Mickey Baker on a King Surf LP

Session guitarist Mickey (“Love Is Strange“) Baker — whose work would grace dozens of releases by King Records and its subsidiaries — would end up being allotted exactly one solo album by the label as an artist in his own right:  1963’s But Wild.

Mickey Baker King LP

Recorded in Paris in June of 1962, this album would feature Baker’s guitar (as Michel Ruppli’s King Label discography would seem to indicate) overdubbed onto instrumental tracks – licensed from the Versailles label – of French studio musicians.

King would release three 45s from But Wild:  “Baby Let’s Dance” b/w “Oh Yeah, Ah, Ah” in 1963, “Steam Roller” b/w “Side Show” in 1964, and “Do What You Do” b/w “Night Blue” in 1965.

Mickey Baker King 45-aaMickey Baker King 45-bbMickey Baker King 45-cc

Note the degree to which this rare King LP commands big bucks at auction, according to Popsike.  One seller on Collector’s Frenzy describes But Wild as “Shadows/Ventures guitar instrumental rock.”  In fact, “Zanzie” (along with “Gone”) would end up being rightfully pressed into service on King surf compilation album, Surfin’ on Wave Nine, a fairly obscure release that also changes hands at respectable prices:

“Zanzie”     Mickey Baker     1962

Baker’s 2012 obituary in the New York Times notes, sadly, that he moved to France in the early 1960s and “rarely returned to the United States.”

King would eventually get around to issuing “Love Is Strange” in 1964, eight years after the song originally hit the charts.

Mickey Baker King 45-d

It’s French – and Very Catchy

Thanks to Whole Foods for nourishing my soul with its affordably-priced (no, seriously) 3-disc set of French pop, Café Paris:  42 Classic Songs from France.  This past week, I have found myself particularly taken with one song by a French singer-songwriter whose name, Michel Polnareff, was new to me — Jimmy Page, lo and behold, I would discover to be the unnamed session musician who plays the riff that refuses to vacate the premises:

“La Poupée Qui Fait Non”    Michel Polnareff     1966

Now, of course, it’s one thing for this unpaid music enthusiast to declare “La Poupée Qui Fait Non” (“The Doll That Says No”) catchy as all get out, but as I poke into the song’s subsequent history, I am quite struck by the range of artists who have been similarly charmed by the song’s wiles over the decades.

A-side of a 4-song EP that also includes the track “Beatnik”

Michel Polnareff EPThe Jimi Hendrix Experience, for instance, can be heard messing around with the song (though just for fun), while Montreal glam punkers The 222s would record a rockin’ “70s” version (albeit in 1981).

English alternative dance act, St. Etienne would craft their own catchy 90s arrangement in 1994, while “iconic” French Canadian singer-songwriter Mylène Farmer would join forces in 1996 with Algeria’s (semi-official) “King of Rai,” Khaled, to take this song in yet another alluring direction. (click here if you have nothing else to do all day).

Perhaps it’s time for the current trendsetters of contemporary popular music to rediscover this song?

Joie de vivre!  This is the seventh Zero to 180 piece thus far tagged as French Pop.

Jacques Dutronc – Mod Hippie

Café Paris, the aforementioned budget-priced 3-CD set that Whole Foods is pushing on its hipster demographic, also includes an engaging piece of garage punk (or, as it is more formally known, French Freakbeat) – “J’ai Mis Un Tigre Dans Ma Guitare” from the 1966 “Maxi Disque” of Jacques Dutronc.  Subsequently, I would discover that Dutronc was once wedded to Françoise Hardy (celebrated in this 2013 piece), and that the two artists would one day produce a jazz guitarist, Thomas Dutronc, born 1973.

From “J’ai Mis Un Tigre Dans Ma Guitarre” it would be but a short jump to 1967‘s quintessential “Hippie Hippie Hourrah,” with a video that absolutely begs for satire:

“Hippie Hippie Hourrah”     Jacques Dutronc     1967

An A-side in the Netherlands (left) and Germany (right) …

Jacques Dutronc-1Jacques Dutronc-2

… but, Alas, only a B-side in its homeland — fourth and final track on French EP .

