New Musical Express (UK) - 27th March 1971


By Roy Carr

Within minutes I felt I was talking to an old friend

THE mythical wheel of fortune has an annoying tendency to rotate in a most unpredictable fashion, with the House odds often. stacked against the potential favourite.

For there was a time-not too long ago-when Melanie felt totally rejected by England. All her concentrated efforts to establish her presence had, she felt been in vain.

Then at the juncture when all seemed well and truly lost she hit the jackpot. Her recording of "Ruby Tuesday" crashed the singles chart, Diana Ross just managed to pip her into the runner-up spot in the World Female Singer section of the NME Poll a mere 119 votes, and to make the hat-trick her album "Candles In The Rain" sold in vast amounts to consolidate her long overdue success.

Ask her the reasons why it should have been this particular single- that made the pubic Melanie-minded and she'll just shrug her shoulders . . .raise her eyebrows, . . and grin a genuinely amazed "Don't Know" smile.

"To tell you the truth, I'd completely given up all hope of making it in England" she confessed, her warm smile more than compensating for the cold rain which trickled down the windows of her apartment in the subtle elegance of the Mayfair Hotel.

" I just couldn't seem to get off the ground over here," she continued. "And funnily enough England was the only place where I really tried to make it 'cause at the beginning of my singing career, I made a lot of trips to London."

Melanie . . . or to be more precise Melanie Safka is a writer's delight. From the moment you encounter her she puts you completely at ease to the extent that within minutes you feel more like an old friend come along to say "Hello", as opposed to invading her privacy. on one of her infrequent days off.

Attired in a kaftan of varying shades of red, she was almost enveloped by the large cushion strewn sofa on which she was reclining. When Melanie speaks, it is in a warm voice tinged with happiness, which makes a slight contrast from the poignant, almost heart-rendering tones in which she delivers her songs.

Cuddly, with long dark hair she peers at you constantly from beneath this cascade with wide-eyed pools of brown innocence.

Melanie is one of those rare personalities who immediately brings out the protective instinct in the male. For in suit of shining armour, sat astride a white charger, one would be most willing to act as her champion should anyone dare to bring a tear to her smiling if sometimes mischievous eyes.

When re-telling certain aspects of her career, she Is most explicit and candid. "In the States, the people in the music business always liked me . . .hut nobody knew what to do with me. They said that my songs were far too long . . . . dragged out and un-commercial.

" To he honest with you," I still think that me is un-commercial --- but I feel the time is better for me."

Sheer hard working and the determination to succeed has been the prime factor which has finally enabled this most charming chanteuse to attain global acceptance. For she never seems to take a break in her tight schedule of touring and recording.

" Yes . , . I suppose I do spend most of my time working on the road, but I like It, Though I must admit that I like to go home sometimes."

But how does she maintain her health and strength at such a demanding pace, "I don't" she answered with a laugh.

" I usually get forced into stopping by being ill. But now I've got a plan worked out . . . I'm not going to he sick so often." Think about it?

On her new American album, "The Good Book," there is a quaint short narration called "Isn't It A Pity," which Is very autobiographical when it states, "Isn't It A Pity, I'm Not The Prettiest Girl In The World. 'Cause Sometimes I Feel When I Kick Up My Heels In The Sun, I'm The Loveliest One."

Was this Indicative of her having an inferiority complex I enquired. Pausing for a moment to think, she started curling a strand on her hair with both bands before replying.

"I suppose I do have an inferiority complex of some kind. Actually that song was a bit of a joke," bringing that line of questioning to a halt as a brace of photographers scurried around us shooting candid close-ups.

A little reluctantly, she looked at all of us as if seeking some kind of reassurance, exclaiming, "I felt pretty yesterday, but I feel a wretch this afternoon."

Little tired

Defending that statement she explained, "You see I had a big night out on the town last night and I feel a little tired," accentuating the fact with a yarn. Well I had to beg to differ on that count.

Picking up that day's edition of the NME, she proclaimed that as yet she hadn't heard Paul McCartney's chart-topping single. Then for the very first time the smile slipped from her face when she said:

"It's so horrible that the Beatles are competing against each other now. It was a personal blow to me . . . 'cause it was always a nice thing in that, they were always together."

Melanie's emergence as one of this generations most original solo performers was by way of an accident, for she was originally seeking acceptance in the theatre. With her future reasonably secured I wondered if perhaps she still had any aspirations in returning to this media.

"Yes I'd like to do a movie or a play. But being practical I just haven't got the time . . . though I suppose that I could make the time if I chose to. But for the time being I feel that concerts are my foremost vocation."

NEXT WEEK: Melanie talks about her songs, Bob Dylan, Woodstock and Keith Moon.

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