Hello friends and all.
There’s quite a number of you here for which I am both very grateful, and also challenged by. As may be you very soon, what with my rambling ways.
I’m going to reply with the thoughts you provoke in me as I go, so I won’t over edit myself but may cover something already before I get to you. I figure if I’m going to share myself here, I may as well give you a clue to who I am with my scattergun directions of travel. I jump because jumping is what I do and I’d rather accept that than spend hours trying to order myself concise so I might be seen as having executive intellectual capacity. I don’t.
Thank you for having the care to come here. I hope we have reason to come together again soon.
To those of you that have been open to me and I recognise so many of your tags, apologies for what will surely be repetition. You, the grannies in this process and me trying to get you to suck eggs. For those who come newly – a heads up. I can neither spell nor punctuate. I am neuro-diverse in discovery. I am in the process of forgiving myself and learning to embrace my freak. All are welcome. Fanship is not required. If anyone should choose to lift anything from here I would be tremendously grateful if you quoted me in context. Meanwhile I hope my context is acceptable. Who knows.
Q Jean Finch, Australia
“Grandkids. What a joy. Have you written any stories for your grandchildren? Jean x”
A I have one. Our bright beaming boy was 5 in July, and is a constant, though distant, wonder to me. We don’t live close.
We, this last week, painted pottery together and have started to make a fairy camp in the garden. And I do try to buy his things in his favourite Orange.
I’ve not written him anything but his celebration cards but I delight in his young, funny, clever self and the calm his parents have raised him about. Proud that they have rounded all the edges that I as a parent could not. I love it when my kids do something better than I ever managed as they constantly do.
Genetic upgrades all round. 🙂 x
Q Steve Pafford, France
“So, Johnny Rocket & Steve Nitrate, the mysterious duo behind the PSB aping Whispering Your Name single – if they weren’t the Pet Shop Boys in disguise who on earth were they?”
A It was very PSB for sure, but no. It was not them. I know those names were monikers but I don’t remember their real names. I’m rubbish with anecdotes. And names. And loads of stuff.
Q Dennis Burlingham, Chicago
“What types of feelings do you get when releasing a new project and also what is your least favourite portion of promoting this new work?”
A You feel a bit like a surrogate, I imagine. Afraid of loving it. You have nurtured something you know will be removed from you. You can grow it for years and not know if it will find its legs or die in a week. Knowing it will be what it will be. You have to disengage and allow it to exist outside of you. For it to be adopted and renamed.
Promotion is always a trepidatious period. You may be met by a string of journalists open to your work and genuinely interested in the writing and performance, and they may even have listened to it! Or it will be a foot in for some to get the low down on your body mass index and ask to hear about ‘the times you crashed and burned’. Yes they actually sent out a young newbie with direct instructions to rake my pain. Poor mite. Or they have written their piece already and want you present to validate it. Or it’s a two hour talk about work tied up with a throw away quip, which I tend to answer, and then the whole piece is about something you’d never sign up for. It’s a bucking Bronto.
No. Promo is mostly an exchange with your label or your promoter for their support and investment. I have many sleepless nights over what I say and how it will be framed. Why do it? Because I don’t have the status of the acts that can swerve it. Taste makers will not be popping their heads in to find out when I’m in the studio and I won’t get a TV advert hinting to the imminent revealing of my goddess crone.
Promo is a bastard. Freaks like me get to evidence our shit-wittery for posterity, while some riff-ripping, cuff arranging dullard reads as poet between brooding brow and Interface Model Number porn.
Media Silence allows them this. Silence implies authenticity. As often it conceals the vacuous.
Oh, I’m not bitter. I’m a coy carp pond of envy.
I like recording sessions very much, especially when pre-recorded. Recorded Live and in my head is the constant chant ‘You’re going to blow it now. Right now you’re going to blow it. You don’t know the words. Your voice is going to crack. You sound stupid.’
On my last album I had journalists quoting my lyrics to me and asking me about them. It felt incredible and I loved them for it.
At this moment, with my lock-down brain acclimatised to home, promotion seems ominous and beyond my comfort level right now.
Q Alberto Panadero, Marbella, Spain
“Why we never could enjoy you in Spain?”
A First of all Alberto, it shames me to say that I don’t know which countries I’ve been too or when.
Neither do I remember gigs in the UK.
This I attribute to my ADHD. It took me a long time to realise because someone else books the tours and does the routing and reminds me about my itinerary and meets me at check in. It is always embarrassing when a driver asks me which airport terminal and then where is it I am flying to?
Worse is the countries you visit often that ask about a gig you played the year before that you have no recall of. I have been known to chat to an executive one on one for half an hour, excuse myself for the loo and then return to the room and proceed to introduce myself to him. For this palm-pressing industry it’s a nightmare affliction.
I love playing live and would love to play in Spain certainly. I go where I am invited, within reason.
Agents reach out to promoters when they’re compiling a European tour or promoters contact you if they see you’re active and want to stage you.
