French singer-songwriter Violaine released just two EPs, but has found lasting popularity among fans of femme pop, particularly for the 1966 gem J’ai des problèmes décidément.
She was born Violaine Pilzer and grew up in Neuilly-sur-Seine, in the north-western suburbs of Paris. She was the younger half-sister of singer Christine Pilzer. Though the pair had different fathers, both took Violaine’s father’s Hungarian surname, Pilzer.
At the age of 14, Violaine was given a guitar and began composing her own songs. She wanted to become a singer-songwriter, she told her family, and later put on shows for them.
Later she was offered the chance to perform at the legendary Golf Drouot club, but turned it down, saying she wasn’t interested in being part of the yé-yé scene. But when Eddie Barclay, owner of the Barclay record label, told her he could make her a star, she changed her mind.
He offered her a contract with the Riviera label, a subsidiary of Barclay, and played demos of her singing to executives from the Ford motor company who were looking to sponsor a singer as part of an advertising campaign. They liked what they heard and agreed to back her.
The 20 year old was whisked into the studio to record her first EP. The four-track release led with Cessez la guerre, which Violaine had written about the supposed war going on between singer Antoine and the king of French rock, Johnny Hallyday. The three remaining songs were Il n y a que des chansons (a tribute to singer Donovan), Ma casquette and fan favourite J’ai des problèmes décidément, which she’d written about her family. The EP was issued in April 1966 and received some attention, but it failed to chart.
She was obliged to release a second EP as part of the deal reached with Ford. However, the result was a far more hastily thrown-together collection, rush released to coincide with a poster campaign the motor giant was running, which featured the singer. Violaine had to finish the lyrics to Cousin Kneypper, one of the four tracks on the release, in the studio, and a musicians’ strike meant that the arrangements weren’t as polished as she might have hoped.
The EP, Adieu l’amitié, failed upon its release in November 1966 and Violaine was dropped from the label within weeks.
She went to work in an office while she saved enough money to go travelling.
In 1968, before leaving, she was asked to record a song for the soundtrack of the film Erotissimo. However, when the film and soundtrack were released, her vocals had been credited to actress Annie Girardot. If her experience with Riviera and Ford had left a sour taste in her mouth, this one made her want to spit with rage.
It proved, unsurprisingly, the end of her career in music.
With thanks to Christian Eudeline for additional information.