The Yé-Yé Years
Drop the name Chantal Goya in French circles and risk your reputation. For nearly four decades Chantal Goya has staked her claim as France's leading children's entertainer, supplying swarms of infants with kiddie pop singles "Allons Chanter Avec Mickey" (Let's Sing With Mickey) and "Voulez-Vous Danser Grand-Mere?" (Do You Want To Dance, Grandma?) Thankfully most of the world was spared from her embarrassing baby pop, leaving us free to focus on 1964-1967—the trendy yé-yé years when Chantal released five fabulous girl pop singles and acted as the adorably clueless starlet in Jean Luc Godard's 1966 political pop masterwork Masculin Feminin.
A revamped Masculin Feminin (new print, new subtitles) opened last summer to glowing reviews and sold out art houses across America, evidence of an ongoing fascination with sixties France—the cinema, pop music, fashion, all of which seemed blessed with an eternal cool. While Chantal Goya never earned the kind of worship showered upon her director Jean Luc Godard and cameo co-stars Brigitte Bardot and Françoise Hardy, in the mid-sixties she was huge—top ten in Europe and Japan, cover girl for French femme mags ELLE and Mademoiselle Age Tendre, and star of what the Chicago Tribune called "one of the quintessential '60s foreign art films."
"I was very happy to come across [Chantal]," Godard said on the set of Masculin Feminin. "She's great. She's the Pepsi Generation." Godard's dig at French teens for their naive embrace of Americana echoed the general adult attitude towards the youth and their new pop, coined yé-yé by sociologist Edgar Morin who publicly slammed the sound in an op-ed piece for French daily Le Monde. But disapproving adults could do little to quell French pop fever. Discotheque-cum-mini golf hangout Le Golf Droit became the rock 'n'roll hotspot—frequented by blonde Elvis-wannabe Johnny Hallyday, rocker boys Les Chaussettes Noires, and the packs of pop kids that followed. Radio station Europe 1 spun the records. Magazine Salut Les Copains! filled its pages with full-color pin-ups and a penpal section where Helene, 15-years-old from Nice, could find her Johnny Hallyday-smitten soul mate. But poor Helene, Johnny Hallyday was already taken—by a blonde Bulgarian beauty named Sylvie Vartan who had the twist and the charm down to a T. She was the yé-yé mega-star whose success inspired teen hopefuls like France Gall, Pussy Cat, Annie Philippe, Clothilde. But not Chantal Goya. During the early stages of yé-yé, Chantal was in England studying to become a journalist.
She was born Chantal Deguerre in Saigon, Vietnam, moved to Paris at age 4, and led a rather unexceptional life until her late teens, when she met songwriter Jean-Jacques Debout at a party while at home in Paris for the holidays. "You're going to be a star," he told her. "And we're going to get married and have two children."