An article-interview on French chanteuse Chantal "Kelly" Bassi, by Alex Astro Hussenet with questions by Matthew Meek and aditional questions by Alex Astro Hussenet.
Ever since I co-founded the Swingin' Mademoiselle's fan page on Facebook a coupla years ago with my friend, the actual creator of the sub-genre, mr. Sasha Monnet who launched the compilation series of the same name in the early 00's, I've had the privilege to meet some actual swingin' mademoiselles. It started with Françoise Deldick of "Hm! Hm!" fame (who happened to be living in my mother's neighborhood, in the suburbs... in my own backyard, incredibly!), then french sixties model and actress debutante, part-time singer Laura Ulmer, later Clothilde, one of the absolute Queens of the genre (the other two being Stella and Christine Pilzer...) with her two masterpiece 45 EPs (produced by Vogue DA genius Germinal Tenas, whom I also interviewed!)... and now the cute brunette of French Swing : Chantal Kelly; how lucky! If only I could start earning good money with all this digging... Well, anyway, it's a chance I'm doing this primarely out of passion. So, one day Laura Ulmer kept insisting I should come to the anti-bullfight demonstration taking place in front of the National Assembly in Paris which none other than Chantal was leading so I could meet her and arrange an interview that fans of the genre were waiting for on our page. It all came pretty natural despite the FREEZING early February cold and they embraced me both, Chantal, Laura and family, husband & friends, as if I was now part of their own; hence the lenghty interview here...
from left: Jay Huling, Colin Scot, Kevin Shipman and Carl Berg
The What's New have always fascinated record collectors: mistakenly listed as a Florida band, they released two EPs in France but nothing in the U.S.
Their story starts with the Yachtsmen, a folk group founded by students at Long Beach City College in 1959. They became regulars at Disneyland in Anaheim, releasing an LP on Disney's Buena Vista label (BV-3310), "High and Dry with The Yachtsmen" in 1961.
On the LP the group were Carl Berg (vocals, guitar), Ray Jordan (vocals, banjo, string bass), Jay Huling (aka Jay Hulingpart, vocals, guitar, bongos), and Bill Reed (vocals, bass). Other members included Kevin Shipman and Mickey Elley.
The Yachtsmen continued performing at Disneyland for the next several years, adding Scot Thistlewaite (stage name Colin Scot).
Scot had been playing banjo and guitar with a ragtime duo called Bud and Scotty at Coke Corner in Disneyland, with Bud Hedrick on piano.
Bud Hedrick and Colin Scot at Coke Corner, photo courtesy Bud Hedrick.
Scot was born in the UK, moved to Canada in the late '50s where he went to Sir Adam Beck Collegiate High School in London, Ontario, then moved to California where he attended Cal State University at Long Beach.
In October, 1965, French chanteuse Line Renaud and her husband Louis "Loulou" Gasté saw the Yatchsmen at Disneyland and brought the group over to Paris in January, 1966.
The band changed their name to the What's New though they still look very collegiate performing "Des mots d'amor" with Line Renaud on French TV. They performed at the Casino de Paris, and opened for the Beach Boys and Michel Polnareff at the Olympia on October 25, 1966.
They recorded their first EP in July, '66 at Gasté's own studio in Paris, scoring a French hit with a single version of Gordon Lightfoot's "Early Morning Rain". Their first EP also has their version of Tom Paxton's "The Last Thing on My Mind" and two songs by Randy Sparks of the New Christy Minstrels, "Huckleberry Finn" and "Driving Wheels".
Their second EP showcases four original songs by Colin Scot, putting a sharp folk-rock sound behind Scot's plaintive lead vocal and the group's harmonies. It includes the now-famous "Up So High" ("Got no use for LSD, every time you look at me I'm up so high") and the excellent "Get Away" which moves from dreamy verse to tough chorus.
The What's New disbanded in early 1967. Colin Scot became part owner of a nightclub called Kahuna's Cave in Cala Mayor, Palma de Majorca, and toured the folk circuit in the UK in the late '60s. In the 1970s he released LPs on United Artists and Warner Bros, with a final single "Mandolin Man" / "Boris" on RCA in 1977. He died in Amsterdam in 1996 (though I've also seen it listed as 1999).
(On account of a forthcoming release of her full recorded output, designed by me and due sometime in 2012 on Paris based Born Bad records, here's a reissue of an exclusive interview with cult Swingin' Mademoiselle chanteuse : Clothilde... !)
(Clothilde on the banks of the river Seine, Paris ca. '67/68; photo courtesy Élisabeth Beauvais.)
Born Élisabeth Beauvais (nicknamed "Babette" by her friends...) on February 22/ 1948, Clothilde had a short but noteworthy career sprawling barely over the year 1967 with only two classic EPs and an italian only single. Nevertheless, she was the quintessence (along with Christine Pilzer) of Swingin' Mademoiselle's, all of her songs, co-authored mostly with arranger Jean-marie Di Maria and her manager, producer and all round mentor Germinal Tenas, are little masterpieces of black humor and double-entendres, making her in effect unique, sitting right on top of the French 60's Girl Pop pantheon.
She was the daughter of famous writer and journalist Robert Beauvais, an auteur and producer of numerous radio and television programs he would emcee with his wife (her mother!) Gisèle Parry. Robert Beauvais was also known for writing theater plays and works of reflection in a humoristic mode (much like Sacha Guitry!). And Babette's mother Gisèle, was another famous actress of british descent. Prestigious french actors like Michel Simon and Louis Jouvet were frequent visitors of the family house in the Paris suburbs of Montmorency...
