France Gall was one of the few French singers to enjoy significant success over the border in Germany. Her first-rate catalogue of material won her many fans and her heavily accented delivery only served to increase her charm.
She first came to the attention of the German public when she won the 1965 Eurovision song contest with the Serge Gainsbourg composition Poupée de cire, poupée de son. Although she released the song in German, as Das war eine schöne Party, it was the French original that swept up the German charts, where it reached number two and became the tenth biggest selling song of the year.
Et des baisers was issued as the follow up – and reached the top 40 – but French-language hits were uncommon in Germany, so the search began for material to record in German. Her French back catalogue was raided, producing Wir sind keine Engel, a cover of her hit Nous ne sommes pas des anges, but it missed the mark in 1966.
After switching from Philips to the Decca label in 1967, she released a version of the Andy Williams favourite Music to watch girls by, Die schönste Musik, die es gibt, but it proved an inauspicious start to her new contract, missing the charts.
Decca went into overdrive to come up with a hit for the young singer. Top German songwriters Henry Mayer and Kurt Hertha – who between them had penned hits aplenty for the likes of Wencke Myhre and Gitte – were called in to provide the goods. Sadly, their lively Was will ein Boy fared no better than its predecessor.
Even Haifischbaby, a version of one of her biggest French hits, Bébé requin, failed to sell, though it has since become considered one of her finest German oeuvres. (The B-side, Hippie Hippie, has also attained a certain cult status in recent years.)
Just as it was looking as though she was going to become a one-hit (well, OK, two-hit) wonder, she pulled A Banda (zwei Apfelsinen im Haar) out of the bag. The song was a version of La banda, a Brazilian hit for Chico Buarque da Hollanda. Released in May 1968, her version made the top 20 and gave her her first German-language success.
An appearance at the 1968 Deutscher Schlager-Wettbewerb song contest gave her a further hit four months later, though the song, the excellent Computer Nr. 3, which came complete with futuristic sound effects, had been beaten into third place by Siw Malmkvist and Dorthe.
Merci, Herr Marquis – one of her best German recordings – couldn’t keep up the momentum, barely scraping into the top 40 at the end of the year, so she returned to the Schlager-Wettbewerb in 1969. Her Ein bißchen Goethe, eine bißchen Bonaparte also finished third, and gave her a top 20 hit.
She enjoyed one further German-language hit, Links vom Rhein und rechts vom Rhein, in December 1969. The follow up, Kilimandscharo, didn't sell, though, again, the B-side, Wassermann und Fisch, is worth checking out.
A further attempt at success in Schlager-Wettbewerb in 1970 with Dann schon eher der Piano-Player, fell flat after it finished a disappointly low 11th.
She didn’t grace the German charts again for nearly 20 years, with 1988’s Ella, elle l’a.