MELODY MAKER March 27, 1971
'I was a tragic little figure. . .not because I was, but because I wanted to be. I wallowed in self pity.'
Interview by Roy Hollingworth
She pulls open a small sachet of honey, plops two little scented tea bags into a jug of hot water, pours tea into my cup, drowning the honey, stirs it.
She dimples her sweet mouth into a smile, and tucks away her purse of goodies. This is Melanie, charismatic heroine of youth? Certainly a magical lady.
We sit in Wheeler's, Old Compton Street, surrounded by glistening Colchester oysters, and a fair amount of fuddies and duddies. Melanie used to be a sullen girl, she loved the cunning art of self-pity. The pauvre enfant no more, she giggles.
Earlier in the evening she had sung, tapped her little leather boots, and squealed, scrubbed her guitar and wailed, tossed back her hair, and almost croaked with emotion. There's no woman like Melanie.
It was a three day trip to London for TV shows, including an In Concert, a sort of BBC attempt at formal informality. She had rather a trying time, but she succeeded because of her honesty, and because now she does what she wants to and not what the hangers-on tell her.
"England is the only place, in the whole world I really want to play. I always want to have a reason to come here. TV has been that reason, but I've always found English TV so cold towards me, they always get uptight. There's no feeling, there's nothing free about it, they are all so stuffy. The fact is they have the end already figured out in their minds, and no matter what happens they'll reach that end.
She floats a Colchester down her throat, doesn't really like it. "I like to try, everything, I wish I could drink beer. I've tried it 75 times, but still don't dig it I'd like to he able to gulp a drink, and leave froth on my lips"
More celery She hums a tune, sits sort of in the chair, rather than on it.
"I suppose I must represent someone, don't know if it's youth though. If I didn't represent anything, nobody would ever listen. I think I mirror life, mirror my life, and I suppose that's a quality that people may associate themselves with. I think it's maybe spiritual, a spiritual quality that people dig, can't really pinpoint that quality though."
"I know damned well that when I first came over to England I was a tragic little figure, not because I really was, but because I wanted to be. I wallowed in self-pity, I wanted to be moody for the simple reason that I didn't know what I wanted. Basically I wanted to please, and maybe I tried too hard to do that
"I remember when they tried to make me a star, they took me to this trendy photographer who sat me down, and turned a fan on to blow my hair. I was freezing for hours, but didn't say a thing, 'cause I was afraid to say anything. Thank God that's over. Now I only do what I want to do, and if I don't want to do it, I say so. That's a real change such a change."
Were first memories of England so dreadful?
"Phew they were terrible Got taken to discotheques, and planted with people. I was the sullen child, and I hated it.
"I couldn't fit into the star thing, although maybe I was the sort of person they wanted I was forever told not to be as emotional — they said I could succeed by not being so involved with what I was doing. That hurt me, I couldn't dig that.
" Lately I haven't been-- writing as much as I'd like to, or as I used to. I don't get as much time these days to reflect. I've found that the songs that people really like, aren't really totally me. There are certain songs I do that are songs I really know I should do, get me, they are songs I know I should be doing. ' Close to It All,' and ' The Good Book ' are that type of song, yet they don't really come over to people. Worrying, but at least I know I should be doing.
"It's flattering really though when people will at- tempt to compare me to a female Dylan 1 mean I have to own up, I never got into- him until ' Nashville Skyline' I think it was then that he stopped imitating himself, it was then that I suddenly realised he was a human being. I found it real, and uplifting. He's a struggle song guy, and maybe that's why I dig him.
"You see many of my songs are struggle songs, but now I want to get into singing about things that will uplift people, and maybe not so .much about me."
We have another cup of honey and tea, and then strawberries with cream — she wants that because you don't see fresh cream in the States.
"America has been very good to me. I was beginning to believe that I'd play in Europe all my life, but then I found America warm, and open—although certain underground magazines have tended to knock me a lot, and also knock my audiences. Maybe when I first went there I was in the wrong company -- for some reason l attracted leeches, I attracted the Clark Kent type of character.
"These underground papers are forever making remarks about my plastic audiences, which are supposed to consist of old flower children. That upsets me, and it upsets me when they bring down the way I look. Okay, I used to be tragic, but now I like to laugh. But I'm not any specific type of person, I couldn't see me in any movie parts."
Did she ever regard herself as a rebel? " Oh yes, always. My whole upbringing made me, such. My mother always led me to be against the establishment, she taught me to always be for the minority. So maybe its a natural instinct for me to sing for, and about minorities. I get all riled up sometimes, I become stirred to incredible levels, get totally emotional. Maybe I take things too personally.
" I can only think of one woman who I really dig, who I think is incredible, and that's Bernadette Devlin. I've got to admire her. What a woman, what a rebel. I can imagine in years to come someone making a film about her, and if there was ever a part I'd like to play in a film, I'd like to play her. Yet maybe I wouldn't be able to have the approach to it. She's brilliant that girl, brilliant."
She eats the strawberries with her fingers. " I guess I'm a romantic. I get the feeling there's not enough fantasy about in the world.
Architecture, design, and even people are far too functional. More fantasy is needed I think I'd like to inject more, yes, I feel that would not be such a bad thing to do at all."
Except for minor American touches, Melanie's accent is pure. She's a bit of an actress at times, and uses the nice English words to effect.
" I never was a flower child, I found it all a bit too much. Although the idea was there, it was too heavy, although it was a better thing than the cynical moods of today. There are too many cynical bodies of people The greatest thing about the flower happening was the people who emerged from it. There were people who got something from it, and came out as kind, thoughtful, interesting, gentle people. I think Jeff Dexter is one. He'll always be one of my favourite people."
Around her neck is a small medallion the inset is of Meher Baba. ' He's a nice guy too." There's a sparkle in her eyes, and sun in her cheeks. "I can never imagine anyone buying my records."
That she's outsold Crosby, Stills, and Nash in England is met by "Oh!" She puts the teabags away squeezes the rest of the honey into a cup, and smiles.
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