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Saturday 19th May 2012 was an exceptional day for me, it was when I met two extraordinary women, one in spirit, the other face to face, who opened my eyes and ears to not just new worlds of music but also, how prejudice still pervades, dissuades talent, in an industry which struggles to move on from its fur coat no knickers attitude, glitz, glam and gold, blinding flash, burning the soul of true talent. Born within a year of each other, 1947 and 1948, both women, Sandy Denny and P.P.Arnold, still struggle for full musical recognition despite proving their worth again and again, in a world grown deaf from auto tuned Vuvuzela of multinational record company hype. Today these two women joined hands across time, space and dimensions, together with other equally impassioned artistes, for ‘The Lady: Sandy Denny Homage’, at the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Hall, to take one small step, reaching for moon of recognition and respect which was not afforded to one in life and still eludes the other in a life which continues to battle tribulation.

Reading about one, talking to the other, reinforced by my current involvement with the Samuel Coleridge-Taylor Foundation, (which seeks to raise awareness of this black (mixed race) British classical composer who, despite acceptance at the Royal College of Music; where his mentors included Elgar, over 100 compositions and accolades in his day which put him in a league approaching more feted contemporaries, such as Vaughan Williams, remains relatively unknown), I realised plus ca change, despite passing of years, Samuel Coleridge Taylor died in 1912 (like Sandy, before his time at the age of 37), Sandy died in 1978 and thankfully for us, Patricia Arnold still survives to fight her own battles, all still somehow in chains, slaves to industry whims and a fickle, selfish world. So, it was appropriate that, when Mel and I , from Mudkiss, were afforded the honour of having a chat with the legendary P.P.Arnold, prior to the Sandy Denny homage, Patricia had spent her time in Liverpool visiting its acclaimed International Slavery Museum.

As we reverentially joined her in her dressing room, rehearsals for the night’s show wafting temptingly over monitor, whetting our appetite, what immediately struck me about Patricia was passion and zest for life, which flowed from her, as she talked about the museum, Shamanism, Reiki, how energy of tortured souls remains, about visiting the Tate to look at the ‘Innocence and Experience’ exhibition, curated by her friend Marianne Faithful, a friendship which caused my ears to prick, Marianne being a musical heroine of mine, sparking a memory, the Stones song ‘As Tears Go By’, a favourite of mine, recorded by both artistes.

It was clear this was a deep woman and nerves that had jangled all day, now caused me to dissolve into mess of rambling awe, so forgive my rather disjointed questions. I will not repeat the illustrious musical heritage of Patricia Arnold which is fully documented elsewhere, except to say from very beginnings of her turn in the musical spotlight she has mixed with the best, from Tina and Ike Turner, to the Rolling Stones, The Small Faces, Hendrix, The Who, Bowie, Bee Gees, Nick Drake, Clapton and so on and so on, right through to The Kane Gang and The Beatmasters,  as well as a long association with Roger Waters, this soul diva’s silver syllables have entranced the ears of many but, as with Sandy’s oeuvre, until now, except for songs everyone knows her for, like ‘The First Cut Is The Deepest’ and ‘Angel of The Morning’ I had been sorely uninformed about omnipresence of this incredible lady’s influence over and involvement in so much of my record collection, from the sixties through to current day dance music.

As her astonishing  story unfolded over the hour of our interview, it came to me that her life could be expressed in song, she has always worked incredibly hard for a living and continues to do so, highly intelligent, determined, courageous, inspirational, incredibly musically gifted but still fighting, in the words of Tears For Fear’s, still a ‘Woman In Chains’ (a song which I don’t think she has recorded), despite supposed equality this world now offers, when in some ways, “..It's a world gone crazy keeps woman in chains...trades her soul as skin and bones...” What an absolute honour and pleasure to speak to such a noble, expressive and awe inspiring woman, her words of wisdom I will carry with me forever as will the memory of her singing in the Sandy Denny tribute (see my review here):

CHUMKI: (prompted by Patricia’s visit to the Tate) Is Marianne Faithful someone you have been interested in?

P.P. ARNOLD: Well she was my friend, my first English girlfriend. We were both going out with Mick Jagger at the same time (Squeals of excitement from Chumki! Was he two timing then?). Read my book, we were very good friends. Marianne is strong, she’s been through so much and for her to rise out of the ashes of all of that, have that rebirth, from innocent English rose to this feisty woman, hard thing is surviving all the heroin, living on the streets, she was just lost for a long time, coming out of that she has had good people behind her, the guy she was with, people that were constantly pushing her, helping her to stay creative. As a result she recorded so many albums, which is fantastic because it’s really, really difficult being a female artiste in this business and surviving. For me, it’s been really, really difficult.