If I’ve not been to Spain it will be that no venues have been available for me to play which could fit into our touring period, or were feasible travel-wise for the itinerary and confirmed bookings.
That or there hasn’t been a demand to see me live. That or there has been a small demand but it would cost too much to subsidise. Stuff like that.
Time is getting short. I want to sing where I can. Soon comes the day I won’t be able to.
I might then try glass blowing.
Q Andrea Vee, Berlin
“Have you ever considered singing a song in a language you personally don’t speak or understand?”
A For sure! I suspect I would love to sing in German, and that is not a bit of puff because you happen to be German.
Some dark alternative cabaret in a whale-deep register. That would tickle my fancy no end.
Q Ange Donovan, New York
“Do you feel being half-French informs the way you sing in the sense of how you convey emotion or interpret a piece?”
Stephen Wallace, Quebec
“Have you ever wanted to do a French language album or EP? Ne me quitte pas is Brilliant!!! Love from Canada!”
A Hi, Both 🙂
Yes, I definitely think.. Know, even; that the French influence was strong. My dad was a self-proclaimed patriarch. Immigrated with no English and married to a French teacher. They spoke French at home and we kids, Franglais.
It would have been all French but he worked long shifts.
We did things his way. French food. French Radio (if he was on lates) French nostalgia. Le Quatorze Juillet . And every summer holiday with his family in France.
The French have a way of engaging with loss in music that can make it more desirable than any gain. More heart soaring than joy.
Brutish men weeping to Brel is a wonder to a bewildered child. I don’t have to reach to engage with that self-expression.
I would love to sing more in French but my familiarity sits with an older tongue. France of the 60’s and the 70’s. There is no point in gilding a lily. I will never master the language now and I wouldn’t attempt to write with my crude lack of fluency. That’s what happens when kids should be seen and not heard 🙂
Actually, I did write one. With The Insects. A track for the film XX/XY.
Steve. Can you remember what it was called? [Yes, Alison, it was called Le Soleil Est Revenu and can be heard HERE]
I can’t ask my mum anymore to correct my pronunciation.
Q Indra Joyce, Glasgow
“I have always loved Sea Child from the Hometime Deluxe edition. It is so ethereal. Brings to mind the John Sayles 1994 film, The Secret of Roan Innish.
What was the inspiration behind it? And please, could you share the lyrics? They aren’t available anywhere. Thank you!”
[To listen to Sea Child click HERE]
A I grew around emotionally non-verbal men, though rage and joy were freely expressed by my French clan. It is difficult to navigate our discrete languages when a particular kind of social propriety has been drummed into you from infancy. Call and reply. It anchors someone like me and gives me behavioural hints. I am unfailingly hurt when those dances aren’t followed, whereas being called a cunt, or some other, doesn’t remotely register.
I was called an ugly old granny this week by a young fellow in the street. It made me smile that he imagined his words had teeth.
I offer myself in service to frightened pups who wish to puff large without risking returned male violence.
Words are wind and theirs are rectal and I have a charitable nature.
Do young men expect random 60 year old women, on a Co-op run, to affirm all passing, troubled, juvenile cocks by means of respectful comeliness? That’s just weird.
Do they imagine being unattractive to them is a negative? I hope his Gran can educate him, when he refrains from up-skirting her.
Internal dialogue interrupts my productivity.
If I wrote songs in French perhaps I’d make use of such observations. My dad was always banging on about an old song he loved in which flatulent old men sat together at a table companionably eating cabbage soup. He was very keen for me to cover it. I don’t know if that kind of content flies with the Pop Pickers.
So. Back to the song.
Many men have been denied true expression that is not made manifest by physical or competitive display. Sometimes they are the patriarchy and sometimes they have been unwillingly coerced into that box as sure as women have been controlled by gender expectations.
All younger generations resist the conventions of their elders. I noted my young daughters’ consternation recognising the privileges of their grandfathers’ sex.
I remember too well the shame of supplication. I also know that denied his internal child, that same man will express his love with what might he may muster. Our patriarchy were manual workers and farmers and fishermen. Peasants. Some were brutal.
Does a summer child see in that now old irascible man, mere skin made slack by the telling of his old circular tales? Can a babe recognise in him the neglected war-time youth when she has not yet measured time?
These are the kinds of seamless wanky thoughts always crowding my head and are the seeds germinating all my lyrics. Finding ways to explain your own maze when asked is difficult because you’re still in it. Looking for the place you came in by.
Most people don’t have to deconstruct their sub-conscious like this so I’m not sure how its done with brevity. I write in syntax made peculiar, I believe, by a life of translating in my head, French into English for my reply. I have lost most of my French through increasing under use since the loss of my parents, but retained its dominant shape unwittingly.
I was 9 on decimal day and I still can’t think in kilograms or Centigrade.
Either way, I can sound pretentiously arse-rich, I know, when it looks like I’m poncing up a sentence with words that I understand but can’t comfortably spell. I’ve try to speak more directly but I can’t.
