Bob Dylan et Johnny Hallyday, à Paris, mai 1966 © Rue des Archives/Agip
These photos caught my eye at the Cité de la Musique’s photo exhibition, Bob Dylan l’Explosion Rock, which focuses on the work of American photographer Daniel Kramer who followed Dylan’s life on and off stage during the years 1964-65. The exhibition is on until July 15th.
Divided across two floors, the first level gives a brief background to Dylan’s career along with a series of striking black and white photos that Kramer took. Although gorgeous photos it’s hard to get excited when images of Dylan at this time are so over-exposed, it reminded me of a posh poster shop. However, it’s important to remember that this exhibition isn’t an art show as such, it is aimed at music-lovers and most of all, Bob-lovers.
For me the basement was more of a pull as it focuses on Dylan’s visit to Paris as part of his world tour in 1966. I’ve lived in Paris for two and half years and have loved having an excuse to indulge myself in all types of culture, trashy or high-brow by saying “it’s to help me learn the language” whilst switching over the TV to a game show which features a mascot dog. One thing I’ve loved learning about, which I think can just get away as being credible is Yé-yé music.
Yé-ye stars sang sugary songs about he highs and lows of being teenagers. It was a revolution for French kids and also big business, there was even a music magazine ‘Salut Les Copains’ so teenagers could keep up to date with their heartthrobs and legends. The biggest stars of Salut les Copains were Serge Gainsbourg, Johnny Hallyday, Françoise Hardy and Jacques Dutronc.
Although the Yé-yé music movement was trying to differentiate itself from American music it actually took most of its influence from ‘rock ‘n’ roll’ and Yé-yé performers often reinterpreted American and British songs in French. However, it worked both ways. Something not many people outside France know is that Yé-yé superstar Claude François, the subject of this year’s biopic Cloclo penned the original version of Sinatra’s ‘My Way’ in French as ‘Comme d’habitude’ (as usual) two years before.
The first photo in the group that caught my eye was one of Bob Dylan stepping out with Johnny Hallyday. Dylan was in France in May 1966 as part of his world tour. I love the contrast between the clean-cut pop star Hallyday and Dylan, the wild American rock star hiding behind his sunglasses. Close by the photo is a video which shows a clip of Hallyday on a TV show being questioned about his respect for Dylan which is surprising to the show’s presenter as Hallyday had said not long before how much long-haired rock stars annoyed him. It’s hilarious watching him awkwardly back-peddle.
For me this pictures picks up the awe Hallyday feels towards Dylan and American rock. Dylan was obviously an inspiriation for Hallyday’s early style. In 1964 Hallyday covered the folk standard, ‘House of the rising sun’ which had previously been recorded by Dylan in 1962.
Today Johnny Hallyday remains one of the biggest stars in the French-speaking music world. His concert, 100% Johnny: Live à La Tour Eiffel in 2000, attracted an audience of 500,000 and 9.5 million television viewers as it was broadcast live on French TV. He now lives in the US, still producing music heavily influenced by American rock and blues. Although he has had several attempts at retirement he seems to be refusing to get old (with a little help from his plastic surgeon) and is permanently on tour or acting in the theatre.
Bob Dylan et Françoise Hardy, mai 1966 © Barry Feinstein
The second photo that caught my eye was Dylan with Françoise Hardy, who in my opinion is the most beautiful French woman that has ever lived (Bridgette Bardot no longer counts since she came out in support of the far right). Hardy stood out from the other Yé-yé stars with her hauntingly melancholic songs like “Tous les garçons et les filles” which tells about the loneliness of life without friends or boyfriend.
Yet despite the sad persona she painted through her music, in real-life she was receiving amorous advances from the biggest rock stars in the world; Mick Jagger who described her as the ‘perfect woman’ and Dylan who dedicated a poem to her, “Some other kinds of songs” which can be found on the sleeve of 1964’s, ‘Another side of Bob Dylan’.
Many rumours have flown around about what went on between Hardy and Dylan, but she remains adamant that it was ‘just friends’ as he wasn’t her type. Imagine how different the world of music could have been if she’d fallen for his charms.
Hardy’s gloominess struck a cord with millions of ‘les ados’ or teenagers as we call them and in 1966 Hardy made the jump across the channel by releasing an English-language album which remained in the UK top twenty for several weeks after its release.
In 1967 Hardy found love with fellow Yé-yé pin-up Jacques Dutronc who she is still with albeit living in separate countries. She continues to release music and occasionally appears as a cultural commentator on TV. At the age of 68 she is still known for her striking beauty, is refreshingly free of nips and tucks and is letting her hair go grey.