Tuesday, January 09, 2018


    So cute. These days, “barely legal” ye-ye girls would not be allowed to frolic. In a kind of milder, gentler age, we appreciated youthful exuberance without that much leering. In France, they went oui-oui over one of their favorite “Ye Ye” girls, France Gall.

    It was just, well, NICE to see Annette in those “beach party” movies, and we liked the cheerful nature of the flat-chested bikini-wearing “Laugh-In” girls Goldie Hawn and Judy Carne. Chirps who weren’t overtly busty (like Little Eva or Petula Clark) were also welcome.  So were the Asian versions like Rita Chao. I suppose the closest thing to “ye ye” girls today are female gymnasts, who are perky, flexible, leave nothing to the imagination, but aren’t overtly sexual. But…back to France. 

    One of the first music stars to pass on in 2018 is France Gall. Most people think anyone from France has a lot of gall. But no, not the French ladies we love so much.  

    Isabelle Genevieve Gall (October 9, 1947-January 7, 2018) first gained fame at 16 with “Ne Sois Pas Si Bete” (“Dont Be So Stupid”). Somehow she represented Luxembourg in the 1965 Eurovision Song Contest, and won with a song written by her friend Serge Gainsbourg. She recorded it in both German, Italian and Japanese versions (“Poupee de Cire, Poupee De Son” was the French original) but didn’t try for the UK/USA market. An irony is that she had a hit with “L’ Amerique.” 

       Her biggest hit was probably another Gainsbourg item, the sassy "Laisse tomber les filles.” It wasn’t exactly big because of her singing, but her personality. At the time, she probably was considered similar to Lesley Gore, in that both were given credit more for attitude than ability. Was anyone claiming Gore displayed a lot of range and emotion on “It’s My Party,” or the rather monotonous “California Nights?” No, it was just pop. 

    Walt Disney actually thought the breathy, pretty French pop singer might make a perfect Alice for a new production of “Alice in Wonderland,” but he died and the project died with him.

    Gall’s maturity led her to try for more than kiddie songs pop songs, and “ye ye” rave-ups. Gainsbourg wrote “Teenie Weenie Boppie,” which offered up a strange video of France seemingly passed out on LSD.


     In the video she was carried around a pleasure boat by two black dancers. Inside, someone dressed as Napoleon frugs with various wigged women, while France, wandering around the boat eventually collapses, glassy eyed, and her stiff (apparently dead body) carried off by the sorrowful black dancers and a coterie of white-clad women.

    Gall fans didn’t seem to want anymore of this, and that included “Qui se Souveient de Caryl Chessman,” an anti-capital punishment song that referenced California’s “Red Light Bandit.” Chessman, after many appeals and a book smuggled out detailing his life, was sent to the electric chair by Gov. Pat Brown (yes, father of current California governor Jerry Brown) even though he hadn’t killed anyone. 

    Considered washed up at 21, France turned from her native country to concentrate on recording in German, scoring several Top 10 hits. Below, you’ll hear “Die schönste Musik, die es gibt” which you’ll recognize as “Music to Watch Girls By,” popularized as an instrumental in an American TV commercial but with a life of its own in various idiotic lyrics. How idiotic the German lyrics are, I have no idea. 

    In 1974, she found new inspiration via Michel Berger, who tended to write much more romantic tunes than Gainsbourg. Veronique Sanson once covered Berger via an entire album of his quite beautiful music. You’ll find the 1987 track “Ella Elle L’a” (a tribute to Ella Fitzgerald) to be very typical not only of the mature France Gall, and of the work of Berger, but also similar in lilt to Veronique Sanson and some of the latter songs of Mylene Farmer. It’s rhythm-driven with that unusual flirtation in dancing along the dark keys more than the safer ones that don’t involve flats and sharps.  

    The song is a celebration of the feel-good scat singer, and of “du peuple noir” in general, "the black people" whose music and lifestyle balance and dance between “love and despair.” 

C'est comme une gaité
Comme un sourire
Quelque chose dans la voix
Qui parait nous dire "viens"
Qui nous fait sentir étrangement bien

C'est comme toute l'histoire
Du peuple noir
Qui se balance
Entre l'amour et l'désespoir

Quelque chose qui danse en toi
Si tu l'as, tu l'as
Ella, elle l'a
Ce je-ne-sais-quoi
Que d'autres n'ont pas
Qui nous met dans un drôle d'état

Ella, elle l'a Ella, elle l'a
Cette drôle de voix

    She had a mature beauty, didn't she! 

    Through the 80’s, she and Berger enjoyed a great deal of success, but in 1992, Michel suffered a fatal heart attack. Their child, who had cystic fibrosis, died five years later. She was pretty much retired at that point, but hardly forgotten. A documentary on her, “France Gall par France Gall” was broadcast on French TV in 2001. She remained an icon in her native country, and when cancer took her a few days ago, France’s President Macron praised her “sincerity and generosity,” and her “songs known to all French.” And yes, to many of us around the world.

Ella elle l’a - No Passwords, Spyware, or cries of "Cheers!" "Enjoy!" "Dig it!" "Get it!" or "Give me a Paypal donation"

Die schönste Musik, die es gibt - Music to Watch Girls By in German - No crap-ads or fake notices that your Adobe is out of date and needs a malware download  

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