Jacques Dutronc-3

Bridget Bardot’s B-Side Blunder

I recently made my first ever musical purchase at Whole Foods — a budget-priced three-disc set entitled, Café Paris:  42 Classic Songs from France.  One track from 1967 tickled my ear – Bridget Bardot’s “Oh, Qu’il Est Vilain” – with its spryly humorous organ, naive recorder lines, and cuckoo chorus:

“Oh, Qu’il Est Vilain”     Brigitte Bardot     1967?

How surprising to discover that this 1967-infused piece of pop was apparently issued first in Mexico on a Bardot 4-song EP (“Harley Davidson” b/w “Contact”) – though only as a B-side – before the song would find release in France the following year on a different EP (“Ce N’est Pas Vrai”) where “Vilain” would again be relegated to a B-side.  What gives?

1967 Mexican EP

Brigitte Bardot Mexican EP1968 also saw the release of long-player, Brigitte Bardot Show, where “Oh, Qu’il Est Vilain” serves as side two’s kick-off track.  Curious to note that in 2009 Mercury France would reissue the 1968 French EP.

Les Roche Martin: If ‘Pet Sounds’ Were French

Les Roche Martin appears to have released one single and two EPs – all in 1967 – before the group’s creative director, Vèronique Sanson, struck off on her own, beginning in 1969.

Roche Martin EP“Tu As Peur de Bruit” embodies 1967’s adventurous musical spirit, while it also brilliantly evokes the baroque pop melancholy of Pet Sounds, albeit with a distinct French sensibility:

“Tu As Peur du Bruit”     Les Roche Martin     1967

In 2008 Warner Music France would release a 22-CD/4-DVD (!) box set that would include (as one might expect) all of Sanson’s work, from the earliest Les Roche Martin recordings, all the way up to 2004’s Longue Distance album.

L’Adorable & L’Obscure French Pop

EMI’s anthology of 60s French pop – La Belle Epoque:  EMI’s French Girls 1965-68 – includes this tuneful track from 1967, Christie Laume’s “L’Adorable Femme des Neiges.”  Unsurprisingly, this song – with its effective use of the celeste – would be the title track of a 4-song EP released in France on Odeon (although sequenced, curiously, as its final tune):

“L’Adorable Femme des Neiges”     Christie Laume     1967

YouTube numbers (just under 400 “views”) would seem strongly to suggest that entire swaths of the world’s population are wholly unfamiliar with this quirky song about an adorable lady of the snow who is, presumably, a force for good.

Christie Laume - aChristie Laume - b

Christie Laume would release four EPs between 1966-1968.  As Laume explains on her own website:

“After my brother married Edith Piaf, much to my delight and surprise, my brother and Edith invited me to live with them. That event, without realizing it, brought a rapid and dramatic change in my life. Suddenly because of them, I was living a life of a celebrity without being one.

Edith wanted to hear my voice and asked me if I wanted to sing. Edith asked me to sing in the opening act of several of her concerts and would have me introduce her to the crowd. She gave me the name Christie Laume. I began to live the life of a professional singer: rehearsing, touring, and recording.

After the death of Edith Piaf, I continued to sing and record under the guidance and encouragement of my brother, Theo Sarapo. At that time, the Ye Ye style songs became popular and I recorded several singles and also made several television appearances.”

“Accroche Toi, Caroline”: Hang Tight, Caravelli Advises

This boss near-instrumental from 1967 simply attributed to “The Paris Studio Group” features a mean harpsichord – something right out of Lurch from The Addams Family:

“Accroche Toi, Caroline”     The Paris Studio Group     1967

As NME informs us:  “Main title theme as used on Tony Hart`s UK TV series, Vision On – a children`s TV series aimed at deaf children which ran from 1964 to 1977. The music is composed & performed by Claude Vasori, better known as Caravelli.”

Caravelli LP

The Barclay Stars: Five French Guitars

The album cover would seem to say it all —Les Barclay Stars - Guitars Unlimited

but the liner notes reveal that this is not just any ordinary guitar army:

This album was recorded in France.  It spotlights the work of five of France’s outstanding guitarists:  Francis Le Maguer (musical director), Pierre Cullaz, Raymond Gimenes, Paul Piguillem, and Victor Apicella.  This is the first record on which they have played together as an orchestra.  These five guitarists form the “Barclay Stars Orchestra” in which the guitars play the trumpet, trombone and saxophone parts of a conventional orchestra.

