Monthly Archives: December 2016

Soul Survivor… The P. P. ARNOLD Interview

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Patricia Anne Cole, better known as P.P. Arnold, took the opportunity to escape an abusive teenage marriage by joining The Ike n Tina Review, arriving in London just as The Swinging ’60s were igniting. Encouraged by Mick Jagger to break away from what had become another exploitive situation, she embarked upon a successful solo career, garnering her own hits and working with a veritable Who’s Who of ’60s (and subsequent) movers and shakers. The Nice, rightly revered as the inventors of Prog Rock, were formed to serve as her backing band. A by-no-means exhaustive roll call of other collaborators includes Steve Howe, Roger Waters, Eric Clapton, The Small Faces, three quarters of Led Zeppelin, The Bee Gees, The Move, Rod Stewart, Nick Drake… and she was an intimate confidante of Jimi Hendrix.

I was fortunate enough to meet P.P. Arnold in November 2003 when she was guesting on that year’s tour by The Manfreds, alongside Alan Price and Colin Blunstone. Shortly after that I interviewed her (regrettably over the phone rather than in person) in Spain, where she had recently made her home… not on the Costa Del Crime though arguably she risked arrest, so comprehensively had she stolen the show on that Manfreds tour…

(tape starts rolling) … I’m in the process of filling in a lot of blanks because I’m in the process of writing my own book.

I’m looking forward to that…

Yeah. me too. I’m looking forward to getting to it. I’ve done a lot of work but I’ve got a lot of work to do. I’m looking forward to speaking to a lot of different people because I want it to be really objective, I want to meet a lot of people that were there and pick everybody’s memory banks to put together a really honest, objective, real true story… warts and all!

Should be quite a story.

It will be!
So, how did the recent tour with The Manfreds go?

The tour went great, fantastic as far as all the gigs, the audiences, the fans… that was all great. There’s always the politics of the business that sometimes make us all wanna stop doing what we do but you can’t stop. I can’t, anyway, because I was born to do this and I’ve been doing it all my life. God has left me with my health and strength so I hope to be able to keep doing it… for the right reasons, you know, not just to be out there and be a celebrity. I always think that the gift … and it is a gift… that God has given me… I think of myself as a healer. As a singer I’m healing, so when I’m singing my objective is hopefully to be able to touch the hearts and the minds of people and help lift them, elevate things and do my bit for love, peace and happiness.

Your voice is such a beautiful instrument on record but when I saw you with The Manfreds I was really struck by the sheer power of it and I guess this must be a legacy of your Gospel background…

Most definitely… it’s also the legacy of being out on the road for 40 years, y’know? That’s gospel, that’s soul, that’s R’n’B. My first years were with Tina, she’s my teacher as far as learning to project and reach out and just let go, really. It’s time that does that and even though I haven’t been able to do my own solo bit, as a result of the politics of the industry, I’m always working with different people. I’ve never stopped making records and recording. I have so much unreleased material, it’s not funny. I’m gonna do something with a lot of the stuff I have… yeah, I’ve never stopped.

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Do you think the record business just doesn’t know what to do with you?

I think so, that’s part of it… and then there’s all the prejudice. Right now I guess I’m dealing with ageism. I’m not 21, I’ve had a lot of experience and the wool can’t be pulled over my eyes that easily anymore. It’s a lot of different things… in the industry, “When you’re hot you’re hot and when you’re not, you’re not” and sometimes when you’re not it might have a lot to do with your own personal life. I’ve been through a lot of personal tragedies as well as all the exploitation in the industry so people are kind of scared of that. I’ve found that when things were really hard for me, people just did not want to know. I’m quite a sensitive person so I don’t know how to do that hard, cold-blooded hustling thing. I think that’s been a lot to do with the fact that I haven’t found  anybody prepared to just believe in me and do what has to be done to get me projected as an artist… y’know, it’s a business and the music is only a small portion of it, these days. It’s all about The Biz and you have to find people who are prepared to work really, really hard so you have a chance to get placed and … it’s like Catch 22. I have the support of all the musicians but I don’t get a chance to work with really good producers because I don’t have a record label and now record companies want you to do all the work before you actually sign, you to have have everything in place for people like me before I could get a deal. I don’t have management and I’ve tried doing that whole thing of dealing with my own management and that’s hard. Not only am I a woman, I’m a black woman…

… and you’re a strong-minded, independent woman…

First of all I’m a recording artist, I was a recording artist before I was a performing artist so that’s my love, recording, but I can’t perform because I don’t have any records out there and you need management to be out there in the arena of what’s going on today… I don’t know what’s going on out there.