Eric Cantona’s Seagull analogy made perfect sense to me. Even if that should be metaphor. I’m not sure.
I’m like an idiot savant without the whole skill set.
She in the fable that got her wily hands on the magic salt grinder, but forgot to ask for the ‘Stop’ word when she’d had enough.
I think somewhere in my salmon stream I must have been Hungarian. I like their folk stories. Or Eastern European. My haplogroup is T1a. I think it possible.
Back to the lyric and the thought and the image it raised in me. Watching an old, irascible man and wondering how he seemed – mired in gruffness – to the children of kinder generations.
I thought of a folk tale from when I was a child where one of the three sons (Hungarian, probably) sent adrift on a perilous quest, had for his talent the fastest sword. So much so that he was able to spin it above the princess’s’ head and so prevent the rain from falling upon her finery.
Those dreams we were sold, eh?
In the chorus the question I return to me. ‘What do I see? A wheeling armed windmill. Of him scything through the storm. That never on your head, your small head, shall it fall’.
The toil. The hard, backbreaking work. The spending of one life to shelter another which callouses the skin and kills the boys dream. He wheels not for the sake of her hair but for the sake of her life.
Scars are also earned by sacrifice and It is easier for the child not recognising the debt.
The rest of the lyrics I forget. I do Whys’ better than Whats’.
I only retain those lyrics I sing live or have lived by. Steve will probably know 🙂
(later) He doesn’t. I shall have to have a listen and see what I was saying. It seems reasonable. I will do that in a bit and get back to you xx
Q John Davies, Halifax, West Yorkshire
“David Bowie’s 1987 album ‘Never Let Me Down’ was totally remixed with new instrumentation in 2018. Would you ever consider doing this with tracks from your early solo career and if so, which ones?”
A I have so many songs that I would have loved to revisit. To have them heard. Some songs on The Turn, e.g., feel like babies only their mother cares for and I want them to go to the bastard party, but there is not the demand in me for a label to be motivated by the prospect.
I am old in ‘Turn’ terms and geriatric for a Lady Turn and am largely consigned by the ambivalent to the decade in which my name was made. It’s what happens. They’d take Alf repackaged but I’ve spent enough years with those songs and have no questions left to ask of them. I am good at not wanting things I cannot have now so spend no time considering what might have been. That I ever recorded and released records at all was a monumental surprise to most.
I am more excited on hearing someone rework my stuff in a way I admire. I thrill when a song writer chooses to record my song or wants to include my voice in a work of honest creative intent. It’s what validates me most, I guess.
Finks ‘All Cried Out’ being one such example that helped me re-engage with the song when I had grown tired of it.
Q Avril Keating, Cork, Ireland
“As an other myself, how cathartic was it for you to get the recognition you deserved for your last album? It felt that you poured your soul into it.”
A Thank you, Avril. It was utterly brilliant and I am always lucky to get another chance to articulate myself. I work well with Guy Sigsworth. I feel he gets the bit of me that requires translation and he provides an atmosphere that is conducive for me to be explorative and less inhibited. He is without toxicity. Looking for validation from others though is a fraught pursuit. We set them up to fail us. Other we may be but we have every reason to trust our own aesthetic. Every pertinent ability to judge it ourselves. ‘What do you like’ can be the hardest question in the world when you are told what to like, or when we have tried to mimic behaviours of the people who seem to be acceptable.
When you listen to yourself and accept that your position is well considered, you are in a better place. The hardest criticism is that which lands in truth. I trust my palate to make a record I am proud of. I can’t be second guessing and I can’t dilute anymore for the chance of a bite. It feels bad singing a song you don’t like even if it is well received. I feel like a cheat. It feels better with fortitude to fail in the eyes others knowing you have truly shown creative merit.
Q Steven Lowe, Glasgow
“I would very much like to ask about your phenomenal Hoodoo album. What inspired the sound and direction of that particular album? What are your fondest memories surrounding the album? It’s an underrated masterpiece in my humble opinion, much like yourself. Love from Scotland”
A Thanks Steven. Hoodoo was an album I shared in the making of with Pete Glenister. As the guitarist and producer he would have lead the sound bed. He drafted tracks. Sometimes with a top line and sometimes without. Mostly I wrote my parts on my porta studio. Footsteps I got the top line and lyrics written in a short day at his house to a backing track. For others we would shape a tune and I’d leave the room to lyric up. I love Pete. Her is a remarkable guitarist and I love his chord progressions.
I loved the energy of those sessions and our weavings.
It was hard on Pete because it was the album that seemed the start of Sony’s disenchantment with me, but that actually began on Raindancing. It saw a shift in my welcome and everything became difficult to navigate. Hard to pass. I am glad of it because it made me choose. Do I want to be a star or do I want to keep moving? I had to keep moving. x
Q Jakob T, Denmark
“I know you don’t particularly like “Weak in the Presence of Beauty”. Could you elaborate why? And could you offer any absolution for fans who enjoy the song (as long as we don’t request it loudly and continuously)”
A Oh. Lovely you. I am so sorry. I know I have made people feel this over recordings of mine they have connected with and I have abandoned. As though in some ways I disparage them for it. That is far from the truth.
