By Martin Kinch

Stoke Mandeville Hospital Radio - May 1999

Martin Kinch and Annie Haslam - 1999

Martin Kinch: And joining me in the studio today is Annie Haslam. Annie, thanks a lot for joining us.

Annie Haslam: You're very welcome.

MK: And have you ever been to a hospital radio station before?

AH: No (peals of laughter). No I haven't. But I have been to this hospital, I think I mentioned earlier that my mother was here for a short time, but, no, I haven't actually been to a hospital radio station, which is not right, really, is it, when you think about it . I'm sure there's lots of them about. Or is there?

MK: Oh, yes there's hundreds of 'em. Yeah. But we're only one of two that's actually on AM, so we're quite privileged.

AH: Right. That's great

MK: And as I said, thanks a lot for coming to see us. And a lot of people are going to remember you as the lead singer of Renaissance but you have a solo career as well. We'll talk about that a bit later. Just let's go back to the early days. Where were you born and brought up?

AH: I was born in Bolton, in Lancashire. Two up, two down, outside toilet, scrub toilet seat, coal shed in the back yard (peals of laughter) been there, done that, got the t-shirt, er yes, I had a wonderful family upbringing, my mother and father were, er. I had wonderful parents. My father looked like Harry Worth and was a wonderful personality, called George, and he was an amateur comedian - singer, and my mother used to do acrobatic dancing and she was a gentle soul. And two brothers, one is now Hare Krishna and has been for many years, another who was managed by Brian Epstein and did several of the Beatles shows. And that was my upbringing and then we moved down to Cornwall for my mother's health in the early sixties. I went to art school down in Cornwall and wanted to become a dress designer. I did designing for a few years and some sketching and some work with a Saville Row tailor. And then I had some designs stolen and decided to leave that business. And then ended up in the music business which is probably ten times worse! (laughs) And I was very fortunate because my second singing job was with Renaissance.

MK: Was it?

AH: Yeah. Very, very fortunate

MK: Is it true that one of the first songs you sang was "Those Were The Days"?

AH: Yes. Isn't that weird? And I ended up working with Tony Visconti. It's incredible

MK: Didn't he marry Mary Hopkin?

AH: Yes, he did. Yeah, he did that margarine advert, didn't he (laughs). First thing I said when I met him, I said I saw that advert for margarine, in fact we co-wrote most of the "Blessing In Disguise" album together. I'll tell you about that later.

MK: Yes, we'll go into that a bit later. So Renaissance was your first band then, would you say?

AH: Well, first professional band. I did some singing, I went in for some talent competitions, I had a boyfriend that kept pushing me 'cause he realised I could sing, 'cause I was a bit shy at that time and I did …. I was in a band with a couple of guys and we called it Indian Silk. We only ever did a couple of weddings, I think, and I was terrified (laughs). That was when I first started. And I remember wearing a silk kaftan down to the floor, you know, 'cause it was the seventies of course. And then I went for a job at The Showboat in The Strand, which was a cabaret group, and that was my first real professional singing job, I was there for six months , and the guitarist came to me one day and said you know, you should go for this job. It's in The Melody Maker, it's an advert. Because you're wasted here, you've got such a unique voice, you should be doing something else. And funny enough, since I've got a computer and got e-mail - which is something I never thought I'd do because I'm not that way inclined -- I got an e-mail from the guy , David Gardener, who actually found the ad for me. He lives in Australia now and I haven't seen him since then. So we're in touch again, which is nice.

MK: The wonders of e-mail.

AH: Yes

MK: I'll have to send you an e-mail

AH: Oh, yeah, I'll give you my address

MK: OK. and we'll talk about your website a bit later on…

AH: Yes

MK: I must admit I hadn't heard of Renaissance until you hit the charts with "Northern Lights," so how long had you been with the band until your first hit?

AH: I joined in 1971, and there were six people in the band at that time, and I really was doing backing vocals, I only sang one song. I joined New Year's Day '71 and then three weeks later we were doing a German tour. Quite a big German tour. We worked a lot in Europe. And then Miles Copeland came along and decided to manage the band, and that was when everybody was fired except myself and John Tout. Michael Dunford was kept on as a writer. And then we built a new band around John Tout and myself. That was when John Camp and Terry Sullivan came into the band and in the end it was decided that Micky should join the band again. We didn't really want a lead guitar sound in the band; that's why, it was the acoustic guitar sound, the grand piano, that's what made it different at that time.

