I was first introduced to Claudine when I saw her in the movie “The Party” singing Mancini’s "Nothing To Lose" (one of the most funniest scenes I ever saw on the screen, courtesy of Peter Sellers). Ever since then I have loved her music. She has one of the most sweet sounding, soothing and sexy voices around. No, she wasn't highly successful with her albums, her singles never peaked high on the charts, but Claudine Longet was a class act nevertheless, oozing French luxuriance but never decadence, she was the All-American French-girl-next-door. Her singing, highly imbued with her accent, is lilting, purring, often coy. Pop culture may remember Claudine Longet for just two achievements: her co-starring role in the 1968 Peter Sellers vehicle "The Party," and her starring role in the 1976 shooting of skier Spider Sabich. Although Claudine recorded a series of bewitchingly ethereal albums which are much revered by today's aficionados of smooth, sophisticated Sixties pop. Those seven original albums have always been very difficult to find in the stores or elsewhere. But Rato Records finally achieved to get them all and now they are shared here, once more, for your special delight.
Claudine was born in Paris on January 29, 1942; according to an excellent article in the magazine Girlyhead, she relocated to the U.S. at age 19, settling in Las Vegas and becoming the lead dancer in the Folies Bergère show. There she met crooner Andy Williams, with whom she'd earlier crossed paths while still a child in Paris; they were married in 1961 Christmas day, although the 14-year difference in their ages was the source of much controversy among Williams' fans. During the early years of her marriage to Williams, Longet put her career on hold to start a family (the couple had three children, Noëlle, Christian and Robert); resurfacing in 1964, she appeared as a guest star on television series including Combat!, Hogan's Heroes, Run for Your Life and The Rat Patrol. Not surprisingly, she was also regularly featured on The Andy Williams Show.
Claudine defined a style with her large brown childlike eyes, her long brown hair, and her beautiful, youthful face. It was a look perfect for the kind of light acting that she did, where she was usually a quiet contrast for the comedy or drama whirling around her. Actually, with those looks it's suprising she didn't become a model early in her career, but perhaps life as Mrs. Andy Williams prevented her from exploring that global arena. Long and lithe, Claudine was of the Twiggy / Mia Farrow school of physical beauty, compensating for her lack of a voluptuos figure with an attractive slender shape that was almost closer to childhood than womanhood and an appealing alternative to full-figured French actresses like Brigitte Bardot.
A&M SP4121 (April 1967)
Longet signed to A&M Records in 1966, scoring a minor hit with her debut single "Meditation"; her first LP, "Claudine", appeared the next year, gaining moderate airplay for "Hello, Hello" and a cover of the Beatles' "Here, There and Everywhere". Longet's records were part of the effort of Herb Alpert's A&M Records to extend the label's (previously bigband) repertoire. This first serious attempt to start a music career reached #11 in the US charts. "Un Homme et une Femme (A Man and a Woman)" with its uncredited male vocalist, sounds like a Gainsbourg duet, but elsewhere Longet and her breathy, girlish voice take center stage. Three songs from the album charted, with "Hello, Hello" performing very well in adult contemporary circles.
The second album, "The Look of Love" appeared later in that same year of 1967. It may not be that whispery vocal that is the most grating thing about this record. It will be the sugar. It’s sweeter than hard candy. But how does she do it? How does she manage to be so cloying? Maybe it’s the accent. «How een-seen-see-teeve» she coos to comic effect in “How Insensitive”, one of the most delicate and melancholy songs in pop music. Normally, I find a French accent charming, even sophisticated. But Claudine manages to subvert whatever worldliness is inherent in the inflection. Or maybe it’s the Elmer Fuddisms that occasionally creep into her voice. Her version of the Beatles’ “When I’m 64” is an absolute howl. «When I get oder, gway in my hair, meeny years fwom now, wee-oo you stee-oo be seending me a vow-en-tine…»
Or maybe it’s simply how absurdly far she carries the little-girlness of the style. On this record she actually covers that Paris Sisters hit, “I Love How You Love Me”, which provides a good comparison for how much higher she ratchets the saccharin in an already syrupy song. "The Look of Love" remains the creative zenith of Claudine Longet's A&M tenure - arranger Nick DeCaro and producer Tommy LiPuma weave together elements of soft pop, jazz and bossa nova to create a fairy-dust suite perfectly modulated to Longet's breathy allure, rendering moot her obvious vocal limitations via the perfect combination of singer, songs and sound. Material like Margo Guryan's "Think of Rain" and the Bacharach/David title cut envelops Guryan in a potently romantic atmosphere that underscores the innocence and intimacy so central to her identityn - rarely have albums forged from so little yielded so much. She couldn't do a bad record, such is her grasp of our culture and the notion of romance. Turn down the lights, light the candles and fire up Claudine!