Why am I uncomfortable about it? I knew it would be a hit before I recorded it and that’s why I recorded it. I wanted to show the label that I knew what a hit was. That I was cooperating. That shamed me. I could hear that it was a good song but unless we want to only sing, a good song is not reason enough.
I have never been drained or overwhelmed by human beauty. Never attracted by it for itself. I can’t find the care to lift the performance because I don’t relate to any part of the sentiment.
I know this all sounds like over thinking, but that’s it. It’s what I do to myself. I can’t just sing. If I don’t lose myself in the song, I return to my evaluating head, put on a face and mark time. When internally you are celebrating the arrival of the final chorus you have to address your attitude. If I feel like I’m faking it, I am.
I have revisited songs chosen for a record to fit them with live performance and indeed enjoy playing a good few now that for a while I wouldn’t touch with a shitty-stick, but I can’t find a happy place for WITPOB live. I can never make it sound comfortable. Authentic.
Set lists remain a similar length while your album output continues. There are albums and songs that never get a live showing.
It is a great song. When you heard it you would have been in a different place. When it shines here, across the world is dark. My life around that album was difficult. It was hard time that I was glad to leave behind. There is no shade on the song. I knew its merits and I am really happy that anything I made connected me to you. I have an author I love who took me to task over swearing in my own post on the Twitter platform. She then unfollowed me. I thought her attitude supercilious and somewhat unpleasantly Pelmet like. So I unfollowed her back and cocked her a silent snoot and a gifted her a new expletive of her own. In my head. I may have said it out loud.
I am a completionist of hers. I have her every publication in every pen name.
Did I dump the books? No. I then got the audio books and am currently on my third listening of each. Thing is I have a relationship with the books. Her opinion on the price of cheese was not a part of the commercial exchange. I have those books because they speak to me. She does not. Their value to me is discrete. What I am trying to say is if you know what you like, you are lucky. I would never diss someone for knowing that and never when that positive appraisal is in my favour 🙂 x
Q Nico Vasilevski, Berlin
“Is All Cried Out about a person or just a mood you had? I love it big time because I feel that sometimes more about life! Did you like the No Angels cover?
Sending big hugs to you and all hail to the true queen!”
A All Cried Out was written with Tony Swain and Steve Jolley in my house in Basildon. It was the first time I had sat down for a writing session and didn’t really know what one was. They were easy to be around and I was not yet feeling crushed by expectation. We were ridiculously quick in retrospect. For me anyway. It came out of nowhere. We wrote it at the piano. It wrote itself. At that time I had listened to a lot of Janis Joplin. I had not had the relationships to be left by, but she always made loss seem appealing. I quite looked forward to it.
Its funny how sometimes a song written from nowhere can find itself very relevant further down the line. As for No Angels, I can’t remember their version but thrill when my songs are recorded as I mentioned before. I would have been happy about it.
Q Barry Philp, Edinburgh
“Did you consider not accepting your royal gong. Like so many principled artists have done in the past?”
A I can see that arched brow thrumming from up here on my martyrs hill, Barry. 😉
First of all ‘principled’ artists reminds me of my old mother-in-law who declared she had ‘Blood Pressure’.
My internal chat then would have been all about ‘I should think so too. What with you being stood up’, and such.
As with blood pressure, all living people have principles of some potency or another. The existence of a shared principle in itself does not signify common decency or accord, it is the nature of the principle that applies to the question in hand.
As all artists are people and all people have principles I declare myself a Principled Artist. As you too are Person I know you to be principled, though not what your job is. What we don’t know reliably between us is where our principles converge, where they confound, where they may appall and where we should better seal our mouths and not speak to nuance.
Our principles can be inherited, learnt, or realised, or are mutated for our own ends.
How we will forgive a flaw in an ally, but not allow the same gift to an adversary.
Principles are cultural. For some patriarchs and their willing chattel, a woman having autonomy over her body, for example, is an affront to their dearly adhered to tenets. For me, the denial of that human right is perverse and immoral. Obscene. Unprincipled. Yet both positions are indeed ‘principled’.
A joy of getting old is not having to navigate, eyes-closed, these universal incongruences and still feel compelled to deny that they abide in all of us, in order to maintain my moral high ground and shame the other.
So, I shall answer this with the principle of honesty. The one we all cherry pick to number in our personal jamboree bag of Upstanding.
No. I didn’t consider turning it down. I have reasons that adhere to my held principles and others that don’t engage any. I considered armouring myself here with iterations of highly admirable tax paying ethics, but that would be wank. I’ve inferred it though now. Consider it as me arranging my nuts rather than full on frottage, if you will.
The common pot is vital and fairly contributing to it should not be waved like a club flag of personal largess by anyone. We all take from it.
