Capital Radio (London, UK) Broadcast 11pm 25th June, 1974

Sarah Ward Interviews Melanie

At this point, it is my very great pleasure indeed to introduce you to Melanie.. who is in the studio now

Hi Melanie


Hello, listen, we met on Sunday night at your concert in fact, at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane. You don't remember that terribly well because I was stuck away in a back corner of the stage.. at one point they thought I was you. There was a big cheer from the audience when they saw a long dress - right, and I thought the chair was for me! I sank back into the darkness…

How did you feel about that concert - I loved it, I thought it was stupendous.

"It was very quiet at the beginning but I think it had a nice feeling as it got on."

It certainly did, but you were barracked that night, and you said later, for the first time.


Did that really upset you a little bit?

"It upset me very much …(laugh).. because first of all, I'm not used to it, I never had anything like that happen - people are normally very nice to me - and he said, well I don't know what he said exactly - he didn't like me anyway, he came to the concert that night to tell me that in person, but to me - I looked out and I couldn't see anything except a big black mass, and there's this big black mass talking to me, and it was telling me that it didn't like me. You know, I can't see people's faces, I just hear a voice coming out from the crowd, when people talk to a performer in a - if the lighting doesn't light the audience - all the performer sees is black - and you hear this voice which is supposed to be the voice of the audience"

Is that a usual situation for you, Melanie, not to be able to see the audience because it's kind of dark and blackened out, or can you usually see them - so you know roughly what's going on?

"Well, usually I can see sometimes - if the lighting gets brighter I see the first few rows"

Because you do have this reputation and I certainly saw it working on Sunday, of creating an incredible rapport with your audience, well it is astonishing really! Is that something you're conscious of, or does it just happen?

"Thank you, I think it's something that just happens"

Because, you don't even say very much to them…

"No, I don't say very much…(laugh)…"

Is that deliberate?

"No, it's that I say something if I have something to say, but, I don't make up something to say in between songs."

I think that's one of the nicest things, because you don't force yourself to go into great dialogues in between songs…

"That's the one thing I think agents and managers in the beginning said, 'you have to make up something to say in between your songs - why don't you tell them how you wrote them.. or …(laugh)… tell a joke, or something. I survived that! I think I have about two or three introductions and then maybe one joke!"

Did you fight that right from the start Melanie, having to get into that situation where you were .…

"I didn't mean to fight it. Probably if I were capable of following that kind of direction, I would have done it - you know I wanted people to like me - I didn't know that they were going to like me if I didn't say things before my songs - or tell jokes or something - so I probably would have done it - I just felt so stupid deliberately saying something that didn't mean anything to me just to make conversation"

Well it certainly works - It really works - people appear to like you - is that important to you?

"Well, when performing it is."

Really, I mean if you felt there were quite a few hostile people there - would that destroy you?

"No, I might be defiant at first, and be able to hold myself through the concert, but I think if I repeatedly felt hostility out there - I wouldn't bother!"

You'd just go home..

"Yeah, Make records.. …(laugh)…"

Make records … Listen Melanie, you're here with your guitar!

"Well, I don't know why …(laugh)… I don't have a voice to go with it …(laugh)…"

You're a fool

"I know.."

Would you do something for us now, do you think?


What would you like to do?

"A song called 'The Autumn Lady', I don't think it's on any record………..

Guitar tuning…..

"Oh no… these things happen .. it's like….

Guitar tuning…..

Maybe you could think of something nice to say before my song while I tune my guitar …(laugh)…"

You tune your guitar Melanie, and don't feel bad about it at all - do you want to talk to me while you're tuning or do you want to concentrate on tuning your guitar?

"I'll talk… I'll try and do both things at the same time"

I'm not going to force you…"

"No you're not.. It was all right… just two seconds ago it was perfectly in tune and I…..

Guitar tuning…..

You carry on…. We're quite used to this… it's all live…..

A lot of people were saying last night at that concert of yours, Melanie, that a lot of your songs seem to have more maturity and depth to them now than they did earlier - are you conscious of that? Is that a conscious sort of progression?

"No, it's not something I deliberately set out to do,….. but, I'm getting older..

That's the best answer in the world really.

Guitar tuning…..

"One at a time they sound all right - but, when you play a whole chord - something's wrong…..

……………………………. The Autumn Lady …………………………………….

"The Autumn Lady" there from Melanie.

