Louise Cordet is sometimes dismissed as a one-hit wonder after failing to capitalise on the success of her debut single, I’m just a baby. However, the singer carved out a fairly respectable career for herself, both in her British homeland and in her parents’ native France. After abandoning her music career at the age of just 19, she went on to provide linguistic coaching for Marianne Faithfull’s French recording sessions.
Louise Cordet was born Louise Boisot on 8 February 1945 in Berkshire, west of London. Her parents were French pilot Marcel Boisot and actress Hélène Cordet. Cordet had been a presenter on the BBC’s Café continental TV series in the late 1940s and early 1950s.
Louise’s grandparents on her mother’s side were Greek and had been friends with the family of Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh. Thus, both Louise and her brother became godchildren to the British royal.
Louise grew up in London and was schooled at the French Lycée in South Kensington. In her teens, she transferred to a convent in Lausanne, Switzerland.
In 1953, to her great excitement, she took a bit part in the film The limping man.
In late 1961, together with her mother and brother, Louise recorded several songs that were put onto a disc and given to friends as Christmas presents. One of the recipients was Decca Records boss Marcel Stellman, who was charmed by Louise’s take on Connie Francis’ Who’s sorry now and invited the teenager for an audition.
The singer passed with flying colours, and on signing to the label, she took her mother’s name professionally, becoming Louise Cordet.
She was handed to former Shadow turned producer Tony Meehan, who brought in the help of songwriter Jerry Lordan. Between them, the two men would become responsible for much of Louise’s recording career.
She was launched with the catchy I’m just a baby, a song that Lordan had written with Brenda Lee in mind. Issued in June 1962, the disc risked casting Louise in the role of yet another Helen Shapiro wannabe. However, this tag didn’t stick and the record sailed into the charts, reaching number 13 that summer. Louise was holidaying with her family in Italy at the time of its release, and her absence prevented her from promoting the record. Whether this affected sales unduly is open to debate.
The record’s success, coupled with Louise’s fluent French, made it perhaps inevitable that Decca would attempt to launch the singer in France. Her UK hit was duly translated and released as Je n’suis qu’un baby.
Back at home, the similar-sounding Sweet enough became her follow-up. Issued in the autumn of 1962, it failed to repeat the sales of its predecessor, however. (The song was also issued on an EP in France.)
In February 1963, record buyers on both sides of the Channel were treated to the release of an EP that led with the excellent Lordan/Meehan composition She’s got you. Sadly, it went unnoticed in both countries.
After appearing in the film Just for fun in 1963, Louise set out on promotional tours of both France and Britain. This guaranteed the singer exceptional exposure – appearing before huge crowds as she supported first the French king of rock ‘n’ roll, Johnny Hallyday, and then at home, The Beatles.
To coincide with her British tour she released a version of Lonnie Jay and the Jaynes’ Around and around in May 1963. The song would appear on a French EP a month later, translated as L’amour tourne en rond. The EP also included a couple of French originals, Faire le grand voyage and Que m’a-t-il fait, from the pen of Jean-Roger Setti, one of Johnny Hallyday’s songwriters.
Gerry and the Pacemakers also appeared on the bill of the Beatles tour and Louise struck up a friendship with Gerry Marsden. The Liverpudlian star offered her the song Don’t let the sun catch you crying, which became Louise’s fourth British 45, in February 1964. (When it failed to trouble chart compilers, Marsden issued his own version and was rewarded with a top ten hit.)
Louise also cut the song in French as Laisse le soleil sécher tes larmes for what would prove her final French EP. The disc, issued in March 1964, led with the strong Pour toi (a version of the Joe Burke-penned For you) and also included J’aime trop Johnny (a take on Ted Lewis’ 1930s hit Have you ever been lonely) and the French original Dix mille fois.
By mid-1964, singers such as Cilla Black and Dusty Springfield had scored massive hits in Britain with songs by US songwriters Burt Bacharach and Hal David. Louise was duly dispatched into the studio to record a version of Don’t make me over, originally an American hit for Dionne Warwick. (Louise insists the move was less calculated – the song was simply one she liked a lot, she has since said.) John Lennon recommended a song to go on the B-side of the single, Mary Wells’ Motown hit Two lovers. Both recordings feature future Led Zeppelin guitarist Jimmy Page, plus backing vocals from The Breakaways, but the single failed to chart. For many girl pop aficionados, however, it is this, Louise’s final UK 45, that is the finest of her short career.
In France, Nancy Holloway had enjoyed a hit with T’en va pas comme ça, her take on Don’t make me over, so no plans were made for Louise to cut the song in French too.
Back in the UK, It’s so hard to be good, a track that was included in the soundtrack to the little-known film Just for you proved Louise’s final recording.
Disappointed at her lack of success, Louise enrolled at secretarial college, before taking a job with a photographic agency. Through connections she made there, she began working for Marianne Faithfull and provided linguistic coaching for the latter’s French recording sessions.
Louise left the world of pop altogether shortly afterwards.
She would go on to marry a Greek man and now divides her time between the UK and Greece.