Songs Poems Gardens London Seaside Mind Body Life Love and Heartbreak, with warts, boils, hissy fits an’ all. A learning bend or curve, an exploration in a random way, as thoughts arrive I put them in.
UPHILL PEACE OF MIND 1974 Memphis
Recorded in Memphis Tenessee, credits below the writing
On occasions..over the years I would write stuff down..shove it in a drawer unless it became a song. It tells of the life of a Girl, a Woman, a Singer, her travels and HOME, the City of London. Before 2000 she tells the story and afterwards, I take over and we tell the tale together with …
The Boss. A very good idea indeed, she keeps it all in check.
Nasty Nella. Beware of the bitch.
Wicked Will – O – Mina. A niggling, meddling pest, scram. A liability, stay clear of her.
Frank the Pale Mouse. A coward, a ninny, a fool, and she needs to get a grip.
Guilty Gertie. Oh Dear!
Clara the Clown. She tries to please.
Betty Blues Belter, a singer, a party gal. Bring on the band.
Tilly Tea Leaf & Lying Lizzie. Oh shit.
Junk-Etta, the addict, a marshmallow.
Misery Ivy, a moaning pain in the arse.
Piss Pot Polly. Oh well, mine’s a large glass of wine.
Below is an introduction. Followed by. ‘Who the f☝☞♪ am I?’ (Just to let you know!)
I put this Singer’s Tale alongside my music,
As I write it all down, it feels like a song, my song, with many verses. Each written chapter has music at its heart resonating with words, place and time.
In the early 80’s I did a show called ‘Lipstick and Lights’ at the Drill Hall, Chenies Street in London. It was a collection of sketches, poems and songs around my life as a singer, performed with a Band, ‘Eyes Wide Open’ and the wonderful actor, Didi Hopkins. ‘Beryl and The Perils.’
The Singers Tale takes place in London, with various travels around and about. To Europe, America, Japan, Scandinavia, Poland and Estonia, and always back to London like a Homing Pigeon. Told from early days in the 1940’s and ’50’s as a child in South East London to bed-sit rooms and Squats in Earls Court, Chelsea and The Grove in West London during the 1960’s and ’70’s, the early days of the Hippy invasion of the Balearic Islands, long before the rave, club scene it has since become.
A caravan in the Welsh Countryside, a little shack on Stilts on the banks of the Sacramento River in the Bay Area of Northern California, to Texas and Tennessee and an Island in the Winter, north of Stockholm, touring Poland before the wall came down in East Germany and the old USSR was dismantled and the Big Boot removed from its occupied Eastern European countries.
As a performer I am always on the move, singing and selling my wares and I have an extensive archive of photographs, reviews, articles, and interviews.
I would love to work on a stage show, using excerpts from the book and singing the songs, with an actor and musicians, using film, images, and animation.
I became Carol Grimes, the name under which I have sung since the late sixties. My name: I chose it. I chose ‘The Singers Tale’ because of Geoffrey Chaucer, who wrote his Tales on his way to Canterbury from Southwark. I am staying in Southwark at the moment, within the sound and sight of St Paul’s bells, and spend time on the coast in Kent near Canterbury. There were tales of Cooks and Friars, Lawyers, Nuns, and Millers but not a Singers tale, so here is my Tale.
Perhaps in my head, I am telling Chaucer 600 or so years later. How presumptuous of me?
I fell into this Singer’s Tale by accident. ‘Hey Diddly Dee, a Singer’s life for me.’
Looking over my shoulder, it is as if two lives were lived, the one before I was 40 in 1984 where she and her others tell the tale, then I take up the story, it is easier to remember it all like that. This not a story of international glory, Castles in Spain, a Chateaux in France, a House near Park Lane and Tabloid fame.
I was never a Fashion Icon posing for the cameras on red carpets at A List Parties, five star Hotels, Billionaire Yachts in Southern France or The Caribbean Islands, candlelit dinners on Bougainvillea scented terraces, dancing in exclusive clubs dressed in clothes designed by the fashionable elite and on my feet shoes made of the finest leather the heels as high as New York Towers. If you want stories of the rich and famous, kiss and tell, my living Hell, and all of that, well it is the wrong tale for you.
