04. The record industry in the 1960-1970s: The forgotten story of French popular music



1. Polin, “L’automobile du colon”

From: “L’automobile du colon”, Pathé, 3792, 1901, standard cylinder.


Text: Eugène Rimbault; Piano: Beretta.






This song, based on the story of a car ride with a comic spin, shows on the one side what a “chanson comique” is and, on the other, exemplifies what an acoustic recording is on a cylinder before the electronic revolution in the 1920s.


2. Charles Trenet, “Je Chante”

From: “Je Chante” / “Fleur Bleue”, Columbia, DF 2270, 78 rpm.


Wal-Berg et son Orchestre.





One of the first records by Charles Trenet after the introduction of electrification of recording methods. He is considered to be a pioneer in adapting his singing technics to these new methods. The song is about being a singer, and its rather bitter end is quite surprising given the joyful mood of the whole.


3. Dalida, “Bambino”

From: Son nom est Dalida, Barclay, 80.055, 1956, Album 10’’.


Written by J. Larue, music originally by G. Fanciulli, Accompanied by Raymond Lefèvre et son orchestre, Wal-Berg Orchestra.





Dalida’s first hit song about a young man in love with an older woman is the French version of “Guaglione” (Marino Marini/Fanciulli). It is a good example of the way this song became popular with new media strategies developed at the end of the 1950s by the French “show-business” around Eddy Barclay, Lucien Morisse et Bruno Coquatrix. This song will stay n°1 in the charts for 39 consecutive weeks. Dalida is the artist who sold the most records during that decade.


4. Gong, “Mystic Sister – Magick Brother”

From: Magick Brother. BYG Records, 529.305, 1969, Album 10’’.


Tasmin Smyth: vocals & voice, Daevid Allen: guitars, bass, vocals, Didier Malherbe: flute, soprano saxophone, Rachid Houari: drums, table, Dieter Gewiffler: double bass.





Formed by Daevid Allen and Gilli Smyth in 1969, Gong is a French psychedelic rock band who is still touring today. Gong, and more broadly Byg Records, is a good example of bands and labels evolving outside the mainstream music industry in the 1960s and 1970s.


5. Les Chaussettes Noires, “Tu parles trop”

From: “Tu parles Trop”, Barclay, 70369, 7’’, 1961.


Written by G. Aber, J. Jones and R. Hall; Eddy Mitchell: vocals, William Bennaïm: guitar, Aldo Martinez: bass guitar, Tony d’Arpa: guitars and vocals, Jean-Pierre Chichportich: drums.





This song, a Joe Jones’ cover (“You talk too much”), is one of the many French musical adaptation of English-speaking hits in the 1960s. Such covers are part of the raison why “yéyé” artists gain such popularity. It also shows how the music business logics have rapidly led to put aside rock’n’roll bands by supporting only the lead singer, Eddy Mitchell. His career has been going on for more than a half-century.