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My mother sang, she used to sing in clubs, you know, and she always sang interesting music, the kind of songs Billie Holliday sang, She always taught me as a child to sing songs she sang, although I was too young to always understand the words. I knew the words meant something to mother and that inspired me.
She used to put me in little shows, little contests, things like that. I remember my first prize was a "Tiny Tears" doll in a show called "Live Like a Millionaire" where me and my mother came in second. I was four then and I think it was really important to me, starting off like that.
My mother taught me how to play the ukulele and that's a four stringed instrument and when I was sixteen my father gave me a guitar for Christmas. I was very happy to get a guitar and I taught myself every minor chord - all the sad chords. I wrote sad, sorrowful songs because they were the only chords I knew.
I went to the village when I was seventeen. I used to get up there and sing my soul out, and then I had to collect money for it, half the time I didn't - I didn't think it was nice, I hated it, I was really embarrassed taking money for it.
The first job I got, I never went for my pay, it used to mount up until the guy would hand it to me.
I had two parts in two school plays at acting school, and I volunteered for some other thing - costume making or something.
It was getting to Christmas and I hadn't enough money to go shopping, so I got this extra job as a waitress - a terrible waitress. I was dropping things all the time, messing everybody's orders up. I just didn't make it as a waitress. I just did it for the money. I didn't get any sleep - I used to be up all day and night, I was on these diet pills so I was nervy and speeded-up. That could be why I was a terrible waitress - a speedy little waitress.
When I was in High School I decided to run away from home, my parents were frantic, I left them a note which said "Don't worry, I need time to go away and think on my own".
I met this actor on the plane and told him a phoney story about being Eve Dane and how I was off to California to be an actress.
Right before we got off the plane I said I lied about the whole thing and asked if he knew a place where I could stay. He got me into this home where aspiring actresses stayed for two dollars a day. I had just enough money to stay.
A week after I got into this home two men came from the LA Police or somewhere. I was relieved to think I'd be going home. But they misled me and brought me to this girls' prison and I stayed there for a week not knowing what was happening. I didn't know why they had me there. I thought maybe they thought I'd done something else.
After a horrifying week, my father appeared and there I was. They made me use this awful soap - my eyes were all swollen up, partially from crying and partially from the soap, my hair was all dry frizz - and I was in this sheet with a number on it. He couldn't believe it. I was so afraid and weak I couldn't even write about it, you know what I mean? I was just numb..
I did a record for Columbia.
My first professional thing was in France really. I'd been at the M.I.D.E.M. and I sang at Eddie Barclay's party at the Playboy Club! I met Gilbert Becaud who said he'd like me to appear with him at the Olympia. So I did four weeks with him there and it was terrible. The first thing was that I was American, so that was a point against me at the wrong time. Then I came back to America and did the Fillmore. The first thing I can remember being my own show was at the University in Pennsylvania and I've been doing those kind of things ever since - mostly in the New England states. The mid-west frightens me, I can take the South for a while but that's it .
I asked the builder to build me a gingerbread house with lots of candy! I think the construction man didn't know what he was taking on and it overwhelmed him because he's become an alcoholic! I keep finding empty bottles around the place and he doesn't show up for work much anymore! I feel I did it to him. So at the moment I'm living in a half finished house. The fireplaces aren't finished; none of the things you need to be comfortable. It seems like an overwhelming thing to me. I'm sitting in a draughty, windy house, and I don't know what to do about it.
I thought about importing some English craftsmen to finish it, but they probably wouldn't be able to find the materials they would want. When it is finished it will be a lovely house.
The kitchen is fantastic. It's warm and has one big giant window that looks out to some woods. Out front there are twelve beautiful pine trees and when spring comes it will be very pretty. It's the house I've always wanted, on the edge of a hill in New Jersey.
It's not a farm or anything like that but there's enough land around to grow vegetables and a goat or sheep or something. I wanted just a baby sheep but the guy I got it from brought it over with it's mother, a huge monster sheep that's really ugly. It's got these big black fierce eyes. But the baby is beautiful, it's black and all woolly.
It's a fairly residential area and we've got all these animals walking around the garden. The people next door don't know what to make of it.
I got a goat for Christmas. I always wanted a goat. I love goat's milk and I figured the best way to get it was get a goat. She's sandy coloured and has these white lines going from the tips of her ears down to her eyes. I don't have to tie her up or anything because she won't leave the house - she knows it's her's. She comes to the door and hoofs at it and I let her in. And she's very clean!
I love good food, I'm a health fanatic, I could go on all day about it; people just don't begin to understand how important good health is. In America some vitamins are being taken off the market by government so the doctors can have more control over their patients! I'm very anti-doctor, it's simple for the body to cure itself if a person eats enough food.
