Friday, January 2, 2009

"Hang it up, Daddy"--The Power of the Girl Group

So it's been a few months, but I'm happy to announce to all of my lovely readers that I have completed college. And since a bachelor's degree doesn't necessarily mean a full-time job (I am finding out) I have plenty of spare time to bring you delicious poppy beat-y hip-shakin music in the new year. But first, a big digression that definitely has something to do with music, I promise.
Since school ended, I have been reading a fantastically empowering book called Cunt: A Declaration of Independence by a writer called Inga Muscio.

Muscio is a self-proclaimed "cunt-lovin" feminist, encouraging her readers to reclaim the word "cunt" as a term of empowerment. Her whimsical, we're-best-friends prose makes for entertaining, light reading that gives me something to think about before I turn out the light each night.

Cunt has, in particular, caused me to to think about my own history and experiences with feminism. As a child, I was shuttled from rally to rally by my second-waver mom (who often changed the end of fairy tales so that the women triumphed). She embraced a more militant feminism than the today's so-called "third wave"--a more loose and sexualized kind of girl power.

I'm no fan of the staunch, Andrea Dworkin-like philosophy of shutting down all porn and male sexuality, but I sometimes become nervous about where this new "embrace the sex culture" feminism is going. The most simple definition of a feminist is simply someone who wants women to have the same opportunities as men. But we as a third wave generation, steeped in sex, have made things more complicated. Where does the feminism stop and the exploitation begin?

After reading Muscio's chapter on women and art, I began to think about my own conflicts when it comes to art--in particular my penchant for--okay, obsession with---a genre of music (Ye-Ye)in which women were regularly exploited. Serge Gainsbourg, who wrote many ye-ye hits, had a slew of ladies that he manipulated, particularly the young France Gall.

I can't find this interview below with subtitles, but at about 1:16, Serge asks France what the song Les Sucettes might be about. She answers with the literal meaning, "a girl who really loves lollipops!", and we hear Serge say something to the effect of "No, that's not it". In the video following their conversation France Gall is shown surrounded by dancers-- costumed in phallic lollipop garb-- as the young singer innocently smiles into the camera. The documentary then cuts to an older France, who insists that she didn't know, and felt hurt and shocked when she found out what the song was about.

Do I find the music video for "Les Sucettes" delightful? Yes. Serge Gainsbourg--chauvinistic as he was--is a brilliant song writer. I could sit around and kick myself for loving it so much, but my ultimate conclusion is...why? Why rob myself of such remarkable music?

Sex is great, music is great, and Serge Gainsbourg and his harem of cute French women are just reminding us of the fact--though in some unorthodox ways.
I won't go as far as to say its empowering, but damn, it's pretty fun.

While I sometimes contradict my feminist roots and values with sexually exploited French girls, I can also revel in some of the bad-ass female music that emerged from the 1960s and early 70's pop scenes. In France, the U.S., and even in Thailand, women lyrically used their sexuality and their femininity as weapons--- with some fantastic results.

So thank you for taking the time to read this more "serious" entry (I know, I know, you come here for music ---not politics or personal struggle). As your reward, I present you with ten songs of fucking awesome vintage female assertion that are both empowering and fun!

Find the mix right here!!

The Puppets-
"I Ain't Gonna Eat Out My Heart"
I know absolutely nothing about the Puppets, other than that they were a `1960's girl group and shared a name with the obscure Merseybeat band founded by Joe Meek around the same time. This song puts a spin on the Young Rascals' version (originally recorded in 1965) by spinning the gender tables. "I need you boy, but you ain't gonna cheat on me--I ain't gonna eat out my heart anymore, so quit it!"

France Gall-"Laisse Tomber Les Filles" - Another song warning a boy to quit cheating, but France Gall throws a bit more sass into the mix. A particularly tricky song to translate while maintaining the coy but threatening tone (Laisse Tomber les Filles translates as "drop the girls"--)it was re-worked into a fantastic English-language version by April March (formally of the delightfully bratty pop-punk band Shitbirds) in her 1995 song "Chick Habit" that really stayed true to what France was conveying in the original--death threats and all! I have included both France and April's versions on the comp...bonus track!

