Melanie Mystique

by Phil Symes

DEAR Melanie Music Society. At 7.35 a.m. on the morning of February 3 this year, Melanie will have lived for 9,497 days or 827,812,800 seconds.

That fact my not be very interesting - but not many people know it….Nick"

Every month or so the Melanie Music Society publishes ten or so pages filled with poems and letters about Melanie. Most of them rave about her latest album or tell how much Melanie seems to the writer. Occasionally you'll find a letter in there that puts her down, but it's always countered by a defensive letter and dozens of others just flowing with love.

"…Melanie has the most beautiful hair, and lovely eyes, and when she's looking at you you're the only person in the world who matters to her just then. It's the same with her songs, I feel as if she's singing just for me and no one else…. Lots of Love. Anne"

No matter what you think of Melanie you have to admit that there really isn't another female singer around that commands the devotion and loyalty that Melanie does.

Her fans are interested in her to the point of fanaticism. They write odes to her, they get together to celebrate her birthday, they jump on stage with her at her concerts just to be near her; they present her with melons and oranges on stage. And they plead with her not to leave when the concert is over. Melanie never does less than four encores.


Yet what is it about her? She doesn't play the guitar that well, and her voice is far from technically perfect. Yet alone and with just a guitar she can hold an entire Royal Albert Hall audience for two and a half hours.

It takes just one look at this year's Poll Awards to realise Melanie's "magic". She hasn't had a chart album or single in a year, yet there she is at the top of the World Female Singer section. You can only put it down to her concert appearances, although amazingly she's only made two such visits to the UK in the last year.

Not least of all surprised by the result is Melanie herself:

"It's really nice, I really didn't expect it. I've been out of the picture so long, as far as records are concerned.

It's nice to see that I don't have to have hit records to have an audience. It's really picked me up - the reviews on the last British concerts weren't as good as usual."

The general criticism of Melanie's last UK concerts in October - was that Melanie seemed to be a bit of a rut. A couple of reviewers gave the impression of "having seen it all before."

"That's really not true," said Melanie, sounding just a little annoyed at the idea, "I'm always putting new material into the concerts. Most of the things we did at the Albert Hall were being heard for the first time. Of course, I do a lot of old numbers like "Close To It Al" and "Beautiful People", but that's what the kids ask to hear. I guess what the reviewers meant was that every time they see me in concert it's just me and the guitar."

In fact, several critics did suggest Melanie should do a couple of concerts with a backing band.


"I guess when it's time to do it, I'll do it. But I'm not ready for it yet. I've tried working with a backing band for a while but the audiences just hated it. It was so uncomfortable. I had to keep thinking to myself, "well what have we got to do next?" instead of just letting things happen. Working on my own I'm much freer and the whole thing is more of a real experience. If I spend days before the concert rehearsing with the musicians it takes all the realness away from the concert. Anyway, I have enough to worry about just being out there without the extra worry of musicians behind me."

Yet, although Melanie maintains the same pattern for her live appearances, her records seem to lean more and more to larger arrangements and heavier backings. Her new album "Stoneground Words" is her most "produced" album to date.

"I regard concerts and records as two entirely different things. I love going into the Studio with musicians and relating to them, laying something down with them. But sometimes it takes 60 takes to get the right sound, sometimes we won't get it in one night. If I used those same musicians on stage we could get that sound, but it might not be the sound of the tape we finally settled on as best. We might get the sound we got on take 3 which we scrapped because we weren't satisfied. You can't scrap a live performance. Since I got back from the UNICEF the only thing I've done is made one record, that's the new single, "Bitter Bad." It's a real AM sound - you know one of those happy little songs that's going to be a hit which is a problem because immediately everyone will turn around and say "so that's where you're coming from, " and I'll get identified with it. That's what happened with "Brand New Key", I didn't like that one either."

Actually "Bitter Bad." Sounds like the kind of Melanie song that should do well in the UK. As she says, a bouncy, happy number that should be perfect Radio One fodder. Really, she underestimates it. It's probably the most universal appealing track she's done since "Brand New Key".

During the period she's been off the road she's also been writing a lot,

"More poetry than songs," she says. "When I have a big chunk of free time like this I find it's a better atmosphere to get all my thoughts together and put them down on paper.

I've written a lot of poems and a few songs. Actually I've been quite busy. It's been a good month and I've been really bringing the harvest in."

Another album won't be forthcoming for quite a while it seems, not until she comes up with a few more songs and has time to work them in her concerts a while.

"I could go into the studio and just cut the songs I've got, but then they just become productions. If I don't live with my songs before I record them then I find them hard to call my own. If I put them on record and then perform them, instead of the other way around, I always go back and say "well, that's not really the way I wanted to do it"."

Melanie's presently feeling a little disappointed that the recent album "Stoneground Words" hasn't been as successful as the previous album, "Gather Me".


"It's probably going to be a slow album because it didn't have a number one song on it. I think it's a much better album musically. Maybe it will happen yet."

Probably the album will start to pick up when Melanie goes back to concerts in a month's time. She has a two-month tour of the US lined up, followed by another rest.

"I used to work solidly, but then decided to stop pushing myself so much. I knew if I didn't I would just fizzle out. I could see myself reaching a stage where I would just walk through a concert, and that would be disastrous. If I can't be alive and whole on stage I don't want to do it. Now I'm taking concerts in a group then having a while off.

If I only have a tiny intermission between concerts it doesn't give me a chance to catch my breath properly. Sometimes I say to myself "I wonder if people remember me?" it's been six months since I had a hit record and there are a lot of other girl singers out there.

But the thing is, I like singing and I don't ever want to get to the point where I'm doing it just because I have to."

Footnote from MELANIE MUSIC SOCIETY, JANUARY ISSUE: "A message to Nick: you can't add-up.

The correct number of seconds is 820,540,8000 at New York Time!"

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