Born in London, a long time ago when Bombs were falling from the skies: there were no Bananas, and the Wireless was the music and the word, the years passed and in 1959 I fell in love with Ray Charles. It was Margie Hendricks roaring out the chorus of ‘Night Time is the Right Time’ on a Juke Box on a Pier in a small seaside town on the Suffolk Coast that made me wanna holler, made me wanna sing. But I dared not open my mouth, so I sang in my head. I chose the path of a maverick, or it chose me?
Lurching from one escapade to the next, no rhyme nor reason. When people have asked me questions about my life. Where are you from? Where does your family live? Sister? Brother? What school were you at? Where did you go to University? What did your Dad do? When did you leave home? Where did you learn to sing? Did your Mother sing? Are you going home for Christmas? Home? A home was where I was, be it Bed Sit or Squat, a Caravan, or someone’s floor or sofa.
There was no going ‘Home for Christmas. Normal questions people asked of normal people, the chit-chat that we all indulge in. Getting to know one another. The questions a new lover will ask of you or a new friend or the guy on the tour bus that you had not worked with before, or a friendly person on a long train journey.
If I told the truth, it sounded too complicated. And a lot of the time I wanted to yell ‘Fuck off’ or hide under a table. So I lied. A lot. Made up a past, stole another name. When I was about ten I used to pretend I was an American and then at thirteen I decided to be French. I travelled to the many places in my head and imagined the families I would have been a part of.
Miles Davis’s score for the film ‘Lift to The Scaffold’ tuned my ears into Jazz, and then into the 1960’s with Captain Beefheart and The Magic Band, The Doors and Little Feet. Lester Bowie and Charlie Parker zapped my ears and my brain and I have had a lifetime of returning again and again to Aretha Franklyn, Stevie Wonder, Prince and Joni Mitchell, Etta James, Ella, and Louis. And I love the enormous pot into which I can dip finding Bach and Chopin, Tango, The Pogues and Gregorian chant. Ry Cooder and Woodie Guthrie, Oscar Brown Jnr. and Bjork. Scottish Laments and Irish Ballads, singers from India, Africa, and Spain, the songs of Ewan McCall and the very English Music of Elgar.
In 1967 I heard Umn Khartoum, Egyptian Soul Singing. Ah, the thrill of hearing music outside the western tradition for the first time; and if I came back again to this earth I would love to be a singer of the true Flamenco. All of this deep, deep pot is mine for the dipping.
I was about to be 18, hanging out in a Pub in Hastings one summer night, I sang ‘The House of the Rising Sun’ with a guitar player whose name I (believe) was Macker. Prior to this event I hardly spoke, let alone sing. It must have been the Cider I was drinking. Or the shape of the moon! The only other song I could remember was ‘Summertime’ and I was persuaded to sing that as well. My first ever performance in front of 11 people and a dog or two.
It was a long time ago! I was aspiring to be a beatnik at the time, so I became a Busker and there began my life as a chanteuse. Much music have I made and far and wide I have travelled and consequently, I own many more T-shirts than one woman truly needs.
My first recording in 1966 in Denmark Street, was ‘The Rolling Sea’ as Carol Freeman with The Race, produced by Hilton Valentine of The Animals.
‘You’re going to need somebody on your Bond.’
A song I had heard sung by Buffy St Marie. I don’t remember who decided we should be called ‘The Race.’ But there we were. We were a group of young people living in London in love with Blues and Jazz and R&B, some of them from far away, Nigeria, Trinidad and Jamaica, Portugal and America.
I was living in Earls Court, bed-sit land at that time. We would go to Jazz blues and Folk sessions in Pubs around London and to the Clubs up West.
Some of them played and they formed a Band and I was the Singer.
I listened to a program on the radio fairly recently, interviews with Musicians from the 2 Tone Bands of the 80’s claiming that they were the first mixed-race bands in this country. It had happened well before 2 Tone.