CHUMKI: Why is that?

P.P. ARNOLD: Even though I have lived in England all these years, I came here when I was a young girl, my kids have grown up here, but people still relate to me as a foreigner. I came here in ‘66, turned nineteen here and I lived here from ’66 until ’75. I went back to the States to do a music project but my daughter was killed in a car accident.

CHUMKI: I read about that. How old was she?

P.P. ARNOLD: She was thirteen, in ’77, it was really, really tough, so I didn’t come back until ’83 because I found it difficult to come back to England without Debbie, because my kids, they grew up here. Then I came back and it has been one struggle after the next just trying to keep going but I’ve been blessed, managed to keep myself going by collaborating with other artistes.

CHUMKI: I was going to ask you about this collaboration, (‘The Lady’, homage to Sandy Denny) but first, I am longing to ask about your music. You have indicated what a struggle it is for musicians to get heard, even with a voice as beautiful, emotional as yours, but I know being a musician is an irrepressible vocation. What’s it been like to have a life immersed in music, being able to express your soul through your voice? What does it feel like to have that power that urge?

P.P. ARNOLD: Well, it saved me, really. I always sang, I was born into a family of gospel singers; it was just something that you did. In church everybody just sang, you had your harmony and ... I had my first solo performance when I was four (more squeals of astonishment from Chumki); even at four I had this power to affect people, to touch people. I can remember it so well, singing my song, ‘Soldiers In The Army”, little did I know I was going to have to be a strong little soldier all my life. Everybody started shouting, all my sisters started shouting, in the Baptist church when people shout, that means you made them happy. So, that’s what I try to do, every time I sing, I try to hit that nerve, go straight to the heart, to make people happy, to uplift people, to inspire people.

CHUMKI: From that age did you know that singing was all you wanted to do?

P.P. ARNOLD: No, I had no ambition to be a professional singer.

CHUMKI: So how did it come about?

P.P. ARNOLD: Just a day in the life. I was really young and I got pregnant, my daddy forced, made me get married, the guy was much older than me and I was in a very abusive teen marriage. I was seventeen, had two kids and worked two jobs, during the day I worked as a file clerk and at night in a factory, married to this guy who was really abusive. One Sunday morning, which was my day off work, when I cleaned the house, washed the clothes, got everything together and in that laundry room I just prayed, so hard, prayed to God to show me a way out of the mess that I was in because, back then, they had the saying if you make your bed hard, you got to lay in it, I was laying in my hard bed and didn’t see any way out. My parents didn’t really know, I didn’t really tell everybody what I was going through. Anyway, about thirty minutes later, the phone rang and there was this ex girlfriend of my brother, she was all excited and wanted me; I had sung with her once, you know the song ‘Rockin’ Robin’ (sings to illustrate), recorded by Bobby Day, well her boyfriend was one of the guys who wrote songs and produced stuff for Bobby Day. I went with her once to a little backyard studio and sung some harmonies with him. They had this girl who was supposed to go with them to an Ike and Tina Turner audition and the girl let them down, so they called me just to go with them, to help them get the gig. I don’t know, it was just one of those days, a day in the life that changed a life. (Chumki: A quick response from God then)

Yeah, really quick, I was still very frightened though and said my husband wouldn’t let me go but she said, just tell him we’re going to get some money for that session we did. Before I could say no, bam, she hung up the phone, next thing I know they were at my door, so I had to go. I told David I would be back in an hour and asked him to baby sit, next thing I know, I was at Ike and Tina’s house.

CHUMKI: Wow, were they already iconic at that time? What did it feel like?

P.P. ARNOLD: Yes, very iconic, I was so shy in those days, with real low self esteem but I can sing. It was just nice to get a day out of the house, my girlfriends came and picked me up, next thing I know we were there and we were singing, we sang ‘Dancing In The Streets’.

CHUMKI: Did it just come naturally to sing with them?

P.P. ARNOLD: Oh yeah, we were like the personification of Motown. (Said with such swagger, we had to laugh) I knew all the stuff, knew all the songs, all the moves, we were kids, I was seventeen.

