Tuesday, 6 November 2012

EXCLUSIVE: Barbara Dickson Interview (Part One)

I was aware of Barbara Dickson. Of course I was. No-one who has even the slightest involvement in pop music over the past four decades could fail to be. But until yesterday, I had never really listened to her. And it was a real eye opener. The lovely Anne-Marie from Gonzo asked me to write sales notes for her forthcoming album, and because I don't like relying on Wikipedia, and I knew next to nothing about her, I decided to set up an interview. And I also typed her name into my ever faithful Spotify, and listened to her for the first time. She has an amazing voice, but one which even when she is singing the glossiest showbiz ballad still has the resonance of the open moorlands and cold ocean winds of her native Scotland.

And to talk to? She is an absolute delight. Eloquent, intelligent and insightful, she is an interviewer's dream. So herewith the first of a three part interview. I hope that it will be the first of many..

JON: Basically, just tell me about the new album.  

BARBARA: Well, it’s deliberately called Before ’74 which actually is exactly what it is. It is what it says on the cover. It is a set of recordings prior to 1974, 1974 being significant in my career in that that is the year that I went off to work in the theatre in a show called John, Paul, George,  Ringo … and Bert, which was the first big show written by Willy Russell. And it was such a success I found myself being whisked from folk clubs into the West End, and so 1974 being the date that everything changed for me and I went from working in folk clubs to being a pop star basically in the space of two year.  So these recordings are a set of recordings – there’s 40 tracks – and they are from various sources.  But they are all to do with my work in folk clubs, every single one of them is from that time. There are some duets, with Rab Noakes, who is one of the people on it, there’s a Scottish band called The McCalmans and Mike Whellans, he‘s a Scottish artist still going strong, so I’ve got duets with these people – there’s  a track with Martin Carthy and Dave Swarbrick and there’s – as I say – three tracks with Rab Noakes with whom I’ve worked on the album and he’s the producer. So the rest is stuff that I was performing in folk clubs so they are all basically recordings of me singing live from the days that I was in folk clubs, from various sources.  One set of songs is from a place in Leeds, one is from Leicester, there’s some recordings from The Elbow Room in Kirkcaldy and there is some from Leith Town Hall in Edinburgh and just general right across the board – recordings which Rab has compiled for me into an archive and I’ve decided to put it out, so that people who are interested in me can hear what I was doing prior to when I became famous. It’s an archive.

JON: How does it feel going back over stuff you’d recorded sort of 35-40 years ago?

BARBARA: Well, it’s very interesting and I was astonished as to how quality some of it was.  Some of the recordings are not very high quality but the performances are of a high quality and actually I was surprised because even when you hear yourself that time ago, you don’t expect… I don’t want to be pompous here … but I really was surprised at how assured the performances are and my friend Rab Noakes, who has helped me put it together has said there was so much charm in the recordings and in the introductions to the songs as well, because a lot of them are on there as well, we have left the introductions to the songs on there because like a lot of folk clubs, introductions to songs, they are quite interesting in themselves, you know we were trained to talk to the audience.  I don’t know who trained us, but we just knew how to do it, to talk to the audience about the tracks and songs. We just did it, you know, so they’re really good….. so I think that for people who are interested in me and who think that I’m Elaine Paige, I think it  is going to be a real shock to the system <laughs> because it is nothing like what people know me as a pop star or a person who sang I Know Him So Well would expect from me, so that’s another reason to put it out really.

JON: A lot of the songs, I recognise the titles, they are traditional aren’t they?

BARBARA: Yes, yes, most of the songs are traditional, but significantly some of the songs, the 20th Century songs, which were contemporary at the times I was recording them.  There’s a song by Gallagher and Lyle, there’s James Taylor, there’s a lot of songs that I chose to sing at that time, because I was never entirely committed to singing traditional music.  A lot of people I knew only sang traditional music, but I didn’t feel that way, I just had a fairly Catholic taste in music and I think it comes over in the choices of the songs on this double CD.  I’m very proud of the choices I made and the songs that I chose to sing. There’s nothing really naff there at all that I’m thinking ‘oh dear I wish I hadn’t done that’.  They are all good songs and well executed, so I think they have a place.

We continue tomorrow....

Available from Gonzo:

B4 74 - The Folkclub Tapes
2CD - £14.99

Nothings Gonna Change My World
CD - £9.99

Full Circle
CD - £9.99

Into The Light
DVD - £12.99

Time And Tide 
CD - £9.99

1 comment:

  1. Hello Barbara and Jon, i have most of Barbara albums they are great to listen too, when Barbara is touring my hometown i will always buy a CD or DVD of the latest album.
    Regards Doris


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