MK: Shall we have a listen to "Northern Lights"?

AH: Yes!

MK: And a bit of a breather, 'cause it's quite hot down here, isn't it.

AH: It is. You're not wrong. (laughs)

MK: We'll play it. Did you know that it was the first record I ever played down here?

AH: Yeah! Isn't that great!

MK: Nearly twenty years ago

AH: No, shut up (chuckles)

Plays "Northern Lights" by Renaissance


MK: "Northern Lights" from Renaissance, number 10 back in 1978, the very first record I ever played down here at the station about twenty years ago. Annie, did you enjoy listening to that again?

AH: Yes, yeah, one of my favourite songs.

MK: And is it true that it was written about the way you felt about when you were parted from Roy Wood?

AH: Yes.

MK: 'Cause you were an item for a couple of years, weren't you?

AH: Four years we were engaged. Absolutely. Four of the funniest years of my life

MK: Were they?

AH: Yes, absolutely, I had a wonderful time. Wouldn't change a thing.

MK: And they were your feelings, how you felt about when you were parted…

AH: Yeah well, I didn't write the song. As you know, Betty Thatcher wrote the song, but she got the information from me for a lot of, you know, from my life, like "Ocean Gypsy" and "Trip To The Fair" was about my first date with Roy, in fact. We went, with Dick Plant who was the engineer on "Annie In Wonderland," and his wife. In fact Dick said, on a day off you should come down to the studio. We were recording … I think it was "Scheherazade" and we had a couple of days off and he said why don't you come down to De Lane Lea and meet Roy, 'cause I think you'd really hit it off. And I went down there, and we did, straight away. Immediately hit it off. And then the four of us went out for a meal to Trader Vic's in The Hilton, and ended up eating the gardenias that were in the drinks. 'Cause you do that when you're with Roy (laughs). And then after that we all went to Hampstead because there was a fair on. It was a bank holiday. I think it was May. And when we got there it was closed and there was nobody there. So, there's a song called "Trip To The Fair" and it starts off "I took a trip down to look at the fair, when I arrived there was nobody there." It's a fantastic song.

MK: And what album is it on?

AH: Um...... "Novella" I think (Annie later remembered it was "Scheherazade")

MK: I haven't heard that one.

AH: It's fantastic. Oh, it's one of the best, that one yeah. Great song. "Northern Lights" is the same. It's about …. 'Cause I was touring such a lot and it's about me leaving the Northern lights of England.

MK: And is that Roy singing at the very end of it? Singing "To you..."? It sounds like him.

AH: No, it's not, it's Jon Camp.

MK: It sounds very much like Roy.

AH: No, it's not.

MK: Did Roy play or sing on any other Renaissance albums or singles?

AH: No

MK: I've always thought he was on that single

AH: Which one?

MK: "Northern Lights."

AH: No, he's not.

MK: Okay (laughs).

AH: There's a tin of rice on there.

MK: Is there?

AH: Yeah, Terry was playing, er, for an effect he had Coca Cola tin filled with rice and that's what he's shaking at the end apparently (laughs). But no, that's not Roy.

MK: I really thought he played on some Renaissance stuff.

AH: No.

MK: We're going to talk about your new Renaissance album a little bit later on, he does play a little bit on that, doesn't he.

AH: Yes

MK: And you'll have to forgive my enthusiasm for Roy, but people that know me and people that listen to this will know that I'm one of his biggest fans.

AH: Well he's a gifted man.

MK: So looking back, are you pleased with the success you had with Renaissance? I mean, do you think you deserved to be more successful than you were?

AH: Well, sometimes you think, we should've been bigger than we were, because we were so unique. We haven't got anybody to blame except ourselves. You can't blame management and the record company because we've all got free will and we're all responsible for our own …. I mean, there were five very strong characters in the band and it's …. We effected whatever happened to us, do you know what I mean? Can't blame other people. I'm glad that we didn't get any bigger than we were because I wouldn't be in the position I am now and I wouldn't have met all the people and all the experiences, like going to Brazil, all these things that have happened to me in the last few years never would've happened. I'm a firm believer in, everything happens as it's supposed to happen. At the time I guess we were a little disappointed but, looking back on it, it was the right thing.

MK: Was "Northern Lights." a hit anywhere else?

AH: No

MK: You sang on some of Roy's stuff.