CHUMKI:  Singing with Tina Turner, you both have such a lot of personality in your voices, what was it like hearing them together?

P.P. ARNOLD: Then, I wasn’t singing with Tina, I was singing with my friends. I was very shy and Tina brought a lot out of me. What happened that day, we sang and she said, right girls, you got the gig and I said (whispering shyly), oh no not me, I got to go home, my husband’s going to kick my ass, I’m going to get my ass kicked, I should have been home two hours ago and Tina said to me, if you’re going to get your ass kicked for nothing, why don’t you travel up to Fresno with us this evening, see the show, so that’s what I did. That day, there I was, just being rebellious, after being this victimised young girl, that day I just thought, hey, what have I got to lose. So, I went to Fresno, which is 350 miles from L.A. and I was so tacky, all shy, when I think about it.... We went to this club, I wasn’t dressed and I felt like... (Chumki: I know the feeling!) The other girls were going for it.

MEL: Bet there were some wild parties with the band?

P.P. ARNOLD: With Ike and Tina’s band? Well, parties, it’s really, really funny; for me, in those days, people say I’ve worked with so many people on the rock and roll scene but, I had my kids, two kids.

CHUMKI: How did you cope with that, late night gigs and stuff?

P.P. ARNOLD: When I went on the road with Ike and Tina, my mother kept the kids. That gig, with Ike and Tina that day, the tour started on a Thursday, this was a Sunday, so we had to learn that whole show in a week (Chumki gasps). Yes, really short and that Sunday I didn’t even know I was going (Chumki: That was brave). When I came home, my husband opened the door, bam, hit me straight away and it was like he knocked some sense into me (punches her palm to illustrate). From that time he hit me, I thought I am going, I am going. I just took that little ass whipping, as we used to call them.

CHUMKI: Why was he like that?

P.P. ARNOLD: He had problems.... phrrrr (hands up in despair)... Anyway, I got my kids up, it was six o’clock in the morning, I left at twelve o’clock that afternoon. I didn’t even go to bed, just got my kids up, got them dressed like I normally did to take them to my mother’s, to go to work and I left. When I got to my mother’s I broke down and told her everything, what had happened and told her I wanted to do it and the only way I could do it, is if my mother helped me, by looking after my kids.

CHUMKI: Was she really supportive, wanting you to find your path?

P.P. ARNOLD: Yeah, I think they did, it was in my father’s hands. They realised I was really going through it, not everything but they knew my life was hard. I was an ‘A student’, I was like a good girl, that did school one time, I let him talk me into ditching school one time. I thought I could handle it, because I liked him (pulls expressions of smitten young girl) (Chumki: and it’s easy to be swayed. Love, lust does strange things) (much knowing laughter). I thought I could handle him but he took me to his house and next thing I know, he was on me, boom and then boom, I got pregnant. When I was younger, all you had to do was wink at me and I was pregnant. I was ‘Miss Fertility’, like the old woman who lived in the shoe (much laughter).

CHUMKI:  I am not going to ask you about all the people you have collaborated and gone on tour with, because there are so many, but would like to ask you about one. Everyone knows you from the Cat Steven’s song ‘The First Cut Is The Deepest’, how did that come about, did you collaborate with him on the song?

P.P. ARNOLD: I stayed in England when I joined Ike and Tina, and was with them for two years. They made ‘River Deep, Mountain High’ which wasn’t a hit in the States but was a hit here and they were invited to tour with the Rolling Stones. I just happened to be with them and I came over to do a tour with the Stones. On that tour, whoa, Mick Jagger and I hooked up.

CHUMKI: What was that like? Was it instant attraction?

P.P. ARNOLD: Well... wasn’t really, for me, I just thought... he just made me laugh, this white boy with these big lips, trying to do the James Brown. (Chumki: I can imagine, there is something really provocative about him). Yeah, yeah, yeah, he was funny, he was fun, so we were just friends, had lots of laughs. He fancied me, we would go out after the gigs, to the discos. In those days discos were the whole thing. Then went from there, I hooked up with Mick. Ike Turner was livid! He likes to have control over everybody but he didn’t have control over me because I wasn’t his woman but he was really pissed off, because I was hanging out with Mick. He would fine me, they had a system in the days, if you were one minute late you got fined, if you got a run in your tights you got fined. Plus there was a lot going on, all the abuse, which at that time with Tina, wasn’t common knowledge.