How do you feel about your voice now Melanie, it sounded good to me

"It's a bit scratchy"

How do you look after your voice - 'cause when you're performing as often as you do and going into recording studios and things like that - it must be quite a problem..

"Usually I take all kinds of tea and honey and lemon and all the things that people use to keep their voice - I'm not a maniac about it now - people wrap their throats in towels, never speak the day of a concert or something, I don't really take care of myself very well …(laugh)… I use it hard you know.."

Is it a major problem though, do feel conscious of it all of the time?

"My voice?"


"No, I'm not - I really don't think about it all the time"

But you did say tonight, you didn't think it's been well

"Well, it suddenly started the night of the concert and it's been getting worse"

Is that something to do with being in Britain because it's your first visit since two years isn't it?

"Yeah, I think the time change - from the countries, it's not getting enough sleep and my schedule being all fouled up - I think that has a lot to do with it - just weakens my throat and body hard, and it just can't take it"

That's something you must have learned to live with, cause heavens, you're a superstar lady now, you're travelling around a lot of the time

"Well, every once in a while I just collapse - my voice doesn't work anymore - it gets better and I can move on"

Do you fight the superstar syndrome - do you like being up there and think to yourself 'wow' occasionally; there's all these thousands of people who love me ?

"…(laugh)…No - believe it or not - I don't think of that."

I guessed you didn't, because there's lots of things in your songs that indicate you don't, there are some things on Sunday night I listened to very closely, and there were lines in some of your songs which suggested that it was really the writing and singing of the songs that were very personal in a way, and not anything to do with being the lady who is up on stage and performing. Would I be slightly right in that?

"Yeah, you're totally right"

Tell me a bit about of the concept of writing songs and what happens there, and then the translation of that onto the performance - grafting it onto other people and then onto record and things like that?

"After I write a song, I really feel that's it's over - the best part of any of it is creating, and then after I've recorded it - I release it, in a strange way - it doesn't really belong to me anymore - it's a skill thing - I mean people can do what ever they want with it - I mean they can hear it in the way they want, they can understand for what they want to understand "

Do you feel that people put all kinds of different interpretations to your songs, that you would never have believed possible?

"Yeah, I don't think that's bad, it's a delicious thing, because kind of I don't know why I'm writing a particular lyric - why it came out - where the melody came from or what I was thinking"

You feel you don't know why and how or where it came from, what happens?

"well it's different for different songs, a theme may come to mind - I may have some melody line with it"

Can you give me a particular example?

"Name a song"

I'm trying to think of a title of one of the songs you sang on Sunday night, which is a fairly new one - one that you had written whilst you were pregnant.

"Love To Lose Again?"

Yeah, all right

"All right, well that was a different kind of song - I was going to write just something about losing - a poem - a theme about losing - I put down some ideas - the different kinds of losing - the different approaches to take to losing you - it turned into a song, I didn't mean it to turn into a song, but it had a melody as I was writing the words - a melody just came into my head"

Did it take you a long time?

"No, It usually doesn't take that long"

Like, how long does it take?

"Well, I don't know - it depends on the song - sometimes it takes a couple.. I don't sit down and write from beginning to end the total song - I may write the first or second verse or one verse completed - maybe I'll just write one chorus! Then maybe a couple of hours later, I'll feel it has come - or maybe days later or maybe it never comes"

Can we talk about a song that everybody will know 'Look What They've Done To My Song, Ma', what happened there, because whenever I hear you singing it - I'm not talking about anyone else singing it because it's quite different with someone else singing it, but you singing, that it illustrates to me as being a very anguished, quite, kind of song - I find it desperate - is that the kind of thing you have when you are working?

"Em, Well you see, when I'm writing - I feel very good - - it may be about remembering anguish, I was feeling very relieved to be putting it down, so it's the best part of any of what I'm doing, so I'm not feeling the actual emotion when I'm writing it, but it's an emotion remembered"

What were the sort of ideas that were going on in your head though, when you wrote that particular song?

"This happened at a recording session and I had a break - I went out and wrote that song - it was really quoting something - I don't think the thing we were recording made a record, but when I came back into the studio - I had this song, because of Peter we recorded that, that night instead."

Do you like it when other people take over your songs and do them?

"I like them, when someone interprets and makes it their own - it makes me see the song in a new light"

Can you think of an example of somebody who's done that?

"I think Ray Charles did that song"

I'm desperately trying to think of examples because I think it's a lot to do with your voice too, that tends to make it very unique, very Melanie - when you hear the song recorded by somebody else, you think first Melanie then you think - you know- it's very difficult to think of the other person's interpretation.

