French singer Stone is best known as half of the cheesy 1970s husband-and-wife duo Stone et Charden, but she recorded her best material as a mop-topped mademoiselle in the mid-1960s.
She was born Annie Gautrat on 31 July 1947 in Paris. In her teens, she began working in a shoe shop and spending her evenings in the Bus Palladium night club. There, friends nicknamed her Petite Stone, as they reckoned her helmet-like hair made her look like Rolling Stones guitarist Brian Jones.
In 1966 she was voted Miss Beatnik by a panel of judges that included Vietnamese-born singer-songwriter Éric Charden. The pair would ultimately marry. In the meantime, her win offered her a trip to London to help choose her British equivalent.
On the back of her notoriety, the Polydor label offered her a recording contract and she adopted Stone as her stage name.
Her first EP was issued later that year. It led with Le jour la nuit, a version of The Beatles’ You won’t see me, and remains one of her best recordings, though it didn’t arouse much attention at the time. Two of the tracks on the EP – C’est ma vie and J’aurai raison – were penned by Charden.
Stone turned to The Beach Boys as the source of her follow up, Fille ou garçon, a reworking of the American group’s Sloop John B, which was issued on the Problèmes EP. However, Sylvie Vartan, the reigning queen of French yé-yé, had also issued a version of the song (titled Mister John B) and both singers lost out in the ensuing sales war.
Charden supplied Notre génération for the release, though the song couldn’t have been further from the not dissimilarly titled hit by British group The Who.
The follow up, Pour une fille c’est différent, written by Charden and his frequent collaborator, Monty, was a superior offering. The pair would become Stone’s principal writers for subsequent releases.
Issued in late 1966, the EP disappeared without trace, however. Over time, the excellent Garde ton sang froid (the singer’s take on The Troggs’ I can't control myself), also included on the release, has become a favourite of femme pop fans.
Stone fared better with her fourth release, Baby Stone. The title track explained how the singer had earned her stage moniker and was another Charden-Monty composition. The EP made the top 20 in February 1967. Perdue dans un couloir and L’antiquité also proved highlights of the release.
In common with many of her contemporaries, Stone’s records often left listeners concluding that her tongue lay firmly in her cheek. Perhaps none more so than her follow-up EP, Vive la France. The somewhat comic lead track, in particular, gained significant airplay and gave the singer her biggest success of the 1960s.
The release gave an indication of the future direction of her career but is noteworthy for two of its other tracks, Buffalo Bill, written by Serge Gainsbourg, and the psychedelic gem Le nénuphar
from the pens of Éric Charden, Frank Thomas and Jean-Michel Rivat. The release made the top ten in April that year.
However, following up her success proved difficult.
Neither the 1968 Je reviens chez moi EP nor the single Mon polochon sold in any great quantity. Similarly, 1969’s Bonjour la vie and a self-titled LP also failed to shift.
1970’s Eurovision song contest offered the singer a chance for a comeback. Interest was high in the contest, given that Frida Boccara had won for France the previous year (tying for first place with three other singers, including Britain’s Lulu). However, Stone’s entry to the national selection was the distinctly sub-standard Goût, j’ai du goût, which failed to make it through even to the quarter finals.
Her lack of success marked the end of Stone’s solo career. For her next release, 1971’s Le seul bébé qui ne pleure pas, she joined forces with Charden, by now her husband of several years.
As a duo, Stone and Charden would score numerous cheesy hits until the middle of the decade. During this period, Charden kept his solo career going and in 1976, Stone struck out for solo success too, issuing Nos jeunes années.
Further 45s followed, including J’ai un bien gros chagrin d’amour and Demande au disc’ jockey, but the singer could not recapture the success she had enjoyed with her husband.