There are lot of manufactured puppet acts out there …. the executives are happier dealing with those people.


I think there are but for a long time, the companies didn’t really want to pay artists so DJs became the artists of our time, the DJs were being paid to be producers and the singers were just glorified… I stopped doing sessions because people were treating me like a glorified session singer and they wanted me to sing behind people who couldn’t even sing. I turned on Top Of The Pops and there was somebody miming to my voice on The KLF’s 3 Am Eternal. I even did records… it’s not just pop, it could even be gospel… I worked with The London Gospel Community Choir then I turned on the TV and they had some young girl miming to my voice, I mean, nothing is sacred in the industry. The whole thing about having to sing behind people who don’t have talent, well, I’ve been out here too long and I take a certain pride in myself. People might say: “Who does she think she is? She needs the money, why isn’t she doing session work?” The answer is, I got tired of people just prostituting my sound, they want me to go in and do demos, to  give my sound away, which can’t be done because – thank God – my sound is distinctive. It can’t be copied, but people try to and I think: “Well wait a minute, I’m not finished yet!” I’m not gonna give my sound away so that when I’m getting ready to do something people say: “She sounds like someone…” who’s sounding like me! It’s just ridiculous…

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Being a child of the ’60s I kinda thought for a while there I was quite revolutionary about what was going on, then when I did stuff with The Beatmasters, like Burn It Up, I couldn’t get a record deal, there I was in the Top Ten and I couldn’t get a record deal and all those guys who worked on the record were being given record deals, I was the only live element on the record and I couldn’t get a deal so I just thought: “OK what am I gonna do? I’m gonna get my own record company!” So I did that, I formed Full Circle Productions and Full Circle Records and I wrote this song after Burning It Up called Dynamite, with the late Kenny Moore who used to play keyboards for Tina and The Beatmasters produced it for me. I went out there and tried to do it myself, without any backup and basically I couldn’t compete, I couldn’t afford to give records away to record shops which is what the record companies were doing so I just couldn’t compete. I had a video and everything, on the underground scene the record did really well but I couldn’t get the support I needed to cross that record over to the Top 40 where it needed to be.

At one point I believe there was an attempt to turn you into a punk star!?!

They wanted to, I rebelled against that and sometimes I think I should have gone along with it, gone out there and established myself a bit more. That was right after I worked with Barry Gibb. There was so much politics going on with that…

What was the story of why that stuff never came out?

Well, the Bee Gees split up so they had their own internal politics. I’m an artist that’s always tended to be produced by other artists so if you’re working with somebody who’s got internal politics like the Bee Gees had at that time, you get caught up in those politics and Barry wasn’t with Robert Stigwood. My relationship was more with Barry than it was with Stigwood, who didn’t know what to do with me, basically. He had signed me because Barry was producing me and Ahmet Ertegun said: “Wow!” Barry and I did a little acoustic set at a dinner party Ahmet was at and Ahmet turned to Stigwood and said: “Stiggy – why haven’t you got this girl signed up?!?” and Stigwood told him: “We’re getting all the paperwork together and we’re signing her next week” which he did, because he realised that Ahmet was interested, but he didn’t sign me for the right reasons, to give me direction. My relationship with Immediate and Andrew Loog Oldham was a proper management relationship, direction orientated…

Immediate sounds like it was a real family thing…

It was a real family thing, it was really sad when all that broke up behind the greed and drugs and all the other politics that went down there. It’s really funny, Andrew waited too late to kind of own up and fix things, there. I’ve been in touch with him in recent years… it’s a pity not only for all the artists but for him as well because he really knew what to do.

You were really tight with The Small Faces…

Yeah, we were just like the brother and sister group of Immediate, we were the babies, all the same age and all like mates. My relationship was really with Steve, he was like my brother, my soul brother, y’know what I mean, we were all that same age and Immediate also had the whole thing that was going on there… I had always been inspired by the whole Motown thing and we were all into that concept of having so many great artists on one label, the idea was for people to write for each other and produce each other and record together and that’s what we were doing. We were all friends, we use to do all these great tours together and just work together really closely.

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People like Oasis, Paul Weller and Ocean Colour Scene are fans of that music and certainly in the case of Oasis they’re trying to be what the Small Faces would have called “ravers”… bad boys, but without any of The Small Face’s charm and certainly nothing like their talent… is there any comparison in your mind between these acts and what was going on in the ‘60s? How do Oasis, e.g. compare with The Small Faces?