"I think when the person adds something of their own too"

Is that fairly rare, that people do that?

"It's fairly rare that people record my songs! but I think it's also rare that people really interpret"

You record quite a few other people's songs now don't you, particularly on the "Madrugada" LP, there are quite a few, other people's songs there, and there's a Randy Newman song you sang Sunday night for instance, and you also sang one of the Incredible String Band songs, something you hatched up with Michael?

"I thought of it the night before!"

How do you feel, Melanie, about taking somebody else's song?

"I only would sing something that I really felt, and I feel fine about it, because I feel very personally about anything I would record or perform in concert"

Do you feel up to doing something else for us now?


I was thinking about the song you said we hadn't given the song a title yet, but it was very much about your child, right?

"Oh, was it the Chart?"

You said there's no name for this song yet - the Chart Song

"The Chart Song?"

The Chart Song

"Let's see…"

……………………………. The Chart Song …………………………………….

Melanie, that song was written just after your baby was born wasn't it?

"We had - two astrologer friends came over and said 'Here she is' - she was born October 3rd - gave the time - a booklet of what she was gonna do!"

And that turned you onto the song?

"Yeah, it's a really frightening thing - you know - all the sudden here she is a couple of weeks old, and you kind of have a little run down on what it might be like for her"

Did that blow your mind just a little bit when that happened?

"It did a lot …(laugh)…"

But you got over it now

"Yeah I'm okay - I didn't get over it - I mean it wasn't a bad thing - it was good"

But you obviously believe in all that

"Astrology - yeah - I don't believe in reading the newspaper to find out what's going to happen to you that day - you have to have your whole chart done"

Did you ever have yours done?

(pause) "Yeah"

Did it tell what you were going to do?


And it's all turned out..


Oh well there you go …(laugh)…

"I mean that's all I can - you know -- I have to - everything's been explained to me way before anything started happening"

I would rather like to talk to you about the fact; you were performing with quite a few people on Sunday night at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane - is that a fairly unusual experience for you?

"I've started working with a piano player, Ron Frangipane - we started working a couple of months ago - and we did a tour together - so he came over with me to do this concert, but the Incredible String Band joined me - that was really nice - that was totally something I'd never done in my concerts - I've joined people at different events - on their stage - but I never had anybody come and do a concert with me for free - no."

What sort of differences does it make for you?

"Well, during this particular song that we were doing together - I had to be conscious of beings on this stage - it wasn't difficult because Robin and Mike are very… very… very.. what are they, very? They're very…."

I'm trying to think of a word.

"But they are! You know exactly, they were right there! So they knew!"

Would you take it further and take it into records and things?

"Yeah, I'm into that, well, in recording, it's a lot easier because you have the chance to get it right! Whereas on the stage; it's the way it is"

I have a personal feeling that you're happier on stage here?

"Than on record?"

Than on record

"It's a different kind of happiness - I have a lot of energy - I really enjoy my singing career - I really love it - and I really love working with all the musicians in the studio"

I just have the feeling a lot more subtlety comes out on stage though, than it does on record

"Really? I know what you mean - well, people can see you - and I think with me - it's probably important because my voice, I think has a very definite sound - you might not conjure up the right image to go with the take - it could be ridiculous if you don't see the person - I think - I don't know - maybe"

I haven't analysed it too carefully

"I haven't either"

I just felt that seeing you on stage - that's where I was happiest about tuning in on Melanie

"A lot of people say that they never really liked me until they saw me in concert - maybe I would feel that way too"

If we could perhaps just go back to the beginning for people who maybe listening - who know you now - and have heard your records - but don't really know how it all happened - how it began? I make you sound like a very old lady - I know you're not!