CHUMKI: Did you and the people around her know what was going on?

P.P. ARNOLD: Oh yeah, of course, we travelled on the road together. It was not only Tina, he had three other women, they all did, it was like the harem on the road, that kind of lifestyle, that’s what happens (Chumki: Very sort of incestuous in a way, very close). Yeah, yeah, yeah, so I was going to leave Ike and Tina when I got home, because I really had enough. I had been with this guy who had kind of protected me from Ike but I split up with Gabe (Gabriel Flemings) the night before we came to London because I caught him messing around with another woman. When I arrived in London I was freeee (rolling her tongue in glee). In those days there was lots of racism (Chumki: Was that towards the end of the sixties?), mid sixties, it was ’66, there was no way I would be hanging out with white guys, riding around, doing all that if I was in the States, no way. Suddenly I was in England, little shy, timid, low esteem and (there was I) Pat was hanging out with the Rolling Stones (Chumki: Oh my goodness!!! And in that era, London was party central, fun and really creative). It really was!

I had six months and Mick invited me to stay in England, with his manager Andrew Oldham who had Immediate Records, which was the record label Small Faces and all of us were on. They asked me to stay in England and record on Immediate, that’s how the Cat Stevens song came to me because, Immediate Records had the publishing company, Dick James music, next door and Steve, we called him Steve, was one of the young writers. All the young writers wanted to be with Immediate because it was one of the first independent record labels in England. Unfortunately the legacy is terrible, we really all got ripped off, there was lots of stuff but, anyway... I got the song through being with Immediate and Andrew knew about the song, which was just like the story of my life, I really connected with the song, so we recorded it.

CHUMKI: When I hear your version of the song it sounds like it is meant for you, you are meant to sing it.

P.P. ARNOLD: The legacy of that tune has kept me going, not financially but as far as fans and people remembering me, they connect with ‘First Cut’ and ‘Angel Of The Morning’.

CHUMKI: Did you ever tour with Bowie? (Chumki: Just have to ask, he is such a musical hero of mine)

P.P. ARNOLD:  I didn’t tour with Bowie, I toured alongside Bowie. I have never worked with him.

CHUMKI: (Persisting) Did you meet him?

P.P. ARNOLD:  I had my band P.P. Arnold and ‘The Nice’. They were my backing band. Keith Emerson was my musical director for ‘The Nice’, I named them; if I had been like Ike Turner I would have copyrighted that name and they wouldn’t have been able to use it, (An aside: ‘The Nice’ name was adopted by Keith Emerson for the band which was forerunner to ‘Emerson Lake and Palmer’. Keith Emerson’s autobiography suggests the name came from a suggestion by P.P.Arnold. ), they were my band and I worked alongside all these artistes, I had my own thing. I met Bowie, we used to go to Europe, there was lots of television, the B Club stuff, you’ve probably seen a lot of those B Club videos on You Tube, we all used to go over to Europe, Holland, Germany, France, everywhere, so that’s how I know everybody, I worked alongside them. I started doing a lot of sessions, I would do sessions because, Madeline Bell and I and Doris Troy, we had that sort of sound which everybody wanted, which led to collaborations.

CHUMKI: You had sung and recorded so many other people’s songs but have you composed any of your own?

P.P. ARNOLD: I have composed so many songs. It’s funny, we were talking about Marianne (Faithful) and how she had people with her that made it possible for her to keep recording lots of material. Well, I’ve recorded a lot of stuff that’s never been released, so people don’t realise I have been totally productive throughout my whole career and (with emphatic passion), YES I DO write songs, I have so many songs but, I didn’t have people around me, when you are a singer, back then, (they told their song writers) you don’t have to sing, they wanted me to sing their song writer’s  songs, (Chumki: Wanted to use your voice to express their musicality?) yeah, to promote whoever they were promoting as song writers, “why do you want to write a song?”, that kind of attitude.

CHUMKI: So the stuff that hasn’t been released, which you recorded, are you planning to release it?

P.P. ARNOLD: I have some stuff right now that I'm very excited about! It's stuff that I recorded in the late 60's and early 70's. Productions by Barry Gibb, Eric Clapton and Caleb Quaye, a real guitarist who used to work with Elton John. I have about 18 tracks. I've been working on an anthology of unreleased recordings from that period because, after Immediate there’s that big gap in my career in the seventies, so people think I didn’t do anything until the eighties but it’s not true, it’s just that the stuff wasn’t released, the stuff with Barry is beautiful.

I recently got the recordings that were never finished so, I’ve done all this new production on everything, on all that beautiful stuff, everything sounds fantastic and now I’m in negotiations with Universal who own the masters. The works has been sitting on the shelf for over 40 years and I hope that the negotiations for a license to release it all comes to a successful conclusion. Hopefully, Universal will have a heart and let me have the license so that I can release the work so that my fans can hear it. They don't have the same passion that I have about this work (Passion and outrage personified)(Chumki: All your fans care intensely) and I and the people that I have around me are really enthusiastic and excited about how the recent productions have enhanced the original recordings. (Interrupted mid sentence by knock on door seeking Lavinia Blackwell (from Trembling Bells; another artiste performing in the Sandy Denny homage))...I really hope it all works out... that music is really important to my book; I am writing my autobiography as well, that music documents the Seventies, which I call the lost years, when all this music wasn’t released and also I lost my daughter. That music documents a very important part of the book and I want to be able to release the book and this anthology of unreleased heritage recordings.

Then there is so much stuff when I came back to England in the eighties that was never released. In fact, if all the stuff I have done was released, I would have quite a few albums out there. 

CHUMKI:  Your musicality, talent and passion is so self-evident; it seems criminal that you can’t get your own music out there. Everybody should be able to listen to it.

P.P. ARNOLD: People say to me... I can’t even get gigs. They say I can’t get gigs because I don’t have a record out there and then I am trying to get music out there and it’s like catch twenty-two.

CHUMKI: It’s your inspiration trapped in those tapes!!

P.P. ARNOLD: Exactly, that’s my inspiration and my life, not only that, that’s my work. I’ve made those tracks sound like they sound right now.... music is timeless... So that’s what I am up against right now, a constant fight to break the chains.

CHUMKI: So it doesn’t get easier. We imagine, when someone is as well known as you, people would be begging, falling over themselves to help you release your music.

P.P. ARNOLD: One would think. It has nothing to do with talent or credibility, I don’t know... (Chumki: It’s just the way the record industry works) Yes, it’s just about the industry; the record industry is just ‘wack’... (weary despair)

CHUMKI: In the Seventies, your “lost years”, did you find that creativity helped to get you through all the things that were happening around you?

P.P. ARNOLD: The grace of God helped to get me through. After I lost my daughter, all that stuff was not important. Getting through the shock of that, then coming back, (it was) my faith, it’s at that time I realised music had become my life and I’ve been fighting, fighting all the time.

MEL: When do you think your book will be out?

P.P. ARNOLD: As soon as I finish the tour I am going back to finish working on the book.  But, I was backing it up before I came over a month ago, to record this stuff and I lost a lot of my documents but I’ve managed to recover about twenty-five chapters. Just before I left Spain; I live in Spain, Mac had recovered another thousand documents so I can’t, until I get back home after this tour, go through and see if everything is all there.

MEL: It’s going to be a big book then?

P.P. ARNOLD: It really is.

CHUMKI: How long have you been writing it for?

P.P. ARNOLD:  I have been writing this book forever. I was on the road with Roger Waters from 1999 until 2008 (1999 to 2002:‘In The Flesh’, a series of worldwide tours showcasing Roger Waters best known works from Pink Floyd through to his solo work; 2006 to 2008: ‘The Dark Side Of The Moon’ worldwide tour) and I can’t write when I am on the road, you either do one thing or another. I was so pleased with where I was, all the writing was flowing. The twenty-five chapter are good but they’re not the re-writes that I had done and there are three chapters in particular that I am missing but, you know, when I go home and start working on it again, if it’s not there, it’s in me. To write you have to put yourself in that headspace, it’s so isolating, it would be a drag if I have to do that work again, it’s just time consuming and I want to get the book out.

My experience as a clerk/typist way back then came in handy. My father wanted me to be a legal secretary, in those days for a black girl to be a legal secretary, that was it (Chumki: The crème de la crème), yeah the crème de la crème. Those skills have definitely come in handy.

(Here we have an aside, to talk about how, as an independent artiste, an internet presence is important and for Patricia to give us details of her website and the link to a free download of her recording of Sandy Denny’s song ‘Take Me Away’: See links at the foot of this article)

CHUMKI: Coming to this Sandy Denny homage which you are singing in tonight, how did you get involved?

