Simon Napier Bell- Fancying Françoise Hardy (& Ending up with Amanda Lear)
Browsing on Youtube can be dangerously time-wasting. Last night, accompanied by a bottle of whiskey, I chanced on an old Françoise Hardy song from 1966, entrancing, “Il n’y a pas d’amour heureux” -http://tinyurl.com/qensblt
It led to a severe bout of nostalgia. In 1966, I was the music editor for the movie ‘What’s New Pussycat’ in which Françoise had a tiny but very alluring part. From seeing her face run through the moviola every day I became completely besotted. “Fuck being gay,” I decided. “This is what I really want.”
Out of the blue, a month after I’d finished working on the movie, someone at United Artists called to ask if I’d like to produce a song with Françoise Hardy. United Artists in France, for whom she recorded, had heard one of my songs and thought it might be perfect for her. Amazing! A gift from heaven!
Three weeks later, at midday, I was waiting for her in Pye Studios at Marble Arch having been there since 8am recording the track. She arrived looking exactly like the photograph below. And looked at me exactly like that too.
Instantly heterosexualised, I simply wanted to grab her, but somehow managed just to peck her on the cheek. “Have you learnt the song yet?”
“Of course,” she smiled. “It’s lovely.” And every word she said was as if she was proposing we go to the honeymoon suite at the hotel next door and shag for eternity.
I got her quickly into the vocal booth. It seemed safer with her behind glass.
“How would you like me?” she asked over the talkback.
It was a daunting question. “Just sing it as you want,” I said. “I’ll let you know if I want anything changed.”
But I didn’t.
Actually, quite a few things were wrong with it. For one thing I’d made the tempo a little faster but she was singing in the style of the demo I’d given her – a little slower, which gave her voice less dynamics. Yet I didn’t change a thing. I don’t know why, just in a fluster, I suppose.
She got it finished in a couple of takes and I pushed the session along far too quickly. By quarter past one we’d finished. I was thinking perhaps we might have lunch together. Instead, she thanked me for being quick and called a taxi back to the airport.
(The song was ‘Never Learn to Cry’ and went out on her 1966 album ‘En Anglais’. I still get royalties from it, but it’s nothing to be proud of. Not at all a good recording.)
But all was not lost. Three weeks later United Artists called again. “The Françoise Hardy track has gone down well in Paris,” they said. “Our French office want you to do another one Would you be free to go there next week?”
Yes, yes, yes! I thought, but tried to answer with as little enthusiasm as possible. “Mmm, perhaps I could fit it in. Let me look at my diary.”
A week later I flew into Paris and took a taxi to United Artists’ offices, only to be disappointed. It wasn’t Françoise Hardy they wanted a song for but another singer, waiting in the conference room – Amanda Lear, quite a different sort of girl.
Later she turned out to be as alluring as Françoise. And much more in tune with what I was used to.”
Simon Napier- Bell’s next book is TA-RA-RA-BOOM-DE-AY a complete history of the music business.
Pledge now by ordering a copy here http://bit.ly/1aHZHMO