They don’t. Neither does Ocean Colour Scene. Paul Weller’s got his own thing, but to me, neither does Paul.

I agree.

I had a horrible, nightmare experience with Ocean Colour Scene. I don’t think I’ll talk about that now, I’ll save it for the book. Basically a lot of intimidation and stuff went down, there were a lot of egos going on and I wasn’t impressed. A lot of promises went down and they all wanted me to be there for them but when it was time for them to be there for me, they weren’t, so… same old story. There’s the real deal but there’s a lot imposters out there as well.

Tell us something about what happened when Immediate went on the rocks…

We were all so young, we were just kids, you know? I really didn’t know the inner working of the business, who Andrew Loog Oldham was, when I first came over here as an Ikette. I knew nothing about the music scene here in England, I knew nothing about the past history of pop music in London so I just put my trust in Andrew and Mick Jagger, really. Mick was the whole reason I stayed here, he wanted to produce me. I was working with Mick and Andrew at Immediate then The Stones split from Andrew so there I was with Andrew and The Stones were off making more money somewhere else…

You knew nothing about the British scene but you arrived slap-bang in the middle of it at its creative zenith…

Exactly, which is why I think if I do stand a chance at regenerating my career it will be for that reason, because of the work that I did at that time… exactly what happened, being a part of all that. There weren’t too many female artists out there and the ones that were out there weren’t on the same scene that I was on. I was on the road with the whole rock’n’roll side of everything, even though I was recorded as a pop artist and the songs were mostly pop hits… First Cut Is The Deepest and Angel Of The Morning rather than R&B, but my stage act was always an R&B, soul, pop, rock crossover thing, I was doing that long before Tina started doing it which probably gave Tina a lot… I mean Tina’s Tina, I couldn’t give her anything but I think after being an Ikette I  broke away from that and was able to make it on a solo level without any history behind me, which probably had a lot to do with motivating her to cut loose and get away from Ike. I wouldn’t be surprised if the thought did cross her mind a couple of times. I mean, she wasn’t allowed to see me after I left, she would come back to England but Ike tried to keep everybody away from me because I was a bad example for an Ikette…

So it was as bad as portrayed in the movie…

Oh yeah it was as bad as that but there was a lot of good things that didn’t get portrayed in the movie…

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Ike was such a talented guy…

He was, Ike was like one of the young blues men and a real trend setter for what was to come…

He made the first rock’n’roll record, Rocket 88, but never got the credit for that because he was a black guy…

Well hey, let’s be honest, even Chuck Berry… he got what was due to him eventually, but look at everything he had to go through in the meantime. That’s how it went and how it still kinda goes unless you’re really strong and you do the whole independent thing. I’ve been on the independent trail for a long time which is why I’ve got all this unreleased material. I’ve recorded so much. You know a guy called Chas Jankel?

…of Blockheads fame? Sure!

Well, we’ve got an album’s worth of material that we’ve written, recorded live with great musicians… some technology but mostly real live stuff. I’ve also done a lot of stuff with a guy called Tony Remy, he’s played with a lot people… he’s just been on the road with Annie Lennox. He did all the guitar stuff for Craig David, he’s worked with Phil Collins, he’s a great guitarist, just this young Jamaican guy who’s got this great feel. I’ve done a lot of stuff with him. Chip Taylor and I have tried to do an album but its just so hard to do when you don’t have the facilities right now. I’ve got a whole production package together that I want to get in the studio and do right now, I’ve been trying to do this album for the last two years and suddenly everybody’s doing a classic soul album. It’s gonna happen and hopefully it’s gonna happen this year, I’m just getting down and getting this book finished because I know the book, I need the book.

Will there be more touring?

I always wanna tour, I always wanna work. The reason I’m not touring at the moment is not because I don’t want to but I’m stuck in Catch 22… I can’t tour if I don’t have a record out and I can’t put a record out if I don’t have a record deal so I dunno, this whole year is about breaking chains. Chip has actually written me a great song called Break These Chains and that’s what I’m working on this year, breaking those chains…

Are you still writing yourself?

I am. I haven’t been writing songs lately because I’ve written so much stuff that’s backed up. I’m really concentrating on the book and I’ve been touring a lot, I’ve been on the road with Roger Watters since 1999, the only year I didn’t tour with him was the year I moved to Spain and was studying Spanish and renovating this house, then I did the tour with The Manfreds at the end of last year.

Does Waters live up… or down… to his “difficult” reputation?

