HARDY PERENNIAL by Bob Stanley
""She’s 59, but Francoise Hardy is still an icon. She talks about her old times and new records
THE FASHION DESIGNER André Courrèges once claimed “my avant-garde style corresponds to her way of thinking. To my mind, she has always symbolised the modern woman.”
Sitting in the bar of the St James Hotel in Paris, Françoise Hardy is smiling as I walk in. The beatnik demeanour and the insolent fringe that broke a thousand Aldermaston hearts is gone, but the melancholy, soft-grey eyes are a giveaway. She’s smiling, and looking slightly bemused. “Hello, you’ve come from London to interview me? Why?” Because of Messages Personnels, the new compilation you’ve hand-picked, due out next week. Why else? “Oh . . .”
She looks crestfallen. “But it’s not new for me. It’s not that interesting . I don’t know what to say . . .”
Now, this isn’t strictly true. Famously abrupt at the height of her fame in the Sixties, Hardy will happily talk for hours about anything from the Prince of Wales to GM food to Claude Chabrol (“he is like a writer who doesn’t pay attention to his spelling and grammar”). Most of all, she likes to talk about astrology and her new book, Les Rythmes du Zodiaque. She is a Capricorn, like me. “You have the longest nights, the longest absence,” she explains excitedly. “When the Sun is in Capricorn, you are not there. You are below the horizon. You are invisible!”
Hardy was born in Paris on January 17, 1944, and raised in the 19th arrondissement by a domineering grandmother who would scold her for being too tall and too thin. At school she was ribbed for her vaguely unusual home life — she developed an acute lack of confidence that 40 years of fame and wealth have barely dented. Inspired by the launch of Salut Les Copains — a teen-oriented radio station — in 1959, she bought a guitar, taught herself three chords and used songwriting as therapy. Her songs were unremittingly sad. Vogue Records signed her in 1961 and she recorded her own Tous les Garçons et les Filles during “three hours with the worst four musicians in Paris”.
Holidaying in Austria the following summer, Hardy came home to discover it was a huge hit. By mid-1963 it had sold more than two million copies. In 18 months Hardy sold more records than Edith Piaf had in 18 years.
Forty years on, there is a compilation that tries to neatly package a career that deserves a box set (one will appear later this year): Messages Personnels forsakes Tous les Garçons, All Over the World and most of her best-known songs for lost singles, forgotten album tracks and sundry back alleys.
“My selection was a bit limited. I didn’t want to put old songs on which I’m very fond of, like L’Amitié, that have been on some compilations already. But I like all of these songs very much.”
Highlights include the German language Traume — unlike most non-Teutons, Hardy loves to sing in German. “Last week I was in a restaurant when this blonde woman came in and said hello, and I had to put my glasses on to see that it was (French pop singer) Sylvie Vartan. So I was very happy to give her lots of kisses, but I saw she was with a beautiful, much younger man.
“I thought why is Sylvie with this beautiful man? And it was François Ozon, who directed Eight Women, you know? And he has used Traume and Message Personnel in his films. He was beautiful, I could only say, ‘Oh, it’s you!’ Unfortunately he is much too young for me. Even if he wasn’t, he is homosexual, like almost all my fans.”
Maybe Ozon could also revive the woozy, near-psychedelic J’ai Coupé le Téléphone, an étude on cutting yourself off from the outside world: “That’s what I was feeling for years. But not now. I’m much more independent.”
When I tell her that Alison Goldfrapp called La Question her favourite Sunday morning record, Hardy, a big fan, is beside herself. “To be honest though, I am not listening to so much underground music now. I am obsessed with classical pianists. My favourite is Hélène Grimaud — she keeps wolves. What I love is that they are such strange people, very special people.” They could become an influence on Hardy’s next album, which she will begin to put together after her annual summer holiday in Corsica. In the meantime, there will be an appearance on a Serge Gainsbourg tribute, duetting with Brian Molko, of Placebo, on Requiem Pour Un Con — “I spoke to the producer today and said I didn’t want him to have a shock, I am a very bad singer. He said: ‘Don’t worry, I am a very bad producer.’
“It becomes harder and harder to find new music and new ideas,” she sighs mournfully. In fact she has “retired” at least twice, to try to avoid going through the mill once more. “Us poor little Capricorns! We don’t want the world to notice us!” Just as I go I remember that David Bowie, that least shy and retiring of rock stars, is also a Capricorn.
“Oh yes, but he has three planets in Leo.”
Nearly got her.""
(This article was published just before the release in the UK of the compilation CD Virgin 5849392 'Messages Personnels')