In the ‘50‘s a wave of Musicians came over from the Caribbean, Joe Harriott, Ernest Ranglin, Eric Allandale, Eddie Thornton who worked with Georgie Fame and The Blue Flames; saxophonist and Flautist, Harold McNair for a while as part of Donavon’s group; and also the wonderful Tubby Hayes. Eddie Thornton, George Tyndale, ‘Wizard’ Simmons all spent time in John Dankworth’s Big Band, and Harry Beckett in many bands, including Stan Tracy and the drummer John Stevens, and in the latter years with my beautiful friend the Trombonist Annie Whitehead’s Band ‘Rude.‘
In my teens, I had spent many a night out with friends at The Flamingo or the 100 Club, the Marquee or Ronnie Scotts. The South African Saxophonist and composer Dudu Pukwana who started in the 1950s with The Blue Notes, a mixed-race band that had left South Africa for London in the early 1960s because of the apartheid regime, with Chris McGregor the only white man in the Band at that time. Graham Bond who worked with many of the London based black players, his wife the singer Dianne Stewart, Neemoi Acquaye, Gasper Lowell and Mike Falana the Trumpeter. There was Ram Jam Holder and his work with Stefan Grossman, Root and Jenny Jackson’s Bands, and then on into the ‘70’s with Gonzalez and Incognito. Julian Bahula was in London as part of the South African group ‘Hawk’ and when they split up he formed Jabula.
I loved Zoot Money and his Big Roll Band and Alexis Korner, Joanne Kelly, Julie Driscoll, now Tippet, Beverly Martin, all singers that influenced me but were strangely absent on BBC 4‘s Blues Britannia with the exception of Julie Driscoll who appeared alongside Long John Baldry and Rod Stewart in Steam Packet.
By the early 1970s The Blues Boom bands of the mid-’60’s took over the charts, the Bands that made the world look at Britain, were to a man, all white men. With the multiracial Band, The Race and then the first version of Babylon, more of that in my Tale, we had been the support band on many gigs with Cream, John Mayall, Yardbirds, Free, Jethro Tull, Fleetwood Mac, Led Zeppelin, and Status Quo. Even Pink Floyd had started life as a Blues Band. 12 bar blues and Guitar riffs picked up from Buddy Guy or the Kings, Freddy and B.B. from Chuck Berry and Muddy Waters, Howling Wolf and Bobby Blue Bland.
Once the major deal had been signed they became the future stadium Rock Bands’ the biggest Bands of all, The Rolling Stones and Zeppelin. Easy to see how people in future times would not remember the Bands that had been working together, the Africans, the Jamaicans and Trinidadians, the South Americans and South Africans, together with musicians from London, Birmingham and beyond.
One night with my friend Beat, my old buddy and fellow music lover, in the Q Club in Praed Street near Paddington Station, we watched a very young Reggie Dwight play the piano like a man possessed with a Band called Bluesology backing Billy ‘Fat Boy’ Stewart. An amazing gig, with a rendition of Summertime from Porgy and Bess, performed in a way I had never dreamed I would hear. Fast and Latin, with a almost manic energy, the Singer small and round and sweating; Brrrrrr bap, bap
Playing the Guitar in the Band was Neil Hubbard, with whom I would much later have a relationship and Elton John Dean who in part, gave some of his name, shared with John Ethridge when Reggie became Elton. Although some say it was Long John Baldry who supplied the John.
After The Blues Boom, it was the Phsycadelic Bands of the late 1960’s next in the line working for fame and fortune.
Again the Bands were male and white. Pink Fairies, Hawkwind, Quintessence, and Deviants. Motor Head and Edgar Broughton Band. In the Folk Rock world there were women, Sandy Denny, Jackie Macshee and Maddy Prior, but in the world that I moved in around the Blues and Jazz, it was mainly Men, the sexual revolution of the 1960s for Women? Well, they were good for screwing, having babies, rolling the spliffs and ‘cooking the brown rice man.‘
In the words of James Brown, ‘This is a Man’s world.’ And it was.
My generation is slowly leaving, one by one by a hundred and more, the War Babies and the post-war baby boomers are cutting loose to God knows where? Gil -Scott Heron, Bert Jansch, John Renbourne, and Phoebe Snow. Some of us died a long time ago, before we got old, and will remain forever young.
