Mari's Anecdotal Meanderings...
Long Time No Blog
There's no excuse for the fact that I've not blogged for so long, but I'm sure I can think of one...
I'm not sure where to start but I guess the beginning of this year is a good idea. Well I started 2013 with three nights at a lovely new venue in the heart of London, Leicester Square. The building dates back to 1900 when it was called The Hippodrome and was a circus variety theatre. Then, from 1957 to 1982 it was The Talk of the Town, a fantastic nightclub/cabaret venue where Shirley Bassey, Judy Garland and Stevie Wonder (to name a few) played. It was such a glamorous place. I remember being invited to the opening of it as The Hippodrome once again. I was invited by Susannah Yorke in fact and I think I still have the invitation, I tend to keep things like that. It's had many reincarnations, notably as Stringfellows. Now, it's The Hippodrome Casino - don't like the casino part much but the performance space is really lovely, as you can see...
Then there was my Valentines Show at The Pheasantry, a venue in Kings Road, Chelsea, London it's a kind of intimate and cosy place.
Love Me Do
5 October 2012
I bought Love Me Do 50 years ago today, my goodness am I really that old? I think it was 4 shillings and sixpence from the record shop at the top of the hill in Neasden - opposite Slocombes the motorbike shop. I still have it upstairs with all my other singles. I'd seen them on kids TV - Tuesday Rendezvous with Muriel Young, with John Lennon playing harmonica and my pocket money that week went on that record.
I was the one in the playground with the "I Love John" badge. Everyone else had "I Love Paul" and though I liked Paul too, I thought John was the sexy one without doubt. Likewise Paul had an incredible voice but it was John's voice that really grabbed me and in fact, I would try to phrase like him when I sang. Every waking hour was spent singing to the Beatles, with their records, with the radio, with the TV, on my own, with my brother John - we would argue who was going to sing the harmony on IF I FELL, so we'd sing it twice, swapping melody with harmony each time... isn't it great to remember all those things that made you want to do what you ended up doing?
I find I have to really pick my time when I can listen to The Beatles, they had such a profound effect on me I get all over-emotional. Penny Lane still makes me cry. There's something about that song - the melody and Paul's vocal, the lyric, the atmosphere and the flugelhorn/trumpet is just so evocative of what I guess I thought Penny Lane was and what it represented. It kind of says what's on the tin. There's also that thing when you're young and your whole life is ahead and your head is full of dreams and music seems to enhance all of that.
Of course The Beatles was just the start of it, then there was The Beach Boys, The Bee Gees, Barry White, Motown, Stax, Dusty, Karen etc. etc. But it all started with The Beatles.
In 1983 I was nominated for Best British Female Singer at the BPI Awards, now known as the Brits. It was a much smaller affair back then, not televised or anything just music industry people. However, that night, we arrived at Grosvenor House on Park Lane and as we walked through to our table, Paul and Linda McCartney were waving "we're rooting for you"! I said to my manager, "wow, who are they talking to?" He said "You!". Yes! they were talking to me and sitting at their table was Michael Jackson. Kim Wilde won the nomination but later at the bar, I was chatting to Paul and Linda (listen to me!). Linda asked if I'd mind having my photograph taken with her and Alison Moyet (as if I'd mind...). Linda McCartney was a total gem, really nice. Then as I was chatting to Paul, who was absolutely charming, he said, "would you like to meet Michael?" Now remember, this was just as Thriller was about to be released and Michael was still absolutely gorgeous and there was such a buzz going on. So Michael appeared and Paul said, "Michael, this is Mari Wilson" and Michael said, in a kind of Mickey Mouse voice: "Hi, pleased to meet you". And that's my story of "when Paul McCartney introduced me to Michael Jackson".
Slugs, Space Mountain and Smokey's Head
We arrived in LA on the Saturday night and true to form I was out shopping at the flea market the next day. I was at Melrose Trading Post where I managed to purchase a gorgeous beaded vintage bag - she was asking $45 but I haggled and got it for $35 (about £20 - bargain!).The market is on the campus of Fairfaix High School, they have so much space over there. There was a band playing, loads of food stalls and sunshine - all whilst shopping, what more could you ask for?Melrose Trading Post
One of the highlights of my summer was the trip to Watts Towers in the Watts area of Los Angeles. What an incredible sight. If you don't know about the Watts Towers created by Sam Rodia, you must take a look at it, even if it's just online for now but if you visit LA it's a real MUST. Some of our friends over there didn't even know about it. It's a very moving story. Sam Rodia, an Italian immigrant, built these interconnecting towers, (about 17 in all) in his spare time, completely alone over a period of 33 years. He had no experience as a builder or an architect though he's been compared to Gaudi and you can see why. The photos don't really do it justice, you have to stand there and see them, all made of different kinds of materials - broken glass, cups, shells, old bottles, tiles, jugs, vases... He was out in the searing heat every day up until the age of 75 (in 1955) when he moved away. He endured so much abuse he just up and left. It was almost destroyed but now it's a national landmark. Click here for some info
Also saw a The Producers at The Hollywood Bowl - hilarious! I just love this show and the songs are fabulous, "Keep it Gay" especially. Mel Brooks was there and got up at the end and said a few words. We've seen this show a few times and I think the whole family knows the script back to front. It's wonderful to have venues like The Hollywood Bowl and The Greek Theatre and how everyone picnics and sits out under the stars. Of course they can do it there because the weather is guaranteed, oh if only we had a climate like that, can you imagine? We're always so keen on getting out there the moment the sun shines and we would really appreciate it wouldn't we?
