Reviews

Yé-yé girls of ‘60s French pop – Jean-Emmanuel Deluxe
This is the book fans of France’s yé-yé sound have been waiting for. Over 250 pages crammed full of well-researched trivia, photos and lyrics will please novices and experts alike. After an amuse-bouche of a foreword by 1980s popster Lio, the book serves up a starter that provides an overview of the socio-economic situation in 1960s France. The main course is a generous helping of all the singers we love. From the ‘big four’ to the second division of singers – with a generous dusting of foreign femmes, funny girls and folk mademoiselles for good measure – this book has them all. Perhaps surprisingly, Sheila doesn’t get a chapter to herself like singers such as France Gall or Sylvie Vartan do, but no matter. There is enough here to keep any reader engrossed for many an hour.

It’s different for girls – Merle Phillips and Margaret Brown
This book bills itself as “the story behind one of Britain’s first 1960s all-girl rock groups, Mandy and the Girlfriends, a ‘girls in the garage’ band”. That’s certainly true, but what that description doesn’t even hint at is just how touching – and hilarious – this book is. Its authors, two of the group’s members, are natural storytellers. They take it in turns to recount the rise of the five-piece girl band, from humble beginnings in Hull to tours of the US air bases in Germany and beyond. Theirs is an engaging tale of talent, luck and coincidence in equal measure, told in a style that is both disarmingly honest and delightfully self-deprecating. The two women also record their conversations while they reminisce – and this really helps bring the pair alive for the reader. Together, Phillips and Brown are like a Wood and Walters for 2013. In the words of Margaret, “Right, pie mash breath… You’re banned from this chapter, so go away and put the kettle on.”

The real Kathy Kirby: No secret anymore – Mark Willerton
Author Mark Willerton first met Kathy Kirby in 1981 and the pair became good friends. Their friendship lasted until 2011, when Kathy died unexpectedly. So he is ideally placed to chronicle the star’s life story. This insightful biography reveals not only the highs of the singer’s life but also the lows. It takes in the time when Kathy was Britain’s highest-paid female singer and represented her country at the Eurovision song contest. It also covers the more challenging periods, such as when she was attacked in her home and when she was admitted to a mental hospital. Willerton fuses his own memories of the singer with recorded fact and recollections from her contemporaries to craft a compelling tale. His attention to detail and a selection of rare photos make this a must-have for anyone looking to see behind the lipgloss. Signed copies of the book are available from the authorised Kathy Kirby website.

Various artists – Beginner’s guide to French pop
We’re always delighted when we come across a new compilation featuring songs by some our favourite female singers of the 1960s – especially when some of the tracks have previously been hard to find. Such was the case with this triple CD of gems from the EMI vaults. The first disc covers 1963 and 1964 and includes Alice Dona’s Réveille-toi and Fabienne’s Cours si tu as peur. The second disc is even better for yé-yé fans, with tracks from 1965 and 1966 by Virginia Vee, Michèle Arnaud, Jennifer, Anne Kern, Dani, Christie Laume and Nicole Legendre. The third disc sees out the decade, with songs by Charlotte Walters, Jacqueline Taïeb and Véronique Sanson, amongst others. The set is a welcome addition to any francopop fan’s collection. However, its title is something of a misnomer. It can’t really be considered a beginner’s guide to French pop of the period – it simply doesn’t contain enough hits from enough stars of the day to justify that claim. That said, with its bargain price tag, it’s worth seeking out all the same.

France Gall – Made in France: France Gall’s baby pop
Incredibly, it’s 47 years since France Gall romped to victory at the Eurovision song contest in Naples with Poupée de cire, poupée de son. Her winning song was, arguably, the first contemporary tune to win the contest and had been penned by no less than Serge Gainsbourg, Gallic pop’s enfant terrible. The teen singer had worked with Gainsbourg before, starting with N’écoute pas les idoles a year earlier. Indeed, Gainsbourg would write many of Gall’s hits – and a number of her most controversial tracks, including, most notably, Les sucettes. This ode to the joys of sucking a lollipop was the very height of double-entendre but it left the singer publicly humiliated when she discovered the song’s other meaning. It marked the beginning of the end of the relationship between the two of them. That’s a shame, as this terrific compilation of their joint oeuvres – brought to us by those lovely people at RPM – amply demonstrates that, together, Gall and Gainsbourg were pop genius.

Clodagh Rodgers – Come back and shake me: The Kenny Young years 1969-71
What Brit girl fans really want of a Clodagh Rodgers CD is a compilation of all of the singer’s 1960s releases, from her early days at Decca to the hit years at RCA. In the meantime, we have this. Like the budget CDs that have gone before, this collection brings together the cream of Clodagh’s recordings from her time at RCA, under the guidance of Kenny Young. On it, you’ll find the catchiest of pop, including hits such as Come back and shake me, Goodnight midnight, Biljo and, of course, Clodagh’s 1971 Eurovision entry, Jack in the box. It also includes lesser-known but equally good releases, such as Everybody go home the party’s over and The colors are changing. Where it differs from its predecessors is in the bumper number of tracks (25 in total) and in the liner notes. With a booklet packed full of information and quality photos, this CD sits head and shoulders above previous Clodagh Rodgers compilations.

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