AH: Yes, I did, yeah

MK: An album called "Mustard."

AH: Yeah. That was the first time I actually sang on anything with him.

MK: Is that what he was recording when you first met him?

AH: Yes. I did the … I sound like an electric kettle (laughs). Was it "The Rain Came Down?"

MK: Yeah.

AH: Oh, God what a gorgeous song that is, Beautiful.

MK: Never been tempted to record any more of his stuff yourself?

AH: Absolutely. Yes. Funny, I meant to say that to him a couple of days ago. There is a song, (sings) "Say farewell when you di-di-di."

MK: It's called "The Song."

AH: "The Song," that's the one. That's the one that I would like to do at some point.

MK: Do it.

AH: Beautiful, oh yeah. If I had my own studio and I could …. You see, I don't play an instrument so I have to rely on other people. And that's one regret -- still, I can't do anything about it - that I don't play an instrument, because then I could do so much more. I could go around on my own and just get up and sing anywhere I wanted to.

The Rain Came Down On Everything by Roy Wood featuring Annie Haslam on the electric kettle

MK: So, four good years for you, then with Roy

AH: Yeah, absolutely.

MK: OK. Now before we move on we'll play a track from an album called "Annie In Wonderland" which he produced for you …

AH: Yes.

MK: … and wrote some of the songs.

AH: Yeah.

MK: Tell us about some of the memories of that album.

AH: Oh, it was a lot of fun, obviously. Well, anybody who's seen Roy knows. You can see that he's full of fun. Sometimes we'd laugh so much that we'd be on our hands and knees on the floor, crying. For a long time. Just like, you know, when somebody starts off and the somebody else's got an infectious laugh.. We didn't waste time but we lost a few hours on that kind of thing (laughs). I'd go in and do my vocal on something, like the lead vocal, and I'd do it behind a screen because, so I wouldn't see all that lot playing around …. There's Dick Plant, Baz who was the engineer then, and Roy. And then I'd come out and they'd say "it was great" and I'd come out and they'd be sitting there with plates - it's on the inside of the album cover - they're sitting with paper plates on their heads holding numbers up, what my points were. Fantastic. I met Paul McCartney. Paul McCartney was there mixing "Wings At The Speed Of Sound." He was there with Linda and Denny Laine when we were doing that album, and he came into the studio while I was doing "If I Loved You" and he said that he heard my voice and it sent shivers up his spine. And he came and talked to us for about an hour, him and Linda. So that was a really nice experience. And then Lou Clark we did work with, which was great. Lou's another friend who's very talented, and one of the tracks, "Going Home," we had the Welsh male voice choir, and we didn't have to pay them, we just had to supply beer.

MK: Oh right

AH: And it was incredible. When they started singing to the track it was very emotional to hear that, you know, especially on my solo album, do you know what I mean? Very, very wonderful feeling. And I learnt a lot of things from Roy about vocal techniques, which I've carried on using, which is great..

MK: I have to say, I love your voice. I'm just gonna say it to your face, I really love it.

AH: Thanks.

MK: I don't know quite what it is about it, but there's just something about it.

AH: Thank you.

MK: Let's play a track from the album, It's called "I Never Believed In Love." which was actually released as a single.

AH: Yes it was..

MK: It's nice, isn't it

AH: I love it, yeah. In fact, just before, just a few months before, Kiki Dee and Elton John had come out with a song so we thought, maybe, it might work for us.

MK: OK, let's play it then.

Plays "I Never Believed In Love" By Annie Haslam and Roy Wood

I Never Believed In Love By Annie Haslam and Roy Wood

MK: "I Never Believed In Love" by Annie Haslam and Roy Wood, from the album "Annie In Wonderland". That was a single. Shame it didn't do any better, really, 'cause it's nice, isn't it.

AH: Yeah it's a great song.

MK: Now, the fact that you were starting to do solo stuff like that, does that mean you were beginning to get a bit fed up being in the band?

AH: Oh, no. The reason that I did that at that time was because John Tout wasn't very well for a couple of months and so we had a breather, and we'd been working pretty hard anyway, and so …. And that was the time, I think I remember calling up Seymour Stein and saying "can I do a solo album with Roy producing it?" and he said "Of course!" (laughs) which was great, you know. It fitted in nicely then..

MK: Are the songs on your solo albums different from the songs on your Renaissance albums?

