Why not go busking in St Tropez and get discovered by the Dave Clark Five

Why not go busking in St Tropez and get discovered by the Dave Clark Five

At school I had a wonderful music teacher, Mr Ponting, who encouraged me to enter a local classical singing competion as a contralto, to sing Kathleen Ferrier’s ‘What is Life’.  Nor will I ever forget singing beautiful, soaring harmonies in a mass choir when our school choir joined with the local church choir to sing the Hallelujah Chorus and Bach’s Christmas Oratorio,    I also learned to play a few chords on guitar and loved to sing folk songs, some Joan Baez and old blues and gospel songs.

Having got scandalously pregnant in the early 1960s, (perhaps another why not), I dropped out of college,  took off and hitchhiked to the South of France aiming to sing in the restaurants in St Tropez.   I soon became a regular busker in St Trop and several patrons allowed me to sing every night in their restaurants on the port and in the quaint back streets, where I would pass the plate and sing my folksongs.  I shared the busking scene with a fabulous trick cyclist called Coin Coin who performed on his tall one wheel bicycle along the port in front of the big boats and the tourists.  There was also a West Indian Steel Band busking all around the town and whenever they came along they would stop and drown me out.  Their music was so vibrant and loud I always had to stop singing and wait for them to move on.

Of course Brigitte Bardot was often to be seen hanging out in her favourite bars and one night I sang in a restaurant while she was watching me.  I later got an invitation from the Steel Band guys to sing with them up at Brigitte’s villa, but I was so scared of these unknown exotic black men, and of being captured by the white slave trade which so many people had warned me about, that I turned them down!  Years later when I lived in London and was involved in the 1970s music business I met and became friends with some of these same guys from the St Tropez Steel Band and we laughed at my ignorance.

I also sang in a popular back street St Tropez night club called the Stereo Club, owned by Josefa, a marvellous French woman who let me sing there and gave me a place to sleep in her attic.  It was there that I met Dave Clark from the new UK hit band the Dave Clark Five, who heard me sing and invited me to contact him when I got back to England.  He said he wanted to put me on the front cover of Vogue magazine and make me famous.  I was so excited to be discovered by the Dave Clark Five.

I returned to the UK not long after this and, accompanied by my father as I was still a minor, a meeting was arranged with Dave Clark’s agent, Harold Davidson, where plans to sign me up and make me famous were discussed. I had a few rehearsals at the house of Mike Smith, Dave Clark’s keyboard player, and the plans all looked set to go forward.  Then, Dave Clark announced that they were off to do a big tour of America and he asked me to wait for them to return.  He wanted me to remain unknown and not to do any more public gigs until they returned to the UK.

I faithfully waited for them to come home, and turned down any little gigs I was offered.  There was never to be any more news from Dave Clark, and with mounting disappointment, I began to accept gigs again and started singing around the universities, carrying a sorely broken dream in my heart.  This was my first painful taste of the disappointment and heart break of the music business.

I soon got discovered again however!  This time, an agent I knew put me forward to audition for a BBC documentary about the making of an unknown girl into a pop star.  This was a sort of forerunner of Pop Idol and X Factor, except it was just me and another girl in the running, and to my delight they chose me.  Again, as a minor, my proud father was present when, this time, I signed for real with RCA records.  I had an agent and a team of lady managers, Kay and Sylvia, all ready to prepare and groom me for stardom.  The making of this 1967 documentary, called ‘Man Alive: Can She Sing Does It Matter’, (currently on Youtube) was so exciting but also frustrating as I was a folk singer and they wanted a soul singer and the team around me kept trying to get me to be soulful but I was a bit too posh and reserved for them.  The film ends with my press launch of a sadly forgettable record which apparently sold 800 copies but soon burned and died.

Extraordinarily, it came to be that the band chosen by my managers to accompany me at my Press Launch was a Steel Band which had guys descended from the ones I met in St Tropez all those years before.  During our rehearsal times, I fell passionately in love with one of those handsome, exotic musicians who became the father of my wonderful son.  Through him I moved into a new world of soul and reggae music, weed, violence, black power and racial prejudice and my life changed completely.

A post script to this story is that my singing career survived and metamorphosed; I learned to sing more soulfully and ended up as one of the UK’s successful 1970s session singers, featuring on many commercials and albums, including a memorable all night Stephen Stills session at Island Studios when I was pregnant, and toured as a backing singer with several bands in the UK and one tour in Africa.

However, there was a lot of cocaine and alcohol available on many of these tours and in the studios and I was a prime consumer for all of these and more.  The end of the music business came for me when I got a bit too stoned and the session world moved on to new favourites.  My life got very hard and hope got lost and I went through some sad years playing Russian roulette with alcoholism and addictions which, thank God, I survived.  I would like to write another Why Not story about all this one day but need to be careful to show the light rather than the darkness.

My last main musical happiness was after I got into the 12 Step Recovery programme and got my life back on track and when the three best friends, God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit chased away my demons and came to live with me and made me and my son safe at last.  Some called me mad when this happened, but I actually began to be restored to sanity again and my life changed so dramatically for the better there was no question that goodness and mercy had come into my life.  I joined the fabulous Kensington Temple Gospel Choir and was so happy to sing again and, my favourite songs of all, thanking God.  I did my last session with the KT Choir on a Mike and the Mechanics album before I got yet another new lease of life when I left London after 35 years to go back to and live by the beloved seaside of my youth.

And, why not, now I have just turned 70, and In spite of my beloved and hilarious daughter in law who cracks me up when she suddenly has to go out any time I offer to sing for her on the phone, I still sing around the house and in the car and thank God for everything.  No regrets, just so much gratitude.