I didn’t consider turning it down. I always wanted this award like I always wanted an O-level or an A-level. Or the face for a part time job in my youth. Or a DofE experience. To understand punctuation and to spell reliably. Not to be the last selected on the team. A part in the school play. A seat on the Choir. To not wear out my welcome. To be numbered amongst my peers beyond pop chart penury. With the Artists who weren’t Mega-Ton-Moyet in the press when fat did not get claxon-free outings and you avoided being seen because the sightings never came without public humiliation.
The musicians that weren’t asked in interviews if they were ashamed to be seen on stage looking the way I do, but rather about their work or what they have made happen.
Add it to ‘I always wanted’.
Along with swimming the channel.
Some dreams die.
Like having a son called Steve.
I grew out of that and the English channel.
This has been my juvenile bleat. The events that inform life-long social anxiety and stubborn feelings of inadequacy. The wanky-whiney adolescent me that blames all others as persecutor before recognising my otherness was not merely their projections.
I think we all have that martyr in our saddle-bags. That self-obsessed youth of some description or another.
It is the child that wants. This badge is a gift I can take for that girl. It is not a principled choice any more than owning a car is, or taking a foreign holiday.
I am by nature impulsive, but this choice was not. It is not for the good of others. I took it for myself. Absolutely.
But it doesn’t hurt young, ‘ugly’, excluded, neuro-diverse, unqualified, drop-outs to see one of their own eventually recognised by a society that does not often raise them.
To see that you can and will fail but it need not be your end story.
It doesn’t hurt Basildon to be reminded that it always had more to own than the national derision it anticipates on polling day.
It doesn’t hurt.
‘Turn it down’ was certainly the hope of a number of my clan who are anti-royalist, but more pertinently anti-the-current-government administration.
I have been on stage for 43 years and don’t define my career by the last two where music has been set aside.
There was no celebration or glasses raised, neither a dirty burger had, but yes, it is appropriate for them to adhere to their political tenets. I expect nothing less.
We women (I speak as woman as that is my class experience but am sure it speaks to many groups) spend a massive part of our lives being coerced by someone else’s privilege without ever needing to cross paths with the ‘establishment’ to be subjected to it. Without ever leaving your council estate.
I had a clear ‘It’s mine, the choice, my voice’ moment and made it.
Perhaps the very act of not ‘falling in’ was enough to tip me comfortably.
Where are my principles here? I love the Queen. I just do. To deny that would be failing in the principle of honesty. I have been an ambassador for The Prince’s Trust for more years than I can remember. I am enthralled by Britain’s Royal History and have been since I was 8 in my favourite year of education and got to fashion Tudor Queen’s out of wine bottles, scraps of velvet and papier mâché and construct Tudor houses of our own design. It was brilliant.
I am lately comforted that we don’t have a popularist, divisive President for figurehead with a fortune yet to make in these strange regressive days. I wouldn’t certainly trust the outcome of that election right now.
Another nod to Remain, if you will.
If I read you rightly, the subtext might be that you disapprove? That’s a reasonable position. You’re not alone.
I feel no personal responsibility for the behaviours and crimes of our forefathers in terms of the appalling abuses they committed in the name of the Empire. There is no empire now. We all have grim histories and national shame and we all live in the age we are born to. My GG Father walked from Milnathort to London looking for work. My Gdad was a milk man and a North London Fireman in the Blitz. My mum was a War Child.
They’d have loved it. No one would have predicted it.
What does it change? I have not added MBE to my profiles, neither do I have it as a letter head. Primarily due to my not having a letter head. I wish to be transparent. But that’s beside the point. I don’t write letters.
You don’t get a bonus, a seat, a chart position or a club membership.
It comes with no personal benefit beyond the right, I believe, to hire St Paul’s chapel for a christening or a wedding. And my kids are humanists, so that’s like gifting a dunking doughnuts subscription to a diabetic.
I love a chapel, me, and church music. It’s just some of the dialogue that lets them down. My great-aunt was the eldest woman to be ordained at St Paul’s in the first ordination of women.
I find recovered footsteps highly romantic. Like finding my GGGF was a cider merchant in the building opposite the hospital my daughter was born in. Stuff like that.
I’d have always liked to smell the chapel.
Principles that I hold in favour with socialist agendas remain.
I was never against a rosette.
Not even when someone else got one.
Q Debbie Buckley, Kent
“When do you get your deserve medal…”
Chris Winwood, Worcester
“Tell us about the MBE, what it means, how you felt, how it reflects on your career, and what you’ll wear to Buck House when you get the gong.”
A Thank you :-). You will see above much of what you ask. I felt so many things. Fraudulent. Hubristic. Anxious. Excited. Stunned. I read it on my own and kept it to myself for a bit.
Luckily it was lockdown and so there is a big delay in presentations. That suited me because there is very little time between being offered the award and what would have been the ceremony. Like many, I’ve lost my social-comfort cloak in our isolation, so not having to be in a strange environment was icing on the cake.
