Annie Haslam Interview

Alison Steele

August 1989

Transcribed by: Russ and Audrey Elliot

Last Updated: 25 December 1996

Alison Steele: ... Miss Annie Haslam, she's so serious and so fragile and so mystical and mythical ...

Annie Haslam: Really?

All your friends think so on Renaissance but she really has a wonderful sense of humour and she giggles a lot if you have ever seen Renaissance or Annie solo you'll know that she does that. What was it about "Midas Man" that grabs you as one of your accomplishments?

Well, it's definitely one of my favourites. I just love it, it's a very strong melody and I'm singing in a lower register, which unlike my voice ...

I noticed that. Just what kind of a range do you have Annie?

I have five octaves.

Five octave range! That's rather extraordinary, isn't it?

It's good for calling the cat.

(Laughs) And goodness knows I have enough cats to call. They used to say about Yma Sumac that she had such a ...

I think she had nine ... ("Nine?") ... I think it was something ridiculous ...

Well the bird call's at the very top, right? Where was the album ... "Midas Man" was from Novella, wasn't it?

That's right.

And that was about what, fourth?

It was Prologue, Ashes Are Burning, Turn Of The Cards then Novella. [Ed note. what happened to Scheherazade?]

What was the very first thing and how did you record it? I mean how did Renaissance come to be born?

Do you really want me to take all night?

Make it, tailor it, Annie; we're on radio and we only have till midnight. So abbreviate it.

I think a lot of the people that maybe know Renaissance might know briefly what it's about. But it was started by Jim McCarty and Keith Relf of the Yardbirds in 1969 and the music they were playing then was more baroque/classical and they actually used classical pieces of music in the songs. I joined in 1971 and Jim and Keith were still involved, but they weren't in the band. The band ... people left and other people took their place. So it never actually broke up ...

It was a constant metamorphosis within the band. That's what was so interesting about it. And they retained that wonderful sound and yet it's a rock band, always was. Was Renaissance as popular in England, for instance, as it is in New York?


Yeah, it never was as popular, for instance, on the west coast or in the mid-west, you were a New York passion; why do you think?

Because ... well I think actually it was a mistake of ours in a way because we just spent most of the time on the east coast. We didn't go over to the west coast, we left it really too late to go over there. ("Um hmm, hmm. ") By the time we got over there, things were changing, you know.

I must say I know just how popular you were here on the east coast. When Renaissance was born, the Nightbird was born. And it was one of the earliest bands that I got involved in because the sound was so perfect. The sound and the lyrics and the spirit of the band was just perfect for my time of night and apparently a lot of night people felt the same way because they got into the band too. The very first album that you recorded with Renaissance was ...


Now you have always written a lot of the music on the albums, haven't you?

Not me.

But you have written songs?

Yeah, only on this, my solo album ...

Where did I get the idea you had written other things?

I don't Alison; now have you got the right person in the studio? (Laughs)

I've got the right person! I'm giving you credit where it isn't due. Just be quiet and claim it, you silly goose.

No I can't. I'm honest. No I had a lot to due with arrangements, vocal arrangements ...

And now you've come into your own and you've written your own songs. We'll get to that, Annie Haslam's solo album in just a moment ... [commercial announcements and station identification for K-Rock 92.3] ... And this is the first album that Annie did with Renaissance. And the first cut on the first album, is it not ...

Yes, "Prologue."


(The track "Prologue" from the Renaissance Live At Carnegie Hall album is played.)

That's Renaissance live, Annie Haslam, and what year was that Annie? Here at 92.3 K-Rock ...

That was when we did Carnegie Hall, 1975.

1975. Was that like the peak for Renaissance?

Yes, it probably was, '75 - '76.

Tell me about Carnegie Hall. What's your rememberance of it?

It was very exciting. Everybody in the audience was dressed up. It was unbelievable when the fans were outside afterwards. Everybody was just dressed up to the nines. It was great. It was a real ...

In 1975 that was saying something. Everybody slept in jeans.

I know. Everybody really made an effort to kind of go with the whole thing ...

It was a sell-out.

Yes, two nights, we did.

It must have been really exciting. Now tell me what happened to the band. This is what everybody wants to know about a band when it is and then when it isn't.

