Where’s That Confounded Bridge? Special Edition: Keith Relf/Françoise Hardy: Brace for the Obscure (60s rock)! — July 13, 2022


Take one fantastic failed solo A-side with one of the greatest bridges of all time by the Yardbirds’ singer and let a French icon incorporate the bridge into an enchanting confection — I’d say that THIS was the greatest Anglo-French alliance that history has yet seen.

As Richie Unterberger explains:

This peculiar track only counts as a half-cover, perhaps. For the verses of “Empty Sunday” are acceptable, if hardly exceptional, slightly glum pop-rock with a Continental flavor. Yardbirds fans ears will instantly perk up, however, when Hardy sings the bridges, which are taken note-for-note and word-for-word from the bridges of Keith Relf’s flop 1966 single “Shapes in My Mind.” “Empty Sunday” was written by famed British music entrepreneur Simon Napier-Bell and Ready Steady Go assistant producer (and Dusty Springfield manager) Vicki Wickham. . . . In 1966 Napier-Bell became the Yardbirds’ manager. Though his stint was relatively brief, it did take in the even briefer attempt to launch a sideline solo career for their singer, Keith Relf. That was pretty much a bust, and Relf’s second and final 45 while with the Yardbirds, “Shapes in My Mind” (actually released in two different versions, one starting with organ, another with sax and bass) was a flop. . . . [Its] bridges were recycled for the otherwise unrelated “Empty Sunday,” Hardy faithfully using the same rhythm.


514) Keith Relf — “Shapes of My Mind”

Richie Unterberger says that “Shapes of My Mind” is a “pretty cool, unusual moody song with a baroque-pop flavor and unusual tempo changes, moving from tango-like verses to more insistently pounding bridges.” (http://www.richieunterberger.com/wordpress/francoise-hardy-les-versions-originales/) Sam Leighty says that it is an “interesting period piece in which Keith seems to start out singing about freaking out badly on acid. But after singing a few lines, he gets to the point that it’s Condition Red because his woman left him. . . . [T]his is a great song.” (http://www.furious.com/perfect/keithrelf.html)

Richie Unterberger says of the Yardbirds’ co-founder that:

Relf worked more extensively with [Yardbirds drummer Jim] McCarty than any other musician, the pair also recording and writing with each other as part of Together, Renaissance, and other post-Yardbirds projects. Asked in 2020 to account for how the folkier sides of his ex-bandmate emerged, Jim speculates, “I guess they were a relief of the sort of heavy, rocking stuff. They were sort of gentle. And yet, Keith had sort of a gentle side in him as well. He was quite a complex character. He always had a sort of almost secret side to him that was rather mysterious, which you couldn’t quite fasten down. “He was very gentle, but he had a sort of heavy side to him as well. And there’s one that’s very extroverted. He had both those sides in his nature. We used to link up on the gentle side and the spiritual things. He was a very spiritual guy”— a quality that comes across strongly in these recordings, as if he’s drawing from the bottom of his well.


Here is the second version:

515) Françoise Hardy — “Empty Sunday”

From the French icon’s “wonderful” ’68 album of songs in English — “[En Anglaise is] a true lost gem in Françoise Hardy’s discography. It features 12 tracks recorded early 1968 between London and Paris, in order to satisfy the singer’s British and US fans demands.” (https://www.8raita.fi/shop/p26237-hardy-francoise-en-anglais-fi.html). Richie Unterberger calls it “Europop-flavored” and “one of the better tracks” on the album.” (https://www.allmusic.com/album/fran%C3%A7oise-hardy-en-anglais-mw0000892506)

I’ve talked of Françoise before (see #459, 476, 477), but Thom Jurek sums her impact up well:

“[She] is a pop and fashion icon . . . . With her signature breathy alto, she was one of the earliest and most definitive French participants in the yé-yé movement . . . . She is one of only a few female vocalists who could or would write and perform her own material. She offered a startling contrast to the boy’s club of French pop in the early ’60s, paving the way for literally thousands of women all over the globe.


Here it is in French:

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