Interview With Annie Haslam

From Radio Cornwall Broadcast

September 1995

Transcribed by: Russ and Mark Elliot

Last Updated: 3 January 1997

[Editor's Note: This interview was originally conducted over the telephone and must have been recorded before the airing date based on Annie Haslam's comments within the body of the interview.]

And this week Vince Tracy talks to Annie Haslam. She has an incredible five-octave[s] in her singing range. Annie's also a major international star and in the 1970s she was with that well known band, Renaissance. She lived in the Fowey area and also in Redruth and Annie's an incredibly big hit in America and Japan. Yes, Vince Tracy talks to Annie Haslam.

(An excerpt from the song "A New Life" plays in the background as Vince Tracy begins the interview.)

Vince Tracy: Now this lovely voice that you're listening to is the voice of Annie Haslam, and Annie was the singer with the '70s band, Renaissance. Now, I managed to contact Annie, because Dave Owen, who is, um, a resident from Truro contacted me. And at a secret location in Devon, I managed to contact Annie and I asked her what she was doing since the band had finished and she told me that after a period in the wilderness, she'd had been advised to try her own band. So what exactly did she do?

Annie Haslam: I toured as the Annie Haslam Band for several years I did actually, on my own, get a record deal with Epic Records in the States; um, that was produced by Larry Fast, and, then, um, a few years after that, let's see, 1991, um, we went Japan. The first time that I'd ever been there, and the first thing they said was, 'you know, we've been waiting for you for twenty years.' (laughs) Ah, we went down amazingly well, it was a great trip. And after I got back, um, I met Tony Visconti. And, um, he was the one who, um, encouraged my writing and we wound up writing together. But unfortunately in 1993, I, um, was diagnosed with breast cancer so that took a year out of my life, except that I did carry on singing and writing with Tony. And I had my chemotherapy and a couple of days later I would travel up to New York and, ah, record with Tony and, ah, everything just disappeared as soon as I sang. So, that was quite an amazing, uplifting experience; it was a wake-up call for me, having cancer.

(Another excerpt from "A New Life" is played as Vince introduces his next question.)

I then went on to ask Annie about her links with Cornwall. And I asked her about where abouts she had lived in the Duchy.

I lived in Fowey. We started off in Polkerris, um, I was born in Lancashire. We moved down to Cornwall in 1961, for my mother's health and we started off in a little, um, seaside village called Polkerris, just outside, between Par and Fowey, actually. And then ended up moving to Fowey. Um, and then I wound up going to art school in Redruth, which I loved. I spent most of my teenage years, um, in Cornwall, and, strangely enough, ah, a friend of mine, Marilyn, who comes from, um, she lived in Carbis Bay at the time I went to art school with her, Marilyn Pasko. She, um, when I came, I moved up to London ... I'm on, I'm grown ten foot dozen here ... I could write three books about my life, I'm trying to get it all in a short space of time here. Ah, I moved up to London and on a trip back to Cornwall to see my parents, I went down to see Marilyn and we went, we met in a pub in St. Ives, and in that pub in St. Ives I was introduced to Betty Thatcher. Now Betty Thatcher was writing at that time with Keith Relf and Jim McCarty and, who, were in Renaissance. Well, they were originally in the Yardbirds and then they started the band Renaissance. And, of course I got to meet Betty a few years later. At that point I hadn't started singing even, so it was really kind of, quite strange, the way that, you know, it all came about. Many wonderful times in Cornwall, especially I remember at art school and the beach barbeques and you know, and innocent ones as well, you know, really good times.

I asked Annie about her unique vocal range. She has a five-octave vocal range whereas most people only have three. When did she first discover she had this unique talent?

Well you know, I never really realised until not so long ago that my voice was that unique. I know it's stupid, isn't it? Um, it was a strange band, ah, Miles Copeland, who was managing, managing the band in the early days wanted to push me forward, you know, cause I was the lead singer, and the band wasn't, they weren't very happy about that, so it was always kind of, always portrayed as a five-piece band, there was no figure head at all, and I was kind of held back to a certain degree. And, you know, we never, I never really seemed to get many compliments about my singing from the band. So I never, just thought that I had a good voice and it didn't really, kind of, stand out to me in any way. Um, I do, I was trained by an opera singer, and that's my advice to anybody who is thinking of singing and going to singing lessons. If you go to somebody that teaches you to sing correctly, and now, even though, you know, you think you sound like you have a plum in your mouth or whatever, once you can master that kind of thing, you can sing anything. That's my advice, at heart.