Well, it finally, in fact the six of us, sorry - beg your pardon, the five of us, that were together for so long, broke up in 1979. John Tout is now, I think, he's still playing music, I'm not really sure what; I haven't been in contact with him, but I will be contacting him when I get back to England about something. Michael Dunford is writing a musical based on Scheherazade with Betty Thatcher. ("That's exciting.") Yes, he's got all the backers and everything, so that's definitely going to happen. Jon Camp has got a band called Cathedral. I don't know whether he's got a deal yet for them but he's got a studio up north somewhere and he's doing TV music and things like that. And Terry Sullivan's got his own little studio and his son is now playing drums ... (Laughs) ... which usually follows, doesn't it.

Well, an apple should not fall very far from the tree, you know. Tell me about Annie Haslam's solo album now what made you go from Renaissance to a solo. I mean, you had worked with a group for so many years and the group had a reputation, had a charisma, a following ...

Well in 1987, Mickey and I finally disbanded the band. But, in fact, two years prior to that, we had Raphael Rudd, who's now in my band and Mark Lampariello, were the only official members after the original band. But we decided to call it a day because we couldn't get a deal. So basically the main reason that I decided to do something on my own was because I was on my own (laughs). So I decided to have a go, you know, and form my own band, which I wish I had done, in fact, last year, instead of waiting until this year, but that's the way things go.

Well, we'll talk more about Annie's band, and I mentioned to you when I saw them at The Bottom Line that they are really awesome. And this, in case you haven't heard it, although we've played it quite a bit, this is one of Annie's favourite cuts from the current album, her solo album, and we'll tell you why, but listen to it first.

(Alison plays the track "The Angels Cry" from the Annie Haslam album. Following commercial announcements, the tracks "See The Light" and "Celestine" are played.)

At 92.3 K-Rock, New York's only classic rock and roll radio station, three from Annie Haslam's solo album. We heard "Celestine" and "She's The Light" was that couplet, and I understand you wrote "She's The Light" for your mum ...

That's right, yeah, that's about my mother, yeah.

And if I had written, if I could write a song, I would write that ... what year was it that your mum and dad came, they were, they came to America ... ("uh, 77") ... '77, they were celebrating their ruby wedding anniversary. And Annie and I and Mum and Dad we went to have dinner at Maxwell's Plums ("That's right. It was great.") and we had such a wonderful time. They are such wonderful people; they'd have to be to have Annie. (Annie sighs.) And then we heard "Angels Cry," one of our favourites, which Annie has also written. No, that's Justin's tune, Justin Hayward, and we want to make it very clear that we played that for Lauren, a very special Annie Haslam fan. And how did Justin happen to do the tune for you?

Well I contacted him and gave him a demo of the songs that I had already done and asked him if he had a song for me ... and (laughs).

She's talking with her hand on her nose. I had to say tsk, tsk, tsk ...

I'm on my knees. I'm on my knees ...

These people can't hear you, Annie, with your finger on your nose.

Sorry. He came up with this song. I just thought it was perfect for me, you know, I love it. Then he did some backing vocals for me and, in fact, it wasn't meant to be backing vocals, it was meant to be a duet but he came to the studio and I was quite nervous, believe it or not ...

Why ever were you nervous?

I don't know. I don't know.

You went to see the Moody's with me last Monday night and Justin wasn't nervous ...

No, that's true. It was great. It was a great experience. And I ended up doing this very high harmony with him at the last minute that I didn't expect so that's probably why I was nervous, because I had to stand next to him and sing. That's a different story.

Justin is rather an impressive figure. I can see being nervous. Actually, throughout your career, you have worked with many really famous people as far as in the music business. We were talking about it before. You toured, really it's an unexpected and hard to picture, but you opened for Steely Dan?

That's right, yeah. ("Tell us about it.") I think, well it was in the mid-'70s sometime, but somebody said to me a couple of weeks ago, that they only ever did three or five live shows. And that's all they ever did. Well we did at least one of them; I thought maybe we did two. But I'm not sure and I can't remember. I remember doing a press conference with Donald Fagen and that was really exciting but I didn't realise at the time the importance of it. Do you know what I mean? It didn't kind of sink in.

Well who knew at that point? What other people did you open for or tour with?

Oh, Yes ... America ... now if you'd had told me this earlier I could have made you a list as long as my arm. ("Of course ... I sprung it on you. ") But, I worked with Pete Townshend and Phil Collins, that's through Raphael, who is my keyboard player now.

He is absolutely wonderful ...

Isn't he?

That band down at The Bottom Line was so impressive. I mean, it's a rather big band for a small room, and the music they made ... as a matter of fact, they did "Ashes Are Burning" ... seems to be that this band has a wonderful rapport, each with the other, they seem to have a really intrinsic mystical quality that isn't manufactured. Am I right on that?