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He’s fantastic! I’ve heard a lot of stories about Roger, but all I can go on is my experience of him. He’s a great man as far as I’m concerned… very professional, his standards are very high and that’s where they should be. He’s very generous, I have no problems whatever with Roger… I don’t have really have problems with anybody because everybody has their own personality and what people feel about his personality, that’s up to them. It’s like people always asking me what I know about the inside story of Ike and Tina’s personal life, whether Tina’s a lesbian or whatever and I just say: “Look, I don’t know that part of them, I just work with people.” I have always been my own entity, since I was 17 years old when I went on the road, I had a child and was involved in an abusive teenage marriage. I had two kids, I have my own life, I love what I do, I’m good at what I do and I like working with people who are also good. I like working with great artists and musicians and Roger is a great artist.

Back in the Ike and Tina days, did you have any connection with Phil Spector?

I never got to know Phil Spector… the Ikettes and I were really young girls, like Maxine Knight, who had been with Joe Cocker… Gloria Scott… y’know, we were the personification of teen girls of our time. We knew all the hot moves, we were at the start of the whole “go-go girl” scene and we were really naive, very green and had never been out on the road. We were behind Ike and Tina, we never got invited to any special parties or introduced to anyone or anything. I never even had a conversation with Phil Spector.

We hear that The Stones treated the Ikettes better than Ike and Tina did…

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Well you know, Mick was great. Mick knew that I was really unhappy when we came to do that tour, he and I became really close friends. We were lovers for years, a lot of people know that but they don’t really know the whole story, which will go in my book one day. We were just friends, he used to make me laugh… when I first saw this guy at the Albert Hall, trying to dance and sing the blues, that was just the funniest thing I had seen in my life. We used to laugh at The Stones, they used to laugh at us, they were in the back, you know, watching the… OK, the booty, but we were all young, we were just kids having fun. Mick was my friend before he was my lover and he really, really helped me, he saw something in me that I hadn’t even seen in myself. If it wasn’t for him I probably wouldn’t ever have been a solo artist, it was his idea for me. Andrew had the record label and he would produce half the album, so I should stay in England. After I stayed we were seeing each other and Ike was pissed off over that, because he didn’t have any control over me, so he was fining me for everything and I decided I was going to leave anyway. I had been with him for two years, had definitely seen enough there… I couldn’t deal with all the violence that was going on, that was really affecting me because I already had a history of that myself. I love Tina dearly and I couldn’t stand all of that heaviness so I mentioned to Mick that I was gonna leave when I got back to The States and the next thing I knew, he made me this proposition for me to stay in England and become a solo artist…

Was he a real, “hands on” producer or was that just some kind of honorary job description?

No, he was my producer… he opened up my whole creativity. I had never even thought about writing a song! He came back early from meeting the Maharishi to produce our track and I really appreciated that because everybody had gone away, the Beatles and The Stones, to meet the Maharishi… not in India, I think it was in Ireland somewhere.

It was Bangor in Wales…

… in Wales, right…

That was round about the time that Brian Epstein died…

That’s right and we went in that studio and we didn’t have a clue what we were going to do so everything we did, it was done with Mick producing and he encouraged me to write. He produced and got it all together, yes he was a “hands on” producer.

You were asked to sit down and write songs and I think the first one you came up with was Though It Hurts Me Badly… I mean, that song could have come out the Bacharach and David songbook, quite an achievement for a young girl writing her first song.

Well those were my influences y’know? I mean, Aretha Franklin first and foremost, who was influencing me back when I was singing in Church… the first thing she did, Never Grow Old, that was one of my first solos when I was a little girl… but also Dionne Warwick, Gladys Knight, Martha And The Vandellas, Mavis Staple… that’s me, that’s the heart of me, they were my influences. Dionne Warwick… I love Dionne. From my own experience, that song was about my relationship with Mick. It was my first inter-racial relationship and that’s what that song is all about, so all of those things went in there. I don’t know how to do this thing in a contrived way… if you sit in a room with the right people and the right energies come up out of the ether then something good is always gonna happen so yeah, I didn’t have a clue what I was doing… I still don’t (laughs) but I love collaborating with people because for a long time I didn’t believe that I was a musician, until I came to the realisation that my voice is this instrument, and that all of the melody that I hear in my head is what it’s all about.

