French girl group Les Gam’s were billed as a kind of Shirelles à la française. With a repertoire almost exclusively of covers of US hits, they enjoyed some success and spawned a solo career for lead singer Annie Markan.
Les Gam’s consisted of Graziella Portail, Annie Markan, Michèle Léger and Suzie Gorini. They had been members 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.
The four girls formed their own group in September 1962, Les Gams. The name was derived from the first letter of each girl's name.
The new group’s first release was Cheveux fous et lèvres roses, issued on the Vogue label. The song had been a hit that year for Les Compagnons de la Chanson and was perhaps a surprising choice.
Although the record failed to shift, it led to live work for the group, and in Brussels they were spotted performing by producer Lee Hallyday. He signed the group to the Mercury label for subsequent releases and added an erroneous apostrophe to the group’s name to give it a fashionable Anglophone touch.
Hitting it big
Seeing Claude François and heartthrob Dany Logan both enjoy hits with Dis-lui, a cover of The Exciters’ US hit Tell him, the girls covered the group’s He’s got the power, as Il a le truc.
The EP – which also included Ne dis pas du mal de mon amour, a version of US girl group The Cookies’ Don’t say nothin’ bad about my baby, and Oui les filles, a take on Bob B Soxx and the Blue Jeans’ Why do lovers break each other’s hearts – bounded into the French top 20 in June 1963.
To promote it, the girls took part in a tour under the banner of the popular Salut les copains television programme alongside big stars such as Sylvie Vartan.
In the autumn of 1963, the group released C’est bien fait pour toi, a cover of Lesley Gore’s Judy’s turn to cry. The EP also included the excellent Attention! Accident, a version of the Beach Boys’ Shut down, Je ne pourrais jamais l’oublier, a take on The Raindrops’ The kind of boy you can't forget, and, rather unimaginatively, another Exciters cover, Tiens-le (Get him).
The EP fared less well than its predecessor, and the girls began providing back-up vocals for Claude François alongside their own recording work. This saw them perform often with beat boy combo Les Lionceaux.
In March 1964, they issued the slowie La soirée est finie and in July that year, Oh! Wow wow wee, both covers of US releases. The latter EP is notable for containing the girls’ only French original, the pleasant L’été reviendra.
Over the border
For the German market, the girls recorded Wo ist unsere Liebe?, a cover of The Supremes’ first US chart topper, Where did our love go.
However, as the American girl group hadn’t managed to score a hit with a German version of the song, released as the B-side of the first of their two German-language releases, Moonlight and kisses, it seemed unlikely that the heavily accented French group would fare any better with their somewhat anaemic version – and they didn’t.
(Interestingly, the B-side, Du sagst (I love you), was a re-working of L.O.D. (Love on delivery) – better known by Joyce Miller – and Annie would later record it again in French.)
Back at home, Une petite larme m’a trahie, a version of Burl Ive’s 1962 country-pop hit A little bitty tear, was issued as the group’s final release in September 1964. The EP also contained Toujours un coin qui m’a rappelle, a version of Sandie Shaw’s (Always) something there to remind me, which had provided French singer Eddy Mitchell with a big hit, and Impatiente (d’être seule pour pleurer), penned by soul singer Jack Hammer.
For the release, singer Annie was promoted Diana Ross-style above the rest of the group, and the EP was credited to Les Gam’s with Annie Markan.
The move prompted a solo career for Annie Markan, albeit a not overly successful one. She released four EPs between 1965 and 1966, all still for the Mercury label.
Band mate Graziella also managed a solo release, Seulement l’embrasser, which she helped pen and was issued in 1966 on the Decca label. Meanwhile, Suzie, who by this time had married Lee Hallyday, issued the duet Les copains menier, credited to Pascale and Suzie.