BBC Radio 2 (UK) May 1971
Transcript of Radio Broadcast
Now it's time for our meeting with Melanie. It's an interview I recorded at the Festival Hall after her very successful concert there on Monday. I hope you like what you're going to hear, including her ..'Carolina In My Mind'
Melanie, you've got a belt buckle on your lap and over it you're dangling a globe, a circular object on a chain, now what's it all about?
"Yeah! Do you know what pendling is? I think it originates here. In fact I was going to see a pendle maker. I was going to have a professional pendle made but this is what I use in between. It's a Victorian Cross, it opens up and it's very .. spiritual. I don't know what it is. It's a lovely thing, it looks like a globe and it opens out into a cross. A lot of hard work and craftsmanship in that. Well anyway I like to pendle things that people give me, if they're positive or negative. You know, if they're going clockwise they're positive and if they're going counter-clockwise they're negative and I like to keep things around me that are positive. That's why I pendle them first."
That was why someone gave you a snake ring tonight and I noticed you doing exactly the same thing. It is in the shape of a snake; obviously it's got its name from that, but is there some other significance?
"I don't know, somebody just put it on my finger."
Just like that?
Let's talk for a moment about your concert tonight. Now the Festival Hall is quite a big hall but you had people seated behind you - you didn't like that; you had them in the long run, down on the platform right around you, right close up to you. Do you like it that way?
"Yeah, I do,. It's a big empty stage and it's nicer when it's not empty, and there are people close by that you can communicate with,"
A lot of artists feel that they want a little separation from their audience. They communicate with them, but they want the separation. You know what I mean?
"Well, you know some people are able to handle that and I'm not. I don't know how to handle that separateness. If I were really a pro, I guess I'd be able to do it. I'm not polished enough to have that kind of relationship with an audience."
You want something closer?
I can remember the first song I heard of yours. It probably isn't the first one you did, but the first one I heard of yours made a deep impression on me, it's called "Peace Will Come". Remember doing it? It struck me as a very sad song, and other songs I've heard you do since then, have seemed to me, sad. Are you a sad person? You don't look it.
"No. I'm not a sad person. I have sad moods, but in general I think I'm all right.."
Do you like sad songs though?
"Well, I don't think it's really a sad song. I think there's something true about it - anything true is sad - er it leaves you that way. You know even movies and books when realistic, even if they don't even have to be about death and parting and broken love affairs or anything, but they're real and something honest about them, it sort of hits something in you that ."
Makes you a bit choked up?
"yeah - and you don't even know why. Maybe just because it rings true"
"Peace Will Come"
You started off wanting to be an actress. Well, I say started off but before that there were lots of other things; but you did want to be an actress at one stage?
"Yes I am an actress."
Ah! But of course you're singing so much you can't be doing any acting?
"No, but I will be."
What sort of actress would you like to be. Any particular kind of .?
"Whatever kind I am. That's the kind I want to be. I don't know: you know just something honest, something that rings true. I wouldn't want to try and play something, that I had no ability to play, I wouldn't want to play a person who sings: that would be too contrived - but something that rings true."
What sort of things did you do before you began singing successfully?
"I was in Children's Theatre and I made pots of clay. I'm a potter."
You try a lot of things. It's a bit tough on you, talking to you after you've done a heavy show. Is this the first big British audience you've had?
"Yeah. I did a concert three years ago here with Tyrannosaurus Rex, I think, and well, I was terrified, really terrified you know, I was never here before and I was not I had never been in front of a big audience like that, so the whole thing was terrible. I just remember it, as being a nightmare. But tbis is my first time back doing a big concert. I did about five days ago, I did Stoke-on-Trent. It was a college festival and it was very nice, but this is the first big one."
And what do you think about this big one - good?
"Oh yeah, it was really nice. I was happy about it."
You are happy, which must mean the audience was happy too?
"Yeah, I think the people left happy."
Melanie, while you're in Britain, you'll be doing some more concerts presumably apart from this one at the Festival Hall, and the one you did at Stoke-on-Trent. Whereabouts will you be going?
"I'll be leaving for Holland tomorrow. I do, I think, one or two concerts there and then Frankfurt, Germany and then I'll be in a pop festival in Switzerland and then I hope to come back to England. There's going to be a free festival in Glastonbury, if I can make it, because I have a concert before and after so it'll be a matter of squeezing it in. If I can I will."