Somebody that you never collaborated with, but I know you used to hang out with, was Jimi Hendrix…

We hung out all the time. Jimi was my brother, he lived right around the corner and we were both came to England at the same time. Jimi was like a strong support for me as far as my identity in the middle of everything that was going on… we were kinda like a support system, identity wise, for each other. I just participated in a documentary about Jimi and it was the first time I ever spoke about my relationship with him… it was very strong and powerful and it helped me to stay grounded during that period. He helped me… unfortunately I wish I could have been more help to him. I think I was, to a degree, but he was just bombarded, you know…

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He helped you to stay grounded but ultimately he couldn’t stay grounded himself…

It was easier for me being a girl I was quite shy and very withdrawn, even though I was out there… it’s a very different thing. I’ve never been a party girl, y’know, I did my fair share of partying but partying to me was work. I’ve always been in clubs so being in a club is no big deal, it’s just like being at home but I’ve never been one of those bad party girls and I had my own responsibility just being an artist myself and I didn’t know anything about that. I didn’t really go after it, I didn’t have an ambition to be a solo singer, I didn’t have any ambition to be a secular singer either, I mean… one day in my life changed my direction, the day I met Tina Turner. It was a freaky day when that audition came up, I never planned to be in show business…

You went to that audition just to support your friends, right?

I went to help them out yeah and at the same time time I needed some help out of the situation I was in… and that’s what the Universe sent me to save me from that and looking back on it now, that’s how I see that and it was the same thing with Jimi… but Jimi knew more about what he was doing, he had gone after this plus he was, you know what I mean… he was The One! So everybody wanted to be with Jimi, all the girls and all the boys, too… the Stones, Eric Clapton… everybody wanted to be around Jimi and Jimi Hendrix had to come round to my house to get some peace and quite and drink a cup of tea and rest up because his house was always full!

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He was bombarded, plus he was older… those guys were all like 4-5 years older than me, I was the baby with the Small Faces, me and Steve Marriott were the babies.

You said you were shy, but in Keith Emerson’s autobiography he says that he was really bashful about meeting you because you had some kind of front and having met you, I know exactly what he means…

Yeah, I was shy but I would pretend not to be. What I was doing then was just a front, to protect myself really. I didn’t know what was going on, I really didn’t have a clue. When everything fell apart at Immediate, I was lost but they all knew what they were doing, that they were moving towards certain things in themselves and certain ambitions within the industry and they knew how that industry worked.  

Was it only in retrospect that you realised what a Golden Age you’d been living through and working in?

Well of course I realised that a lot was going on because I was an American woman in the middle of this sort of musical revolution that was happening in England and at the same time the civil rights movement and all that stuff in Vietnam was going on so I was aware but at the same time, y’know, when you’re young you tend to take things for granted, you think everything’s going to last forever. I don’t think anybody really knew what was going on in the business that much, it was a new scene going on but we didn’t know what it was, we just loved the music and we were playing that music and sort of moving with the times. What was going on business-wise, nobody knew… that’s why we all got ripped off!

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I had a vision of me… I mean that Kafunta image of me, that we put out there on the cover of my second album, was where I was going, culturally, within myself. I had to get to grips with my roots in England, in The States, that whole Afro identity thing was going on in America and I was over here in England trying to grow up and realise who I was and at the same time doing this whole thing being in the music industry and like you said, being right in the middle of it all with two children. I had my babies with me which, I think, saved my life, my kids saved me really because I couldn’t go that whole drug route that everybody else was going on, that whole party scene, I couldn’t do that because I had to work and look after my babies…

Just looking at the cover of Kafunta… what an amazing image. What is the story behind that?

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Well, there was this famous hairdresser at the time called Leonard’s of London and this was Andrew’s idea, he got this guy over from Leonard’s and put that together, the whole thing with the hair…

Was any of it photographic trickery? It looks at least like you’ve got major lash extensions going on there…

Oh, that took hours, we had ostrich feathers for eye lashes, that was a whole make up deal. I remember we had done it for Top Of The Pops and we had forgot that this was before colour so all that colour in my hair showed up white and looked awful! I think it was at the time that we had a showdown with Billie Davis, it was a question as to who would take it higher.

When The Nice went out on their own and became such an influential band in there own right, did it make you proud that they used to be your backing band?

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I was always aware of how good they were… I went home to get my kids and when I got back, Andrew had stolen my band… but they were always their own entity. If I had wanted to get all political about it I would have registered the name and kept it because it was my name which I gave to them but it was OK… they were great and they had their own thing and that was fine.

