Francoise Hardy may have been the most stereotypically French of the Yē-Yē girls: Aloof, sophisticated and beautifully melancholy. Nevertheless, her sound was one that was largely made in England – or, at least, by English hands, among them producer and arranger Charles Blackwell, the songwriting and production team of Tommy Brown and Micky Jones, and sometime co-writer Pierre Tubbs. By 1968, with Hardy now overseeing her own Asparagus label, the artist chose to give free reign to this facet of her work by recording a trio of albums en anglais, all of which have been lovingly compiled into Ace International’s single cd set Midnight Blues.
At the height of the Yeh Yeh Girl craze, literally dozens upon dozens of teenage girls filed through the recording studios of Western Europe and, from there, onto the airwaves. For every true artiste like Francoise Hardy, I suspect there were many more who were compelled by external forces such as svengalis and stage parents. Yet, as the brief and quite odd career of Clothilde demonstrates, the results in those cases were not always as manufactured sounding as that might imply.
France Gall might not have had the sophisticated mystique of Francoise Hardy, the it girl “oomph” of Sylvie Vartan, or the continental sensuality of Bardot, but she was nonetheless an integral part of the Yeh Yeh Girl pantheon. It could even be said that her young age — 15 at the time of signing her first recording contract — made her the most accurate reflection of that uniquely French musical movement’s teeny bopper audience. As such, she presented a guileless naiveté that perhaps made her an ideal blank slate upon which some of France’s best professional songwriters could project their pop fantasies — the most well known of those being Gall “family friend” Serge Gainsbourg. Because, really, who better to entrust your teenage daughter’s fortunes to than Serge Gainsbourg?