Dolly Parton-"Dumb Blonde"- I'm not going to lie--- I worship Dolly Parton. I almost cried when I coudn't get tickets to her concert on Halloween this year. She is everything a female pop star should be-- fun, empowering, and smart. "Dumb Blonde", which appeared on the 1967 album Hello, I'm Dolly is a feisty declaration of independence and defiance, and easily one of her best songs.

Minnie and the Kneebones-"Me And My Miniskirt"-Minnie and the Kneebones are another mystery girl band, but damn I love this song. Its a swingin' girl group gem that perfectly captures the scandalous power of the miniskirt's introduction into 1960's society.

Denise & Company-"Boy What'll You Do Then"-Fronted by singer Denise Kaufman, Denise and company pressed only 100 copies of this single. The 1966 song has the signature bluesy harmonica that was overused in 60's psychadelic music, but its cheeky tone works for this song, as Denise threatens to walk away, and "Boy, what'll you do then?"

The Angels-
"Get Away From Me"- The Angels were an early sixties girl group consisting of members Barbera Allbut, Phyllis Allbut, and Peggy Santiglia. They were best known, of course, for the 1963 single "My Boyfriend's Back". "Get Away From Me" has an equally bratty quality, and memorably delivers its "you want it but you're never gonna get it" message with attitude to spare.

The What Four-"I'm Gonna Destroy That Boy"-The What Four made their home at Columbia records in the 1960's and deserve an extra pat on the back for playing their own instruments. With I'm Gonna Destroy that Boy, the band invokes the popular mod ideal of fashion=life, by threatening to destroy a boy with their sizzling fashion sense- as well as with their, errr... god-given assets.

Eileen-"Ce Bottes Sont Faites Pour Marcher"-A cute French version of the well known Nancy Sinatra power anthem-"These Boots Are Made for Walkin".

Sodsai Chaengkij-"The Boat That I Row"- I recently picked up a fabulous comp called Thai Beat A Go-Go, and that's where I first heard Chaengkij's adorable version of the 1967 Neil Diamond song. You'll fall for her almost instantly as she cheerfully declares "There ain't no man alive can tell me what to say". She is a mystery otherwise, but according to the liner notes of Thai Beat A Go-Go, Sodsai had a "prolific record output during the 60s and was the most popular singer in Bangkok where she frequently appeared at the famous Lolita Night Club on Rajdamnoen Avenue." Any more info on her would be greatly appreciated.

The fabulous sixties pop singer Lulu also recorded a version that it on youtube for your viewing pleasure. I must say that I prefer Sodsai's, just a tad more.

Laura Lee-"Women's Love Rights"-As far as I'm concerned, Laura Lee's early soul music is a treasure. Her voice is fantastic, and the songs are empowering, cheeky, and marvelously produced. "Women's Love Rights", which came out in 1972, is a rally cry to women around the world in the form of a kickass soul groove-- say enough is enough...and stand up and fight for your love rights!

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Ladies et Gentlemen!

Hello flower girls and beat boys.

I have been in the depths of a very busy summer, helping my boyfriend put together a smashing music festival and traveling as a merchandise-bearer with dear friends Rasputina on their whirlwind summer tour.

So please, forgive me for not updating this blog more regularly (it's been a month--egads!!).


Today, I give some much deserved time to the boys of 1960's Paris pop music. Yes, these dashing men often shared the spotlight in sultry duets with foxy French femmes fatales, but they had some of their own terrific music going on as well.

First, some duets.

In the coveted and rare musical "Anna", broadcast on French television in 1967--and written by Serge Gainsbourg--the absurdly sexy Jean-Claude Brialy plays Serge, a photographer who pines for a mysterious woman(played by Anna Karina, the smokin' muse of Jean-Luc Godard) after she accidently infiltrates one of his fashion shoots. Sadly, she has her glasses off when her picture is taken, which cause a Clark Kent-like effect of Brialy not recognizing her when she wears them, even as he desperately posts her picture all over Paris.

