call her a singer/songwriter, while accurate, tends to bring
on reeling visions of the worst of the early 70s; bedsitters
full of dog-eared Dansette-fodder and empty baked beans cans...
57 varieties of wimpery! Compare her to Neil Young, maybe,
another adventurer who refused to be pinned down by genre
politics. Now, not before time, Annabel Lamb has a hit single,
which in fact, odd as this may seem, appears to be a bit
of a thorny one for some of her staunchest followers. "Why
should someone so talented have to do a cover version to
get a hit?", they yelp in unison. But all is not what
it looks to be...
We met in the environs of a NW3 pub, hunched over the tables
outside as sunlight splattered what remained of A's blonde tresses,
newly shorn with an impish pigtail that fits well with the cute
smile she tries (and often fails) to avoid in pictures. So tell
me... she told me. Her cover of the old Doors classic 'Riders
On The Storm' is not some wicked A&M masterplan, but the,
erk, fulfilment of a long-felt want. Everybody got dreams! In
the moments as I write the platter has jumped about 40 places
up the ladder.
happened was, basically I'd always wanted to cover a Doors
song, 'cause I've loved them since I was very small. My
sisters had all these records and I was hearing them when
I was like eight! Even then I loved the sound of Jim Morrison's
voice, though of course I'd no idea what the lyrics were
about, and didn't care. Also, I was learning piano at the
time so the keyboard player was my hero..."
Flash fast forward to age 26, under contract and raring to
goooo! "I had three favourites, 'The End', 'Crystal
Ship' and 'Riders On The Storm'. I was talking to my producer
Wally Brill, and he told me that Ray Manzarek (Doors
keyboarder) was on A&M too! He's done an album of Carl
Orff's 'Carmina Burana' with Philip Glass for them. And he's
also put together a new Doors compilation for Elektra of
unreleased stuff, which is coming out at the end of the year."
Take the fact that A&M brass hat David Anderle was one
of the first guys to pick up on The Doors way back when,
in another time, another label... The plot started to thicken:
"Ray had heard my album, it turned out, and he thought
my voice would be perfect for 'Riders On The Storm'. He also
played the piano solo on it just like the original, same
sound and everything. We went to California to record it
at Townhouse, London plus Conway Recorders and the legendary
Capitol Tower in LA; the Lamb version of 'Storm' is as slinky
and creepy as the original: most definitely not a redundant
retread. And that blistering axe solo! "Isn't it amazing?
It was done by this guy called Alan Johannes, who's
in the band that A&M have been watching
most unlikely-looking guy you could imagine, about 19 or
20, chubby little schoolboy. He asked to hear the track once,
then he just turned to the wall and played! He did it in
the first take, he just went wild! I couldn't believe it!
Going nuts on the guitar..."
So enamoured is Lamb-chops with the finished product of her
Californian endeavours that she now plans, to do the whole
of her next album using the same pattern of a start in London
and a finish in Los Angeles. But don't worry, you doubters
of the validity of grave-robbing: "No, there will be one
cover but it's by a guy I know, it's not a classic cover. It
is difficult when you do a cover, especially a song like 'Riders',
to convince people that it's a song you've loved for years
and you aren't just jumping on some bandwagon. I've always
wanted to do one of those three Doors songs - that's all I
can say about it."
wonders if A&M had any sleepless nites, pre-hit, about
how something so, so, so obviously non-bandwagonised as Annabel
Lamb could be sold in the marketplace which is always hungry,
saliva dripping from its red, gaping maw, for image, image,
image? "It's really hard to decide how to market something
new," she emphasises, with a graceful hint of hesitancy
that helps her avoid sounding pompous.
"And I'd like to think I'm fairly original! I always find
that people have to box you somewhere, they don't feel secure
if they haven't got something to hang on you. If it's good
they'll say something like 'She's as evocative as Marianne
Faithfull'. If it's bad... well, there was one this week said
I was trying to be an upper-crust Toyah! I can't imagine how
anyone..." she gasps, lost for words, "They've got
to find someone to compare you with, they can't ever say maybe
it's new, maybe it's original...
"Obviously, everyone has influences and if you listen
to every record in the world you can find a way to compare
it to something else. But I find it very, ahh, frustrating.
The sound of my voice is my voice, I don't go out to copy anybody.
A&M stuck their neck out a bit, but they have a great tradition
of having people on the label for a long time. And they develop
people, like Joan Armatrading has been there for eight
years! And Joe Jackson
which is part of the reason I signed
with them. I didn't want to be an overnight success and then
goodbye. I wasn't interested in that, and also I write, and
you need time to change your writing. I mean, this album's
gonna be quite a bit different from the first one; my writing's
changed since then."
can't see herself being flogged as a pop star. Maybe we should
dub her the first of The Rock Brats', like 'The Movie Brats'
- that group of youngish usurpers, cine-literate tykes who
knew what they were about and up and did it their way! Spielberg,
Scorsese, De Palma, Milius... And hey, like Steven Spielberg
did with his reworking of Close Encounters Of The Third Kind,
Lamb-kin has tinkered with her 'Once Bitten' LP for the USA
"The album came out in February here, and we knew the
USA version wouldn't come out till August, so once we'd done
'Riders' it seemed stupid not to put it on. I would've put
it on over here if I'd done it back then. The mix is the same,
the order of the tracks might be altered. And it's got this
Annabel Lamb is off as you read this, doing a batch of those
odder than odd pop music shows they have in Germany and so
on, and then she prepares to tour, with old pals The Europeans,
who were signed at the same time she was. "It's great
to tour with people you know. I love them, it'll be a riot
I'm sure!" But the old, cold rigmarole of album/tour/album
is not the way Annabel's mind runs. As keen-eyed perusers of
titles will note (and those who read the last Sounds story
on her). Lamb is a John Carpenter fan, as much for his music
as his direction.
"I'd love to do a film soundtrack. I collect them, but
I can't afford all I'd like. When I was about 12, I got into
Michael Legrand, and lately John Carpenter, he's so funny,
so good... If someone would give me a script and ask me to
write music for ten scenes..."
she overreach herself? I get the feeling that when she saw
the huge, ruined LA mansions where the pix for her US album
sleeve were shot, Annabel Lamb recalled the old Ozymandias
moral, for sure. Despair, though? Nahhhhh...
- September 3, 1983