Unbeknownst to all her fans, Clothilde recorded her very first song: "Je viens tout juste d'avoir 5 ans (I've just had 5 years old)", live in the studio at the tender age of eight (!), on the set of one of her mother's radio programs, backed by mother Gisèle on the piano. This recording was luckily saved on 78rpm disc and may reappear as a bonus track on the projected "complete recordings of Clothilde" scheduled for next year by Born Bad records.
Here's an exclusive interview made for the Swingin' Mademoiselle's Fan page where our heroine tells it all (or most!):
: : I N T E R V I E W : :
1. First, please tell us about your background, you said your parents were famous Radio and TV entertainers; notably, your mum had on a TV variety program that invited all the Pop singers of the day, which you witnessed from backstage just previously to your own singin' career...
My mother was Gisèle Parry and dad was called Robert Beauvais. Mother had, among other things, a TV program called: "Vient de Paraître (Just Released)" (View for example Ronnie Bird singing in this very TV Program on this link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5UYX7UTZGFY ; ed.) where I saw all the new stars coming: I saw for ex. Serge Lama (famous french auteur; ed) arriving laid on a strecher after his serious car accident, with nurses helping him to sit down, Stone & Charden (Swingin' Mademoiselle Stone and Eric Charden who formed a famous duet much like Sonny & Cher; ed.) who were beginners, Hervé Vilard (of "Capri, c'est fini" fame; ed.), Michel Polnareff who had first short modish brown hair before he became famous... So, my mum would make me assist those programs where she'd greet artists who just had their first record out; I was a student in Art Deco, in 1965/66 more or less two years before I started singin' myself. I remember Polnareff who didn't wear sunglasses then and was singing on his piano, Lama and Stone & Charden who were promoting their first record...
Following the recent reissues in limited Deluxe form of their mega-rare original LP input, three albums (at 500 copies ea.!) from the good folks at Wah-Wah records in Spain... I figured it was about time to share what may be France's best kept Pop secret : le Système Crapoutchik!
Système Crapoutchik ! ... One could think of a better name. And all this because one Jacques Dutronc couldn't pronounce, much less remember, his guitarist's name : Gérard Kawczynski... so that he resorted to nickname him "Crapou", Crapoutchik! In the famous singer's typical ridicule manner (... remember "Crack, Boum, Hue!" from his well known '66 hit : "Les Playboys"!)... 'Cause, before forming their own group, the boys were all part of his backing band!
They were excellent musicians in their own right who decided one day to start their own band in order to compete with the British Pop bands of the era. A tough aim, but our guys had real talent. They were : Gérard Kawczynskiaka Crapou on guitar - Michel Pelay on drums – Christian Padovan on bass - Alain Legovicaka later famous French M.O.R. singer Alain Chamfort on lead vocals and keyboards and Jean-Pierre Alarcen also on guitar. Unfortunately, like most bands of the times, no public recognition came to reward their collective efforts. Their network in the business however, allowed them to issue two EPs and one single at Vogue's, before signing for one first album ("Aussi Loin Que Je Me Souvienne..." in 1969) that came out on the young Flamophone created by Claude Puterflam. The same Puterflam who on that same occasion became the lead singer of the band. Despite the lack of success, this opus will stay on forever as the first ever French concept album (... comparable in storyline to the mighty Pretty Things' own masterpiece: "S.F. Sorrow"!). Following what, it went from bad to worse in spite of the further release of three singles. The Système then split in 1970. But, not without some sense of humour, the Flamophone label released tongue-in-cheek a year later, a double-album called "Flop", recovering all the 45s, alternate takes and unreleased tracks from the band. In 1975, Claude Puterflam reunited the band to launch a second effort, releasing a third self-titled LP in the process : "Le Système Crapoutchick".
Support True Pop talent out of France : Get your copies Now! - LE SYSTÈME CRAPOUTCHIK : AUSSI LOIN QUE JE ME SOUVIENNE... ; WAH WAH RECORDS SUPERSONIC SOUNDS LPS096 - LE SYSTÈME CRAPOUTCHIK : FLOP; WAH WAH RECORDS SUPERSONIC SOUNDS DoLPS097 :
Absolute World class Classic French Sunshine Pop also from their second Vogue Ep's Bee Side, from '68 (EPL 8629) ... Hear it on Wah Wah Records Deluxe Reissue of 1971's Flamophone Post-mortem's double-album compilation of their rare Sixties EP tracks, alternate takes and unreleased tracks then : - LE SYSTÈME CRAPOUTCHIK : FLOP; WAH WAH RECORDS SUPERSONIC SOUNDS DoLPS097
This excerpt, from post-mortem compilation double-album "Flop", is in fact their English version of "Un peu de rien" from their second Vogue Ep "Un peu de rien" ((EPL 8629) also in 1968: (The early System were made of : Gérard KAWCZYNSKI (aka Crapou on Guitar) - Christian PADOVAN (Bass) - Michel PELAY (Drums) - Alain LEGOVIC (aka later famous MOR singer Alain Chamfort who also previously lead French Beat band : Les Mods; on keyboards and Vocals) - Jean-Pierre Alarcen (Guitar); the name of the System was given by none other than Jacques Dutronc who couldn't pronounce properly Kawczynski name, who was part of his backing band: Les Murator’s!)
I had too much to dream last night ... C'est la faute au Système! ;) (No, really... this is Sixties Pop-sike of the highest order, on par with the best from the Bee Gees, and the Idle Race... only Made in France, which makes it all the more special; get it from Spain's Wah-Wah records who made a Deluxe DoLP vinyl edition... seriously criminally Under-rated POP!) :