Yé Yé could be described as a south European variant of Beat Music. It’s a french flavoured version of “Yeah Yeah” – a synonym for Beat Music even my grandpa used to know. In contrast, it combines much poppier elements such as Sunshine Pop and Bubblegum. Those three were the main ingredients, although there were other influences like you’ll see later on. Chanson is another major basis for the Yé Yé sound. Of course, in it’s french version, it draws a quite typical cliché mood of a “happy-strolling-along” á la Simon & Garfunkel’s “Feelin’ Groovy” song. The greatest part of songs reflects a sweet, innocent and carefree image on the poppy Beat.
The most important representatives formed the shapes of this style by their very individual kind. France Gall wasn’t tired to include children choirs in her songs, Johnny Hallyday was the french representation of Rockabilly and Francoise Hardy’s “Tous les Garcons et les filles” might be the most treasured piece. Francoise combines what all previously described artists brought in individually. She has the Rock’n’Roll, the Beat, the light poppy note, the deeper but still cool jazz note. I recommend anyone to listen to her 1962 debut album. Rather unexpected and exceptional is Jacqueline Taieb’s Garage Rock sound in “7 AM” or Brigitte Bardot’s sitar sound in “Harley Davidson”. You can find both songs in the playlist enclosed. All in all Yé Yé is a big umbrella for streams that found their way in the Beat steamed sound of the french 60’s. Serge Gainsbourg for example had an impact on French Pop Music too, but can’t be counted to te Yé Yé Beat sound while he’s busy combining chanson with sizzling Cool Jazz. The melodic and almost immediate romantic flair of french language and culture, besides the blue-eyed note, is the most unique to be found in Yé Yé. Most other parts of the music are basically covered and copied from the US and UK sound of the day. Another interesting fact is the unusually high percentage of young female artists. While the Merseybeat, as well as Rock’n’Roll, were dominated by male singers, the french scene surprised with a counterpart.
As Yé Yé originated in France it found international appreciation and expansion. Between 1960 and 1968, the Yé Yé wave found its way into countries like Italy, Spain and Portugal. These countries are both known for their Garage and Rock scene, back in the 60’s as well as still today. Nonetheless, singers like Catherine Spaak, Carmen Villani or Spanish yéyé girl Massiel made it to the top. ~Written by DJ Kahuna, 2021 for www.rum-n-coconutwater.com
PS: There is also a counter-genré “Anti-Yé-Yé”. Fittingly described by and in a compilation called “Névralgies particulières – Fuzzed Up Lost 60s French Punk”. You can find the LP on Discogs, here.
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