that peppered the movement’s hits. Yé-yé songs, though explicit by nature, still opted for more subtlety. It was an era when mankind on the whole wasn’t so desensitized to sex that we needed a musician to hammer us over the head with sex and booze. Fans made do with France Gall’s Les sucettes, or “Lollipops” which at once managed to be subtle and profane - clearly an allusion to oral sex.
Without further ado, here is Mademoiselle Gall herself (read my previous tribute to her), not with the "Lollipops" song [check the link above for that], but with another, groovier hit Cet air-là:

Next up is that most beautiful of the yé-yé artistes, Mlle Françoise Hardy, with a classic (later covered by - of course - Jimmy Somerville):

A lesser-known name among the singers of this genre, here is Marie Laforet with the rather fab Ivan, Boris et Moi (the dancers are Jean Yanne, Sacha Distel and Serge Gainsbourg!):

In a very weird live appearance indeed, here's another groovy Gallic chick Annie Phillippe - we really should make an effort to learn the dance steps!

And finally, the lovely (and not very French-sounding) Gillian Hills with the classic Zou bisou bisou (which was covered by, among others, Sophia Loren):

Oui, baby, oui!


  1. Yay! You know I love them Frenchies!

    1. I can see you now, at a party, doing your best Annie Phillippe impression... Jx


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