AH: Yeah. It depends which album you're talking about, though. 'Cause they're all different, you know. I mean … people, when they bought "Annie In Wonderland" first thought it was going to be more like a Renaissance album. Why would I want to do that? I wanted to do something different. The songs that Roy and I chose were to try and show that I could do something different, like "Nature Boy" is a different way of singing. And "Still Life" is classical, semi-classical, and I was trained by an opera singer, so I can use that on that CD and then "Blessing In Disguise," again, is trying to…. It has a feel of Renaissance, it will always have a feel because of my voice, and I think Tony tried to be very sympathetic towards that in his writing, and I think he did very well.

MK: Did you do another solo album after that?

AH: Well, I did, actually, in 1989 after "Still Life" I did the "Epic" album

MK: Right.

AH: Do you have that one?

MK: No, no I didn't ever get that one, cause Roy didn't have anything to do with that, did he (laughs).

AH: No, he didn't. That's a great album, I'll send it to you.

MK: Will you?

AH: Yeah, if you give me your address, I've got some at home. I've got one but I think I need it for this other interview. If you want to play something from it I've got it in my bag.

MK: I've never heard anything off that. I have to admit, I only got into your music through the Roy connection

AH: There's a beautiful song on there that Justin Hayward's singing on with me. So, you might want to play that album. You can borrow - you can play it on this show, and then I'll send you one ….

MK: That'll be nice, thank you. I was going to say, 'cause you started working with other people, as well as Roy. You worked with Justin Hayward.

AH: Yeah

MK: Who else?

AH: I'm writing an album with Steve Howe at the moment, from Yes, and in fact he's got a new CD out called "Portraits of Bob Dylan," and I'm singing "It's All Over Now, Baby Blue," which, of course …. Joan Baez was my idol.

MK: Right. So let's move into the eighties. How long did Renaissance go into the eighties?

AH: 1987.

MK: Did they?

AH: Yeah. Well, it wasn't the whole band, you know, it kind of, er…. Jon Camp left in, oh gosh, 1985 I think, '84, '85, and, er, Micky and I were carrying, we were trying to come up with new songs and tried to get it…. We'd missed the boat. We, we just went so radical with the change, to try and keep up with the commercial hit of "Northern Lights" that we just … we lost our focus. And went too far the other way, and we lost our identity, you know, with the albums "Camera Camera" and "Timeline." And we just couldn't come up with the music, we couldn't get a deal, and we were going back to America doing these small tours and we were using some musicians from America,who were excellent musicians and we were doing some of the Renaissance songs, but there was nothing like the band with John, Jon and Terry in it, and Mickey, you know, it was never the same.

MK: So do you regret going on for so long, or …?

AH: No. I don't regret anything. I don't regret having breast cancer. I don't regret anything. 'Cause I wouldn't be here doing what I'm doing now

MK: Right. Okay, so, we're into the eighties and you're working with the likes of Louis Clark, as well, who worked with ELO….

AH: Yes.

MK: Did you get to know him through your work at, was it De Lane Lea?

AH: It was through Roy I met Lou and, um, when we did "Annie In Wonderland" we used Lou to do the "Rockalise" piece, and "Going Home," and that's when we decided to use Louis on "Song For All Seasons" as well. And then of course when we did the Albert Hall, Lou did an orchestrated version of "Prologue" which started the whole show. Which you can get. There's two CDs out on King Biscuit Records from the Albert Hall show. It's fantastic, don't know if you've heard it?

MK: No, I haven't

AH: It's wonderful. And it starts off with this piece that Lou orchestrated: the song "Prologue." Incredible

MK: Very clever man, isn't he.

AH: Yes, he is. Very, very gifted

MK: And you recorded a lovely album with him called "Still Life."

AH: Oh, yes….

MK: I love that album

AH: But, you know, the funniest thing is, the day before I went … the day before we started recording that, at De Lane Lea - not De Lane Lea, sorry, Abbey Road - was it Abbey Road? Let me think for a second…. Yes, Abbey Road was the first day. We did most of it there, and some at Olympia as well, which is another studio. Olympic Studios?