My mother started me on this when I was fourteen years old. Its just a process of little by little eliminating as much poisonous food from your diet as possible. Meat is one of the most poisonous foods. They fatten up animals to get enough to eat, but they fatten them up with stuff that is not fit to eat.
Advertisers capitalise on the youth culture thing to sell foods that are not fit for people to eat. They have people slurping soft drinks out of bottles as if this is going to help them teach the world to sing in perfect harmony.
People who attempt to live on this level are highly sensitive to spiritual vibrations. They also become defenceless. As a complete vegetarian I would crumble at bad remarks. People would think I'm a lunatic, but I carry my own juice machine on tour.
I started getting pretty low, so I saw this nature-path who told me that the things I dealt with in my active life were animal substances and I needed something to fight back with. It sounds like a negative thing to say, but it's not negative - it's just something I've accepted.
I've survived a lot better adding a little meat to my diet. There were humanitarian reasons why I didn't eat meat as well, but it was mostly health reasons. Since I couldn't maintain my health, I figured I should take the advice of this man - he himself was a vegetarian for seventeen years!
To be a vegetarian is to have a very delicate life; people who are vegetarians are often those who can't let things flow, and I'm not like that I guess, I take everything right in and I needed something to hold me together more.
I used to be very stingy with myself and it turned out that I was the only one I was really hurting. I wasn't saving anything for myself. It was actually more painful to hold things back, to hold things from coming out. It only hurts you, I've been more open than I was. The easier I let things out the less uncomfortable things are.
I don't have to prove anything anymore. I don't have to sell anything.
There are two kinds of songs that I write.. the ones that I feel and those which come through me. I don't write for any reason. I never analyse my songs. The idea that a woman could write anything as important as a male can write has evolved gradually.
Even now the importance of what I write has been minimised. People wouldn't like to think some of my work is as important as Dylan, because Dylan is a male it's just something bred in them. I can't stand my voice, I really sound funny. I didn't try to sound like that, it just came out - my voice was so high.
Even on "Ruby Tuesday" my voice was so quivery. It's changed now, truly a physical thing, it got lower from using it. It's strange but people are always trying to read deep meanings into my songs. Most of the time they don't have any special meaning at all. People seem to forget you're a human being and think of you as a thing to topple over.
If people go from my concerts not liking me that's all right, I feel comfortable about that, as long as they come to see me.
Anyway let's face it I'm who I am - and there's no image and there's no falseness and this way I don't have to run from anything. I can perform for ever and I intend to, because it's been all my life that I've done this and there's nothing that can stop me.
Sure I may go off and live on a farm and have a couple of kids but I'll always come back to sing. I won't let them change the things that I love, the thing that I am. I want to be able to sit crossed-legged on the floor and eat my cheese and rye and laugh out loud and play my guitar and sing out.
Many people get unhappy with me because they think that going to a Melanie concert isn't the hip thing to do. The problem is that I don't fit into any category. The underground, although that's where I started, don't accept me. Somehow I said the wrong things and fell in-between. I think maybe it's because I get very self-conscious about what I write; I don't want to be too preachy. I don't quite fit in anywhere, but fortunately there are a lot of people in between. I know exactly what I could do. If I said all the right things I could become some sort of underground leader, but that's not me. I don't feel qualified to be a preacher - I can't say things that don't come from inside. I don't want to be a leader, you have to say the obvious all the time.
In the states the people in the music business always liked me but nobody knew what to do with me. They said that my songs were far too long and dragged out and were un-commercial. I'm a high energy person and they don't know where to put me it's been getting progressively easier now that people are coming to hear me and they're familiar with how and what I sing.
To tell you the truth, I'd completely given up all hope of making it in England
I just couldn't seem to get off the ground over here. And funnily enough England was the only place where I really tried to make it 'cause at the beginning of my singing career, I made a lot of trips to London. The thing is I love England around Christmas time; I really get into the spirit of it. It takes me an awful long time to prepare for it, wrapping presents. I know some people say Christmas presents aren't so important, but to me they are. It's the surprise of opening the presents, I love to watch people opening them.
Last year I was at home not doing much when my agent phoned up and said people had been asking for me like crazy, did I want to work? I said yeah and it started. They found out I was coming here and said wouldn't I like to do a concert while I was here. Originally I was coming just to mess around and get a chance to do all the things I don't usually get time to do, like go shopping and watch your Salvation Army band.
I enjoy performing in Britain, because the audiences really listen. In America, everyone is more concerned with repeating familiar experiences, and they don't want to hear a lot of new songs.
They want to hear songs that they know, that they've become familiar with on the radio. In Britain the kids don't get to hear that much on the radio, so they care more about performances. I'd rather present new material in Britain than in America.
