By Emily Carney
France Gall’s mid-1960s “baby pop” was engineered in part by one Serge Gainsbourg, the dirty old man of French music who took Jane Birkin’s English accent to new, filthy heights with their duet “Je T’aime . . . Moi Non Plus” in 1969.
That being said, Old Serge gave the then-teenage Gall a ditty called “Les Sucettes,” a lovely paean to sucking on lollipops that doubled as a song about oral sex. Gall allegedly was mortified to discover what she was actually singing about (Gainsbourg later recorded his own perverted, “wink wink” version, not surprisingly—this guy did a song once called “Suck Baby Suck”).
Despite the double entendres about oral sex, France Gall remained the French parallel to England’s Petula Clark and America’s Lesley Gore, with their sad-girl pop music and fashionably blunt-cut bangs. But Gall was indisputably French, as she emphasized in her hit “Made in France”: “Made in England? No! Made in France.”
This disc of Gall’s greatest hits opens with “Poupée de Cire Poupée de Son,” which roughly translates to “A Lonely Singing Doll.” Its strident, high-tempo pop sound differs from other French girl singers of the era, such as Françoise Hardy, whose songs were more analogous to folk music. The disc features 22 stomping hits punctuated with Gall’s high, thin voice, which sounds like Frida from ABBA, sort of ironic given both women took their songs to Eurovision Song Contest victory.
This disc is essential for lovers of 1960s girl pop and French pop music. For hardcore fans, there’s also a Japanese version of “Poupée de Cire . . . ” and the disc’s booklet has wonderful photos of Gall’s album covers, replete with little-girl looks (kind of gross in retrospect, but hey, it was France) and sunkissed blonde hair. You’ll find it impossible to stop humming “Les Sucettes,” even after you find out what it’s about.
Made in France is out now from Cherry Red Records and is available to order from their website.