Although this 1966 album proudly bears the Atco imprint from front to back, Atlantic Records is simply serving as the American distributor for a work that was originally recorded in Paris by Barclay Records in glorious monophonic sound (for best results, observe the R.I.A.A. high frequency roll off characteristic with a 500 cycle crossover).

The album leans heavily toward traditional jazz, with a healthy dollop of Duke Ellington   (“In a Mellow Tone”; “Sophisticated Lady”; “Satin Doll” & Strayhorn’s “Take the A Train”) and a pinch of Woody Herman (“Early Autumn”), balanced by more contemporary fare via Neal Hefti (“Flight of the Foo Birds” & “Fantail”) and Horace Silver (“Opus de Funk”).

Check out this toe-tapping jazz standard, “Four Brothers,” composed by Jimmy Guiffre and brought to life originally by the Woody Herman Orchestra:

Four Brothers – The Barclay Stars

[Pssst:  Click on the triangle to play “Four Brothers” as picked by The Barclay Stars.]

Half of two-page ad published in the OCTOBER 22, 1966 EDITION of Billboard

One and Done?

It appears that Guitars Unlimited would be the first and only guitar summit from five of France’s finest — an outcome whose likelihoojazzd was signaled in the last sentence of the liner notes by the phrase, chances are:

“The sound they generate is so unusual that chances are there will be many more albums by the Barclay Stars.”

Toots Thielemans: Ya Ya!

From Toots Thielemans‘ appearance on David Sanborn’s ‘Night Music’ TV show, I learned that Toots is a jazz harmonica virtuoso who (1) played the harmonica on the original ‘Sesame Streettheme song, as well as (2) whistled the famous melody for the Old Spice deodorant TV ads of the 1970s.

I recently picked up a Toots Thielemans LP on ABC’s kitschy Command label, famous for its 60s “Mad Men”-era geometric designs that often celebrated percussion:

Command - Percussion

The Toots Thielemans album that I picked up, Guitar and Strings … and Things from 1966, is notable for showcasing Toots’ great guitar work – which I hadn’t previously known about:

Toots - Guitars & Strings

Some of the tracks are very much in the sound and style of “Lolita Ya Ya” – such as the lead-off track, “The Continental:

“The Continental”     Toots Thielmans & His Orchestra     1966

When Fred Astaire danced to this sweeping tune in the film, ‘The Gay Divorcee’, the huge studio orchestra that accompanied him could scarcely project the essence of the tune as excitingly as this gentle easy treatment does.  The octave unison of Toots Thielemans’ guitar and the vocal trio is decorated with airy swirls from Phil Bodner’s flute.  Toots’ solo fits logically into the overall pattern of the arrangement, moving out of the line that he plays along with the girls.  And pay special attention to the drumming by Bill Lavorgna behind the girls after Toots’ solo as he dances merrily with his sticks and then joins in a little by-play with Phil Kraus’ scratcher.

[from the album’s liner notes]

Toots’ Big Pop Moment:   Toots’ harmonica adorned Julian Lennon’s #5 US hit – “Too Late for Goodbyes” – in 1985.

Francoise Hardy is All Alone

The “folk” label on the top of the album cover combined with the Reprise Records promotional sticker at the bottom make me think that some radio station staffer liquidated part of the radio station’s library for some cold hard cash.  I feel bad for the listeners, since this is a good album, and I am not a radio broadcaster who serves their metro area:


The third track on side two – “Times Passing By” – is my pick for the A-side of the first single from this strong collection of songs recorded in Paris and released in 1970.

This album would appear to be the fourth in a quick succession of albums for Reprise beginning in 1968 with the release of her US self-titled debut, which contains some classic tracks, such as “Voilà” & “Qui Peut Dire” (A & B sides, respectively, of a European single released September 1967) among others.  Click here to consult an extensive discography of recordings by Françoise Hardy – from 1962-2007.

Below is a TV appearance by Hardy, where she sings another track from Alone – “Song of Winter” – accompanied by striking visual imagery:

Hold Onto Your Hat:  “Song of Winter” was co-written by (pre-) Foreigner’s Mick Jones.

“Song of Winter” would also serve as the B-side for Hardy’s take on Leonard Cohen’s “Suzanne” – but only for the New Zealand market, it would appear.