 

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Why not say yes to Salvador Dali

Me in 1960s

Why Not say yes to Salvador Dali – Why not accept an invitation from Salvador Dali to come to his house for dinner. 

In 1962 I was a beautiful 17 year old with long blond hair and the voice of a sweet folk singer.  I had spent the summer busking in the restaurants of St Tropez when I was offered a lift down to Spain and ended up in a village called Cadaques which was the home of the surrealist painter Salvador Dali, where swans swam in the sea.

I busked around the restaurants in Cadaques, passing the plate as I had done in St Tropez, and one night I watched Salvador Dali arriving at a restaurant with his large entourage of people all carrying giant paintbrushes.  The main topic of the village was Dali and I was told frightening stories of his strange and decadent life style; of girls who lined up with their legs apart for him to throw nuts into their vaginas, and girls who paraded for him with lighted candles in their bums while he banged his cane and orgasmed.  I saw a raving young German artist, or perhaps he was Dutch, who was well known in the village, striding around uttering mad threats to kill Dali for stealing the drawings he had taken to show him and which Dali had apparently claimed as his own.

While in Cadaques, busking with my guitar, I met up with three young Italian aristocrats, a Prince, a Count, and a Playboy who took me under their wing and invited me to stay with them.  These young men were close friends and had formed their own special club.  They took to me so much that they made me an honorary fourth member of their club and treated me with great respect.   One evening they took me to the restaurant in the village square frequented by Salvador Dali, and as we sat eating Dali entered, surrounded by his entourage, who were carrying whistles this time, and they all settled at their big table at the back of the restaurant.  While we were eating our meal, an English man approached our table, holding a baby wild cat under his arm.  He turned to me and said that Dali had sent him over to invite me to join him at his table.  The three young aristocrats indignantly told him that I was their guest and that it was very rude to ask me to join Dali.  So the English man apologised and went away and I was actually secretly so disappointed that I couldn’t meet the famous man.  We carried on eating our meal and the next thing that happened was that Dali himself came over to our table, he bowed to my friends and apologised that his secretary had been so rude.  He then very formally invited us all to come to his house for dinner one evening.  My friends thankfully accepted his invitation.

On the night of the dinner party, when we entered Dali’s house there was a giant stuffed bear covered in jewellery standing in the hall.  Dali led us into a dining room where we met a very famous model whose name I cannot remember, and we drank pink champagne with our meal.

At some point in the evening Dali invited me for a tour of his house and we left the others in the dining room.  He took me into his studio where he had a huge canvas on the wall which he showed me could move up and down with an electric button of some kind. I remember seeing beautiful colours and clear images on this huge canvas.  There were also some beautiful intricate sketches of the human form lying around which he proudly showed me and I seem to remember him saying they were Da Vinci sketches and I was so impressed.  I had just dropped out of art school the year before I took off for France and Spain and was aware of the beauty of the art I was seeing.  While I was in his studio with him he turned to me and spoke in French, heavily accented with his Spanish accent, and said something I will never forget: “Je vous trrrouve trrres belle et je voudrrrais vous dessiner” which, translated means “I find you very beautiful and I would like to draw you”.  Well, why on earth not, but all I could think of were the stories of his strange sexual proclivities with the girls in the village, the orgasms with the nuts in the vaginas and lighted candles in bums.  And I turned down the offer to be drawn or painted by Salvador Dali.

He then showed me a bedroom with a large bed on a raised platform at the end of the room with great swathes of curtains around the head.  He told me that this was his wife Gala’s room, and that she was in America at the time.   On the right hand wall of the bedroom there was a doorway which Dali went through and stood beckoning me to follow him into a small room with a large toilet inside.  Dali was urgently pointing at the toilet and I began to get very nervous as to his intentions, again, due to the stories.  He kept pointing at the toilet and I realised that the toilet seat was intricately carved wood and Dali was saying that this was the toilet seat which once belonged to King Louis, one of the French kings and he was obviously very proud of this.

The tour was perfectly safe and we returned to join the others in the dining room, but I had missed an opportunity of a life time.

There was one more evening I spent with Dali, who had invited me to sing at a party in the house of another Cadaques artist, a sculptor.  I remember when it came time for me to sing, Dali banged his famous cane and loudly announced “silence Judith va chanter”, “silence, Judith is going to sing”.

What an encounter with such a famous painter and infamous man with his infamous cane.  I was just not brave enough to say ‘why not’ to him.

Why not celebrate

Today I celebrate 27 years of total abstinence from all drugs and alcohol. There are many who may be able to drink and drug socially, happily and normally but I was not. I got on to a downward spiral that I couldn’t get off and was heading for destruction as I tried to satisfy ever more demanding cravings that were impossible for me to deny. until I learned that people like me would only be safe in total abstinence. I was so unhappy and desperate that I wholeheartedly embarked upon this journey with the help and support of some great people along the way. I cried out to God and got answers and faith and Jesus x. My life changed and I am so full of gratitude. Fear still knocks but the door is now locked and Jesus is my rock and my deliverer. Hallelujah, I have no shame in this xxxxx “He drew me up from the pit of destruction, out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure.” Psalm 40:2.

January 3 VERSE OF THE DAY Psalm 33:3 Sing to him a new song; play skillfully, and shout for joy.

January 3 TODAY’S READING Deuteronomy 10: Circumcise Your Heart

12 “And now, Israel, what does the Lord your God require of you, but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, 13 and to keep the commandments and statutes of the Lord, which I am commanding you today for your good? 14 Behold, to the Lord your God belong heaven and the heaven of heavens, the earth with all that is in it. 15 Yet the Lord set his heart in love on you…..