Seeing Aretha Franklin at The Nokia was probably the most thrilling for me, especially as sitting in front of us was Smokey Robinson and Berry Gordy! Oh my God! My life, my influences, my teenage years, all there in front of me - I couldn't believe it I was so excited. My daughter said "are you going to tell him you were singing Ooh Baby Baby the other night?" Aw bless, no I just left him to enjoy the show even though people were shoving cameras in his face poor man... We did get a sneaky pic of the back of his head though.
I got up and did a few tunes at Julia Fordham's show at Molly Malones ending with the two of us performing a rendition of Just What I've Always Wanted. Great fun. Then another night I got up and sang with John Beasley, a fabulous pianist from LA who has worked with everyone from Miles to Barbra for goodness sake. Anyway, we did a few songs together and I really hope I get to work with him again some time. So it was great to have another taste of playing live in LA.
Spent three days at Disney - it's become a habit (or is it an addiction?). Went on the new Cars ride which was great but not as fab as we'd expected and I attach a pic of me on that ride with two different hairdo's, what an amazing feat, not everyone can do that. I was forced onto Tower of Terror yet again, why do I do it? Space Mountain is still my absolute fave ride though - I enjoy every scream and pretend I really am travelling through space, oh well, it keeps me happy... The scariest ride I've been on is Mission Space at Disney in Orlando when it had only just opened a few years ago, oh my, what a terrifying experience! There are some videos on YouTube but you can't experience it properly that way because while you are sitting there on the actual ride you are spinning which gives you the feeling of weightlessness and then of course you can't breathe either, it is SO realistic and the build up to it is tense beyond belief while you're waiting in the corridors etc. with the guys in the white suits and in fact everything is white a bit like being on the set of Kubrick's 2001, one of my favourite films. Of course some people just go and relax when they have a holiday...
I always look for new music when I'm in the US and this time I came across a fabulous singer - Sharon Van Etten. It was hearing All I Can on the radio and that got my attention. She has this longing in her voice that I think is absolutely beautiful - she's on tour right now and I think she's coming to the UK in December - click here for her website. Also The Secret Sisters, First Aid Kit and Alabama Shakes are on my iPod plus Esperanza Spalding who I'll be seeing in London at the Royal Festival Hall in November.
My friend Barb Jungr has a new album out in October - "Stockport to Memphis" and likewise, Gwyneth Herbert is putting the finishing touches to her new one, "The Sea Cabinet" you can find links to them here on my website. Claire Martin has released her new one "Too Much in Love to Care" and Matt Backer guitarist to the stars (and me) has an album just released called "Idle Hands". These will all be available on iTunes too.
I'm working on my new show and new songs for next year which is keeping me busy at least when the downstairs loo isn't leaking or the hot tub isn't full of rainwater and slugs. Oh don't ask! Yes, we have a hot-tub, here in soggy old England, duh! When we moved into this house just over ten years ago we went to the Ideal Home Exhibition to buy garden lights and bought a hot-tub! Typical, story of my life I tell you. So we've not used it for a couple of years (big mistake apparently). Bees were trying to make a nest on it so the bee-man wanted to take the lid off.
And there it all was. When the downstairs loo leaked everywhere I had to get a man in. Well, two men actually. I'd like to point out that this is because my loved one is still Stateside otherwise I'm sure he'd have put on his suede tool-belt and sorted it all out, he's very handy around the house. So the two men fixed the loo and then, bless 'em, took a look at the hot-tub. Of course I knew it needed to be drained but didn't fancy sucking the end of a hose to be quite frank. Thankfully, men seem to think nothing of it, so one of these lovely men sucked the hose and started the suction going. Fantastic! In 36 hours, all the water was out of it, leaving a lovely brown muddy, smelly, filthy hot-tub. You'll be very impressed to know that I spent 4 hours cleaning it and look at the wonderful result? Days later I discovered the whole thing was pointless because the motor is broken and we now own a defunkt hot-tub, no use to man or beast (well, slugs maybe). So, this is what goes on between songwriting, singing, gigging, blogging, exercising and anything else that ends in "ing".
So I think that covers everything for now and if it doesn't then I'll deal with it next time.
November in May
Remember that song "June in January"? Well, I think I'll write a song called "November in May" - it was SO cold, really unbelievable, but then it "turned out nice again" and we had fabulous hot weather for about ten days non-stop and it makes such a difference. People sitting outside pubs, the parks are full and of course summer dresses, showing off milk bottle legs, oh dear better get the fake tan out... However, now of course we're in June and we've had all the Jubilee celebrations in rain and cold - I've had the heating on again...
The Coeliac Society invited me to The House of Commons for Coeliac Awareness Week where Dr. Chris Steele gave a talk. He's well known for being on TV's This Morning show. He also has Coeliac Disease and he went over the symptoms - distended stomach, anaemia, fatigue, weight-loss, (hours in the bathroom). Of course, once you are diagnosed and on a gluten free diet, these symptoms eventually disappear and you feel fine again as long as you stay away from gluten. He advised anyone with the disease to have their children tested - a simple blood-test is all that it requires. So I'll be looking into that for my fifteen year old daughter.
I was really so very sad when I heard that Robin Gibb had passed away. I was crazy about The Bee Gees from age 10/11 and I had fully intended marrying Barry but then he married Miss Scotland, oh well...
I have a really vivid memory of when I was thirteen, saving my pocket money and going to the record shop in Neasden to buy their album Idea. The record store was opposite Slocombes a showroom for motorbikes and scooters which was a bit of a landmark for spotting gorgeous boys. As I get older I realise that my musical tastes were so diverse, The Bee Gees, Motown, Stax, Cat Stevens, Carole King, Bonnie Raitt, Barry White, Heatwave, Dusty Springfield, The Who, The Hollies, The Beatles, Van Morrison, Karen Carpenter, Pilot, Abba, Judy Garland, David Bowie, Burt Bacharach, oh it goes on and on and on and on and on...
I've just finished reading Carole King's auto-biography "A Natural Woman". I had no idea she'd led such an interesting life and love the fact that she's so down to earth and has so many other interests outside music. Reading about the recording of Tapestry took me right back to when that album was out and I was still just a young thing yearning to be onstage. I remember singing the harmonies on You've Got a Friend over and over again I have a particular memory of me singing Natural Woman at my friend Linda Smerdon's house in Wembley at the top of my voice, I guess I was about 114/15, the age my daughter is now - blimey, that's when I was going to the Marquee Club in Wardour Street, Soho, to see Geno Washington and the Ram Jam Band!
I had such a great time then and it makes me realise how lucky I was to be living in London, in the heart of it all, so much excitement everywhere, so many bands to see and clothes to wear from Kensington Market! My brother John was in a band so there were always musicians hanging around the house. My mum and dad were great about it, constantly making food for these guys and I remember making bacon sandwiches for his band The Dodgers often at 2 am! Sometimes I tagged along to John's gigs. He regularly played at The Speakeasy in Margaret Street, just off Oxford Street in London. It was renowned as a hang out for famous rock stars. Sometimes John would take me and my best friend Diana (even though we had school the next day). We'd get dolled up so we looked older than 15 and be starstruck by the likes of Mick Jagger, Eric Clapton, Jimmy Page and Rod Stewart. We wouldn't get home till about 3 or 4 am. and then have to get up and put our school uniform on, ha ha!
Music I'm currently listening to is Rufus Wainwright's new album, John Mayer's new one which is very 70's and the amazing Esperanza Spalding - LOVE her! Her music is also kind of 70s influenced jazz, soul, hip-hop, big band, it's really broad and fabulous. I've just bought tickets to see her - not till November mind you but can't wait. She sings and plays bass - electric and acoustic, I always think singing and playing bass must be the hardest thing, oh yes, AND she's gorgeous. So please do check her out, you won't be disappointed. In fact, her album sounds really great when it's warm and you open all the windows, or sit outside, so anyway, those are my recommendations at the moment.
I'm totally hooked still, on Mad Men - just waiting for the final episode in the current series. I think the writing is absolutely superb and of course, visually it's right up my street, I just sit thre drooling over Megan and Joanie's clothes. In fact, it was the weirdest thing, because in one of the episodes, "At the Codfish Ball" Don's daughter, Sally, wore a silver lurex dress and I thought, hold on a minute that looks rather familiar - well, I had the exact same dress in 1982/1983 and I'm wearing it in a video of a TV concert called The Entertainers - you will find it on YouTube if you click here. I wrote to a friend who works on the show and they passed it onto Janie Bryant, the show's costume designer so I was absolutely thrilled about that.
Had some lovely shows in Hertfordshire and Berkshire, oh yes, all the 'Shires' dontcha know. Arlington Arts in Newbury, the people running that place are absolutely brilliant and treated us so well. Then there was The Hertford Theatre which was a scream because the audience were all chatting away to me, it was like we were in my living room. Canada Water Cluture Space was pretty gorgeous too, a lovely room. I have to also add that all threee of these shows had superb sound engineers, so thank you to my "three dates in May".
It was very sad news to hear that Betsey Johnson was going out of business. She's a fanulous designer from New York and I have bought lots of her clothes, shoes, jewellery over the years so I shall treasure them even more now. I've worn many of her creations onstage too so now will have to think where else can I go to get those quirky 50's/60's influenced outfits?
Well I think that's it for now then. Gradually adding more dates including some interesting ones, hmm, watch this space...
It was a busy February and March - just as well because I always think they're the hardest months to get through as it's always cold and grey and still very post-Xmas. I'm sure we all suffer from S.A.D. dont you? There were some lovely cold and crisp sunny days in February though, you know, those days when you have to really wrap up warm in yer boots and parka and I like that too. Us Brits suffer from a lack of vitamin D, in other words, we don't get enough sunshine and then if we do, we cover ourselves in sunscreen which is sensible but we do need some lovely sunlight and thankfully these past few days in March have been beautiful.
Barb Jungr and I did our Soul Sisters show at The Core at Corby Cube, which is in Northampton. It was hilariously funny, mainly in the places where it shouldn't be... the best bit for me was in "Witch Queen of New Orleans" when Barb sang the wrong lyric and we both looked at each other in blind panic and that was the end of it really, couldn't sing for laughing, couldn't look at each other, couldn't do anything. Fortunately the audience were on our side and we all had a laugh. In fact the audience were great fun, so thank you for that. Then I almost ran out of petrol alone on the country roads on the way back - found a garage just as I thought it was all over and the guy was so nice, he let me use the loo too even though it wasn't meant for customers. He said "why not buy yourself a bottle of wine while you're here, you can drink it when you get home" - do I look like some kind of lush? Ah well, he was only trying to help bless...
Then there was my Valentine's show with the lovely James Nisbet on guitar and John G. Smith on piano and we were surrounded by loving couples, aw how sweet.
The cold and crisp days meant long walks through Ally Pally and the last time we were up there we peeked in at the motorbike convention - lots of beards and tattoos, and not forgetting the men, too... Caught up with The Walking Dead and Breaking Bad. Now just got into the new season of Mad Men, yummy. Had lovely Sunday lunch in Chelsea with Lisa Climie Somers. Lisa was one of the first backing singers in The Wilsations, together with Michelle Collins, back when we called them The Imaginations. Michelle and I got together for a gossip a couple of weeks ago too. Then of course, Mothers Day which was shared with other mothers (so to speak) at my friends' new house down the road - great cos I didn't have to cook. All very lovely and we played a game of "Psychiatrist" which was hilarious.
My daughter is nuts about Tim Burton's work and we watched his film of Sweeney Todd recently - do you know that Johnny Depp can sing as well as everything else? Blimey what a guy! Gorgeous, great actor, AND he can sing, with Anthony Newley/David Bowie influences no less. So we then just had to go and see Sweeney Todd at the theatre - it is absolutely magnificent and I would recommend you go and see it immediately. Imelda Staunton is astonishing, what a privilege to see such talent. Michael Ball is amazing, I mean, who'd have thought it? The whole production is faultless.The Pledge Campaign is of course now finished, however lots of people pledged to have afternoon tea with me. I've enjoyed some wonderful afternoons with great characters - thank you all for that. I have a few more in the diary too. There was another very special pledge made too by Nicki and Lee in Lancing, Sussex. She pledged for me to play a show in her living room for her birthday and we did that last weekend - it was brilliant! Nicki got up and sang with me and did a solo too. They were very generous with their hospitality and who knows, might even make a habit of playing in living rooms, could call it The Lounge Tour, hmmm...
I had a good old listen to Led Zeppelin the other day, brought back so many memories of me and my friend Angela Seymour at The Albert Hall concert in 1970. We were 13, aw bless. Tickets were £1 and we were up in the Gods shaking our heads for two hours, perfect.
I've made a video for Don't Let the Sun Catch You Crying which you should find on the Home Page - we had great fun putting all the clips together. I wanted it to have funny moments as well as sad ones because at the end of the day the message of the song is very optimistic and positive - I hope you like it and it brings a smile to your face.
There are some shows coming up - the official album release date is 2nd April and the launch is at Pizza Express Jazz Club on 3rd April if you'd like to join me, there's a link on the live dates section to the website for tickets. There are some other dates coming up as well as Dusty Day on 15th April. They've asked me to do this a few times but I've always been away, or working, but this year, hurrah, I can do it. Very much looking forward to that. Once again, there are details here on the site if you want to get tickets for that.
That about covers it for now - haven't been doing much gluten free baking, mainly because gluten free is not calorie free - I was getting a bit carried away with it all so now that summer is coming I really don't think the Fatty Arbuckle look is on-trend this year, do you?
Ta ra x
2012 Happy New Year
I've been a bit lax in the blog department - sorry about that, so busy with the album and the Pledge campaign and shows etc. Then of course Xmas and our traditional New Years Eve Party. Was a bit different this year because my 14 year old daughter had 10 friends join us and we always play Celebrity. This is where you get everyone to write down the names of any well-known person - from Marilyn Monroe to Albert Einstein. All the names get put in a pot and you have two teams. The team nominate someone to act out as many names as possible in one minute - they cannot say the name of course, they can only use descriptive words, like "blonde bombshell from the fifties" etc. and then the other team have ago until you get through all the names and the team with the highest score wins. So we played adults against teens. Of course the names the teens put in the pot were a million years away from the adults'. So you'd get the teens trying to describe Benny Hill - someone they'd never heard of - to the adults struggling with Tinchi Stryder! So when one of the teens got the name "Mari Wilson" she said, "I've no idea who this is" - hilarious, of course she's too young to know, but she was actually in my house for goodness sake! Poor girl.
We were all up till 5.30 a.m., mainly enjoying my sisters new dance style - don't know what you would call it but it involved some interesting sidekicks... Anyway, at 9.00 a.m. the young ones were still up and giggling and eventually all nodded off by 9.30 only to be up again 2 hours later - I am SO not used to that anymore, those days are well and truly over for me, felt like a zombie (and looked even worse) all day and I also felt rather sorry for the parents who picked up their tired and moody kids ha ha.
Just before Xmas we went to see Meet Me In St. Louis on the big screen at the NFT on the South Bank here in London. It was such a fabulous day, really cold so we were all wrapped up. There was a Xmas fair going on with lots of festive songs-a-playing. It really is my favourite Xmas film - Judy Garland at her best with the voice of an angel, ahhh, cried all the way through it, of course I did.
One of the highlights of 2011 was the AMI Awards Ceremony where I presented the Champion Award to Lizzie Emeh. She's a fabulous artist who despite having learning difficulties has gone from strength to strength with her music. I presented the award and at the end joined her onstage and we sang her song Loud and Proud - she's fab - click here for more about her.
I wrote my first column for Balance magazine which should be in the first issue of 2012. Balance is the Diabetes UK magazine so I'll be writing a column about my experiences and day to day life as someone with Type 1 Diabetes.
It was a techno Xmas for me - got upgraded to the iPhone 4S and was very lucky to get a new Macbook Pro for Xmas so it's all looking rather efficient, futuristic and professional around here... I also got the new Judy Garland double cd of The London Studio Recordings 1957-1964, so that balanced it out somewhat.
The multi-talented Ben Block of Boisounds wrote a great Xmas tune - Christmas in Soho - and lots of us recorded it to raise money for a fabulous non-profit organisation STATUS which encourages people to be tested for HIV.
So, we were the Soho Cares Singers and it was such great fun - click here to go to iTunes if you'd like to download it - for next Xmas! And Here onYouTube you'll find the very funny and entertaining video for it.
The new Boisounds album is also out which features little old me on two tracks and various other artists so click here for that too.
If you get the chance, you MUST see The Artist - it's absolutely brilliant, one of those films that comes along once every ten years or so. It's very special.
You might remember a while ago I spoke about a great band called Purple Melon? Well, they've finally released their album - they're kind of Led Zeppelin meets Queen with some Beatles thrown in the mix, in fact, they do a great version of Maybe I'm Amazed. Oh and did I mention that they're also gorgeous? Anyway, here's a link to their website where you can find out all about them - Purple Melon. And to their album on iTunes - Henry's Rocket
Been busy with some magazine issues too. Firstly there was the divine 1814 based in New York which has the most beautiful photos and as well as the online version there is the hard copy which they sent to me, absolutely gorgeous, so thank you guys for that. Then there was Beige Magazine which, unbelievably is a free magazine and Claire Lawrie took some fabulous photos. While I was in LA last summer I did a piece for the new glamorous online Reign Magazine.
Music? Well, I'm really enjoying Michael Kiwanuka at the moment and my daughter has got me into The Civil Wars. The up and coming Lianne La Havas, she's great too. Of course I still listen to Judy and Julie and Peggy and Dusty which basically means any singer whose name ends with the "ee" sound ha ha!
Went to a surprise party for the unique and eccentric Andrew King, who was my manager back in the 80's. It was for his 70th Birthday and it was brilliant and hilarious to see some faces I've not seen for 25 years! There were tears and laughter and much drunkenness, though not on my part for I was driving alas... Alastair Gavin came along and played piano for me as I got up and sang a few tunes. Alastair was the keyboard player in The Wilsations - also known as The Professor back then. Ah yes, those were the days when he wore a quiff, a white laboratory coat and had a chemistry set onstage...
That's about it for now, it's absolutely freezing here in London today - I'll be getting on with making some lovely lentil soup and of course, still loving The Great British Bake Off which constantly inspires me to bake gluten-free goodies. In fact, there's a piece of lemon sponge cake which will go nicely with a cup of Lady Grey, perfect to fill me up but not too much before my yoga class - Bye!
Got back from LA around 5 September - It's always so weird coming back when you've been away for a long time - different climate, different light and central heating instead of air conditioning - and - wall to wall carpets!Of course the first thing I had to have was a proper cup of tea - I mean, I always take a box of Twinings Earl Grey with me but I reckon the water and the milk are different so it never really tastes the same does it?
A week after I got home, I started recording the new album and it is sounding so fabulous. The Big Audio Dynamite song is really great. All songs are cover versions but all very different from the original because that's the whole point isnt it? I really enjoy the whole process of changing the song into something that makes it my own. In fact, I love everything about recording and producing, I still find it exciting and magical. The first album wearing the Producer's Hat was The Rhythm Romance back in 1992 and I learned so much. Since then I've co-produced Dolled Up and Emotional Glamour, so this is my fourth album wearing the producer's hat. This time with Simon Hale who is not only great fun to work with but constantly inspiring and he has also written some wonderful arrangements too. The whole thing is very sparse, it couldn't be more different from my last album, so be prepared - I can't wait to get it finished and then mixed and mastered and then hold the finished product in my hand, that's always rewarding.
In my last blog I talked about seeing Herman's Hermits at The Canyon Club in LA. Towards the end of my stay I went back there to see Brian Wilson do a warm-up gig for his European Tour and what a treat that was - incredible to see him and that unbelievable band playing in such a small casual venue. They opened with California Girls and of course, there we were, in California! I got so emotional throughout the whole thing, crying and cheering. They did lots of really early stuff like Little Deuce Coupe and In My Room. I've recorded Disney Girls on the new album as well as a little snippet of another Beach Boys song in a very surprising way, ha ha...
So here's a lovely pic of me enjoying myself at The Canyon Club.
It was my birthday last week so I decided to make a gluten-free birthday cake - it's amazing how much easier it is now. I was diagnosed with Coeliacs Disease 20 years ago and it was pretty grim out there on the supermarket shelves for the likes of us. The gluten-free pasta was made of rice and would stick together and tasted like plastic, such a horrible texture, the bread was like a brick and had to be toasted and the biscuits were pasty and gritty, yuk! Now we have corn pasta, great biscuits and I can hightly recommend Genius Bread which is almost like real bread and you can get it in most supermarkets. Also Starbucks are now doing gluten-free sandwiches and most coffee places do something gluten-free so things are looking up.
My gluten-free cake...
It was a bit weird having that really hot weather last week - 29 degrees in London at the end of September/beginning of October!!! It's usually cold around the time of my birthday yet there I was - summer dress, open toe shoes. Indian Summer they call it. London's the best place to be when the sun is shining with everyone sitting outside the pubs and really loving it - Soho was fabulous on my birthday. I met up with the lovely Barb Jungr in the morning and we sat outside Cafe Nero on Regent Street watching all the sights, shapes, sizes, some colourful costumes and some outfits that were just wrong wrong wrong. Like the tall gangly man wearing shorts like he was on safari and they were just that bit too small if you get my meaning - people-watching, one of my favourite pastimes. If you're in the U.S.A. please go see the ever fabulous Barb Jungr - she's coming to New York, L.A., San Francisco and Austin. Go to her website via my Links page for info.
We dont need reminding about the dreadful global economic crisis, but it's amazing sometimes the effect it has on everything. Cottage industries popping up where people are just getting on with it and being so creative. Where I live in North London we've started having "bar boot sales" the first Friday of every month - all the shops open up till late, some serving wine and nibbles with maybe a musician or two entertaining. People bring stalls and sell their wares ("wares"? what century am I in?). Street parties are becoming popular again and there is a real feeling of community which is surely what has been lost - we need to know our neighbours and be there for each other. I feel very fortunate living here, been here 26 years and it's quite unusual the way it has retained a villagey atmosphere, even though it's in London - takes me ages to pop out for a pint of milk cos I constantly meet people I know and chat to the shopkeepers!
When I was a little girl in Neasden, everybody knew everybody in our street and I remember it was natural to ask for help - that's the way it was back then, life was more simple, less sophisticated and post-war which brought a sense of natural kinship and of course, family was an integral part of the community. I'm not saying that everything was better back then because of course it wasn't and there are numerous things we wouldn't want back again, but I do think that some good values have been lost. This weekend there is a vintage market going on at one of the local school halls and I see on Facebook how people are connecting with each other and creating ways to find work, make work and have their work seen with one thing leading to another. I'm all for it. In fact, I feel a part of it too in the way I'm creating my new album. Maybe I'm too idealistic with unrealistic expectations but I do wonder if a sense of community could return help put an end to all these stabbings and shootings involving so many young people - most of them still children really. So, ever optimistic. . .
Yesterday morning I was up so early that I was outside the local Hoover shop waiting for him to open so I could get some bags for my poorly vacuum cleaner oh, the thrill of it all.
So I now have to think about the album cover - where, how, what to wear etc. Might pop over to the Vintage Market - get some ideas.
B.A.D, Tim Burton and Gluten-Free Treats
So, been in LA for four weeks and so far I have spotted Ben Affleck and that's about it. I'm sure he was nudging his friend and whispering "isn't that Mari Wilson over there?". My friend Shirley saw George Clooney which is possibly worth even more points. I think Johnny Depp would get the highest score though which brings me nicely to the Tim Burton Exhibition here at LACMA - it's absolutely brilliant! What an amazing guy. The exhibition shows his artwork and doodles from as young as 13 years old and his style and fascination with horror movies is already apparent. Some beautiful drawings of Edward Scissorhands and all the characters from his films and some amusing poetry. There's a great movie he made of Hansel and Gretel, and all thefigures and models from Nightmare Before Xmas, Corpse Bride and Edward Scissorhands including the actual scissor hands that Johnny Depp wore and his leather suit! It's a fantastic exhibition and I recommend you go to see it if you are in this neck of the woods.
As you may know, I have coeliacs disease as well as Type 1 Diabetes and Hypothyrodism but apart from that I'm fine, ha ha... so it was rather exciting for me that my lovely friend Amy, sent me a whole box of gluten-free cakes - I couldn't believe it (and now neither can my waistline). They were so very delicious and such a treat for me. Then last week we went out to eat at a place called California Pizza Kitchen and I had gluten-free pizza - it was so scrumptious. Found some fabulous gluten-free veggie sausages too - can't seem to find any of them at home.
My diet usually doesn't include much in the way of carbohydrate because of course I can't have gluten but now all these things here are on offer - yes here, in LA of all places, where most women look like Olive Oyl.
So I've been getting down that gym for zumba classes - all great fun and with the instructor looking like Nicole Scherzinger it's enough to make you never want to eat again really.
We went to see Peter Noone and Herman's Hermits - it was hilariously brilliant and we all sang along to every song. Peter None was very funny and the band were excellent. He was playing The Canyon Club which is a huge cavernous room with long banquet-style tables, kinda 'chicken-in-a-basket' type thing, old fashioned but fun. We're going to see Brian Wilson there in a couple of weeks - that will be so special - so I'll give a full report on that next month.
So, from the ridiculous... spent some time with Big Audio Dynamite and saw their gig at The Nokia Club which was excellent. It's like a mixture of rock, pop and roots but there are other elements, like music-hall and pub sing-a-longs, something to do with the fact that most of the songs are sung by all of them, so you have 3 or 4 male voices singing anthemic songs in unison . I could imagine Mick Jones in vaudeville in the distant past - all very London and being a London girl I can relate, like it touches a nerve, kindred spirits kinda thing. Met the lovely Pearl Harbour that night, so we're planning on a cup of tea next week.
I couldn't write this blog without mentioning the loss of Amy Winehouse. The first time I heard her voice I was so excited, at last, a real voice, dripping with emotion and honesty. She reminded me of Dinah Washington and Etta James. I dont want to talk about all the negativity surrounding her life, just that it's a great loss because she paved the way for a lot of the new singers around today, but to me they are just poor imitations of the real thing.Though I never met her I did feel some kind of connection because of the North London thing and of course the beehive.
My new album is under way and the Pledge Campaign up and running. You can find out all about it by clicking on the Pledge badge on the Home Page. It's going to be an album of covers which makes the whole approach very different for me because I'm not constantly re-writing lyrics and changing choruses etc. The songs are there for my own interpretation so it's very liberating. Some of the songs are from my live show and there are a lot of new ones. I've chosen some new songs as well as old songs I've always wanted to do. I'm working with Simon Hale - we used to work together many years ago when he played piano and keyboards in my band. Since then he has become a highly acclaimed string arranger, conductor, orchestrator with credits on a huge amount of pop records, broadway shows, the list is endless. So I'm always trying to do something new and this time we're aiming for an emotional, slightly melancholy mood and that's all I want to say about it for now otherwise there'll be no surprises.
I'm off now to the seaside at Santa Monica, might go to Venice Beach and have my palm read - see what the future holds...
Earl Grey, Extra Strong Mints, Marmite and Chocolate
Yes, I know, you're probably wondering what happened to June Blog (who's she?) well I was just really busy and before I knew it, June 2011 was a thing of the past. Had quite a few gigs with Girl Talk - always great fun and then I've been organising the new album.
As I'm writing there's a poor little female blackbird sitting on the chair in the garden. We always get families of blackbirds in our garden as we're next to the park and there are lots of trees for them to nest in. She's been there for the past three days because you see, I've realised that she can't fly. I've been out to see her and she runs away, it's really sad. She's looking at the window where she can see her own reflection but she thinks it's another bird and is calling to her, it's breaking my heart but there's nothing I can do, poor old thing. What am I like? Last blog it was all about the Road Runner if you recall - Mari Wilson, Ornithologist...
Wimbledon was full of surprises wasn't it? It's always a funny time for me because it was at the start of Wimbledon 1978 that I was admitted to hospital with Type 1 Diabetes and I was kept in for three weeks - don't think that happens anymore, I think you just get the diagnosis and have to get on with it. So I spent my time watching Wimbledon back then - can't believe I've been on insulin for 33 years - all those injections, I must be like a sieve by now...
Talking of hospitals, I'm completely up to date with Nurse Jackie - I love that show. My daughter has got me into Switched at Birth - an ABC Family show that I don't think is on in the UK yet - it's all very teenage. Also took her and her friend to the Glee show at the O2 Arena in London. We went for something to eat there while they were screaming their heads off. Can anyone recommend decent food at that awful place? Been disappointed every time, can't belive us Brits put up with such poor quality - we just dont like to complain do we? Why is that? You know they also charge £20 to park - outrageous!
Went to see Bridesmaids - excellent, I laughed and laughed, highly recommended.
Music-wise I've been mainly concentrating on the new album and taking inspiration from all kinds of things both visual and aural. I downloaded all of the Bee Gees back catalogue - I used to have some of it on vinyl way back when. They are being recognised now for the early material and how experimental it was. There are also signs of what they would do later - the dance stuff of Saturday Night Fever, Dolly Parton, and of course, Barbra. They were obviously heavily influenced by soul music and its great to go back and listen to it again - all very emotional too. I watched a documentary with Barry and Robin which was really great and very moving. There was a time when they were really unpopular and were sent up by everyone on TV but now at last, they are being appreciated for their wonderful talent and those great harmonies. You know, from the age of 11 I planned to marry Barry Gibb and then he married Miss Scotland - never got over it.
Time for a walk through the park and perhaps a cup of tea and a gluten-free treat somewhere nearby. I'll be blogging in LA (that doesn't sound right somehow). Ta ra.
Road Runners, Red-Tail Hawks and Wincey Willis
I'm in my garden in London typing this in the glorious sunshine - how lovely is this I'm thinking? The birds are singing, the trees are lush and every shade of green, I hear toddlers sqeal with delight from the park next door as they splash around in the paddling pool, mixed with that lovely popping sound of tennis balls hitting racquets in the courts from those determined to make the most of this weather. I love it!
So this British weather and the way it makes us feel is very different from how it is in Los Angeles. We were there for four weeks over Easter. To begin with, the weather there was more or less the same as here but it feels different somehow, well, I suppose that's because its the other side of the world - duh! Gradually it got warmer and warmer and it will continue to do so until they have a blistering summer. So you see, they know they're going to get a great summer, whereas we have no idea do we? Oh, it's a lottery!
We visited Palm Springs and I've never been there before. Quite peculiar to drive for only 2 hours and go from 72 degrees to 88! I mean, when I drive to Birmingham which is about the same distance, nothing really changes, apart from the accent . . . so, that's Wincey Willis with the weather then.... (do Google Wincey if you are from another land).
As you approach Palm Springs, you drive through hundreds and hundreds of wind farms, for what seems like ages, it's really odd but beautiful and there's nothing else around apart from billboards advertising Vegas-style concerts by the likes of Michael Bolton(?). I love wind farms. The first time I saw them was in Cornwall about 20 years ago and I know some people dont like them but I think they're fabulous and rather hypnotic. So next stop - La Quinta, Palm Springs. All the hotels were pretty quiet as it was mid-week and just after the Coachella festival which I really want to go to - maybe next year.
The first day we were there, this peculiar looking bird goes rushing past us on foot along the path. It was a ROADRUNNER! I've never seen anything so funny, in fact, I didn't even know they existed, I thought it was something dreamed up for Wily Coyote to chase, but no, it's real and related to the cuckoo dontcha know? We saw him a lot while we were there, sometimes with a lizard in his mouth, always in a hurry, hilarious!
So two days in Palm Springs was just lovely and relaxing, then we came back to LA and the David Attenborough theme continues... I usually have my binoculars with me at every opportunity. When we got back to LA there was one day when two huge birds of prey swooped above us and settled in a tree. Out came the binoculars followed by an intense search on the internet where I discovered they were Red-Tailed Hawks. There are a lot of them in California apparently but you dont see many of them along the North Circular Road let me tell you, so I got all excited and watched them for ages. They just sat there like an old couple until they obviously spotted something for tea and swooped gracefully off. Another popular occurrence is the Californian Mourning Dove and they seem to nest nearby every year. This time I filmed a pair of them on my Flip. It was during their mating ritual which went on for over an hour with the male shaking his tail feathers and lots of mutual grooming. Then I think he took her off to choose a nesting site. See? I'm a proper Bill Oddie...
Other highlights were Ron Sexmith at Largo at The Coronet, a great venue, I'd love to play there. I've been a fan of Ron's for over ten years back when nobody here really knew much about him. I covered one of his songs, Foolproof, on my album, Dolled Up. Now he's getting the attention he deserves. He's such a gifted writer and his melancholic voice always has me in tears at his concerts. Supporting him that night was the wonderful Caitlin Rose - please check her out, she's a young country singer from Nashville, like a young Loretta Lynn, quirky and interesting with great songs, been listening to her new album and I love it. My favourite at the moment though is The Mummers - downloaded both albums and they're wonderful, like fairground music mixed with film scores and magical wonderfulness! I've also got really into the music of James Blake, he's really special though probably an acquired taste (or "a required taste" as my Auntie Jenny used to say). His stuff reminds me a bit of Talk Talk - I remember being obsessed with their album Colour of Spring........ So all that mixed with a bit of Gladys Knight and Millie Jackson, that's what I've been listening to.
Girl Talk shows are great fun, we have a few more coming up over the next few months and I have some shows with my Threesome too. Rehearsals coming up this week, new songs to put into my show and new songs to write. There is also the ongoing work with Boisounds. The album should be out soon which has three tracks by me and lots of other tracks by various other people including The Very Mss Dusty O, Sherrie Silver, Him, Mr.Hudson.
The next thing for me . . . another album? Hope so - I'll keep you posted.
LUREX, FACIALS AND PNEUMONIA!
Well, here it is - my first blog on my luxurious new website. I mean, the first site was pretty gorgeous, but this time, Studio7, the UK's finest design team, has surpassed itself! Really great photos by Gideon Hart, not to mention all that money I spent in Betsey Johnson on those clothes - worth it though wasn't it? I'll always find a way of justifying the purchase of clothes, I've always been like it, ever since I was little. I know what caused it too. It was watching all those movies on Saturday and Sunday afternoons starring the likes of Lana Turner in The Postman Always Rings Twice, Jayne Mansfield in The Girl Can't Help It, Joan Crawford in Mildred Pearce, etc. It has an effect on a young girl you know? Plus, having sharing a bedroom with a sister who looked like Elizabeth Taylor, oh yeah, that helped too.... My best friend Diana tells me that one afternoon when we were about 13 or 14, there was a Lana Turner movie on TV and Lana was wearing a gold lame housecoat. Apparently I said "I'd really like a housecoat like that, you know, just to lounge around the house in".... dream on Mari...
You'll see the video for O.I.C. on the home page - we had such fun doing that video and I love the single. It was written by Ben Block whose label is Boisounds - you'll find a link to his site on the Links page. We've actually recorded two other tracks but you'll have to wait for those. A few weeks back I did a PA where I sang O.I.C. at Trannyshack @ Madame JoJo's in London's Soho. It was absolutely hilarious in the dressing room - me and ten trannies. I just kept putting on more and more make-up until I looked more like a tranny than they did! They all had such fabulous bodies, oh my...
Anyway, it's been all go this year I tell you, we have Girl Talk back on the road - this time it's Barb Jungr, Adrian York and myself, plus the wonderful Gwyneth Herbert. She's such a sweetie and a fantastic talent with a really rich smoky voice. She's into quirky vintage clothes too, reminds me of when I was her age and would buy all my dresses from Portobello Road and jumble sales and charity shops. This was the early 80's when nobody was interested in what they now call "vintage", so of course, I got the cream of the crop. In fact Neasden Sea Scouts used to have regular jumble sales and would put things to one side for me. One dress they put on hold is the one I'm wearing in the photo on the biography page - that was the first photo session I did, back in Neasden. That dress cost me 20p! It was turqoise lurex and I wore it for my first television appearance on Riverside. Aaahhh... those were the days.
I was in Paris a couple of weeks ago playing for a friend's 50th birthday in a beautiful old theatre called Le Tambour Royal which is in Belleville. We had such a fun time but Adrian my musical collaborator, pianist, was rather unwell (to say the least) and by the time we returned to London he ended up in Intensive Care with pneumonia!
On Monday I leave London for Los Angeles to join my other half who went out there a few weeks ago for work. We'll all be there for a month for the Easter hols. Be great to have some warm sunshine. No doubt I shall be seeing my old mate Julia Fordham who lives out there now, plus some great musicians I've been making friends with. Also I'm looking forward to seeing Imelda May playing with Jeff Beck and hopefully, Ron Sexmith.
In preparation I went and treated myself to a facial today - I hardly ever do that but it was so brilliant and fantastic and I felt so amazing afterwards, I think I should do it more often - who needs a face lift when you have have someone pummelling away at those wrinkles for an hour and a half? Got to help hasn't it?
Anyway, I think I'd better start packing, after which it'll be time for a camomile tea and maybe a bit of True Crime TV.....