What better album to feature for Valentine’s Day than one from Paris, France: “The City of Love.” Awhile back, I set out to review an acclaimed album once a week—for Classic Album Tuesdays—chronologically from 1957 to modern day. I crapped out at 1961. The problem being most rock albums back then sucked. Don’t get me wrong. There were 31-flavors of good Jazz and Blues. Yet Rock had yet to evolve past the single. Most rockers were too busy being rebels (most of which without causes) and dying in motorcycle crashes.
What I failed to recognize in my initial mission was what was going on in the land of mayonnaise and Gerard Depardieu. A hip new genre: “Ye-ye Music” which translates to “Yeah! Yeah!” was taking shape thanks to artists like France Gall, Sylvie Vartan and of course Françoise Hardy.
Though there were male Ye-ye singers–Serge Gainsbourg being prominent in the genre–most Ye-ye singers were female, overtly sexual, Lolita types. Teenage girls who sang flirty songs teeming with double entendres and faux naivety. What separated Hardy from the rest of her peers was the maturity in her music and lyrics. And yet, she was only 18-years-old.
Françoise Hardy wasn’t singing about sleeping with older men and teasing the microphone. Hardy sang about falling in love with people her own age and the joys and trouble of modern romance. Take a look at the opening lyrics (translated in English) to the album’s title track “Tous les garçons et les filles” aka “All the Boys and Girls”
All the boys and girls my age
Walk down the street in pairs
All the boys and girls my age
Know well what it means to be happy
Eyes in eyes, and hand in hand
They fall in love without fear of tomorrow
Yes, but I, I walk the streets alone, the lost soul
Yes, but I, I am alone, because nobody loves me
It’s hard to believe lyrics this insightful not only came from such a young pop artist but from such a young pop artist in 1962. While America was busy doing “The Twist” and to a lesser extent “The Peppermint Twist” there was an artist across the pond pouring her heart into her words with all the wit and class of a great beat poet. The only thing I can think of comparing it to in America would be Bob Dylan and the Greenwich Folk Movement—great name for a prog rock band btw. Hardy was a trailblazer.
The songs are short and sweet and the mood is laid back. Imagine a bunch of beatniks in a coffee shop with berets and sunglasses snapping their fingers. It sounds like that. Everything about Hardy screams chic. Even the album cover looks like a shot from a Truffaut movie. It’s not surprising Hardy’s music works so well in indie films. If you’re a fan of Wes Anderson you might remember “Le temps de l’amour” from Moonrise Kingdom. It’s the French song in the film that has a 1960’s spy vibe to it.
Françoise Hardy is an artist who holds up surprisingly well and remains relevant to this day. She had an album out in 2012 and has recorded many great songs over the years. My personal favorite being “Comment the dire adieu” aka “How to Say Goodbye to You” but one thing is for sure, I’ll never say goodbye to these tunes. Happy Valentine’s Day!
Favorite Tracks: “Il Est Tout Pour Moi,” “Le temps de l’amour,” “Tous les garçons et les filles”