Strange, trippy dance numbers and weird sci-fi tributes ensue. The movie loses track of it's plot about halfway through, but who cares? We get to see Anna Karina dance around with no pants on!

One of the most lovely duets in the film takes place between the characters of Anna and Serge. "Ne Dis Rien" is a fantastic number, filled with longing and heartbreak. Their voices (Anna's-- breathy and sexy, Jean-Claudes-- masculine and forward) compliment each other perfectly, making for a delightfully romantic tune. Clip below.

Ye-ye girl Sylvie Vartan owed many of her songs to French pop singer Frankie Jordan (born Claude Benzaquen). Jordan took an easy, swingin' approach to his music, emanating the laid-back American style of approaching pop music during the sixties(hence his alias). He innocently sings back and forth with Sylvie in the fun, lighthearted duet "J'aime Ta Facon De Faire." Find the teeny-bopper delight here, and rock out.

France Gall, another ye-ye singer, was part of many notoriously naughty duets. Case-in-point; her televised duet with Serge Gainsbourg on 1965's "Les Sucettes", a song that was obviously about more than liking to suck on lollipops.

Here's a rough translation for your amusement:

Annie likes lollipops,
Aniseed lollipops
Annie's aniseed lollipops
Give her kisses
An aniseed taste.
And when the barley sugar,
Perfumed with aniseed,
Slides down Annie's throat
She is in paradise.
For a few pennies
Gets her aniseed lollipops.
They have the color of her eyes,
The color of happy days.
Annie likes lollipops,
Aniseed lollipops
Annie's aniseed lollipops
Give her kisses
An aniseed taste.
When on her tongue
Just a small stick remains,
She jumps to her feet
And returns to the drugstore.
For a few pennies
Gets her aniseed lollipops.
They have the color of her eyes,
The color of happy days.
When the barley sugar,
Perfumed with aniseed,
Slides down Annie's throat
She is in paradise.

Are you blushing yet???

France claims she never knew anything about the innuendo, which makes her sexual innocence all the more alluring. In yet another Serge Gainsbourg-penned tune, she duets with the much-older French film actor Maurice Biraud in the song "La Petite". The song is about an older man having a "close" relationship with his friend's young daughter. He says that she is "still a little girl" but she insists to him that she is "all grown up". See the delightfully creepy video below:

Lastly, an opportunity for French fellows to have their moment in the spotlight. The compilation Gentlemen de Paris does a stellar job of letting these boys shine.

It's currently out of print in the States, but I have it here for your pleasure. Plenty of sexy swinging French sixties boys. O la la!

Sunday, July 20, 2008

I DO Believe in Fairies (and wolves and witches and sheep and magic horses)!!!

Fairy Tales, Folklore, and Nursery Rhymes!

Yes, my little foundlings, that is the theme of today's entry. For you listening pleasure, I come bearing poppy and psychedelic songs from somewhere beyond the nursery, ranging in emotion from cute and carefree to haunting and transcendental.


The Sham-ettes-(Hey There) Big Bad Wolf

The Sham-ettes were the creation of pop musician Sam the Sham. They were a novelty act who not only backed up Sam during his live revue, but sang their own songs. They released a few (mostly unsuccessful) singles of their own, including this one, a cheeky response to the popular single "Hey There Little Red Riding Hood".

Francois Hardy- Magic Horse

This track is taken from Francois' little-publicized (and very hard to find) 1970 English-language album 1-9-7-0, released only in Italy. A dreamy, floaty, oh-so-seventies song about riding on a magic horse "higher, higher, higher in the sky!"