We hear different versions of the story of how that name came up and who came up with it…

It was definitely from The Nazz, Lord Buckley’s The Nazz which we all used to listen to… Steve and The Small Faces, we used to hang out and listen to Lord Buckley and there was also the whole thing of everyone saying “Nice one!” It was the combination of all that and I just said: “Why not call them the Nice?” Some people day that Steve told me to call the band The Nice but that’s not right, it was my idea but Steve and the influence of The Nazz and “nice one” was part of it. There are a couple of people who know that, that’s one of the great things that you keep meeting people who remember stuff… you can’t remember everything.

Another future prog rock luminary that you worked with was Steve Howe…

Oh, Steve worked with me on when I opened up for Eric and Delaney and Bonnie… he was in my band along with Ashton, Gardner and Dyke. He’s a sweetheart. I did a track with him recently, an unreleased Bob Dylan tune. I’d like to get that track for my anthology. We did it for his last solo album, on which he used lots of different singers… Portraits Of Bob Dylan… and Steve was as lovely as ever. Some people never change and he’s one of them… lovely guy!

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You did that performance with The Nice that people still talk about, at the Windsor festival in 1967…

That was when they released the doves for peace… yeah, that was a great day, I remember it well. The Cream were on and I remember that Ginger Baker was totally out of it (laughs.)

Eric Clapton actually produced some material for you, didn’t he.

He did and I am trying so hard to get my hands on that stuff! I saw Eric recently for the first time in many, many years because you try to get to people and everybody is protecting them from people who they think want something off them because of their celebrity. I mean, I haven’t seen Mick in years either. There’s no way that people can just forget me, though when I saw Eric at the Albert Hall I also saw Rod Stewart and he tried to pretend he didn’t know who I was! That’s a big joke… people who are so full of their own self that they can’t see what’s right in front of their face…

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It’s said that when Jagger produced sessions of you singing with Rod Stewart, Rod just couldn’t keep up with you…

That’s the last time we actually saw each other, because that session… the whole thing with Rod and I should have been really great. I was actually going out with Rod at that time and Mick produced the session on my insistence, because I knew Rod… Mick had us doing the Wilson Pickett song, Come Home Baby and when a guy and a girl get together, you’ve gotta get the key right because otherwise one will be too too high, the other will be too low. Anyway, Rod kept changing the key to find one that he sounded good in, he could have cared less about whether I sounded good or not. But I was comfortable in all of them and that really annoyed him. The track came out OK but I’m just singing in this really high key and yeah, we just fell out after that. I was fed up with Rod by this time anyway, because he’d always been very arrogant and self-centred but he got me good, because the next thing I knew when I was in LA in 1977… this was the year that I lost my daughter… and I tried to contact Rod in LA and he just fobbed me right off and he got the bigger hit with First Cut Is The Deepest, so I guess he figured that he got me back for that night…

Yeah, but your version is way better…

Yeah, but he made the money and he never, ever mentioned me or gave me any kind of credit at all, I mean right now that song we did has been released on so many albums of his but it hasn’t been released on any albums of mine yet and on the albums of his, if I get a mention it’s like, “featuring” P.P. Arnold, it’s not mentioned as a duet. He could make that clear and help me out, y’know, but it’s like in the 70’s people became stars and now it’s all like a celebrity circus so if you’re not up there and you’re not out there on that financial level… I mean I’m still out there on an artistic level now, but like they say, money talks and bullshit walks…

You worked with Nick Drake, whose profile has risen so high since his death…

It has. I remember doing the session… or was it sessions? I didn’t really know him beyond that session. I did so many sessions in those days and you were doing your own thing but you were in demand because you had your own authentic sound… me and Madeline Bell, Doris Troy as well, Lesley Duncan and even Linda Lewis. I got that gig through Doris Troy. I mean, I’m a Libran, so I know what it’s like to be intimidated by people, but Doris Troy would have intimidated anybody.

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What a talent…

What a talent and what a leader, Doris taught everybody how to get their money, you know, she was a New York girl and she knew how to do that. Not only that, she was like a mother figure, really encouraged everybody and helped them believe in themselves.

How do you feel about your work in the musical theatre compared to doing your own shows?

