French singer Clothilde’s career may have been brief but she remains a popular choice among connoisseurs of Gallic girl pop. She recorded just two EPs for the Vogue record label and a couple of Italian translations for release in Italy. However, disappointed at the direction her career was taking, she called an end to her ride on pop’s merry-go-round.
She was born Élisabeth Beauvais on 22 February 1948. She grew up in Montmorency, in the suburbs of Paris.
Her father was writer Robert Beauvais and her mother actress and TV presenter Gisèle Parry. Through her mother, young Élisabeth came to cut her first disc at the age of just eight.
At 19, she met producer Germinal Tenas, who her mother had brought home to work on a project together. Tenas was a friend of Christian Fechner, the man behind cool hits for the likes of Antoine and Les Problèmes, and the pair are often mistakenly assumed to be one and the same person.
Tenas liked what he saw and, despite her reservations, he took the reluctant singer under his wing. She would have preferred to be an actress but he arranged an audition with the Vogue record label. To her dismay, she was promptly signed.
In a svengali role, Tenas dictated the look of his protégée and gave her the stage name Clothilde. He saw her as a sort of disaffected Françoise Hardy.
That he liked mixing pop sounds with unusual instruments to create a baroque pop was evident on her first EP, Fallait pas écraser la queue du chat. Issued in 1967, the four-track disc also featured Je t’ai voulu et je t’ai bien eu, La chanson bête et méchante and Le boa.
Tenas co-wrote all four songs, while Clothilde supplied the sleeve notes for the release. There she said that her record company thought she would be crowned best newcomer of the year, although – in a display of modesty – she added, “I’d like to believe them, but...”. The problem was that she didn’t care much for the songs and their tongue-in-cheek lyrics.
Two of the tracks were translated into Italian and released as Ora so cos’è (Fallait pas écraser la queue du chat) and Qualcosa che non va (La chanson bête et méchante).
However, a second French EP, issued later that year, proved Clothilde’s last. Again, it was a strong set, which led with Saperlipopette (bleuet et chiendent) and also included La ballade au bossu, 102, 103 and La verité, toute la verité.
Clothilde co-wrote two of the songs, including La ballade au bossu – a track that caused raised eyebrows for its double entendres. “Si j’avais su qu’un bossu serait le symbolique apport de mon corps,” she sang (If I had known that a hunchback would be the symbolic portion of my body). The slight pause between the two syllables of ‘bossu’ left audiences to understand “Si j’avais su qu’un beau sucerait le symbolique apport de mon corps” (If I had known a good-looking man would suck the symbolic portion of my body). The cleverness – and sauciness – of the lyrics has drawn comparisons with the work of Serge Gainsbourg.
TV appearances and features in magazines such as Salut les copains helped boost the singer’s profile.
Although Vogue bosses were keen for Clothilde to go back into the studios to record more songs, she had grown tired of the business and declined their invitations.
Instead she went back to college to study graphology and became a mother. She would make a brief return to the recording studios in the 1980s but these recordings remain unreleased.
With thanks to Swinging mademoiselles, Fane Jones, and Will Kane at The world of Kane for additional research.
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