When I consider what it really means to me. Why it matters when I have already been recognised in my field, I think I have the truth of it.
I long despaired being called an 80’s Singer. Reduced to personifying a 5 year frame. A big cat pacing fences. It turns you against yourself. You blame yourself for gaining notice at the wrong time when every time is the wrong time because it frames you in a still and to be stultified is the death.
An artist is an artist always. They may ride the zeitgeist. They may sell one work. They may have to earn their living on the street, but they are always artists if they continue their practice. A life’s work should not be reduced to its profit or your performance judged by when you got the biggest tips. No human being can freeze himself in order to facilitate the other’s need to slow down time. My best years have come in the last decade. I found something to be proud of in myself. Most who may know my name will be unaware of those works. And that’s ok. Even I stopped buying Elvis Costello Albums eventually. Others may have heard it but it’s not their bag and that’s ok too. Shoots don’t all sprout in the same direction.
But this is the bit that matters to me. Being recognised as an artist beyond the hits. Being acknowledged as a career musician rather than an erstwhile Pop Act matters very much to me.
Q David Murphy, Philadelphia
“2023 will be the 40th anniversary of the Yazoo breakup. Is there any chance that you will record a single or, even better, an album with Vince Clarke in the future?”
Marc Hadley, Harrowgate
“Will you be doing anything to celebrate 40 years since Yazoo?”
Andy Newitt, Northampton
“Hey Alison, If Vince asked, would you consider a third and final Yazoo album revisiting the original old skool synth sound with 10 new tracks .. It would be epic and I don’t think Andy Bell would mind at all x”
Manolis Stavroulakis, Thessaloniki, Greece
“Do you have any demo versions or maybe unfinished songs, etc. from your Yazoo era and are you planning a 40 year celebration in 2022 of “Upstairs at Eric’s”?”
Randy Schummer, Fort Lauderdale, Florida
“You toured with Vince Clarke in 2008 for a Yazoo reunion. Have you ever thought of recording with Vince Clarke again for a song? Or singing/writing a duet with Andy Bell?”
Mark Hiller, Toronto Ontario Canada
“Have you ever considered collaborating with Andy Bell??? Maybe a charity single???”
A Hello All!
40 years. Amazing. God. That was a scary time to move beyond for all its wonderful freedoms. Those singular experiences. Absolute firsts. Happening at speed. With no template that I recognised.
I associated our early Yazoo days before we released UAE, with wonder, along with the years preceding when I was of gigging bands and master of my own presentation.
We were each other’s catalyst but neither comfortable to be about.
I was rarely easy in my skin but perhaps in his he was. He had already acclimatised to that truly mad world with Depeche. It was all new to me.
We never really knew each other, only through each other’s school friends. And we had no time to bond. A demo together and we were making an album within a month. We recorded in the studio down time. Early mornings and late nights and writing the songs as we went. There was never a pub.
When I was solo and having mainstream success, I desperately wanted that place again. That place full of futures unchosen. Before I was seemingly expected to forever to replicate myself.
When you didn’t know how to be careful of what you wish for. Reverse when you can’t see the road ahead.
That focussed lens is always harsher on the front person and I didn’t learn soon enough the nature of the backdrop. There was no support, of the kind available now, in the 70’s and 80’s. No internet platform from which to push back with voices to join you against the misogyny and body shaming.
I will never forget the NME reviewing Tina Turner re-emerged in the first half of her forties, as a ‘toothless old hag’. That formidable survivor of a woman. Her singular ground breaking voice. The beauty of her resilience, and a unique stage presence that Jagger openly coveted.
I wanted to go back into the womb.
Like you’d expect anything else 😉
Anyway. In my 40’s I located an overwhelming gratitude for Vince and empathy for his journey. And I needed to apologise to him for my oddness and have him witness me level and calm.
To say thank you.
To sing the second album live.
To revisit that moment lost. To be on the stage with him when I wasn’t overwhelmed or feeling isolated. To experience it – wisdom engaged.
I made that rapprochement and we did our tour and I loved it and was so happy to see him.
He knows I am open to him, albeit our musical sensibilities and responsibilities are differently prioritised, I have told him I am.
I have found my comfortable solo music place, as I remember it (We are all it seems a little changed by the pandemic) so Rewind matters little now, but he is a clever soul who always merits listening to and singing with.
Vince was open that he didn’t care about lyrics whereas I grew increasingly obsessed by them. A compulsion that raises a ‘No’ in me for any errant ‘Y’all’ and such, as readily as will the kind offer of a fried Liver supper.
I’m not puffy with pretensions. it’s just a Tic that I can’t get over. My lessons haunting me.
A collaboration with Erasure isn’t as logical as its reads.
Not, to be clear, that they are gagging for one!
Erasure digest and celebrate pop in a way that I do not. Upbeat party songs are the hardest to write IMHO and they have had a long successful career of nailing them. They don’t need to add a voice that is only relevant to the band’s ancestry chart.
