Pete Fornatale: [You're] On "Mixed Bag" with my special guest Annie Haslam.
("Carpet Of The Sun" is played live in the studio as the show opens.)
Now there's an old familiar song around this radio station. Annie Haslam I thank you for doing that and I thank you for being back with us on Mixed Bag this morning.
Annie Haslam: Thank you. It's good to be here.
We have a lot of territory to cover. But what I'd like to begin with is something that happened in your life and career, I guess just about a year ago, but we haven't had the chance to talk about it yet. And I think you know what I mean by that. I was reading one of the music papers at that time and looking up-coming lineup for the Bottom Line which is the club here in town where you are appearing tonight -- solo -- for two shows. Correct?
And at that time it said something about Renaissance's farewell tour. And it kind of took me aback because I didn't realise that that was happening. And we haven't had a chance to talk about it since then. I would just like to know what finally caused you to arrive at that decision, to put Renaissance to rest.
Well, it was economics really. You know, it was a struggle to keep coming back. We couldn't get a record contract which was the biggest of all problems. And, it just wasn't, you know, we weren't going anywhere. I mean, we enjoyed playing, and it's just, you know ... and then Mickey started writing a musical which is taking up his time. And we just decided at that point that, you know, we had to do it. It was very sad, but it had to happen. All good things come to an end at some time.
When and where was the last show?
The last show was in fact the first show this time, at Club Bené in Sayreville.
And was it dramatic?
Yes, it was actually. Somebody shouted out something in the audience and it kind of, "don't go" or something like that. I mean, I just started crying and once I start crying there's no way you can sing. It was killing, it really was unbelievable. I mean, you could sing and worse, you were looking at the audience because they looked like, there were a few people crying. You know what I mean, how could you work like that? It was really really sad.
Well that represented how many years of your life at that point?
Sixteen and a half, a lot. I mean it was like a marriage breaking up, really.
Yeah, I'll bet. What did you do immediately after it was over? Did you take some time off or did you decide to launch right back into a solo career?
Well it took me about three months to realise what had happened. And when I came to grips with it, cause it affected me, actually, I was very depressed. I knew that I was going to do something else but it was just that period of getting over that, you know. And I'd been doing some work with quite a famous DJ in England on Radio 1 called Mike Read. He's doing a Betjamin, album about John Betjamin the poet and I did a track on his album. And through him I met this producer. We got together and he got me a production deal with a studio in London and I went in and recorded some new material.
How does it feel in a sense to be starting all over again? Now things are wide open for you, in a sense, yes?
It's very strange because, to be quite honest, there are several directions I can go musically (laughs) because of my voice. And because I'm not locked in the Renaissance thing anymore I can, you know, and it's my choice, and I haven't decided yet. So the show tonight, I mean, there's a lot of interesting things that we're going to be doing. It's not just my new material. It's some Renaissance songs as well but some other things I've done from the past that I've always wanted to do.
So that's what people can expect to see tonight at the Bottom Line tonight, two shows, I think they are 8:30 and 11:30 at the Bottom Line here in the City. Now you said you haven't decided yet, but in a sense, you've been in the studio and you've done some new things. What determined the new material that you did on this demo that we're going to hear Annie?
Well it was ... I sat down with the producer and myself. We thought at that point it was best to try and something commercial because that's what most record companies are looking for. But then in a sense that's not true because, I mean, there are lots and lots of record companies out there, aren't there, with all kinds of policies and different kinds of music. This is why I've come over for a month, you see. I'm going to spend some time afterwards and go and see some people.
Well, you're certainly coming first to a city that loves you. I just got a correction here on the times for the shows tonight. They are 8:00 and 11:00 at the Bottom Line to see Annie. When you went into the studio to record these songs, which one would you like to play for our listeners this morning as being representative of the new Annie Haslam? Your choice.
"Let It Be Me" I think. (Both laugh)
Good choice. (Both laugh)
That's a good choice, isn't it. (Laughs continue)
It happens to be the one we're going to do. Tell me about the song.
Well actually, it's written by a guy called Neil Lockwood, who's virtually an unknown songwriter in England and I just ...
How did you connect?
Through a session agency actually. They put us together, yes, and I had to get three black singers for it and I've got three singers who actually in their own right in England very famous, you know as solo performers and they are supposed to be the best in the country, so, I got those. And it sounds really great. I'm really pleased with it.
Let's listen on Mixed Bag at WNEW-FM.
(Pete plays the "Let It Be Me" demo track. [Ed. note: this track was ultimately released on the Annie Haslam album released on Epic Records in 1989.])
That's "Let It Be Me," a piece of new material by Annie Haslam, our guest this morning on Mixed Bag, who will be appearing this evening at the Bottom Line, two shows -- 8:00 and 11:00. And we'll have more with Annie right after these messages.