Yeah, no, it's ... we all get on very well, as you ...

I noticed ...

We have a good time which is very important. Yeah, Raphael, he apparently, many years ago, wrote a song for me called "Seasons," which in fact I'm going into the studio with him tomorrow to record for his album. Cause he's just got a deal, he's got an album coming out on Goldcrest ... is it Goldcrest? No, Gold Castle. Gold Castle. ("Gold Castle, we'll look for it.") He wrote this song before he met me, for me, without even knowing that he would even meet me, never mind, you know, play in the same band. And I got this telegram from Pete Townshend one day saying 'please call me at this number' and I thought "Pete Townshend, why does he want me?" (Laughs) So I rang him up ("Interesting question ...") And he was involved with Raphael and he said he was doing an album with Raphael and Raphael wanted me to do some vocals for him so they rang me up and got me to go down and "Seasons" was the song and through that song I also met Phil Collins because he was on the demo's as well. It was quite an exciting time. And that was how Raph and I met.

Well it certainly was a propitious beginning because you've thrilled a lot of people with the band as it is and I expect that you will be turning out a lot more music for us.

I think so, yup.

I want to know more about writing your songs. But we have a couple of things to stop and do. I'm Alison Steele, the Nightbird; I fly every Saturday night from 8:00 to midnight and exceeding to popular demand, my guest tonight is Annie Haslam of Renaissance and now, as she puts it in a very imperious manner, 'The Annie Haslam Band -- why would I call it anything else!' She does have a sense of humour. And I'm going to play a lot more of her music, or as much as I can get in in the next 20 minutes here at New York's only classic rock and roll radio station 92.3 K-Rock.

("Carpet Of The Sun" from the Live At Carnegie Hall album is played followed by "When A Heart Finds Another" from the Annie Haslam album.)

More Annie Haslam and Renaissance ... this, we heard "Carpet Of The Sun" of course and all the best Renaissance songs are on two CDs which came out recently; all your favourites, "Carpet Of The Sun" of course, being one of them. And this was another from the Annie Haslam album, "When A Heart Finds Another." That's a beautiful song, Annie. ("Yeah, it's lovely; it's one of my favourites.") Who wrote this one?

Peter ... ("Sorry?") ... Sorry, Peter and Ina Wolf.

Now you wrote ... how many songs on this album?


And it's new, it's the first ...

Lyrics ... lyrics ...

Yeah, and who wrote the music, Raph?

No, Larry Fast and Peter Bliss.

Lovely songs. Lovely songs. Now for those of you who missed Annie at The Bottom Line, where will you ... I get very British when I stay around this girl, it's very nice ... ("The Bottom Line, yes.") ...The Bottom Line, and where will you be now. It's like starting over again, isn't it.

It is actually, because I'm obviously promoting myself, as you know, at the moment (sighs).

Yes, you go from being a headliner in a major band, playing Carnegie Hall and then of course you disband, you start all over again, and this is true of a lot of great artists that we revered as headliners in the '60s and '70s, have started as opening bands.

Well you know that's the way it has to be, that's the way it has to be. So it's good in a way because it's closer contact with the people. And I think it's been good for me because it's kept my feet on the ground, you know. So we're carrying on; we've got a show coming at a place called Jig's in Butler, New Jersey, on the 6th of September. In fact, I'm going backwards, the 31st of August is ... I'm sorry, I wasn't picking my nose honestly ... ("People can't hear you when you've got your hand on your face.") I know, I'm sorry. There's a place called The Hearth in Doylestown, Pennsylvania. (" I know it very well.") September the 2nd is The Jerry Lewis Telethon -- we're on about 12:20 on Sunday/Monday morning ... ("Everybody can see you.") ... we'll be doing one song on that. The 9th of September is a place in Pawling, New York, I've got it written down, I think it is called the Cape Cod Inn ...

OK. Annie's going to give me all the dates. But the first one that comes up is the one in Doylestown ("That's right, on the 31st of August.") on the 31st and then The Jerry Lewis Telethon over the Labor Day weekend and I know all your fans will love seeing you and the new band. It's a wonderful way for you Annie Haslam fans to get acquainted and pretty soon they'll be headlining again and playing Carnegie Hall. We'll here everybody's favourite from Renaissance in just a moment ...

(Following commercial announcments, the track "Mother Russia" from the Turn Of The Cards album is played.)

(The balance of this interview has been omitted from the tape used for this transcription. The editor would appreciate hearing from anyone with a tape containing the balance of this interview with Annie Haslam.)

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