P.P. ARNOLD: Through Andrew Batt, who invited me to do the tribute that we did at Queen Elizabeth Hall in 2008. There was one show, Andrew just called me and asked if I would participate and I did, now this tour.

CHUMKI: Before the tour did you have a passion for Sandy Denny’s songs?

P.P. ARNOLD: I am not going to lie and say I had a passion for her songs but I was aware of Sandy, of her work and her artistry but I didn’t know all of her material because, Sandy was quite big in the seventies when I wasn’t here. Fairport Convention and Fotheringay was happening when I was in the States.

CHUMKI: What about the style of music, folk, is that something you were familiar with?

P.P. ARNOLD: Yeah, I am familiar with folk music but for me, being on this tour, I’m the only artiste that’s not a folk singer.

CHUMKI: Yes, all the rest of the musicians on the bill have some sort of folk connections.

P.P. ARNOLD: Yes, they have. My interpretations of Sandy’s songs are more kind of soulful.

CHUMKI: How did you approach the songs?

P.P. ARNOLD: I take the lyric, feel the lyric, I always try to be true to a song writer’s melody, so I keep the melody there and put my own thoughts through it. I am singing ‘I’m A Dreamer’, ‘Like An Old Fashioned Waltz’ and ‘Take Me Away’, which is a song I recorded, not as well known as the other two song but I LIKE the song (emphatically), I related to the lyric, I have to relate to a song, ‘Take Me Away’ is kinda like what I am going through right now, all the politics of the music industry, I just want to be lifted out of this, free to fly and that’s what the song is about. At first, I listened to it and wasn’t sure, I thought the lyric was negative, but it’s not, it’s about being lifted up out of a dark place, into the light.

CHUMKI: So you didn’t ever know or collaborate with Sandy but got to know her through her music.

P.P. ARNOLD: I didn’t know Sandy but my youngest son’s father, Fuzzy Samuels (Bassist with ‘Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young’), he knew Sandy, I know Miranda Ward, who was a really good friend of Sandy, so I know people who knew Sandy really well. I didn’t get the opportunity to meet Sandy in the flesh, I have only met her through her music.

CHUMKI: Do you find , through her music you get to know the person?

P.P. ARNOLD: I feel really connected to her soul, through the lyrics. She was very, very creative; you can tell she was very deep.

CHUMKI: Singing her songs, it must be a very strange feeling, delving into someone’s soul, head, and heart? Did that make you nervous, to be singing her life?

P.P. ARNOLD: Anybody’s song, other than your own, that’s what you do and I like to have an understanding of the song but, you never know what someone else is feeling when they wrote the song, so it’s my interpretation of what I think the lyric is saying.

CHUMKI: Did you get to choose the songs you get to sing? (Interrupted by another knock, this time someone looking for Joan Wasser a.k.a Police Woman, who is also singing in the homage)

P.P. ARNOLD: Andrew suggested them and the first two, ‘I’m A Dreamer’, ‘Like An Old Fashioned Waltz’, I did on the other show. ‘Take Me Away’, I had a choice and I chose it because it’s more bluesy, more soulful because it’s the later stuff that she was writing, when she was in the States, working with a lot of people in the States, experimenting with more bluesy, more soulful things, so in ‘Take Me Away’, I can relate to that, you’ll hear it tonight.

CHUMKI: I am really looking forward to it. I love hearing reinterpretations of songs, especially by people as insightful as you; it sometimes brings a different understanding to a song, something you haven’t heard before.

P.P. ARNOLD: I hope people get that. Like I said, I have been true to her melody but our tones are so different. It’s a beautiful song and it’s really important to me to be true to her spirit and her phrasing, the expression is in the phrasing of the lyrics.

CHUMKI: Did you listen quite carefully to her singing the songs?

P.P. ARNOLD: Yes, I had to listen, I had to live it, I am living all these songs.

CHUMKI: Is ‘Take Me Away’ your favourite Sandy Denny song?

P.P. ARNOLD: I love all three that I am singing but yeah, ‘Take Me Away’, I’ve made it my own, so I really love that now. I love ‘Who Knows Where Time Goes’, that song kills me, we’ll maybe do it as the encore. I wanted to sing that in the show, that’s what I told Andrew I really wanted to sing.

MEL: Were you familiar with any of the other artistes on tonight?

P.P. ARNOLD: No, I only just met them today.

