Saturday, March 3, 2007

Pourquoi Je Chante

I was browsing through the track list of "Ultra Chicks Vol 1: Filles In The Garage!" (a collection of French 60s female pop - there were at least 6 volumes in a bootleg series) and noted "Stella" among the many first name-only noms d'étape. I recalled that this was almost certainly the same Stella who subsequently married Christian Vander and they founded the still extant progressive rock band Magma in 1969 and with a few seconds of Web searching, my recollection was proved correct.

Rather than repeat myself on Magma, you can read a quick and entertaining summary in this Time Out New York piece and I'll do a post culled from my secret desert island discs catalog on my two favorite Magma albums at some later date.

Meanwhile it is Stella Zelcer Vander who is of interest today. One of the so-called Yé-yé Girls, Stella apparently became disenchanted with the superficiality of the musical style, hence her eventual move to a rather more esoteric musical realm and now bills herself as "the anti-yé-yé girl" on this rather elegant MySpace page (it's so rare that these things look good, it's sort of a cause for celebration when they do - compare Magma's own page).

My friend's digital copy of "Ultra Chicks..." proved to be corrupted on her track "Nouvelle Vague Blues" - it was just white noise, and surmising this not to be the original intent, I went on the hunt, only to find everyone on Soulseek had the same corrupted copy. Finally, I tracked down a 2-CD compilation that came out in France in the late 90s called La Collection Sixties des EPs Français. Forty tracks of this stuff may be more than the casual fan needs, but it is thoroughly enjoyable in the right doses.

The "Nouvelle Vague Blues" itself fulfills the promise of its title, with a jazzy backing track and lyrical references to "Jules et Jim." The song "Beatniks d'occasion" (audible on her MySpace page) also takes an ironic look at fashionable Bohemianism, although some of the songs recorded when she was very young (she started at age 13) are charming for the opposite reasons - "Douée Pour La recré" is a schoolgirl complaining about how tedious all her academic classes are and she's best suited for recess, and "Les parents twist" is (I'm assuming) a complaint about oppressive parents based on some sort of Americanized teenage slang ("Mon Dieu, que c'est triste, d'avoir des parents twist!") - just the sort of linguistic borrowing Jack Lang campaigned against during his tenure as Minister of Culture!

Finally, don't miss this interview. Also, I noticed a lot of this French 60s pop is tagged with "velocipede radio" on, a phrase I can't find anywhere else, so I'm going to contribute to its spread by using it here (but not on which doesn't support two-word tags!).

No comments: