Preview/Interview: The Singer's Tale
London Jazz News, 13th February 2015
Carol Grimes was one of the very first performers to appear at St James Studio (preview from 2012). In this new interview with Sebastian, she talked about the first outings of her new autobiographical project “The Singer's Tale,” for which she will return to St James Studio with performances on Feb 9th and 26th 2015.
LondonJazz News: What does the show consist of?
Carol Grimes: Songs, little beat poetry, it's a tale interlaced with songs, a lot of them written by Dorian Ford and myself. It's in two halves with an interval. Maggie Ford is directing. Neville Malcolm is on bass, Winston Clifford drums, Annie Whitehead trombone and Dorian Ford piano.
LJN: And the title?
CG: I nicked it from Chaucer – he never wrote a tale about a singer, but he travelled through South East London, knew it, trod the same paths I trod.
LJN: Where did the idea come from?
CG: I started writing a book and songs and poems in the 80s. And when some other people told me they wanted to write my life story – they sent me a draft script and I got cold feet about what they were doing. So I had the idea I would write my own.
LJN: And then?
CG: You have to leap forward to Deptford High St where I was living in 2005. Because I'd been born in Lewisham it felt like I had got back to where I'd started - and I started writing it again. I had a song at that time “Blues for Louis” it was on the album Mother, it really worked, people tell me its a beat poem.
Then I had a terrible accident , I was knocked over by two blindfolded dancers preparing for a show in Brighton. That accident held me back as performer for a while I couldn't even walk, so I picked up the book again.
By that time I'd started working wioth Dorian and showed him the bits and the piece that ended up as the 20 min thing you saw at MAP in Kentish Town.
LJN: And both the book and the show have progressed quite a bit?
CG:I have got a book pretty much done sitting there waiting for me to do edits which I hope to get published. And so the idea is to tour the show taken from the book, and to sell the book while on tour…
LJN: Is there a theme running through the book?
CG: Why I am writing a book? It's not because I'm a celebrity (I'm not) but other people have had lives which are just as interesting. My story goes from my birth in 1944 to now. When I write about myself I feel as if I am the fly on the wall. So the story goes through the miners' strike, through the first few gigs of Rock against Racism which were put on by Red Saunders, David Widgery and Roger Huddle. We did a pub in the East End, and the Roundhouse.
If you look at the history all people talk about is Billy Bragg and Tom Robinson – and they lay claim to it , it became a much bigger thing. I got gradually left out. It is very easy to be written oiut of history. I did the first ever Glastonbury fair.
LJN: And mixed-race bands, reflecting the society you live in, are an inportant feature of your life as performer?
CG: I became aware that eighties two -tone bands claimed to be the first to be mixed race. They weren't When I started there were bands like Graham Bond, and all the Windrush generation, and the exiles from South Africa. There there were a lot of mixed race bands.
The bigger bands in the 80s were all four white men. So I wanted to redress the balance and give people a flavour of what it was really like, life in the sixties.
The changes that are still happening the venues that have been lost.
LJN: The show at St James Studio is going to bring lost of memories to life...
CG: It takes me back to London before the whole hippy thing. There were great bands. They reflected the city that I lived in – thy werent segregated bands. It wasnt long after the austerity fifties – the feeling something good was going to happen.
LJN: Do you have some lyrics from the show that capture that feeling you describe?
“Inside her room
Sink and gas
She listened to the blues
Black vinyl, warm spinning
Her heart wanting the sound in her mouth”
The Singer's Tale has been assisted by a small Arts Council England Development grant.