CHUMKI: So how much preparation have you done together?

P.P. ARNOLD: Just today, we’ve all had separate rehearsals. Today we’re sharing a dressing room but I haven’t seen everybody, we’ve been all over the place, I’ve been in here by myself mostly all day or with Maddy Prior. I was in ‘King Of Elfland’s Daughter’ with her ... (A concept album by former members of Steeleye Span, in which P.P.Arnold was cast as ‘The Witch’. Incidentally also included Christopher Lee as ‘The King Of Elfland’ and Mary Hopkins as ‘Lirazel’) (This sentence remained unfinished as we were interrupted by another knock on the door, in search of Thea Gilmore, another of tonight’s artistes)

CHUMKI:  You are all quite different musically, so how does it all come together? Have you done a rehearsal, all through, together?

P.P. ARNOLD: We’ve done a rehearsal of ‘Who Knows Where The Time Goes’, this morning.

CHUMKI: What was it like, everyone having such disparate voices?

P.P. ARNOLD: Everyone is just expressing themselves, we sing the chorus together and it just works.

CHUMKI: Will you all be travelling together for this eight date tour?

P.P. ARNOLD:  Some people will be travelling, because I live in Spain, I’ve come over specially and I think Joan Wasser has come over from New York, so think we and somebody else will be travelling in the Splitter (Tour bus) but everybody.. (here we are interrupted by Maddy Prior sticking her head round the door)... who lives in England probably drive.

CHUMKI: I am looking forward to hearing Maddy sing, I love Steeleye Span.

P.P. ARNOLD: Yes, she is lovely. I didn’t know she was with Steeleye Span, is that who she was with? Because Steeleye Span they did ‘King Of  Elfland’s Daughter’.

CHUMKI: (much laughter) Explains it all now?!

P.P. ARNOLD: (laughing) Back in those days, I did so much work, I’d just come in and do a session, I didn’t know who did what. I’ve never even heard what I did. Everyone’s always telling me about it but I never even heard the record.

CHUMKI: You have collaborated with some great musicians from many different genres? It must be quite difficult to meld your musical styles. Do you give each other inspiration?

P.P. ARNOLD: They just give me stuff to do, something to sing. They have me there because they want it to sound like me, they like my style. That’s how I work with everybody, like Roger Waters on ‘Perfect Sense’.

CHUMKI: What has been your most magical musical moments?

P.P. ARNOLD: I would have to say, coming into it, doing my own music back in the sixties, finding my own voice, through recording work with Immediate, the ‘First Lady’ and ‘Kafunta’ albums. (Both reissued on CD as the ‘First Cut’, issued 1998,remastered and reissued in 2001 ) Though I get pretty excited about everything I do really.

CHUMKI: It must be so beautiful to know that, with your voice you can express so clearly what is inside you. I know you said God’s grace sees you through life but do you think your singing gift reaffirms the value of life?

P.P. ARNOLD: It helps me to be able to deal with life, to be able to sing is a very emotional thing. Right now I am going through a lot of stuff, not nice stuff. It’s great to be able to do this tour and I just have to take that energy and ... I once did a dance record called ‘Burn It Up’ with The Beatmasters, I was involved in the writing of that, it’s about taking negative energy and putting it in the fire, taking it to a higher level, like alchemy, mystically changing it. So whatever I am going through at the moment, I am glad I have this tour, to be able to sing ,to take that energy and use it in a positive way, instead of being depressed, to sing is to release.

CHUMKI: Yes, in that moment you can leave everything else behind and be free.

P.P. ARNOLD: Absolutely, especially being a soul singer.

CHUMKI: So, after this tour, apart from battling to get your unreleased material set free, what have you got planned?

P.P. ARNOLD: I was supposed to be doing the Itchycoo Park Festival, I’m really upset about that because I have come over early, put together a great band. Kenney Jones specially asked me to do this and then I found out last week, they’ve cancelled it and they’re just casting me aside, after saying we can’t do this festival without you. He knew I didn’t have a band, and that I was putting one together specially for the festival, so I’ve incurred so many expenses, so, another battle. I have musicians that I’m responsible for, I’ve been rehearsing with these guys, we’ve all put so much into putting this special show together for Itchycoo Park and Kenney (Jones, from Small Faces who had a hit with the song ‘Itchycoo Park’), I hope he’s going to do the right thing by me.

CHUMKI: Have they cancelled the whole event?

