Annie Markan was lead singer of French girl group Les Gam’s before being promoted Diana Ross-style ahead of the other members. The move marked the beginnings of a solo career – one that has found Annie lasting popularity with yé-yé fans.
Annie had been a member of Les Djinns, a group that released a string of singles between 1959 and 1964 and had just one small hit, in 1960, with Marie Marie.
In September 1962, she and three other members of the group – Graziella, Michèle and Suzie – formed Les Gam’s. The name was derived from the first letter of each girl’s name, plus an errant apostrophe to add a fashionable Anglophone touch.
They issued one disc on the Vogue label before switching to Mercury for subsequent releases.
Their repertoire consisted almost exclusively of covers of American songs and they enjoyed some success.
The writing was on the wall for the group with the release of Une petite larme m’a trahie, their take on Burl Ive’s A little bitty tear, in September 1964. On it, Annie was given top billing, with credits reading Les Gam’s with Annie Markan. This signalled clearly that Mercury was grooming Annie for a solo career.
And so it transpired. She issued her first solo EP in 1965. It led with Quand mon ami pleure, a version of the little-known When my baby cries, penned by Brit girl Lesley Duncan. French lyrics had been written specially for Annie by Hubert Wayaffe, presenter of Europe 1’s Dans le vent programme.
An effort was made to distance the singer from her past with Les Gam’s. No mention was made of the group on the record’s sleeve and the lead track was in marked contrast to her earlier material. Billed as the great white hope of French rhythm ‘n’ blues, she promoted this gentle track – quite a leap from the highly danceable, if slightly shrill, Shirelles-esque numbers associated with Les Gam’s.
Sadly, the disc soon found its way to the bargain bins of Monoprix, and Annie returned to more familiar fare for her follow up. Les Gam’s had enjoyed their biggest hit with Il a le truc, a version of the Exciters’ He’s got the power, so the US group’s back catalogue was raided again for Annie.
The result was Fais comme tu voudras (the high-camp Run mascara). The EP is interesting for including Cette fois, a version of British singer Lulu’s Satisfied, and Est-ce que tu me vois, dis?, a take on Aretha Franklin’s Can’t you just see me.
Perhaps the most surprising choice was the inclusion of Tu es romantique, better known as L.O.D. (Love on delivery) by Joyce Miller, but which Les Gam’s had previously recorded for the German market as Du sagst (I love you).
But it is Annie’s two final two releases that are generally deemed her best.
When US singer Len Barry scored a hit in France with 1-2-3, bosses at Mercury decided that Annie should give it an overhaul, to become Un, deux, trois. The EP is now more collectable for Annie’s version of Martha and the Vandellas’ Nowhere to run, retitled Mon obsession me poursuit. (The song was also recorded by boy beat combo Les Lionceaux, who Annie had often performed with during her time as part of Les Gam’s.)
Issued in 1966, her final EP featured Fière allure et cheveux longs, a version of Charlie Rich’s Mohair Sam, and the original Raconte-moi, a mid-tempo dance number. A lack of success saw the singer quietly dropped by the label.
She is understood to have gone on to work in public relations.
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