MK: Yes

AH: Not Olympia. I'd been approached by Willie Russell to do an audition for "Blood Brothers," to take over from Barbara Dickson, and when I got the 'phone call - apparently he'd heard my voice on the radio, singing "In The Bleak Midwinter," 'cause I did that … we did a spin-off thing called Nevada with Micky Dunford and Peter Gosling and that was one of the … it was a Christmas single. And he'd heard my voice and he just loved it, and was hoping that I might be able to, you know …. I'm not an actress. When they called me I was excited and very flattered and I thought, oh, god, what am I gonna. - I'm not an actress. You know, it's not natural. I mean, I can mess around and everything but when somebody says "You've got to read these lines," you know. Anyway, I said, well, I'll have a go. So they sent me a script, and I …. They actually rented Pineapple Studios in London. They weren't going to put me through the normal audition thing where it's like "Next, please." Which was very nice, they did it a private thing for me. And I went up to London, walked up four flights of stairs to get to this studio. I was dying, I was out of breath, it was a hot day, and I went in the room and there was a piano, a guy sitting at the piano, and a semi-circle of Willie Russell, James, er, Robert Fox - you know, Edward Fox's brother, the one who's the stage producer - Willie Russell, a choreographer, and another woman - and I was shaking in my boots. I almost peed myself, excuse my French, I was so nervous. And I knew I couldn't do it. Because I'm not an actress and they wanted me to do this Liverpool accent…. See, I can do it when I've had a couple of glasses of wine and it's natural, but to do it …. And so, I sang the song that they asked me to sing, and that was okay. And then Willie Russell said, we'll leave you with the choreographer because we know that you're a little nervous 'cause you're not used to this. And so I was relieved, but they went out of the room and I almost cried. I was embarrassed and I did … I read a few lines and then I said, I'm so sorry, I just can't carry on, you know? It was very nerve-wracking. But, the next day was the beginning of "Still Life," and I walked into the Abbey Road studios and I knew some of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra because they'd worked with us already, and I walked in and I felt like I was in complete control of everything that I was doing. Which was even bigger, really, than a part in "Blood Brothers." Do you know what I mean?

MK: Yeah, I do.

AH: I don't want to sing a part that somebody else…. I want to be me. And so that made me feel wonderful, it was a big relief that day (laughs). And then the whole album was quite incredible. I loved it and I would really love to take it on the road. I think it would be so special.

MK: That would be a good idea, wouldn't it.

AH: Yeah, it would.

MK: Let's have a listen to a track, then

AH: Okay.

Plays "Still Life" By Annie Haslam, Louis Clark and The R.P.O

MK: A nice song to wave a stick at, isn't it.

AH: Wave…? Oh, yeah! What, you mean for Lou to wave a stick at, yeah (laughs).

MK: You really sound as if you enjoyed that album.

AH: Yeah, and that was the one that sparked off the idea. I was doing my ironing and running around doing housework, and "Air On A G String" came on the radio, and I started making up these words and I thought, ooh, that would be nice, and I called Betty Thatcher and I said, do you think you could write the words to some classical pieces, and she said yeah. So she called up Lou and that's how it all started.

MK: Okay. I suppose it was a couple of years after that, that you decided to move to America?

AH: No. I married a man from Pennsylvania. I moved in 1990. 1991.

MK: When was "Still Life" released?

AH: '85, And '89 was the "Epic" album, that I'm going to give you.

MK: Right. Now, soon after, you went to America, you were diagnosed as having breast cancer, is that right?.

AH: Yes. That was 1993.

MK: Now, a lot of people listening to this will relate to that and know what you must have been going through. Was it frightening?

AH: The first day was, yeah, it was a bit of a shock. I was upset. And then, the next day, I'm one of these people, though, that, like, dwells on something and then it's gone. I let it go. And deal with it and move forward. So, the first day was rough and then I went for a biopsy and found out that it was malignant, and then, the next day I was in for a lumpectomy, which is pretty incredible. I'm not sure, because of the way things are in this country at the moment, whether I would have survived if I'd been living over here. Because I know that you only have a mammogram once every three years here. And you also have to be a certain age and all that stuff, you know. And I was, I think, very lucky that I was over there at that time. Um, I pulled through. I had family around me. I was very fortunate, but also music was a big healer. A big part of my healing. And one of the things is that, you know, I had radiation and chemotherapy, lost all my hair, and …. I think I had a week, around that time when I lost my hair, when I was very depressed, and then afterwards I was fine.

