Chantal and her trademark bow

Chantal advertising Philips cassettes

Chantal Kelly

The Yé-Yé Girls From Paris

First there was Sylvie- and then came Françoise, Brigitte, and France. The royal highnesses of yé-yé fitted with plenty of star quality and a wealth of Paris chic. Look a little further, and you'll find Annie Philippe, Chantal Goya, Stella, Jacqueline Taieb, and Chantal Kelly- the gals who operated from the second tier, and many of whom have only recently been re-discovered by French pop connoisseurs. These minor mademoiselles may not have had quite the immaculate track record of Françoise Hardy and France Gall, nor were they as famous as Brigitte Bardot and Sylvie Vartan, but at least they didn't rely too much on doing obvious American and British covers like so many girls named Ariane, Patricia, Jocelyne, and Eileen. Actually, both Stella and Jacqueline Taieb were able to cook up some pretty fabulous pop songs of their own, and Chantal Kelly and Annie Philippe will satisfy all France Gall fans who have overplayed their copies of "Laisse Tomber Les Filles."

There's nothing particularly remarkable about Chantal Kelly. Well, she has got a cute face and a cool pair of white go-go boots, but no trademark look or sound that distinguishes her from the ton of other girl singers. Chantal Kelly's appeal lies in her songs, the majority of them written by singer/ songwriter Cris Carol, who wrote almost exclusively for Chantal. "Notre Prof D'Anglais," "Caribou," and "Ne Perds Pas Ton Temps"- well, these songs just might rival some of France Gall's best. And with prolific soundtrack composer, Claude Bolling on hand to conduct the orchestra, Chantal Kelly had found herself amongst some serious talent.

Chantal Kelly was born Chantal Bassignani in Marseilles on April 8th, 1950. Rumor has it that Chantal was eager to work in show business, and ended up taking singing lessons with Cris Carol's mom, who then sent the recordings of her "vocal exercises" to the Philips label. She made her debut in 1965 with "Caribou," an unconventional ethnic song that has "world music" written all over it. "Caribou" was later covered by French pop enthusiast, April March on her mini-album, Chick Habit. Flip over the record and you'll find "Ne Perds Pas Ton Temps," a bouncy keyboard-driven pop song with a male chorus chanting "Travailler! Travailler!" (Work! Work!). But Chantal doesn't want to work, "Je veux chanter! Je veux danser!" (I want to sing! I want to dance!) she shouts. Quintessentially teenage and perfectly French.

For more of Chantal's teenie-bopper material, check out "Notre Prof D'Anglais," a raging beat record with a full-on chorus of shouting teenagers that became a minor hit for Chantal. Thrown somewhat haphazardly on the B-side of "Notre Prof D'Anglais" is "Le Chateau De Sable," clearly Chantal's most elegant '60s recording. Her soothing voice atop ocean-wave sound effects makes for a wonderfully atmospheric pop ballad.

After five EPs and a very rare full-length album, Chantal Kelly quit the music business, claiming that she despised all her '60s recordings. 14 years later she returned to show business as Chantal Bassi and recorded a one-off new wave album. Although little is known about her whereabouts today, it is rumored that she moved to Corsica to open a boutique.

While the French pop resurgence has created a market in which yé-yé girls like Stella, Pussycat, and Jacqueline Taieb have been able to release their '60s catalogue on CD, Chantal Kelly is one of the few yé-yé artists who has yet to have her recordings made available in digital format. With an album and five EPs under her belt, I'd say there's plenty of material available for a fine Chantal Kelly compilation. Meanwhile, you can enjoy "Notre Prof D'Anglais" on volume six of the Ultra Chicks compilations.

Coming soon: Part II. Chantal Goya