"THE MELAINIE MUSIC SOCIETY"
by GEOFF BARTON
There are two types of fan club. The first is the impersonal, big business club. It has thousands of members who are identified by serial numbers and it acts more like a, mail order company than anything else. The second is the smaller, more intimate fan club, where members feel that they know each other. In such a club the members don't have numbers -.- they have names.
The Melanie Music Society falls into the second category. It started in mid 1972 and aims to bring together 'those dedicated to the music and ideals of Melanie Safka that's what the rules of the Society say.
Melanie is a 27-year-old American folk singer. She has recorded some ten albums. The most well known of these, released in December 1971, Is called "Gather Me". From it was taken the hit record "Brand New Key" which got to number four in the British singles charts in March 1972.
Dave Boldinger runs the Society just about on his own. Dave is 22, and he lives in North London. He's a decisive direct person. When I met him, I asked him why he formed the Society "You don't form a Society" he said t you just do something that creates it. You; just trigger it. " So why trigger it? "It's a thing that happened. I did it because I felt like doing it. I wanted to get people who are into Melanie, who more than like the music -- in touch with each other.
If you're at a concert, as soon as it finishes all the people disintegrate, and it's no more. I felt like extending that into more than just meeting at a concert, so people could get in touch with each other and form a union. But Dave was not the first person to have this sort of idea: "there were a couple of people up in Leeds who attempted to form a Melanie Music Society before me. But they seemed to rely on Melanie and Peter's permission to do it.
Peter Schekeryk is Melanie's husband. He is a record producer, and has produced all of Melanie's records.
"Me, being a practical sort of chap, I don't see you should do that. When I decided to do it, I just phoned up EMI and asked permission to do a fan club for Melanie, they said 'why not?' "
The Leeds fan club never really got started. It was stalling all the time. They were saying they hadn't got permission. To me that seemed an illogical approach, I like to do things fast and get results quickly.. Anyway at the Crystal Palace Garden Party concert in June 1972, where Melanie was appearing. I met this guy who was a member of the Leeds club. He 'd got a Letter from them saying they 'd disbanded.
I 'd done printing at school for four or five months and got top marks in it for some reason. I was also interested in photography. The two seemed to match together and I had more or less the technical capabilities of doing a fan club myself. I could type to a certain extent with two fingers. So I said to myself: 'hey, why not do something?' "
So Dave decided to form - or rather, trigger- the Melanie Music Society. At first it involved a small-scale publicity campaign. He placed classified advertisements in the music press. One of the adds said: 'beautiful people, you 'II never have to be alone if you join the Melanie Music Society" -- lines stolen indiscriminately from the Melanie song "Beautiful People".
"New Musical Express'- carried an article with the headline 'Melanie Club Reforms', and Record Mirror had a feature as well. Word began to get around.
At first there were only about 30 members. Now there are 160, world-wide. There are members in places such as Canada, Cyprus, Holland and New Zealand
At first, Dave had some problems when it came to printing newsletters. Originally I used an old spirit duplicator where I work, a builders' merchants in North London. The results were really bad quality and I was ashamed of them. But that only lasted a few weeks.
I stumbled across a place called Centerprise, which is a sort of community project. Downstairs its a coffee bar and bookshop, upstairs there are meeting rooms and offices. They had a better duplicator and an electric typewriter. I was able to use them." Now that Dave had access to the equipment at Centerprise, one of the first things he produced was a Lyric booklet for "Gather Me". "I spoke to Keith Prowse Music," said Dave. "They gave me permission to print lyrics as long as I mentioned they had the copyright, and said 'thanks'. So we did the "Gather Me" lyric sheet ... it had the entire lyrics to the album and that was pretty good because in England they weren't on the actual album. In the States they were on the inner sleeve. That was really good " The Melanie- Music Society is now into Its third year. For an annual subscription of £2.00* a member receives a monthly journal called "SUNRISE". It contains news, reviews and members' letters. Dave also sends out posters and stickers, sometimes free, sometimes at reduced prices. .:
He has had T-shirts printed, and has arranged meetings either to preview album releases or just for simple get-togethers.