P.P. ARNOLD: I'm afraid so and I'm devastated after all the work that I've put in. I put together some great musicians and I have to pay these guys, for their rehearsals, pay the rehearsal studios and a lot of other expenses that I incurred. I didn’t have to be here until this week. It’s really upsetting, because The Small Faces and I, we go back, all the way back and Kenney knows what I've been through.

MEL: Is it still difficult as a woman in this industry?

P.P. ARNOLD: Exactly, absolutely! Unless you have someone ... Someone has just come on the scene that seems quite passionate, enthusiastic about helping me get out of all of this stuff and to change this whole thing that is so wrong. Here I am, doesn’t matter how old I am, God has blessed me with health and strength, I am singing better than ever, I got the energy.

CHUMKI:  I must say you look fantastic, God’s hand but also must be the music?

P.P. ARNOLD: Yes the music but I’m also into alternative healing, my other passion, I’m a healer, as a singer that’s what I do. I am into regeneration, regenerative herbal foods, I use a lot of products by a man called Dr.Tei-Fu Chen who creates these products, whole food regenerative herbs, and I’ve been taking them since ’94 and think they have a lot to do with my energy.

CHUMKI: That accounts for your glow.

P.P. ARNOLD: Yes I take thing called the ‘beauty pearl’, it balances the hormonal system, feeds the skin, people call it the ‘beauty pearl glow’.

CHUMKI: What sort of music do you listen to now?

P.P. ARNOLD: I listen to all sorts of music, I love music. I live in Spain, I listen to a lot of world music, to classical music, gospel, blues, funk, I listen to everything, aware of everything and I think with a lot of young singers, I don’t understand what’s going on here right now but everyone seems to be trying too hard.

CHUMKI: Yes, on these talent shows they don’t seem to sing original songs, the focus seems to be on technical ability.

P.P. ARNOLD: Everyone’s trying too hard, they’re not singing songs, all the technical little riffs and runs, what’s that got to do with expressing a song. They use electronica to make people stay in tune, so many people sing out of tune. I watch this thing ‘The Voice’, my son is Jessie J’s musical director and Plan B’s Tinchy Styder’s, a lot of the young acts and I’m grateful for Jessie because she’s helping to pay Kojo and my grandkids, that’s good but I want to hear her sing a song, feel a song, (Chumki: Yes they’re good at giving advice but sometimes disappointing in performance), yes sometimes they’re not that great themselves.

The music industry is like, what things look like. (We stop to listen to a particularly stunning vocal rehearsal coming over the monitor speaker, possibly Thea Gilmore)

CHUMKI: Listening to that prompts me to ask whether you knew Fairport Convention?

P.P. ARNOLD: No, but I know Jerry Donahue, from Fotheringay because we did the last show together.

CHUMKI: You said you love the song, ‘Who Knows Where Time Goes’ and I remember a Liverpool Fairport gig where a young singer, adopted by Fairport, beautifully sang the Sandy Denny part. Perhaps you could guest with Fairport?

P.P. ARNOLD:  Yeah that would be nice but right now we’ll see what happens, it’s a new audience for me but that’s what I do, I collaborate, I like that because it stretches me.

CHUMKI: Do you perform in Spain?

P.P. ARNOLD: I haven’t yet, I spent ten years on the road, touring the world with Roger and a couple of things on my own since then, I did a Soul tour with Geno Washington (Ram Jam Band) and Jimmy James (The Vagabonds) a couple of years ago and then last year I was touring with my own band, so I’m still doing my own shows.

At this point we realise, we have monopolised Ms Arnold for an hour and she needs something to eat, so draw things to a reluctant, close. There were so many other questions bubbling away in my mind, I could have rambled on for hours but thankfully for the gracious Patricia, she had a show to perform and was spared further interrogation.

As Mel and I wandered off, floating star struck, to lose all sense of direction in the Phil’s labyrinthine  corridors,  Patricia  wandered serenely off to seek sustenance, nursing her purse, she was cornered by fans seeking autograph and photos, so I hope she did manage to eat pre performance and though I doubt she managed to find any of Dr.Tei-Fu Chen’s produce on sale at the local cafe, she continued to glow throughout the show.

CHUMKI: Thank you Patricia for your time, patience and inspirational answers to my intrusions.

Interview by Chumki Banerjee and additional questions by Melanie Smith
Photographs by Melanie Smith

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