And what about free time - are you going to have any free time here?
"Well, I did have five days and I went to Wales, and I went as far north as Anglesey, and I saw where Dylan Thomas wrote and was born."
You like Dylan Thomas?
"He wrote "A Child's Christmas in Wales" and that's something I remember reciting for audiences and really liking. And "Under Milk Wood" - I just like his writing."
You like his writing. You like to play with words, the feel the way he plays with words?
"Oh! Its incredible. I loved "A Child's Christmas in Wales" and there's some of his lesser known things too. I just love them. When I was in Wales I bought all his records. You know, his reading of his own work and other people's work. I've never heard him do that so now I will."
We've got a new LP which I think we might be able to play a track off. Of the songs on it, and although it's probably unfair to ask you, although you've probably been asked many times before, what's the favourite song on that LP. This is "The Good Book" isn't it?
"Right. Well, I like "The Good Book" and I think probably my favourite is "Babe Rainbow".
Do you know why you have favourites? Do you know why this one is your favourite?
"Well, yeah I think really the whole way the came out. I like the arrangement of it, and it's different from a lot of songs that I've done in the past, and I feel like it's sort of going in the direction that I'm going, and maybe forecasting what I'm going to be doing someday."
There's another thing I have heard about Melanie, and that is she sings a song that says she doesn't eat animals, is in fact a vegetarian. Now there are all sorts of stories that grow up about singers and artists, now are you in fact a vegetarian?
"Ah! In my spirit I am. I was a vegetarian actually for over two years but I got sick. I wasn't really doing it right you know. I was just not getting the right things, and I was run down, and I just had a complete breakdown, physically and mental and I went to a sort of health place, and this man who treats people with all natural therapy and believes in fasting and things. I went on a fast because I just clogged myself up with all kinds of things that my body wasn't used to handling. So I went to him and said 'look, what shall I do now, I want to be a vegetarian but how am I going to keep myself together.' And he was a vegetarian for seventeen years and he's somebody I respect. I mean I wouldn't let a regular MD put a hand on me, you know. He's a nutritionist and he believes in complete natural therapy and he told me that he thinks I should eat meat a couple of times a week, sort of a prescription because I'm living a life - you know - vegetarianism is a way of life, and I'm not living that sort of life right now. I'm living a sort of tense, strenuous.."
It's a pretty hectic life isn't it?
"Yeah. And you don't have schedules and it's difficult to get fresh vegetables and it's difficult to get enough of the things you need when you're travelling, so I have to eat meat every once in a while."
Do you want to be a vegetarian, because you feel there's something wrong about eating flesh?
"Yes, I feel it's wrong, and also all the years that I was a vegetarian I learned so much about so many other reasons not to eat meat besides humanitarianism. It's just physical things - what they do to the animals before you ever get to eat them. Like what they inject them with, the hormones and the chemicals and then the things they do just to preserve the flesh. You know it's really disgusting and yet it's very difficult for me to eat now that I know all these terrible things about it."
It sounds to me that one of your concerns is in fact the environment, the quality of life we live now?
You think we're spoiling the world we live in?
You're in something of a position to do a bit about it by making people aware.
"Yeah, I think everybody's really aware of it, it's just a matter of what are we going to do. There are so many small communities here capable of changing what they're doing, and I think they're starting to do it. I'm not sure really but ."
But there are some efforts. I mean you've only got to look at the London smog that doesn't exist anymore, well virtually,
"Right, London really is a city you can live in. I think, in the States it's so complex. There's so many branches and so many nobody has control of themselves any more, it's kind of gotten out of hand. So I think it's a little worse there. And I think there's a greater interest here in organic gardening and health in general is something people are much more conscious of here. Vegetarianism, I think, is a real big movement here. Right on the vegetarians"
.."I Don't Eat Animals" ..
Melanie -- "I Don't Eat Animals". She's a lovely girl and I hope those of you who have the chance, get to see her when she comes back to Britain for her concerts. A very charming young lady. I hope you've enjoyed hearing what she had to say, even if you didn't always agree with her .
Back to Chronology
Back to Melanie