The time he devoted to the Society varies. "Whatever needs doing gets done," he said. "One week it'll tie up every minute, another it won 't. "
I asked Dave why he had chosen the name 'music society ' instead of 'fan club ' . He said: "when you talk to music people they regard it as a fan club. Members regard it as a Society. To me it's the 'Melanie Music Society'—that's the name, and that's it. If you want to call it a fan club, okay. I don't care what you call it. Names are names."
Why do people join fan clubs? ^'They're mad. It depends. Maybe they like the artist and maybe they want more information. Maybe they want pictures and autographs. Maybe they want to know where the concerts are, where she is, what she's doing maybe they just want to get close. Because Melanie's that kind of artist. In some ways that's bad. To find out too much about a particular artist can put you off to a certain extent. You shouldn't delve too deeply. If you get too close you'll fall in and drown. It's best not to get too close. For Melanie it's best just to have a slight mystery.
In the States, and to a lesser degree in Britain, Melanie has an extraordinary cult following. At concerts they will climb up on the stage, and hand Melanie f lowers and fruit and other small presents. To them she represents someone who is pure, someone who has honest ideals.
In her song "Close To It All", Melanie sings about togetherness: "If I had my dream I would fill a hail and tell all the people tear down the wails that keep them from being a part of it all 'cause they gotta get close to it all..."
Dave said: " I agree with the kind of life she says she would like to live. She's got tie money to do what she wants. But for you and me? ..Well, her ideas are really fantastic. But practically, its not really on." From here on Dave talked less about the Society and more about Melanie herself
"Melanie is a unique artist to me. She represents something more than anyone else In my view she's the best performer - male, female or group -- at the moment. She communicates with me.. she means the most.
However I have a great deal of respect for the individual talents of others, including: Dr Hook and the Medicine Show, Sha Na Na, Dory Previn, Joni Mitchell, Carole King, all American class I like!"
I asked him when he first discovered that he felt this way about Melanie. "Rainbow concert, December 9, 1971," he replied almost before I had finished the question.
I had heard Melanie on Alan Freeman's Pick Of The Pops. He played two tracks: "What Have They Done To My Song, Ma?" and "The Nickel Song". Melanie's voice had meaning to it. She really sang as if she meant it. The lyrics seemed to match the intensity of tune. So I found out she was on at The Rainbow and got tickets....She just knocked me out.
Her solo performances -- they are a real mind experience. You know, really spiritual. I was surprised at myself. I was 20 years old, and an artist just got me like that. I was saying to myself: what ere you doing man, you're crazy
Melanie Music Society meetings are often held at a place called Hoxton Hall in N.l. It's an early Victorian Music Hall, and is being run under the auspices of the Quakers, a registered charity. At one of the Society's earlier meetings, Dave found out that if a member gave him his name, then he could remember his address. This was because he had once written addresses out by hand, before he had got an addressing machine. And the names tended to stick in his mind. At the door to Hoxton Hall, he would demand 'name! ' to the unsuspecting member. "Then I got carried away," said Dave. "One guy cane in just dressed normally and I said: 'name, rank and serial number!' To my surprise he actually gave them to me. It turned out he was in the Royal Air Force."
The above is an end-of-term project for the course Geoff Barton is taking at The London College of Printing.
Printed and published by the Melanie Music Society with kind assistance of Centerprise Publishing.
For the past two years, thanks go to EMI; Famous Music, Keith Prowse Music, Neighborhood, Centerprise, Buddah and Polydor.
©1974 Copyright Melanie Music Society
STOP PRESS: Backing Melanie at Drury Lane; arranger Ron Frangipane, Mike Heron & Robin Williamson.
My apologies go to Melanie for the STOP PRESS sentence, which gave away Melanie's intended surprise, I really didn't know, honest! - DJB (1998)
Geoff Barton became the News Editor of Sounds, one of the best music papers in the UK.
My gratitude goes to Robert Ian Smith for sending the above to me, which I had misplaced over the years. It has been a weird experience to view what I had said nearly 25 years ago, think I have a rough idea of how Melanie must feel now! - DJB (1998)
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