Pete Fornatale back with you on Mixed Bag with my special guest this morning Annie Haslam. Annie, we were talking earlier about your days with Renaissance, certainly a favourite group at this radio station over the years. I think back to the Christmas concert you did for us in the '70s. And I'm wondering now that the band has an open parenthesis and a closed parenthesis, when you look back on it, what was the group's peak period. What was the most productive period or the work that holds up the best for you now with the wisdom of hindsight?
I think (sighs) when we did Carnegie Hall, actually, around that period up until 1979 when we changed, when the music changed.
And change it did.
Yes, didn't it just (laughs). I didn't like the way it changed, the new direction, to be quite honest.
Well the band went through something of an identity crisis around that time. Is that a fair assertion?
Oooh, I could you some stories you wouldn't believe (laughs). I could write a book I think.
But basically that was what was happening, right?
So the 'Carnegie Hall' album is representative, do you think, of some of your best work?
I think so, yes.
I noticed that one of the things you chose to do when you went back into the studio recently was a remake of a well-known Renaissance song "Northern Lights." What made you do that?
Well that's the first one I did with Rod [Edwards] the producer because in England they play it two or three times a week, still, on the radio. And so we thought this might be an idea, re-release it and see what happens.
Well, for all of your fans who know the original I think it would only be fair of us to let them know what the new version sounds like. Let's listen on Mixed Bag to "Northern Lights" on WNEW-FM.
(Pete plays the Annie Haslam demo version of "Northern Lights.")
At 102.7, that's Annie Haslam and a new version of a song she originally did in the Renaissance days, "Northern Lights." And Annie will be appearing in concert tonight at The Bottom Line, 8:00 and 11:00. Annie, another night that we spent together was a wonderful concert at the Beacon Theatre; a concert at the Beacon Theatre!
(Laughs.) That was a lovely night Pete. I really enjoyed it, you know. You were wonderful. (Laughs.)
Wasn't that your birthday, besides, am I mistaken, or what?
It was my birthday a few days after that, yeah, cause the room was full of birthday cake.
Yes, it was. It's coming back to me. That was a great show with Steeleye Span and Fairport Convention. And of course Renaissance at various times in their career got lumped in with the English folk rock bands and certainly the classically influenced bands. Two questions; the first is did you identify with the English folk rock scene? Was that part of what Renaissance was all about ... part of what Annie Haslam was all about?
Not really. I think the reason that people said that is because my voice is folky. But we weren't. We were more of a rock band, weren't we, really. But we did get put in that category.
And what about ... that was a very important part of rock and roll in the '70s, the classically influenced brand, if you will. Where is it today? What is the state of the art of that particular type of music, would you say as one of the practitioners of it?
Well, from what I've heard over here, it's coming back. (Laughs) So what am I doing, doing commercial songs, I ask myself. (Laughs)
Timing is everything, Annie.
I know, it's funny, isn't it. That's why I say I have not decided on what direction I'm going in yet.
What artists formed your musical consciousness?
I used to listen to Joan Baez and Joni Mitchell and I used to sound exactly like them until I went to my opera singer who taught me how to sing properly.
Ooops, wait a minute, that can be interpreted as the ...
I discovered my voice by doing that because I never realised that I had five octaves until I learned to breathe properly. I mean I didn't even know. So, they were the people I listened to. And I used to listen to people like Led Belly, believe it or not Mugsy Spanierd, Jack Tea Garden, Jimmy Reed, oh you know ... all, very, you know ...
An assortment to say the least.
Yeah, an assortment, absolutely.
When did you come to America for the first time?
I came over actually in 1972 with Wishbone Ash with Miles Copeland.
And what was that like? What was the experience of coming here like for you the first time?
Oh, incredible, loved it. I loved it.
I love America. Annie in America, isn't it?
Do you feel, in a sense, even more comfortable launching your new place in music from this base as opposed to ...
Absolutely. I've got a lot of confidence over here. I wouldn't have the confidence in England to do this.
I'm going to ask you to do one more song live for us this morning but before we do that, you did not come alone, I think it's only right that we acknowledge your accompanyists, this morning.
That's right. These are my friends that are going to be in my band, which we haven't got a name for yet. So, if people would like to write in (laughs) you can send them over to England. There's Raphael Rudd on piano and on stage he plays harp as well. And Mark Lamparello plays acoustic guitar and well he's playing acoustic guitar now but he's not going to be playing acoustic guitar tonight, are you Mark. I just remembered, oops. And he sings as well. And John Margolis who plays synthesisers and sings also.
And what are you going to close us out with this morning?
"You Don't Know A Good Thing Till It's Gone."
Another new one. (Annie: "That's right.") Annie Haslam on Mixed Bag on WNEW-FM.
(Annie and her band play the track "You Don't Know A Good Thing Till It's Gone" live in the studio.)