Claudine Longet's third album, "Love is Blue", released 1968 (the same year she co-starred opposite Peter Sellers in the hilarious movie “The Party”), continues the middle-of-the-road tendencies of her first two, leading off with an oddly jaunty reinterpretation of "Falling in Love Again", Marlene Dietrich's theme song, whose jaded world-weariness Longet replaces with her own pleasantly insubstantial persona. With its cinematic background noise staging and odd ragtime piano accents, it recalls Harpers Bizarre's playful deconstruction of pre-rock standards. More successful are the straightforward bilingual version of the title track, one of the evergreen tunes of '60s easy listening; the oft-recorded Alan Gordon and Gary Bonner sunshine pop tune "Small Talk"; and a mournful, skeletal version of Randy Newman's little-known early tune "Snow" that's among Longet's finest interpretations of her career. Even better is Longet's take on the Bee Gees standard "Holiday"; Longet's endearingly pitch-poor, lispy vocals are tailor-made for this spooky, unconventional song, which arranger Nick DeCaro gives a suitably off-kilter arrangement featuring a chorus of wordless Longets between the strings and the increasingly florid piano accompaniment.
"Colours", the fourth album, released 1968, included two of Donovan's early folky tunes, "Catch the Wind" and the title track, a delicate acoustic reading of Gordon Lightfoot's "Pussywillows, Cat-Tails" that's really quite lovely, and perhaps most surprisingly, a tender recasting of the Everly Brothers' "Let It Be Me" with a coda featuring new French lyrics penned by Longet herself. Not everything works: the opening version of "Scarborough Fair / Canticle" doesn't hint at the complexity of the harmonies of the Simon & Garfunkel original, and Joni Mitchell's "Both Sides Now" skates so dangerously close to tweeness by itself that the addition of Longet's wispy little-girl vocals and prominent lisp sends it over the edge. She redeems herself at the album's end, however, with a delicately mournful take on Randy Newman's oft-recorded "I Think It's Going to Rain Today" that features only the composer's piano and Longet's uncharacteristically self-assured vocals. "Colours" is certainly enjoyable on the shallow, kitschy «ha ha, look at this» level that most modern-day hipsters condescend to, but for true connoisseurs of the style, it's probably Claudine Longet's best album.
A&M SP 4232 (January 1970)
Barnaby/CBS Z 30377 (1971)
As Longet's music career faded, she became romantically involved with Olympic skiing champion Spider Sabich, in 1974, moving with him to Aspen, Colorado, a getaway for the rich and famous where their neighbors included the likes of Jack Nicholson and John Denver. On the morning of March 21, 1976, Sabich was shot and killed when his Lüger pistol went off in Longet's hand; around Aspen, many demonized the tragedy as a case of cold-blooded murder — rumors about the couple's souring romance swirled endlessly — although the resulting trial found Longet guilty only on charges of criminal negligence, for which she served 30 days in jail. Upon her release, she later married her defense attorney, Ron Austin, and remained in Aspen, although in the years to follow she appeared in public only rarely. After the criminal trial, the Sabich family iniciated civil proceedings to sue Longet. The case was eventually resolved out of court, with the provision that Longet never tell or write about her story.