But people used to say to me, I hear you've got breast cancer, and I said no I have not got breast cancer, it was taken away. You know, that's the thing: it was cut away and it's gone now, thank you very much. Now all … I'm just getting better, this is the getting-better process, you know. And I think people tend to still say that: "Oh, you've got breast cancer." No, it was cut out, it's gone, thank you, and I think that's a good attitude to have in your mind's eye, that no, it's gone now, that's the end of it. You've got to go through the chemotherapy and the radiation because that's part of the whole thing, but know that you'll come through it. If you know that and think that and pray every night to your Angels, which is what I did, you'll get better. And music … it was incredible. I had several infections and I was in intensive care, which is something that we all go through because your blood cells, your blood count's very low and it's very easy to pick up an infection, but I'd be in hospital and then two days later I'd be out. I'd be driving up to New York - on my own (laughs) - to carry on working with Tony Visconti and recording these songs. And the song "Blessing In Disguise" is actually about my breast cancer.

And what I've done since I've been here is, in the last couple of weeks I've got involved with the Cancer Research Campaign, and I sang at their Starflower Ball. Last Friday, actually. First time I've sung in this country for thirteen years.

MK: Really?

AH: Yeah, and funnily enough I only sang four songs, acoustically, with Mickey Simmonds, who's the new keyboard player. And I did "Northern Lights" and they sang it. And that was a good feeling. Yeah. And so I've become involved with them, and this song, "Blessing In Disguise," we're hoping to release it as a single, and the proceeds will go to cancer research. But, you know, I think this thing with the three year thing has got to change somehow. It's not right. I think women are getting a bad deal in this country.

MK: You talk about praying to your Angels, is that a thing you did before the cancer came along, or ….

AH: I've prayed for a long time, but I never realised that my Angels … and I say that because when I was sick I met a lot of people, a lot of healers, and had some incredible experiences with some people. Oh, good God yes, absolutely. And I did some homeopathic stuff as well. I think you should try whatever you feel you want to do, you know. I mean, it's .… One of the things is that I'm vegetarian, and the surgeon who did my operation said he thought the lump would have been twice as big if I hadn't been a vegetarian.

MK: Really.

AH: Yes. I've been a vegetarian now for ten years, twelve years. So I think diet, you know, I think that's one thing to look at when you get anything like this.

MK: I never thought diet could have everything to do with it.

AH: And also, when I'm at home, I live in America as you know, and I buy organic foods, when I can, as much as possible, and stay away from dairy products, and I've got the "all clear." I unfortunately have osteoporosis now, in my spine, which went unchecked for a while because I was ignorant and really didn't know that the estrogen in my body was going to drop rapidly when the menopause was thrown at me so quickly because of the chemo. That's when it brings that on, you know, in your body. That's another thing in America that's easier to get done than here, which is to get a bone density test, and when you get that done you can see immediately whether you've got osteoporosis, and then you can start dealing with it, you know. But, I think that when I come back I'm going to try and do … I want to help somehow. I'd like to counsel people. I do that already through my website, which is and people can reach me through that on my Guest Book, and they can leave a private message. And people come on and say they've got a relative who's sick, and who's a fan…. They don't have to be a fan, it's just that it's somebody that, they don't have anybody to talk to that's gone through it. So, you know, I like to talk to people and I was hoping, as I said to you, maybe I could come here and speak to some patients the next time I come back.

MK: Yeah, and if anybody didn't catch that website address, they can always get in touch with me and we'll be happy to pass it on to them.

AH: Yeah.

MK: You've got your own website, as you just said. That must be good fun, is it?

AH: Yeah, well, I don't actually physically do it myself, I pass all the information on to this guy near Chicago who does it for me, but, yeah, I've got some vegetarian recipes on there (laughs) and you can hear sound bytes of my music, and it tells you what I'm doing and it's …. My career is very eclectic at the moment and now, since I've committed to helping with the cancer research here, I'm going to be coming back in July and doing a show supporting Art Garfunkel in Guildford, and that's gonna be another Cancer Research Campaign show. And another one in October in London, so I think there's going to be movement going on here.

MK: Well, you look well, Annie….

AH: Except I'm hot, because it's about eighty-five degrees outside and everywhere at the moment (laughs).

MK: Okay, let's have a break. We're going to talk about a live CD that's recently been released, called "Live Under Brazilian Skies."

AH: Yes.

MK: It's not that easy to say.

AH: Not easy for you to say (laughs).

MK: Have you got a favourite track on there that we can play?

AH: Yes, I think "Seashell Eyes."

MK: Okay, let's play it, then.

