WITH A LITTLE HELP FROM HER FRIENDS
When Barbara Dickson sang "Another Suitcase In Another Hall" she could almost have been singing about herself. She had just bought a new house in South London.
"I had so much baggage and bits and pieces that I just didn't know where to put them," she smiles. "The house is late Victorian/early Edwardian and so I've been hunting around London for furniture of that period. So far I've got two beautiful Victorian washstands.
"Actually," she laughs, "I only needed one, but these were being sold as a pair, and cheaply at that. I never could resist a bargain. One of the nicest things about the house is that I'll have a music room where I can practice and compose. There's nothing more inspiring than sitting alone in your own home, surrounded by your own possessions."
Barbara has also had a great idea for getting the place decorated. "I just try to look as helpless as possible, and get all the men I know to come along with their paintbrush!"
Without this help, Barbara probably wouldn't have got very far with her decorating, as just lately she's been rather busy. As you probably know, "Another Suitcase In Another Hall" was from the record version of the Tim Rice/Andrew Lloyd Webber musical "Evita".
"Everything about "Evita" was very carefully planned," she continues. "Later on there'll be a stage version, and then perhaps a film. I don't think I'd like to take part in the actual stage show, though, because my role would only last for about ten minutes in each performance.
"On the record version I play the part of a young girl who was the mistress of Juan Peron, Argentina's dictator, just before Evita (Julie Covington) came along and took my place. Just after he tells me to go, I sing "Another Suitcase In Another Hall". In fact that's really all there is to my character, as there is no speaking involved. But I was really lucky to get that song because it's very good and I loved singing it."
Barbara might have enjoyed great success with the song, but she's definitely not stopping there.
"I've put out another single since then," she says. "It's called "Lovers Serenade" and, although it has a romantic title, there is a funky, disco-type feel to it. It's a definite contrast to the "Evita" single, but one I really like.
Barbara found time for a bit of travelling, too, although not for a holiday. "In Nashville, I recorded my new album "Morning Comes Quickly". I was really lucky, because I had the help of some of the greatest musicians in the world.
"After that I decided to go on tour in England and Scotland. I wasn't really nervous about it, as I took my own band with me and I know how well they can play. While I was touring," she remembers, "I took the opportunity of playing in my home town of Dunfermline, in Scotland. I don't get the chance to go back very often," Barbara smiles, "so when I do it's just that bit more special.
"It was when I was living there that I first became interested in folk music," she says. "In my early teens I would sing and accompany myself on the guitar. In the day time I worked for the Civil Service, but at night I'd play in the folk clubs around the area," Barbara laughs. "Then, about 1968, I was asked to sing in Denmark, so I left the Civil Service behind me, and concentrated on music."
Not long after that, Barbara really took the world by storm, and it happened just by chance...
"I was back in Britain, singing in the Merseyside area, and there was this chap called Willy Russell who was presenting his play, "John Paul George Ringo...& Bert", about, yes you've guessed it, The Beatles. He wanted a pianist cum songstress," Barbara smiles, "and I was lucky enough to get the job.
"I took about fourteen of The Beatles' songs and presented them in my own way. At the time I didn't realise just how much people would like them, but I was really delighted with the response.
"I was with the show for almost two years. Lots of people suggested that I could spend my life singing Beatles' songs. I suppose that's true, but I just couldn't go on doing the same thing forever. I do like changes."
And she does too - in more ways than one. Not long after her success in the Beatles' show, she changed her appearance so much that even her friends didn't know her.
"Most of them thought it was an overnight change," she says, "but that wasn't really true. Over a period of time I lost half a stone in weight and changed my glasses for contact lenses. But the most dramatic change was my face. I contacted this French hair and make-up artist, and we spent hours looking through pictures of hairstyles nd different make-up ideas.
"Eventually I saw a hairstyle I liked and chose some make-up. Then the French guy frizzed my straight hair and made up my face, at the same time showing me how to do it myself. It was great - really refreshing and much more flattering than my previous attempts!" she says.
"I do like unusual clothes, so my new look fitted in quite well. There isn't much time for such things now but I do love wandering around second-hand clothes shops. I've found some really lovely things at jumble sales and Oxfam shops.
"Although I'm in touch with the real world, I do like dressing up. Perhaps one day I'll come up with a very Mexican look, and another day wear tight jeans and a baseball jacket. When I'm on stage I like to dress to suit the mood of the song, but I have to remember the practical aspects. A long dress looks lovely if you're playing the piano, but awful with a guitar straddled across your knees."
"The one real luxury I allow myself is expensive shoes!" she grins. "The trouble is, I never buy sensible ones, but usually the very high ones, which means that most of the time I totter dangerously."
But at the moment there's no suggestion of tottering, only very determined strides forward. For Barbara will soon be moving in a new direction.
"In the autumn, there's an animated film of "Watership Down" being released. Mike Batt (of Wombles fame) has written a song called "Run Like The Wind" which I sing on the soundtrack. It's quite a sad song," says Barbara, "but I'm not sad about singing it. In fact, I'm quite delighted."
'Jackie' magazine, July 1977.