No, I haven't actually gone mad. But I knew there was a Beatles link and I asked Annie where the Beatles' manager, Brian Epstein, had figured in her life.

Before I was a singer, when I was a little girl in Bolton, um, my brother, Michael was a singer, they called him ... 'The Elvis Presley of Bolton', they called him. And he played locally, and he does, he has a voice that is a cross between Roy Orbison and Elvis Presley. And he has a very similar range to me. His voice is incredible. And we've never recorded anything together; that's something that I want to do in the future. But I remember in the '60s when we moved down to Cornwall, he was still up in Bolton and he was playing around the pubs and clubs. And, um, Godfrey Wynn, and somebody wrote to him and said, ah, you know, it was a housewife saying that this guy is playing up here and he's incredible. And so Godfrey Wynn got hold of his friend Brian Epstein and took him up there, and that's when Michael was discovered and ended up on, ah, many of the Beatles' shows.

Now then I asked Annie about her future plans and whether the rumours I'd heard about major projects were true.

About three months ago, I got a phone call from, um, a record company called Magna Carta in the US, and um, I was asked to ... there's a Yes Tribute Album coming out actually on August the 22nd on Magna Carta and I was asked to perform "Turn Of The Century" with Steve Howe. So when I picked myself up off the floor, (laughs) I, um, was so thrilled about that; and ah, I had met Steve before at the Yes concerts that I had gone to but never actually worked with him. And so we recorded "Turn Of The Century", which came out incredible, and we got on so well, and, ah, the sound of his guitar and my voice seemed to blend so well together that we decided that we were going to, you know, do some writing and recording. And that's where I am now. That's why I'm here. I came over for a month and I'm almost, I'm in my second week here, writing material with Steve.

And finally I asked her about the project with Bianca Jagger.

That's um, that also involves Steve, um, a certain degree. I, um, was watching a TV show in England called "Inside Edition", it's a magazine, a TV magazine news show, um, and really it's a shame because it gets lumped together with a couple of others called "Hard Copy" and "A Current Affair", and they have a lot of nasty things on, and you know, like a lot of news, that you really don't want to hear, but, and this program gets lumped in with them, but it's not. It does a lot of really good shows and they do a lot of really good things for people. And they were showing a program on Sarajevo, and many of these programs are turned off like I'm sure so many of us do, because we feel so helpless and 'what can I do, I'm only one person.' But this day I was drawn to the screen by this little baby, a nine-month old baby they called 'Number 8'. And she was banging her head on the headboard of her cot. And I just couldn't get her out of my head. So I named her 'Lily' and then I decided that I'll call "Inside Edition" after a few days of thinking 'well I can't do anything, can I.' And I called them up and they were, you know, very, they welcomed me, very friendly, um, they suggested that maybe I could write some music for a follow-up programme that they were doing on a rescue attempt, which is, they're still attempting it now, because you know it's escalated now so badly, um, ah. What I did with Steve is I wrote, I asked, I called Steve and asked, 'could we write some music together for Lily,' ah, and he said, 'send me the words.' And he was just about to start an English tour so he was very busy, but managed to get that together, and then, on the way back from a trip to, ah, the States, we did a recording session to finish off his guitars in the middle of the night and "Inside Edition" filmed it for one of their programmes and I did my interview at 4:40 in the morning. It was ridiculous. (laughs) Um, and I came over here to recruit people for a benefit concert. Um, Justin Hayward is already committed to it. And when I get back, because I've been so busy since I've been here, um, I can't really do very much until I'm back in the States, and then I'm going to get my hands back into it ... and um, I really would like to go over there somehow, but I don't think my husband would let me.

Well look, as we're coming to the end of this interview, um, I'd like you to promise me that you'll get back in touch and let us know how you're getting on with this.

Yes, I will definitely ...

And finally, what about some memories of Cornwall, what do you remember and what would you like to say to the people down here about the way you feel about our county?

Cornwall, oh I love it. Um, ah, well you know we moved from Lancashire, and we were a bit worried about, you know, we'd been in Lancashire for so many years, and going to a whole new area, we were a bit worried about how we would be treated by the locals. And I think that was my mother and father, you know, they were a bit apprehensive, but, the people were fantastic, um, the best thing that we ever did, a very warm friendly people, ah, and I love the clotted cream ...

(The interview concludes with another excerpt from "A New Life" from the Blessing In Disguise album.)

The wonderfully talented Annie Haslam there, from the former group, Renaissance back in the '70s, talking to Vince Tracy about her life, and her music and of course her links in Cornwall, having lived in Fowey and Redruth ...

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