"I feel like I've been around forever you know, I think a lot of things happened in the music business"

Because you were in fact part of the Greenwich Village scene weren't you - and that was really the beginning for you in terms of any kind of recognition

"No, I really wouldn't say that was the beginning as far as records are concerned - because I went totally unrecognised in Greenwich Village …(laugh)… I went back to the village and played places like the Bitter End after I had made a record for Columbia and then - I started in Greenwich Village and did the whole coffee house thing - but no one ever recognised me there …(laugh)…"

Well what happened after you had been doing the whole coffee house thing at Greenwich Village

"I went to acting school for two years and graduated from the American Academy of Dramatic Arts - and then I said, 'well I'm an actress now!' so I'll go out and get a job, and I had plans of going out to auditions and things, but I was very bad at it - it was fine while I was in acting school - I showed up all the time - got pretty well disciplined - but, when I got out on my own - I just - I was really afraid to stand up and audition for somebody who'd never seen me before - and then form an opinion instantly - I was really afraid of it so I didn't do it very much, and I didn't know what was going to happen to me - I knew I had to do something - I needed to work - and really didn't want to just hang around, but do something - I didn't have that nerve to present myself day after day and be rejected, so I didn't take many chances, and I found one day an ad in the Tribune paper, because they were looking for a girl to play Barbara Allen in 'The Dark Of The Moon', and she had to play the guitar and sing - well, that could be good - maybe I'll do that - so I went to the building where they say the auditions were being held, and they didn't give a room number, they just gave the number of the building - so I asked the doorman if he knew where this audition was being held - he didn't know, but he guessed."

  • **(at this crucial moment - the tape decided it was a c60 instead of a c90, but we know Melanie went into Peter Schekeryk's office and lived happily ever after!
  • The interview continues after this short hiccup -DJB)**

  • So you became the superstar lady that you are now .. was it a lot of hard graft?

    "I don't think it ever happened and remained over a period of time - I think in areas maybe - it sounds like that's what happened - a person doesn't get frozen in a situation - it never felt like it sounds - sounded - I don't feel like a legend"

    Do you hate though, to read the sort of things that people write about you all the time - does that bother you at all? When they set you up as this kind of superstar figure..

    "Well I think it - it's just that there's a lot of people saying 'oh.. c'mon..' - like at the beginning I think there was this whole attempt to paint me as the most innocent naïve flower child beautiful people - she loves everybody and she even kisses cows - it was just too much"

    Was that a deliberate attempt on the part of other people to graft that on you…

    "I think the record company impart that - they kind of jumped on anything I did that painted that kind of picture of me, you know I'm a vegetarian; 'Oh, she's a vegetarian - she doesn't eat cows' and all that - and 'there she is even kissing one', and then all the things that I did on record and everything seemed to point that way - there she is - the female answer to whatever the male was at that time"

    Did it take a long time to grow our of that, to kind of shoot that out of your system?

    "I don't think - I think some people have never given a close listen to a lot of my songs - because of that - I think I might have been turned off it, by that kind of image"

    I would agree with you entirely that, that kind of image, that you once had, did you a lot of damage - that people stopped listening to your songs very seriously 'cause they thought 'whimsical lady' you know.. that's all

    Break …. 1 o'clock Capital Radio News

    Guitar tuning…..

    Are you happy now - is the guitar in tune?

    ……………………………. Do You Believe …………………………………….

    Thank you.. That was magnificent - I do Believe .. Do you have any particular favourite song of the ones you've written?

    "I think that's one of my favourite songs"

    Why is that so special to you?

    "It's magical.."

    I'd go along with that

    "I like 'Love To Lose Again' - some songs of mine I fall in and out of love with them - I'll pick up some old song sometimes and do it again and think 'oh yeah.. that song!"

    Do you ever get bored in a concert situation when people start screaming for things that they love and perhaps you've fallen out of love with?

    "Well, I usually just don't do them - if I don't feel something for the song it would be impossible to try and do it - it would just be better not to"

    How carefully do you plan a concert evening? Is it impromptu?

    "Yeah, here is this piece of paper - been carefully scotch taped to my guitar and it really won't come off - it has a whole bunch of songs on it, that I didn't pay much attention to it though"

    But I did notice on Sunday night, you were saying ' oh, yeah we were going to do that'

    "Well, I couldn't remember, once the Incredible String Band came on - what did we plan to do together? The whole idea of seeing these people on the stage with me was really strange - but I remembered soon enough!"

    But is it something you like to create a really spontaneous situation - nobody quite knows what to expect..

    "It's the only way, if I knew that even one person knew exactly what I was gonna do, it would make me feel uncomfortable - I find comfort in knowing that - that nobody knows exactly what I'm gonna to do"

    Do you tend to ignore requests when people shout at you?

    "Well, it depends, if it's something - oh, yeah, I'd like to do that - it would be good - some of the time I do ignore them …(laugh)…I used to do just everything that everybody wanted, but it's no good, just - if you're going to do a song you're not into"

    Do you feel like another song?

    Guitar tuning…..