Well it’s all different stuff, as you know. I’ve never stayed in the musical theatre that long because I like doing a show where you can go in and do things that have never been done before. I like doing really innovative things so when I did Catch My Soul that was fun, I like the rehearsal period then after the second month I’m ready to move on because I’m getting bored. It’s just like too technical and I’m a soul singer. It’s fun, I love being part of the creative process of something that’s never been done, I love that. It was the same with Starlight Express… that was a big thing for me because that was when I moved back to England after doing some TV work in Hollywood and I came back in to the industry on roller skates… I skated back into the business! It was a great show and it was something that’s never been done before, a great cast of people and it was just fantastic but after the first year that was it. The theatre is really hard work, they want you to work real hard and it doesn’t pay that well so you’re doing 8 shows a week and it’s really really hard work plus you really have to fight for your money. Basically, after the first year of Starlight Express they didn’t really want to pay you anymore, it’s all the politics again and there I am with no manager. From that time on I’ve been out here with no management and nobody likes doing business with an artist, especially a woman and definitly not with a black woman…

You appeared with P. J. Proby in Catch My Soul…

Yep, I did…

Is he as much of a nut as people make out?

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Yes he is, he’s a nutter. We didn’t get along at all, because P. J. is from The South, you know and he’s a real red-neck and I am like revolutionary about all that stuff so we didn’t get along at all. He was in his heavy, heavy drinking period. Working with him was hard… first thing in the morning you have to work with somebody and he’s already drunk on wine, and I was Bianca, they beefed up the role of Bianca for the show because in the play, she’s not a major part. We fell out over his idea of how he wanted to deal with my character, he was seeing me as a black wench and he had that whole heavy thing going on… at one of the rehearsals for the fight scene he hit me and said it was an accident, but I wasn’t so sure and it created a big scene with the whole company because there were a lot of black people in it. Anyway, enough said about P. J. … I hear he’s back on the retro ciruit as well.

Didn’t Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones both work on your records?

John Paul yes, he did the arrangement for Angel Of The Morning and of course I knew him from being out here but Jimmy Page… I didn’t really work with until recently. Who’s the other guy from Led Zeppelin that he reunited with?

Robert Plant.

Yeah, they did an album recently and I sang on that, the last album they did.

Walking Into Clarksdale?

Yeah, Walking Into Clarksdale… thanks for reminding me, now I can tell the PRS! (laughs)

You’re more than worthy of your own anthology or box set or whatever…

I wanna do it… I tell you, this is the year I’m gonna break these chains so, y’know, I’m definitely going to try to do it.

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Categories: Interviews | Leave a comment

Too Much! Monkey Business… RADICAL ACTION (TO UNSEAT THE HOLD OF MONKEY MIND) Reviewed

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CD /BD. DGM / Panegyric. B01IG74EUA

CD track-listing

CD 1: Mainly Metal
Larks’ Tongues in Aspic Part One (Cross, Fripp, Wetton, Bruford, Muir)

Radical Action (to Unseat The Hold of Monkey Mind) (Fripp)
Meltdown (Jakszyk, Fripp)
Radical Action II (Fripp)
Level Five (Belew, Fripp, Gunn, Mastelotto)
The Light of Day (Jakszyk, Fripp, Collins)
The Hell Hounds of Krim (Harrison, Rieflin, Mastelotto)
The ConstruKction of Light (Belew, Fripp, Gunn, Mastelotto)
The Talking Drum (Cross, Fripp, Wetton, Bruford, Muir)
Larks’ Tongues in Aspic Part Two (Fripp)

CD 2: Easy Money Shots
Peace (Fripp, Sinfield)
Pictures of a City (Fripp, Sinfield)
Banshee Legs Bell Hassle (Harrison, Rieflin, Mastelotto)
Easy Money (Fripp, Wetton, Palmer-James)
VROOOM (Belew, Fripp, Levin, Gunn, Bruford, Mastelotto)
Suitable Grounds for the Blues (Jakszyk, Fripp)
Interlude (Fripp)
The Letters (Fripp, Sinfield)
Sailors Tale (Fripp)
A Scarcity of Miracles (Jakszyk, Fripp, Collins)

CD 3: Crimson Classics
Red (Fripp) One More Red Nightmare (Fripp, Wetton)
Epitaph (Fripp, McDonald, Lake, Giles, Sinfield)
Starless (Cross, Fripp, Wetton, Bruford, Palmer-James)
Devil Dogs of Tessellation Row (Harrison, Rieflin, Mastelotto)
The Court of The Crimson King (McDonald, Sinfield)
21st Century Schizoid Man (Fripp, McDonald, Lake, Giles, Sinfield)

… plus more of the same or similar on BD or 2xDVD.