I can’t engage with new songs of fresh romance and desire as Andy can, when neither fancy diverts me.
In the way I can’t sing Invisible anymore because I am not that woman. I can’t sing words that I would not speak or employ at my current stage of life.
It’s like a phobia.
Q Chris Jenkins, Aberdare
“If you could pinch one song or album and claim it as your own, whose would it be and why?”
A This is the kind of question I have always struggled with, bizarrely. Mostly for the way that I consume experiences. As a kid I wanted to be surrounded by music. It felt like travel and fuel and I rarely took it to task.
Then it became the vehicle for emotional projection, appropriation and shape throwing. Energy, despair, and rage, described for you by another head and worn like a birth mark. Then I found my own language and I started talking largely to myself in my own developing tongue.
Throughout, though, my engagement with anything has always about doing it and while I’m doing it – regardless of any suspicion of personal ability or lack of it, or the mandatory messes of my own making. I rarely listen to music and not my own once it is released, unless I need to relearn a song for stage.
I have long seemed to leave experience in its moment. I forget to look in boxes. I forget I have them. What I would listen to and find great craft and beauty in, may not match the instrument I am. There are registers I cannot reach, and words I will not sound.
Fuck me. Simple enough question and routinely I’m off around the houses. Being clear to no one but me is standard.
I am overwhelmed by music and intimidated by the size of the menu. At some point you just want to eat like a peasant with no pressing need for new. Just sustenance and an eye for the horizon.
I have neglected to collect.
I hear truly brilliant tracks that move and astound me, but without wanting to sound like the twat that I seem determined to unveil, I leave it in the ground, don’t pluck at it, and delight when I spot it again in the wild. I unfailingly forget to collect its name for my citations.
As a last consideration. I think as a woman of 60 years having lived through the times I have, the residual drive is to own my own words. To accept my shapes. All my lyrics are me deconstructing something. Some observation, thought or flaw in me. Trying to translate the world to myself. I have no desire to possess things.
Other than a state-of-the-art robot hoover which I won’t buy because I am alone, in this house, that bonds with one.
Q Mandy Mellor, Nottingham
“With your social media “sabbatical”, are you missing us as much as we are missing you?”
Emily DeFrancesco, Oro Valley, Arizona, USA
“I’d like to know more about your break from Twitter. I always look forward to hearing your wisdom on Twitter. Thanks!”
Robin Mortlock, Witney
“Are you going to return to Twitter? Could you talk about why you left and your general view of the site as an artist/public figure?”
A I really do miss you. There are always faces I look for and most are not verified accounts. Finding all social interaction as torturous as I more often do, Twitter connected me with a diverse bunch that I could relate to, be amused by and could disagree amicably with.
Some there I very much want to comfort and feel comforted by. We make connections that don’t add extended weight to the responsibilities we already struggle with, but might resonate with a sense of self or make you reconsider a glibly held position. ‘Gee. I never thought of it like that’.
Where the act of typing could slow your mouth down and offer pause to a thought. In theory.
The keyboard bloke down the road that fly tips bile with impunity is always going to be a cunt, but some kind souls have milk to share and will keep an eye out for each other. I still read people who I have shared real heart with and want to tell them I see them and that they still give me moments of happiness, but I have to abstain. I have to hope the old threads resonate for my twitter kin too and sit with that. A mere toe wet and I’m back in obsessing with the fuckers who want to steal my peace. I mustn’t backtrack.
I don’t exist thinking of myself a ‘Blue Tick’. I don’t live like I imagine some people assume from the tone of their missives, so I respond on a human level as I understand it. All wry intact.
Subject as equally to a dearth of full facts, current mental health issues. Knee-jerk and sarcasm.
Unguarded and assuming a level exchange.
You’re soon reminded that the chat you’re having is obviously not a mere chat in the corner. English speakers don’t even speak the same English. It’s a rabbit hole because none of us pause to translate. We assume the same water and try to drown one another rather than open ourselves to the other.
The greater the following the less fun it is.
One word seeds 50 follow up requests for explanation. I am topsy-turvy in my communications so there is always a lot of puzzling over what I mean.
I feel vain-glorious acknowledging compliments that all would see me glutton upon, and a greater urgency to be understood by committed detractors, when it is only ever the prized blue-tick-block screenshot they poke for, or the chance to call you some variation of Has-Been/Fugly/Talentless/Thick/Cunt in front of their clan, and prove an intrepid nature by refusing you your humanity.
It’s a contemporary thing with throw-back school-fight posturing. It passes for edgy in adults too nowadays. I don’t get on the receiving end as badly as many. Not by a long chalk. But then I have had decades to become inured. I can match their John Wayne Big Leggy wankery but it pisses my family off when I scrap.
Fact is, that stuff is not shocking or hurtful to me. It’s just crushingly, repetitively and disappointingly dull. Responding to it belies my gratitude for kindly souls that I meanwhile don’t acknowledge.