Once I went back to a small club in Philadelphia where I used to sing, and did two shows and never once sang a song anybody had heard before it was a great feeling. I thought "This is what it's all about, not singing hit records - it's so good to do something like that".
On record you've only got sounds and nothing else - you don't have a living sound, but a recorded sound, and as you know there is quite a difference. If I record in front of an audience I don't feel like I've made a record because I don't do anything different - I just sing and play my songs.
Anyway I like working with session musicians. In a performance I have to focus right on the spot where it hurts - I can't evade it because everyone will see.
I'm not a showman - I don't come out with witty things to say. I love it when they start talking to me because it makes me feel comfortable. I'm not really answering someone when I sing a song they've requested, but it does become a two way conversation. There are times when I'd like more of a listening situation, especially when I'm introducing new songs. I get periods when I get tired of the older material I do on stage, things like "Baby Guitar" and "Any Guy" particularly "Tuning My Guitar"!
I hate doing concerts that are spread out because it means that when you just begin to relax you have to get into it again. It's better to do a lot at once then have a while to relax. I do spend most of my time on the road, but I like it. It's just me and two road managers - just nice people - it's like travelling with friends.
America is so big there are so many places to play - there are little colleges everywhere, if I worked in Britain then I could never come back, they'd be sick of me. But in America you can go on working for ever and there would still be some people who wouldn't know you.
There's a time when I write and a time when I perform - exactly as there's a time when I eat and a time when I sleep, and it has to be a natural thing without pressure for me to give my best.
Probably I'll release fewer albums than have been issued each year up to now. I feel I've been pushed a great deal by my previous company and I don't feel that should have happened; I don't think you should have to put out an album just because the company says so. You should sit tight until you have something worthwhile
It'll wait until I have the right material - there won't be any hurry - it's going to be better this way by having our own label. We will be able to work on the concept, decide upon the covers and packaging without being hassled. It's a great atmosphere - it's nothing like I've ever done before.
I would really like to do a Christmas or a children's' album with just my guitar and prepare piano - that's a piano you put tacks a screws and rubber bands on the strings - not just anywhere - you do it in a certain way so that a very magical sound comes out. I've got a lot of songs but I don't know whether I'll do the next album this summer or after.
I think I'm going to go camping - there are a lot of beautiful lakes in British Columbia I'd like to see. I also want to go to the desert - there are some beautiful deserts to go to.
I need time to get away because there are things in my life that are confusing and need time spent thinking about without distractions. I'm not in a hurry to put out an album - I like "Gather Me" and that's it for now .
On "Gather Me" we really got into producing something - not just me and a guitar and hope that people will listen. With musicians in the studio backing me I found I was getting something, some kind of energy from them - it was as if they were an audience but actually taking part. I think "Gather Me" is my best album ever.
Roger Kellaway and I got on so well together and everything fell together so naturally. It's most completely me - I love this record, and I want the next one to be the best quality possible. I'm very pleased with the material on this album. All the songs just came out - in about a month I wrote them all. I'm very pleased with the way we did it, me, Peter and Roger Kellaway were in charge. Roger worked on my first album, but somehow we've both evolved since that time. I look forward to concerts now. I'm glad I got it out - I really like it. It's the first I feel as old as I am.
Buddha have put out an album of things that they had in the can; things that were recorded while we were just messing about in the studio like five years ago and were rejects then, and they've promoted it as a new album. But not only is the material old and some of it embarrassing - some of it's not even finished.
They definitely want to get even with me. I'm using a single guitar and singing. The songs are all just bits and pieces. They wouldn't even give me the chance to do the material again. I just hope I can get to as many people as possible and tell them about it. It's really a bad album. Now they've done another one - I'm sick of it. This latest album is so awful. I mean even the artwork must be the worst ever on any album sleeve.
They've got these pencil drawings of me in evening dresses and things like that and Peter with a pair of horns! I guess that's meant to be symbolic.
I was a bit against releasing "Brand New Key" as a single because I thought people would assume the album to be much in that vein and really that's the track that is on it's own amongst the others.
The single, "Ring The Living Bell" is more of the kind of thing I normally sing.
I really don't understand the success of "Brand New Key" like I didn't understand the success of "What have They Done To My Song, Ma?" It's weird, but these two songs only took about two minutes to write. They were no effort at all - just like doodles. I can only think of the song as a doodle; I didn't think about it when I was writing it. I didn't think about writing something cute and catchy. I just wrote it for Peter and me and the people around us.
Thank goodness it's all over, having a hit single doesn't make things easier - it makes things harder. When you get 20,000 screaming kids wanting to hear "Brand New Key" and not really anything else. I hope everybody has forgotten about it now ..
Melanie quotes extracted from various pre August 1972 articles in:
Format ©1996 D.J. Boldinger
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