Plays "Seashell Eyes" by Annie Haslam

MK: You wouldn't know that was live until they started clapping, would you.

AH: No, it's very good.

MK: So, that CD's just come out.

AH: Yes

MK: "Live Under Brazilian Skies," if anybody wants to get a copy. And we're actually going to give a copy of that away, as well as another CD called "Blessing In Disguise." If anybody wants to write in to me here at Stoke Mandeville Hospital Radio. We've got to make it any easy question, haven't we.

AH: Yeah.

MK: What do you suggest?

AH: "Who's the lead singer in Renaissance?" (laughs)

MK: That's a good one.

AH: Um …. "Who was the piano player in the band when I was in the band?"

MK: Okay. That's not too difficult.

AH: No, it's not, it's easy.

MK: All right. If anybody wants to write in to me, we've got a copy … first two letters that I receive will get a copy of … one will get "Live Under Brazilian Skies" and the other one will get "Blessing In Disguise," which we're going to play a bit later.

Are you fully recovered now, Annie, then, from your illness?

AH: Yes. I'm six years clear. I have to go and get … I get a mammogram done once a year and I get an MRI done of my left breast because, believe it or not, it's still very, very sore from all the radiation burns.

MK: Oh….

AH: Yeah. So I can't have a mammogram, you can imagine the pain I would be in. So I have an MRI, which is another way of looking at it. And I go for regular checks, and with the osteoporosis, unfortunately, I'm in a situation where I'm taking something that's doing very well but it's a very heavy drug called Aredia, which is used in bone cancer. It builds the bones back up. There are other things that work. There's a drug called Fosamax, which is very popular in America, that does actually work apparently, but it can hurt the esophagus, which I can't take, because I can't take a chance with my throat. There's another one that would effect … can effect your nasal passages, so I can't take that, and there's another one that's not been on the market very long, so I can't take that. So … it's something I deal with, I go every month and the people there are wonderful and, you know, I just deal with it. Simple as that and just move forward and I think that's one of the things, really, if you're sick I think you've just got to put it out of your head, be very positive, and imagine that you're well, and you're gonna get through it. 'Cause that's what I do, 'cause I'm still going through this now, it's an ongoing thing, but I'm fine with it, you know.

MK: Good. Now tell us about the "Lilies In The Field" project. That's nothing to do with the cancer, is it?

AH: No, that was … I was watching television in the States, it was a programme called "Inside Edition" which is, um, a news magazine show that's on for about half an hour. They have some outrageous stuff on there and then sometimes they have some very serious things on. And it's on prime time television on one of the major networks, and it was showing this orphanage in Sarajevo, and it showed this little girl who they called "Number 8," banging her head against her cot. And I was looking at her and I started crying, I was so upset. And she had no name, so I called her Lily. In my head, at that time, I thought, right, I'm going to call her Lily. And then, within, like, twenty minutes I'd called up "Inside Edition," introduced myself, said I was working with Steve Howe, had started writing with him and could we write a song - could we do anything. I didn't know what I could do.
What happened, in the end, with the help of this magazine called "Twentieth Century Guitar" magazine, we put on a show in New York, which was absolutely incredible. Steve and I wrote this song called "Lilies In The Field" and the whole show we called "Lilies In The Field." We flew in Justin Hayward, Roy Wood - Roy Wood played with Cheap Trick which was incredible - Tony Visconti joined me on stage, Ian McDonald from King Crimson, Steve Holley from Wings … Ummm… Al Franken, who's, who became famous through "Saturday Night Live" over there, a very, very funny man. He was the host. That was incredible. Phoebe Snow, Gary Brooker, Joy Askew, who's an English singer out there, Maggie Ryder, another well-known singer out there, and another American singer called Diane, er David Biglin, who came to Brazil with me, and, um, Ian Lloyd, the singer in a band called Stories - don't know if you remember them?

MK: No, I don't actually, but I'm just wondering, listening to all these names, are we going to ever get a chance to hear it?

AH: Well, it was recorded, and, in fact, just before I came away I was speaking to the guy at the magazine to say, you know, we've got to get this together, we've got to get this out, it's so incredible. And "Nights In White Satin" with the band that we had, you know, with Ian McDonald in it, playing flute, oh it was incredible. Wonderful, wonderful night, a night I'll never forget. And, um, so … there was a happy ending for her because, apparently, she'd been left there by her mother because something had happened and the place got bombed out where she lived, and she had to leave the child somewhere in safety even though it was, you know, an orphanage. But she actually went back for her, so it had a happy ending.