When I was living in ‘The Grove’ in the late ’60s into the 1970’s London’s W’s 10,11 and 2. Swinbrook Road, the end that is gone of St. Stevens Gardens and 8a All Saints Road, next door to The Mangrove, Mark Bolan had been around, Paul Kossoff and Nick Drake, tousled hair, young faces, blown away as if on the cold winds from the Russian Urals. Looking at my old photos, I was young and they are still young.
Now I am getting old and they never will be. Archie Leggett and Patto, Sammy Mitchell, Sandy Denny, Steve Miller, Jo Anne Kelly, Joe Strummer, all gone and in more recent times, Elton Dean, Pip Pyle and Poly Styrene, Donald Duck Dunn and Lol Coxhill. All the people with whom I had sung, recorded or shared stages with. And Ronnie Scott and Pete King no longer preside over Ronnie Scotts in Soho.
Meandering around the Portobello Road in my mind faces here faces there.
Lemmy lurking, always looking on the wild side, and Heathcote Williams, Hoppy and Susie Creamcheese, John Peel and Simon Stable, Jeff Dexter, Exploding Galaxy and Quintessence, Pink Fairies, Deviants and Hawkwind. And folk who became friends, Frank Critchlow and Dee who cooked in The Mangrove, both now gone, dispatched in Carriages drawn by Black Horses through the streets they knew so well, hopefully, they are somewhere, in my dreams still drinking the Jamaican Rum and the Best Carrot Juice ever made on this earth. That was when Portobello Road was called ‘The Lane ‘ and everybody knew everybody else or imagined they did.
The smell of those times still lingers occasionally, an old forgotten door momentarily ajar, Joss Sticks and Patchouli Oil, Weed and Hashish, Mick’s Cafe and The Apollo Pub on the All Saints Road, a sound check in Amsterdam or Stockholm, San Francisco or Bolton or Lancaster, Hamburg or Krakow.
I always felt that the Hippy life was not for me. I had intended to be a Beatnik, a Daughter of the Fifties artistic revolution, wearing 501 Levis and black sweaters with a cigarette on the go, preferably French, the obligatory book of Poetry, Miles Davis on the Dansette record Player in my own pad somewhere in Central London, Paris or New York. I reckon that is in part why I never settled with anybody or anywhere too long.
Those who didn’t care for me and told me that I would end up slapping Butter and slicing Cheese on a marble slab in a back street Grocer Shop, have to bite or hold or their tongues and that is not a good thing to do. It hurts like Hell and tongues are like wriggling eels if you try to hang on to them. The Grocers shops and marble slabs have vanished. We dwell in a different world now, Internet and High-Speed Train, Mobile Phone and out of Town Shopping Centers. Twitter and Facebook, Kindle and Skype and a brand new face on a new neck above new breasts if you can afford or want the Surgeon’s Knife.
My story is one of the struggles to find a way through a business famous for its lack of compassion, its fixation with youth and beauty and its obsession with celebrity.
She was growing up, alongside her others, she had listened to the voices on the outside. They never appeared before her; she did not see their faces. They were called the BBC and they lived in the Wireless. They had narrated the War; sung songs of hope and glory raised a laugh and sometimes spoke in very important tones. This is the Home Service. ‘Wakey, wakey.’ Looking both backwards and forward, sometimes in Monochrome and sometimes in colour.
THIS IS MY TALE.
- Backing Vocals – Holiday Sisters, Westettes
- Bass Guitar – Duck Dunn*, Joe Davies
- Drums – Lloyd Perrata*, Willie Hall
- Horns – Michael Brecker, Memphis Horns*
- Lead Guitar – Bob Manuel*, Buddy Davies, Hugh McCracken, Neil Hubbard, Ron Cornelius
- Piano – Bobby Emmans*, Frederick Knight, Jay Spell
- Piano, Horns – Bob Claire (2)
- Producer – Bob Potter, Don Nix, Mick Jones (5)
- Vocals – Carol Grimes
- Written-By – Frederick Knight (tracks: A2 to B1)