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He’s such a tease, that Fripp bloke… most recently there was that 2012-2013 retirement, which lasted as long as it took him to sort out monies owed and ended with the announcement, to an astonished world, of the seven headed (and three drummered) Great Beast Of Crim…from 2014 onwards they’ve been crossing the globe playing the old stuff (recoined as “The Elements Of King Crimson”) that he once assured us we’d never hear again, though he did advise fans that if they were turning up hoping for In The Court Of The Crimson King they were going to leave disappointed… so of course he did play that and indeed most of their monumental debut album when I caught them at Birmingham’s Symphony Hall on 15/09/15. Even there, Fripp remained elusive… as I moaned in my review of that gig elsewhere on this site, one of Gavin Harrison’s cymbals seemed to have been placed specifically to obscure my view of the great man from seat D7, a turn up I’m sure Fripp would have found very droll indeed.

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Continuing to tease, DGM have been releasing the evidence of this latest, most unexpected phase of Crimsonising in tantalising dribs and drabs… first there was the seven track “beat the boots” CD / DVD-Audio mini album Live At The Orpheum… then we got a complete gig in the CD double album King Crimson Live in Toronto – November 20th 2015 (perhaps some of you are objecting that this stuff was also released on vinyl, as I imagine it was… frankly I haven’t got deep enough pockets, head or house room for the black stuff these days.) Set lists varied significantly from gig to gig on those tours so unless you had the financial resources to attend more than one concert (put it this way, while my ticket to see Crimson at the Liverpool Empire in 1973 cost 65 pence, Birmingham 2015 set me back 65 quid… so draw your own conclusions about how many concerts I felt able to attend) you would have ended up missing much-anticipated performances of some of your favourite Crimson golden oldies. That Birmingham gig, for example, heavily favoured ITCOTCK and Larks’ Tongues In Aspic to the detriment of Red and Islands…

… cue the maniacally metaphor mixing Radical Action To Unseat The Hold Of Monkey Mind, a 3 CD / 1 BD collection (a two DVD variant is / was available) that gives you both audio and video performances of every number tackled by the 7 piece during 2014-15. On the CDs, drawn from the whole of the 2015 tour, all audience response has been edited out to leave us with three “Virtual studio albums”, recalling the construction of  Starless And Bible Black during the halcyon days of 1973-4. Trevor Wilkins’ in-concert footage is culled (with the exception of two tracks) from Japanese dates on the 2015 tour (and suddenly the suits and ties dress code make more sense.) The BD offers 5.1 and “picture off” options, not to mention the opportunity for me to oggle Fripp to my heart’s content, even to the extent of Fripp-upon-Fripp in fabulous Frippovision… there are those who have found fault with the visual layering techniques employed here but I can’t say it overly bothers me.

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“This one’s for the guy in seat D7…”

Of course this set is really going to stand or fall by the quality of the music herein and the continuing remaking / remodelling of the Crim canon. No problems there. Whether mounting a Mexican drum wave across Pictures Of A City, outBrufording Bill Bruford on One More Red Nightmare, channelling Phil Collins on the reimagined Red or bashing out a bit of Banshee Legs Bell Hassle, messrs Mastelotto, Rieflin and Harrison effortlessly justify their triple presence, stage front. Special mention for the Schizoid Man solo… Gavin Harrison, the fastest feet in Takamatsu! Tony Levin, on various basses and Chapman stick, plays John Wetton’s parts as faultlessly as his own (like you’re surprised!) The mighty Mel Collins’ honkin’ horn beefs up riffs that now sound like they were always intended for him, sprinkles soprano sax pixie dust all over Red and decorates Larks’ Tongues In Aspic Part 1 and The ConstruKction Of Light with fluid flute interludes. Jakko Jakszyk is never going to sing magisterially as Wetton or as angelically as Greg Lake but if you’re looking for somebody to get his tonsils around approximately a half Century of the KC canon, here’s your man… and he does it while simultaneously locking into fiendish intermeshing guitar parts with Fripp. As for RF… Schizoid Man solo… Beelzebub’s banjo breakdown on The Sailor’s Tale… the whole “laser sustain set to stun” schtick… forget about it!

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RA(TUTHOMM) is nicely packaged and comes with a suitably swishy 20 page glossy booklet. Of course time and Fripp wait for no man and while this set has been getting us up to speed with the state of Crim at the end of 2015, the band itself (fetchingly lined up in profile, below, with Jeremy Stacey standing in for Rieflin) have been touring Europe with a show that regularly includes the likes of Fracture, Cirkus, The Battle Of Glass Tears from Lizard, Indiscipline and – touchingly in this, of all years – Heroes. Speaking of heroes, following this ever evolving band can sometimes make you feel like Achilles, always trying and failing to catch up with that tortoise. It’s an exciting time to be a Crim-fancier… then again, when has it ever been anything but?

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