Sylvie Vartan-Si Je Chante

This song uses a melody originally composed by Mozart, but most of us know it as the familiar tune of "Mary Had A Little Lamb" The lyrics do not translate into the well-known nursery rhyme, but rather a woeful heartbreak song. My French is only so-so, but from what I can tell, the song is about singing for one person, after being separated for 15 years, but being forgotten, and shedding tears. The song's upbeat, dancy feel, however, nearly conceals the lovesick lyrics.

The Continental Co-Ets-Medley of Junk

This surf ditty by the undeniably badass 1960's all-female band is a mash-up of familiar tunes,(including the "Mary Had a Little Lamb" melody used by Sylvie) with shimmy-worthy guitar licks and sweet little drum solos.


Shift the mood from fun pop music to the more dramatic side of fairy tales with two songs from Josephine Foster(formally of the delectable psych-folk duo Born Heller)'s appropriately titled album, A Wolf in Sheep's Clothing.

Foster's 2006 record is comprised of songs originally composed by Bach, Schubert and others, which she sings the German Lieder tradition. Each track is overshadowed with dark, haunting electric guitar. This is a far cry from Mary's lamb.

An Die Musik starts off almost tranquil, and climaxes with a scary, frenzied electric guitar over the gentle acoustic music and Foster's evocative vocals.
Auf Einer Burg is sweeping, somber, and dare I say...epic! I recommend headphones.

P.S. For one more fairy-tale villan, look for a copy of Yoko Ono's 2007 album Yes, I'm A Witch (a guest-star loaded record in which she breathed new life into some of her best songs) in the comments section. Peaches' re-working of Kiss Kiss is nothing but dance party fun, and Revelations, with Cat Power guesting, is an especially beautiful track.

Until next time, enjoy the music--- and please continue to use your imaginations!!

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Hippie Hippie Hippie!

I love airy psych and folk music just as much as I love shaking it to ye-ye and freakbeat. With this entry, I encourage everyone to embrace their inner hippie, with some music that is appropriate for a dance freakout, and some that's a perfect companion while you make daisy chains in a field of flowers (or just lie on the couch in your tiny apartment smoking a joint).

For the latter, a dose of the Welsh folk band Galwad y Mynydd is all you need.

I don't speak Welsh, but their self-titled album doesn't require it. As a band who chose to separate themselves from the mainstream, protest-laden folk music of the early 70's and create their own form of folk, their music matters more than the words (and it doesn't hurt that Welsh is an ancient, beautiful and (to me) a mysterious language). So go ahead. Put on this record, place some flowers in your hair, and spin in circles with your arms outstretched. You won't regret it.

Get more upbeat and rock it to some freakbeat with these hippie-inspired tunes by France Gall, Daniela, and Pat Harris and the Blackjacks.

Pat(about whom I have never been able to find much info) and Daniela (a German ye-ye pop singer with roots in Serbia)both do excellent versions of the classic song Hippy Hippy Shake
Find Daniela's version (ripped from vinyl)here and Pat's version here

Top it off with French ye-ye queen France Gall's German-language Hippie Hippie Hippie and you've got yourself a swingin' hippie dance party.


Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Ye-Ye gets covered

So the other day I was trolling around the interwebs and came across this perplexing Japanese cover of my favorite song by the great Sylvie Vartan: La Plus Belle Pour Aller Danser by the singer Hitomi:

Online Videos by

As much as I love the Japanese, and can't deny the pleasure of the excessive pop and glitter of the video, I much prefer Sylvie's version:

This doesn't mean, however, that I'm ready to throw modern interpretations of Ye-Ye music out the window. Au contraire, my dears.

Mareva Galanter shines as an example of a fresh approach to ye-ye music. On her 2006 album, cleverly entitled Ukeyeye, the former beauty queen tackles ye-ye giants Francoise Hardy, and Stella, among others. She does it flawlessly, while maintaining a modern pop music sensibility.

I must admit, her cover of Stella's Pourquoi Pas Moi rivals the original version

Lovely lovely lovely.

****PS. Look for a collection of Sylvie's EPs and singles (1964-68) that includes La Plus Belle Pour Aller Danser in the comments section. Happy listening.