Today is the birthday both of Isabelle Morizet – AKA Carene/Karen Cheryl – and of a certain Yours Truly! (…and it makes a change to be saying a GOTGE ‘Happy Birthday’ in a non-Eastern/Central European language!)
By way of a GOTGE celebration of the originator of my interest in the female Pop Music artists of the 1970s and the immediately surrounding period from the Continental Mainland what could be better than the track off Carene Cheryl’s second LP, ‘Ne raccroche pas, je t’aime’ (that I will be ordering in the Autumn, on the fortieth anniversary of its release), ‘Les neiges d’été’? One will already be familiar with my opinions on the Carene versus Karen issue. I think that ‘Les neiges d’été’ is a perfect illustration as to why I believe that, contrary to what appears to be the impression of the majority, the Carene Cheryl persona was considerably more than just a ‘rehearsal’ for the more illustrious days to come as Karen Cheryl. Karen did indeed release some very good material. Don’t get me wrong on that. However, none of it was anywhere near as epic as this album track, which could have been a pretty presentable single and – had it been translated into English – might even, with a beat like that, have caused a stir on the Northern dance scene. (However, since it’s the tune that is more ‘king’ than the actual lyrics for those purposes, maybe a translation wouldn’t have been necessary.)
This brings to mind one thing Carene Cheryl-related that I have been holding back for this occasion in respect of promoting her to the UK market. Early last year, while looking into how Carene Cheryl might have been covered in the contemporary youth press (I was thinking, in particular, of the legendary magazine, ‘Salut les copains’) I encountered a site offering back copies of SLC for sale and in the SLC No. 167 (out on the news stands forty years ago as I write, as the July 1976 edition) I came across a reference to a story which, translated, was entitled ‘Why London wants to steal Carene Cheryl from us’. I thought to myself, “there wouldn’t be anything ridiculous like photos of Carene on the streets of London in the relevant article, would there?”…and on ordering it and receiving it I discovered, much to my amazement and delight, that there were and very evocative images they were, including Carene reading a copy of ‘Record Mirror’ in Piccadilly Circus.
Here is that precious article.
And here is a translation of the article.
(Signature on photo reads “A Thousand Kisses from London – Carene Cheryl”)
In a year Carene Cheryl has become a star in France. How many will it take her to conquer England?
Introduction to the article:
Due to a song recorded specially for England the English are crazy about a French singer. ‘Salut Les Copains’ explains….
Why London wants to steal Carene Cheryl from us.
Carene is in the image of the English: a mixture of tradition and fantasy
From Trafalgar Square to Piccadilly Circus, Carene wanders through London with the casualness of a real Briton.
The meeting between London and Carene Cheryl: A love story which promises to last.
On the King’s Road there are a load of boutiques where all the young people go for their clothes. Carene Cheryl has taken to the habit of doing her shopping there.
In London the policemen are called ‘Bobbies’. They have an easy smile and aren’t averse to singing…
The article proper:
An explosive record
Carene has just recorded her first record in English, entitled ‘Love Me Like A Stranger’. It is an adaptation of a song that has already sold eight million copies in South America. The version by Carene Cheryl has enthused the programmers at the BBC, who have decided to do everything to help the young French singer to become a big star over on the other side of the Channel.
The Anglo-Saxon sound
It’s at a studio in London that Carene has done this recording, with the accompaniment of the best British musicians. Impressed by the bright and clear voice of the performer of ‘Samedi, Dimanche et Fêtes’ the studio technicians have pulled all the stops out so that this record is a little masterpiece of the genre. The result? A sound of which neither Carly Simon nor Carole King would be ashamed!
London isn’t short of pretty girls, but Carene Cheryl possesses the charm and typically French smile that the British cannot resist.
When one sees Carene Cheryl just once on the television one cannot forget her, the journalists in the specialist press have remarked. They affirm that this singer has star quality and one can see kindness written in her features.
In love with London
I wouldn’t very much like to leave my country, explains Carene, since I adore France, where all my memories lie. However, London in the only foreign city where I feel really at ease. The people there are polite, relaxed and nothing astonishes them….and furthermore the passers-by are beginning to recognise me in the street, which isn’t unpleasant…
She sings like an Englishwoman
‘Her accent is perfect!’, all the English show business people have exclaimed. There’s nothing surprising in that if one takes account of the fact that Carene Cheryl’s mother is totally bilingual and that she doesn’t hesitate to correct the little mistakes that her daughter occasionally makes. I have, at any rate, studied English for seven years at secondary school, adds Carene, with well-justified pride.
England is short of female voices
Great Britain is the kingdom of Pop groups, but the supremacy in this area is tarnished by a total absence of female artists. The English used to have Sandie Shaw and Marianne Faithfull, but nowadays there’s a huge vacuum in the world of female voices. Rather than going to America in search of new artists English producers are interested in French stars, in particular, Carene Cheryl.
I have indeed listened to ‘Love me like a stranger’ on the aforementioned LP (the entire LP is available on YouTube) and it is pretty impressive, but I think that «Mémé» Ibach missed a trick by not thinking of ‘Les neiges d’été’ for the UK market. As I said, the dance clubs would have lapped it up.
One will note that Carene Cheryl shares the front cover with her erstwhile much more experienced label-mate at Carrère, Sheila. (To be re-dubbed ‘Sheila B. Devotion’ the following year)….which is Carene’s connection with GOTGE World inasmuch as, in-between MOTR’s ‘Tweedle Dee, Tweedle Dum’ and Hana Zagorová’s ‘Pan Tydlitýt a Pan Tydlitát’, there was Sheila’s version, ‘Les Rois Mages’. (No reliably ’embed-able’ videos on that, despite – or maybe because – it being considered by many in France to have been ‘The Sound Of 1971’).
It is perhaps fitting that I should use this ‘French Connections’ opportunity to mention that I have discovered that the exchange previously alluded to in GOTGE between the French artist, Julie performing in a vintage car on the streets of Prague and Marie Rottrová performing on a boat on the River Seine was literally that, so that’s why the parallels were so remarkable. It transpires that ‘Hle Praha, pane pařížane!’, made in 1980, was the first leg of an exchange of co-productions between Czechoslovak TV and TF1/ORTF – Helena Vondráčková and Jean-Pierre Cassel meeting up again, this time in Paris, in ‘Tady Paříž, dobrý den’, a couple of years later, Helena taking Marie along with her.
It’s a shame that Hana didn’t go along too, since I am sure that the artist who had done the “Czech ‘Les Rois Mages'” eleven years previously would have caused a bit of a stir in Paris.
More than the stir Carene was causing forty years ago in London?
Of course, it does occur to one that the A&R people in London back in 1976, after all these discoveries that GOTGE has made in the former Eastern Bloc, may have considered looking for fresh female Pop Music artists on the other side of the Iron Curtain as well as the other side of the English Channel. There was evidently a pretty plentiful supply. Now, THAT would have been quite some ‘invasion’!
I wonder how artists from Communist countries would have gone down on British television.