Wednesday, 7 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 concluding part of the interview. (You can read Part One here) I hope that it will be the first of many..

JON: Something I’ve discovered while doing my homework and looking you up on Wikipedia, which is not the best  source of material for anybody, but is a good start, is that you did an album of Jacobite Rebellions songs.

BARBARA: Yes, that’s absolutely right, and some of these songs appear on this CD as well.  I was very influenced and very close to a Scottish musician called Archie Fisher, who I hold in very high regard even now. I think that if anybody was to be my mentor, it is him. And he always asked me to come and sing if there was a female perspective required on any projects that he was doing, and this is why I did The Fate O’Charlie, which is a project that you are talking about, which is songs of the Jacobite Risings. It was originally put out of Bill Leader’s record label in the early ‘70s, in fact it might have been 1969, I’m not very sure about that, but it was originally put out then and then we went on to make a television programme – Archie and I – where we revisited a lot of that stuff as well, and in the sleeve notes I talk about this.  I actually put some of the songs from The Fate O’Charlie  - the album - into my repertoire and went on to sing them the way you would do now, I would do nowadays really, if I record something and like it, I put it in the show. So much the same was my behaviour then.

JON: I find that really interesting, because there are a lot of artists in the canon of popular music who made political albums about a particular political cause, but yours is the only one I can think of which is a political album about a political cause which was settled 300 years before

BARBARA: Yes, well, the thing is that the Jacobite Risings are still very raw in Scotland. There is a certain thing that runs through our DNA in Scotland, which includes Bonnie Prince Charlie and the Jacobite Risings and most particularly Culloden. There is a terrible, terribleness to Scottish history at that time – there have been a lot of terrible things in Scottish history but Culloden always seems to be the nadir of everything that Scottish hopes had in mind.  Now there are also a lot of people in Scotland that think that Bonnie Prince Charlie got exactly what he deserved and he didn’t deserve to be the King of Great Britain and he certainly didn’t deserve the loyalty he got from the rebels in Scotland, and of course a lot of Scots people fought on the side of the Government.  That has to be said, so the divisions in Scotland were apparent at that time and, of course, long before that, but it has always been important and it’s been a very rich theme of music, you know there’s a very rich theme of songs about the Jacobite Risings, followed by the Highland clearances and all that poverty which impoverished the Highlands and put the gales on a course to go to America and Australia, so there’s a big through-line running through there and that’s what we wanted to … we wanted to do this album because nobody had done an album of them, of Jacobite songs. And it wasn’t a romantic album at all, although there was romance in some of the songs that we were singing like O’er the Water to Charlie was most particularly a very romantic song about Bonnie Prince Charlie, but there’s a lot of stuff about poverty, you know the really down side of it on that album as well. 

JON: Coming forward 30 years from the Jacobite album, you've recently worked with Troy Donockley haven't you?

BARBARA: Yes I work with Troy all the time when it comes to recording and Troy and I first made an album together as a unit at the beginning of the 2000s, it was about 2003 we started work on an album called Full Circle, and we have now done, well we have done Full Circle, Time and Tide, we did a Beatles album for Universal, and then we did an album a number of years ago so we’ve done four albums consecutively together and we are just about to start work on another one next year so we’re very committed to working with each other and I love his work, I think he has a great vision and is perfect for the music which I want to play, so we realise that, you know, we could work together.  And fairly often, prior to that, I had management which was being very obstructive.  It was very difficult for me to kind of move on from that and then when I eventually got clear, I started to work for Troy and things have gone swimmingly ever since.

JON: I think he is an amazing artist

BARBARA: Yes, he is isn’t he? He is so interesting and original.

 APPENDIX: A very brief history of the Jacobite Rebellions by Corinna..

A series of rebellions, wars and uprisings in Great Britain and Ireland occurred between 1688 and 1746 called the Jacobite Risings (Jacobite from the latin for James: Jacobus).  The major conflicts were known as the Jacobite Rebellions and were made up of the first and second, known respectively as The Fifteen and The Forty-Five named after the years in which they occurred.  The conflicts were an attempt to restore James VII of Scotland and II of England, and later descendants of the House of Stuart, to the throne after Parliament deposed him in the Glorious Revolution of 1688.

Prince Charles Edward Louis John Casimir Sylvester Severino Maria Stuart or Charles Edward Stuart for short  (aka Bonnie Prince Charlie or The Young Pretender) led intensified conflicts after the House of Hanover succeeded to the British throne in 1714.  He was attempting to recreate an absolute monarchy in Scotland and the United Kingdom and sailed to Scotland, raised the Jacobite standard at Glenfinnan in the Scottish Highlands and, supported by a gathering of Highland clansmen, started a march south.  In driving rain and sleet, his efforts culminated in defeat at the Battle of Culloden Moor in 1746, the last battle on Scottish soil.  Hope of Stuart restoration was thus dashed. The brief battle saw between 1,500 and 2,000 Jacobites killed or wounded, and in the aftermath there was brutal suppression in the Highlands, including massacres, acts that led to Prince William Augustus, the Duke of Cumberland’s nickname ‘Butcher’, including all troops believed to be rebels being killed as well as non-combatants, settlements burned, livestock confiscated and over one hundred Jacobites being hanged.  Women were imprisoned and high numbers of people were sent by ship to London, many dying on the way as the journey took up to eight months.
Bonnie Prince Charlie, however, escaped to France and died in Rome on 31st January 1788.
Sources: Wikipedia

The Battle of Culloden 1746 - British Battles

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

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