And that’s messed up.
Deny as I might, having a Blue Tick makes for an unequal spar. Trying too to defend yourself and not set up a youngster for a pile-on is problematic and I was that scratchy twat of a youth too. A rite of passage. Albeit ageism has since come on leaps and bounds. So many Own Goals in that. Daft to shit in your own drinking water, but you can’t tell ‘em.
Twitter has become duly polarised and feudal. No place for nuance and Trump fucked irony up the wrong’un for us all.
This popular accepted SM wisdom about strict sides for everything. Fuck me. But the banality.
That if you agree with one point you must surely subscribe wholesale to the same politics as its speaker, is just too inane.
By this token no left-leaning person, such am I, can be anti NRL because Piers Morgan is.
People seem to feel they don’t have enough push-back. They attack allies in such a way as to grow more enmity. I don’t get it. I don’t understand this demand for universal uniformity of thought. Thoughts are by nature, fluid.
My first crush was Charlie Drake.
Most salient to my life is that Social Media steals creative time, and that which I owe to people that have a right to rely on me and feel me present.
I do sometimes feel like a 70’s Jehovah’s Witness kid sitting out morning assembly in the cloak room and imagining the events down the hall as being infinitely more racy than they are, and miss being with the rest of my class. I try now to limit myself to honest kindnesses but still the wotaboutary over every discrete care boils my piss.
I must read the book at home and keep my favourite passages, but I no longer write notes in the margins.
Q Matthias Henschen, Berlin
What inspires you for a song? Is it a word from a friend? The atmosphere of a landscape? A quick thought while brushing teeth? Is it a beat? A quote in a movie? And is the process of writing a fast and easy thing for you?
Doris Allen, Milton Keynes
What inspires you as an artist and are your lyrics based on personal experience?
A Hey Mathias and Doris,
All these things. I was mostly washing up when I was developing Right as Rain in my head. Love Resurrection I was lying on my bed and grimacing at the sky. I have been triggered by watching films. I wrote Other when a friend called me a disaster in company. A photo of a bell inspired Rung By The Tide. Beautiful Gun by gun loving pro-lifers. There are lots of starting points but nothing gets finished if I don’t sit alone with it.
My spaces don’t need to be beautiful or evocative. I am hunched over my thoughts. I can’t see images in my head so I work on making their likenesses with words.
Rarely is it quick. Other was. Skipping Stones with King Britt took me a couple of hours to write the tune and words. If technology messes with me I lose attention. That’s my challenge.
I mostly improvise first takes over tracks I’ve never heard. I hear what it is when I am in record. That’s what I like doing. When you don’t know what the next move is. It helps to avoid melodic cliché and rigid metering.
Q Gary Alessio, Dorchester
How have you been using your time during this odd period in our lives? I’ve found my attention span is shot and what should be a good time to do creative stuff is nothing of the sort.
A Thank you, Gary . It’s been a mixed bag. We have had our share of missed weddings and online funerals and babes born to no visits and sick family we can’t attend. In this we have all been challenged, I know. David and I socialise precious little and have our companionship in each other, so most of our isolation is mitigated by that, but It has played into my social phobias and compulsions and the wins I had made there pale somewhat. It doesn’t help that I take the ‘How are you” questions literally and answer in full. 😉
Don’t speak, Alfie. Please don’t speak.
In 2019, between touring periods, I impulsively signed up at my local FE college for an Art Foundation year. We were disrupted by lockdown at Easter, so I was then a lockdown student. Our last term was cancelled by Covid.
As the period extended and touring was off the cards I enrolled in Art at University and have completed my first year. Another wild leap. I need an itinerary or I stop kicking and drown in avoidance and unhealthy pursuits. It has been challenging. Our first year tutor was outstanding. Full of care in his content. The rapidity though of incoming information is overwhelming me. I want to touch something for a while before I go into the next room. I want to sit with it. I don’t have time when I need time to waste. My biggest challenges – technology and rabbit holes. My goal is not to drop out. I don’t know that I can find an academic language, unless Tudor Twunt is an admissible form. Grotesque sells, but my grade was shocking. My linguist daughter says “Why can’t you just write a fucking paragraph?” She’s not wrong. I had expections of her too when she was at university. It’s a fair exchange.
There’s no Expressionism in Essay. I think they all miss a trick in that. That lot.
I’d say it’s a unique experience, but it was always going to be. I’ve never been to university before. It’s been humbling seeing young people having to dig so deep. I am cushioned and hanging on. The resilience of the tutors is exhausting to witness. How hard to sit in a room and beam all day at a page of initials with internet fails and questions met by radio silence.
The times I said thick stuff is still sphincter-twitching. I just felt so bad about the silences. I should have just felt bad about the silences.
If I don’t drop out I will have seen off another ghost. That’s a win. If I do drop out, I will find a very good reason to justify myself. I am at least confident in that.
More of Alison’s answers will be added each day.
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