    What shall I do?

    Guitar tuning…..

    "I have to get this guitar tuned, perhaps you could take another news break or something …(laugh)…""

    No, we can't have another news break

    "I went to the piano to tune - I'm so far off that I didn't do anything - I just tuned to my first string ….Guitar tuning….

    What shall I do?


    Peter, where are you?

    "Here's a new song, I'll do this one because he thought I should do this…

    I can't take no more
    There ain't no use
    I can't keep on doin' what it is
    That you think I do,
    oh no me no me no

    And your words that I been listening to
    Are as honest as a white man sounds
    When he sings the blues, oh no
    I know, we're through

    Take me where the wild things grow
    Where the truth is found
    'Cause its roots are there below
    oh no me no me no

    Where the system is to save your song
    But I feel the rhythm
    But the tune is still unborn
    no no
    I know it's one

    String the treasure on a silk and pine and
    Weave the pine with the laurel leaves
    Bring a river to make a wine
    Brew the wine with the laurel to make a tea
    Ah, drink me

    da da da da da da da da da
    da da da da
    da da
    da da da da da da da da da da da
    da da da da

    I can't take no more
    There ain't no use
    I can't keep on doin' what it is
    That you think I do,
    oh no me no me no

    And your words that I been listening to
    Are as honest as a white man sounds
    When he sings the blues, oh no, no no
    We're through

    da da da da da da da da da
    da da da da
    da da
    da da da da da da da da da da da
    da da da da

    String the treasure on a silk and pine and
    Weave the pine with the laurel leaves
    Bring a river to make a wine
    Brew the wine with the laurel to make a tea
    Oh, drink me

    da da da da da da da da da
    da da da da
    da da
    da da da da da da da da da da da
    da da da da

    Words and Music by Melanie Safka

    That sounded very good, that's new Melanie?


    Not on any record yet?


    But going to be at some stage?


    What happens next as far as you're concerned?

    "I've been very happy since I had a baby, and the balance has been really good - I've been making records - I've been working and taking care of the baby - as far as the future thing I don't know - I've never been able to answer that one - …"

    It's impossible to answer that!

    "Even when I did! No …(laugh)…"

    Did you have a period when you knew absolutely?


    "What the next year was going to hold for you?


    So, it's anybody's guess?

    "Yes I think so…"

    Will you keep doing concerts and things like that, or is that going to become a bit too exhausting now that you have a family

    "No, I think I'll do some round of concerts - I'll probably always do this - I can't see not doing it"

    But you'll spend quite a lot of time in recording studios as well - you said you liked recording a lot?

    "Yeah, you get a chance in the studios just get it the way you want it"

    Can that take long?

    "It can also make you crazy trying to get it the way you want it - and maybe never getting it the way you want it"

    I can imagine too that you could at sometime hit something of a live performance which is exactly right, but you could never hit in a recording studio - would you feel that?

    "Well, there are times when a - the atmosphere that we have in the studio is very loose so it - the musicians are the audience - so it's a very live feeling in the studio, I think - I mean when I'm recording it - I mean the colourings I get added - couldn't possibly be done on the spot - I mean it could, but they usually don't get done on the spot - they usually do the basic rhythm track"

    In the studio, presumably you have a very live sort of feeling because you're with musicians and they are all listening to you - and working with you - are they a critical kind of audience too - is that helpful?

    "Yeah, it's good you know - because they know what that energy level is and you just can't just sit there and get all into yourself or anything"

    Is that something that does happen to you occasionally - that you get totally into yourself?

    "No, not really - not when I'm really working with anybody else - I save that for when I go home! …(laugh)…"

    For Peter and the baby.


    Melanie, do you feel like doing anything else for us before you go, or have you run out of voice and energy?

    "I don't know - I probably run out of voice"

    Have you, 'cause just tell me - it's very cool

    "What could I finish with - anybody have any idea? …… oh yeah….."

    Guitar tuning…..

    What you gonna do?

    Guitar tuning…..

    ……………………………. Sweet Misery …………………………………….

    Melanie, thank you very much indeed - I'm going to let you go home to bed now- back to your baby - it's been a very great pleasure to have you along.

    "Thank you"

    How much longer are you in Britain for?

    "Going to Cornwall, maybe one or two weeks"

    Just to relax?

    "Yeah, I think I'll just see what happens - maybe I'll stay longer"

    Well come back again soon, won't you.

    "Yeah - thank you"

    Thank you..

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