"I never expected after that I couldn’t become a ‘singer’; I just had to concentrate on being a better one."
So, where did this start? In 1976 in Cheltenham, England, the duo I was in reached the semi-finals of a pub ‘talent quest’. An agent from London was watching the show and approached us with an offer of a three month gig in Dubai, performing on the decommissioned Bon Vivant cruise ship, which was now acting as a Floatel. That is, a night club/hotel that was floating in Dubai Creek. And that was pretty much the beginning.
In Dubai, I met one of my favourite recording groups, Martha Reeves and the Vandellas, of Dancin’ In The Street fame. Only a few years earlier my sister and I would sing into our hairbrushes and create dance routines with my sis singing Martha’s lead vocals and me singing a Vandella harmony. I was overjoyed to share drinks with them after my show and I hung off every kind word, encouragement and piece of friendly advice Martha offered me. Hearing her say, “Oh you can do it, the more you do it, the easier it gets, eh girls?” made it sound like a done deal in my head and I never expected after that I couldn’t become a ‘singer’; I just had to concentrate on being a better one.
After spending a few months in Dubai, I imagined I could use singing as the means to see the world. My sister had migrated to Australia using assisted passage, a ‘Ten Pound Pom’. I was eager to see her, so the next gig was on a cruise ship, the Women’s Weekly World Cruise departing from Southampton, England and arriving in Fremantle, Western Australia six or so weeks later. It went via countries I could only have dreamed of visiting; I was in Gibraltar, Malta, crossing the Suez Canal, where I’d remembered war scenes from news footage a few years previously. The Cheops pyramid. Walking through the Valley of the Kings. Sri-Lanka, where everything seemed to be clothed in, or painted white. I was singing my way around the world.
We started out playing mostly the songs of the day which went over like a lead balloon. Given the audience were mainly in their seventies I don’t suppose it should have been a surprise and they made it known they wanted songs they knew. When the ship’s cruise director asked us to change our set, Harry Nilsson’s album, A Little Touch of Schmilsson In The Night, saved our bacon. It was pretty much all old standards and we copied most of the tracks from that album to perform to our aging audience, they knew all the songs and sang along to every track. Harry Nilsson kept us in the gig till the ship docked in Perth, Western Australia.
After arriving in Perth, I sang with a few bands, did a few solo gigs. I even had a stint at playing Maid Marion at Dirty Dicks. When I couldn’t get singing gigs, I worked at the local pool as a life guard and general dog’s body, it’s the only job I’ve had except for singing in 40 years. I knocked the pool job on the head when my then boyfriend asked me to be lead singer in his band, Living Single. After discovering a band with the same name in the UK, we changed our name to Eurogliders. A lot of people have asked me over the years how we came up with that name and what the hell’s a Euroglider? The truth is, Bernie put a heap of little pieces of paper with words on them in a hat. The first two pulled out were Euro and Glider…….join ‘em together and away you go.
Eurogliders performed original songs in a town where cover bands were creaming the audiences, the door, and any money that was available for live music. But luck was on our side, and she showed herself in the form of a meat pie! Firstly let me say Eurogliders were mostly vegetarians at the time. So, when Perth’s’ largest meat pie manufacturer approached us to do an up vibe and groovy ad campaign to boost pie sales, we disguised the fact we didn’t eat meat and organized our road crew to sneak in vegie patties at lunch time. The end product of the shoot for the TV ad was fantastic. The band was seen flying in to a local venue by chopper, with EUROGLIDERS emblazoned on the side. It was so up vibe it looked like an advertisement for a concert tour. Where the previous week we may have got fifty people to our gig, the following week after the ad went to air, we had 500 turn up. And, that really was the beginning of Eurogliders taking off in a big way.
We became successful in Australia with numerous hit singles and albums. Platinum and gold records, Countdown awards. Gold and silver MTV video awards from the States and UK, all the trappings that go with success. One of the highlights was touring the US and performing live to an audience of 65 million viewers on MTV’s New Year’s Eve show.
Eurogliders worked for ten years, the band members changed from time to time, but Bernie Lynch and I formed the core.
During a hiatus, I made a musical and literary detour by recording on the ABC’s “0-9” series for children and publishing a book of children’s poetry “Dragons, Flies, Monsters & Spies”. Poems from this book have been included in anthologies that are used in schools across Australia. Unbelievable really…..I’m not a poet and I only ever started making up these poems as a way to amuse my son.
I was offered the gig of singing the backing track to the ABC’s TV series Come In Spinner (Produced by Jan Chapman and by directed Rob Marchant) along with Vince Jones. I didn’t think I should take the gig, I wasn’t a jazz or blues singer, I was a pop singer. Despite the fact that I desperately wanted to act the role of Lola, the Coconut Grove’s resident singer, I made suggestions of other singers that I thought might do a good job, Kate Ceberano and Wendy Mathews, but Diana Manson from ABC records, for reasons known only to herself, was convinced I was the right choice. To this day I am grateful she stuck to her guns and pushed me into taking the gig.
The TV series was a huge success, and the sound track, even bigger. That was the start of a new incarnation and an even bigger audience.
Due to the success of Come in Spinner, I felt encouraged to record another album of torch songs. Stormy weather, then Gracious, and then a summary of my jazzy incarnation, Live. Performed and recorded at Sydney jazz venue The Basement, I invited friends that I had met throughout my jazz life to perform on the album, and was thrilled by the outcome. Don Burrows, James Morrison, country singer James Blundell and a blast from the past, my partner in crime from the Eurogliders, Bernie Lynch.
During the 2000s I’ve continued to release albums with a CD of originals, Zeitgeist, in 2000 and two more jazz albums, Willow in 2008 and Keep Cool Fool in 2012. In 2016 I released Fragile, my seventeenth CD which features twelve new songs by my old partner in crime, Bernie Lynch. It was a real departure for me stylistically and crosses genres from blues to soul with a smattering of folk.
In November 2017, Eurogliders were honoured for their contribution to music in West Australia and were inducted into the WA Music Hall Of Fame.
2018 sees the release of my latest album, Grace, a collection of fantastic songs from across my career as well as a few surprises.