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Ye-Ye Girls of ‘60s French Pop by Jean-Emmanuel Deluxe

Ye-Ye Girls of ‘60s French Pop by Jean-Emmanuel Deluxe (Feral House Press, 2013)

In the early-to-mid ‘90s a bunch of us got turned on to the groovy wonder of the ye-ye scene from 1960s France. Maybe it was the two albums of anglicized Serge Gainsbourg covers Mick Harvey did. Maybe it was the influence of Laetitia Sadier of Stereolab. Maybe it was people like Beck and Dean Wareham touting Gainsbourg . . . but we all found out about this fun, happening, inventive period of French pop music, and our minds were blown while our eyes and ears were treated to some visual and audio delights from a fertile era.

We would have loved to have this book as our guide as we made these findings. Like an encyclopedia of the movement, Deluxe’s work provides a comprehensive overview of the whole scene. And since, Gainsbourg notwithstanding, it was the female artists who were the real core of this niche group, his focus is, rightly, on the filles. There are longish chapters on the main players: Francoise Hardy, France Gall, et al. But Deluxe digs deeper in providing shorter summaries on some of the lesser-known (at least, outside of France) ye-ye girls. For good measure, he throws in some bits and pieces about non-French female artists who had some kind of connection to the scene. And he furnishes a section on contemporary artists who were influenced by ye-ye and continue the feel in modern times.

Deluxe’s writing is not great, at least in English. The word-for-word text is clumsy, and there are transitions that are just not smooth, all this making for a bumpy read. But the book is still a treasure because of all the information it contains and, even more so, because of its wealth of lovely graphics: countless album covers and other relevant odds and ends that are cool to feast your eyes on. Another big plus are the many quoted song lyrics (in both French and English) that help to flesh out the depictions of the artists and their work.

So this is one that works better as a coffee table book than something you’d sit and read from cover to cover. But as such, I strongly recommend the book to anyone interested in this scene, or in ‘60s pop in general.

- Brian Greene
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