Andrew Furnival met Melanie Safka to talk about her performance at the recent Crystal Palace garden party, and other matters.
FURNIVAL: How did you feel about playing on the major name bill at Crystal Palace
MELANIE: The first thing I thought was that nobody was there to
see me, that everybody was there to see everybody else, That's
the first thing that enters my mind on a bill like that, 1. especially
felt that at Crystal Palace because it was raining, All those
people out there didn't want to see me anyway---they were getting
wet on top of the whole thing.
Every 10 minutes I was saying, "Hey, I'm really sorry that you're getting wet." That was the most useless thing I could have said.
I really wish it had been a nice day. it would have been really pretty. I didn't like being that far away from people---it was like doing a concert where the people were superimposed. They weren't really there, they were off and with all the umbrellas there was really a surrealistic look. It was like something out of "Our town" - it just reminded me of one scene at the funeral with the umbrellas.
All the people looked like they were at the funeral and I was being buried or drowned.
I was sad that there was so much water between me and them. I like to see the expressions on people's faces. They'd like to see mine too I think.
There were some people on stage but that was not really helpful. They were behind me and I'd have had to do a whole turn-round thing. I didn't feel anything from them, as a matter of fact, I think they. Were all very aware that they were on television. They were probably thinking .of nothing more than that, so the whole idea of having people with me was lost.
Were you conscious of the terrific response you did get?
Not until it was over. I was very surprised that they asked me
to come back. There was .a lot going on backstage. They were telling
me "We're going to pull the plug. You gotta finish because
we're pulling the plug," "How do you mean?" I said.
"Well we've run out of tape," they yelled. So I was
torn at one moment. whether I should go back or 'whether I should
leave, I went back because Peter (my husband) was sitting on somebody
keeping the plug in the wall.
Was it the best reception you've had. in England?
No, there was a really nice reception at the London Rainbow. But I felt that I'd gotten across at Crystal Palace even though the sound wasn't good. And I really felt too guilty being dry.
Do you ever get a really unreceptive audience?
No, I guess I've just been lucky. Perhaps I couldn't handle it
if it happened. I've just never had to face anything like that.
There are times after every concert there's some confusion in
a lot of people, and I don't think I'm mobbed.
I never think of being mobbed. I think that there are people there. I feel it's an extension of the concert as matter of fact.
Your latest song is "I Do Believe", which you sang at Crystal Palace. How did you come to write it?
I don't know. It was written in California. It's really about a culmination of people.
You played. two other new songs --- "(I Do Believe", "Together Alone" and "Let My Hand Across The Six Strings". Are you going to sing and record only your own songs?
No, I just learned the Stones' "Wild Horses" song, I
love it, The line "wild horses, we're going to ride them
some day," gives me the same feeling as singing "I do
believe it, I do, I do." I like singing songs like that.
I'm not a horse rider, but I would like to try it some day.
Which of your songs do you think says the most?
I don't know, I don't really analyse the words too much because they just fall out. But there are some songs that I just put aside because they don't mean anything, such as "Animal Crackers" And "Look What They've Done To My Song" annoys me because it's got out of proportion.
Are Neighbourhood going to give you a lot more control of your records?
Yes. I feel so much happier because they're not going to push
me to come up with new albums all the while. There we're things
before which I was pushed to do and I allowed myself to do them.
There were just too many bums.
"Gather Me" Is the best album I have ever done. I wish it was the first album because everything else just didn't count.
It's not so much the material on "Gather Me" as the attitude. It was a lot simpler and less tense. We're going to record the next album in Los Angeles when I get back. But maybe I'll wait. Maybe I'll go camping first and then I'll record it. I don't think this summer would be a very good time to record an album - there's a lot of things going on and I don't think I want to put those things on tape.
Would you say that your music is standing still at the moment?
If I ever felt that, I'd stop singing.
What direction has your music taken?
I think there's a spiritual thing going on, I try not to make what I'm thinking about develop. Like, I don't try to make it in the music by saying, "Oh, I'm into meditation so I'll write a song about it." But through meditation I believe they (the songs) are coming from a better place. They are spiritual. They sound more honest to me than the songs I used to write.
Do you feel that you've had a fear deal from the press in America?
I had a problem with the Underground at the beginning. They didn't believe me when people aren't as receptive as other times. At the beginning there's even hostility, but I just keep going.
Do you prefer playing outdoor concerts, or indoors?
Well, if the weather was really nice . . . no, I don't really have any preference.
Are you often mobbed after a concert?
I'm in a daze after concerts, a semi-daze - not a complete daze - because it's another kind of reality that I'm in when I'm up there. After the performance I just can't come down and be exactly the same on this level of reality. I'm pretty sure that at all. As far as they were concerned my voice was something that Buddha had made up. It couldn't be real. They were sure it had just been made with a machine, The odd thing was that the only stations that played my music then were the underground stations. I got no support from anybody else,. Then all of a sudden I had a hit record with "Brand New Key" and they thought, 'Aha, we were right, she isn't real.' I first sang it in the heaviest places and everybody else laughed, but when it became a hit record, it was played and played, then people started to build up walls against it.
What are your future plans?
I don't really know, I m going to make a record and probably do some concerts.
When are you next coming to England?
I don't know, They're planing some tour. Every time I've come here I've had a lot of new songs to do. I've never done a tour in England. I've played in concerts but never done a tour. I'd like to go to Wales. I toured Wales just as a person once, just going round and it was really great. I loved it in the mining towns, the Pennsylvania part of it.