MK: I hope we get a chance to hear that, or even see it….

AH: Yeah, we did do a video of it as well.

MK: There's gonna be so many people that would like to see that.

AH: Oh, yeah, it's, it was very special.

MK: Well Annie, there's not much of the 90s left…

AH: (laughs)

MK: What plans have you got as we enter the new millennium?

AH: Well, ok, well, we finished a new Renaissance album last week, and it started off with … Roy Wood was going to produce it, but because it became … first of all it was going to be half new songs and half re-mixed songs, you know, the old songs, and then we decided, it wouldn't work. So, Roy wasn't able to carry on because, you know, Roy's got his own band now, and John Tout wasn't able to carry on either, so we carried on with a keyboard player called Mickey Simmonds, I told you about, from Camel and Mike Oldfield and Fish, and a young bass player called Alex Caird: brilliant, brilliant bass player. And, um, we finished last Friday.

MK: Did you..?

AH: Yeh, and very excited. I wrote the songs with Michael Dunford. I did the words and, um, very excited about it. I'm taking it back to America to master it out there. We're working on the art work now and, um, we're hoping to get a deal, you know. What we decided to do was to finish the whole project and then take it to a record company so that they either want it or they don't. It's finished. Here's this finished product. You can see it, touch it, smell it, hear it, and no, like, "well, this is not quite finished yet," 'cause they don't want that any more. They want finished things, you know: it's easier. So, if it's meant to be, it'll be and then, you know, if we get a deal, then hopefully, if we get a really good deal we'd tour - obviously it would have to have tour support, otherwise, you know, it wouldn't be worth it, and it would have to …. Unfortunately, it's going to cost some money to put us on the road, but, you know, that's what we're aiming for. I'm doing all kinds of things, I'm in the middle of something else which is totally eclectic and totally away from music, it's to do with some jewellery that I've designed. Um, and I'm working on that when I get back, and also doing another solo CD. I've got to finish a Christmas CD when I get back (laughs), and then I'm coming back here in July, you know, so there's a lot of stuff going on.

MK: What'll go on the Christmas one? Traditional carols, …?

AH: Yes, yes..

MK: Oh, that'll be nice.

AH: Yeah. Because every year for the last three years I've been playing in this church in Pennsylvania called Tinicum and it's a lovely old church, holds about two hundred and eighty people, and we do two nights, and it's wonderful. What we do is, in the price of a ticket you get Christmas vegetarian food, and the girl who does the food is a cordon bleu chef, and the food is magnificent. And there's hot punch, so the… it's out in the country and people drive from all over the place, and they get there and they're cold and they walk in and they get hot punch and food and everything and then, it's wonderful, it really is a great night, so, we're doing that again this year. I decided not to do any shows up until that point, unless something special comes in, this is in the States, because of all these other projects that I wanted to get finished. You out of breath? (laughs) It makes me out of breath thinking about it.

MK: Are you going to try and get that CD out this year? This Christmas?

AH: Oh, yeah, definitely, oh, definitely. Because we've been promising it for the last two years and we never got it done, so that's one of the reasons I'm not doing anything else, because we have to focus on doing that.

MK: I always think, you've got a Christmassy sort of voice, haven't you.

AH: Yeah, oh, yeah, it works very well, especially well with "O Holy Night" because I reach the notes, you see, and "Ave Maria." I did that in Brazil and people were crying. The promoter said, "do you think you should really sing it?" I said, I'm gonna sing it because, I said, I think they'll like it. You know. We put it in with everything else and, uh, this is, they're like, 'cause I went with my band, you see. The Brazil CD is just with one other person, but last August I took my band, and, it was unbelievable. We did "Mother Russia" and all the big ones. Fantastic. And then I did "Ave Maria" in the middle of it and he was really nervous but, like, everybody went cra… I got a standing ovation.

MK: Well, listen, we must let you go.

AH: Okay..

MK: Busy lady.

AH: (laughs)

MK: We're going to play a track called "Blessing In Disguise."

AH: Yeah

MK: Let's just have a few words about that

AH: Yeah. This is a song that I wrote about my breast cancer.

MK: Is that all you want to say about it?

AH: Well, the, you know, I, I…. Oh, in the background Tony Visconti is singing with me..

MK: Right

AH: And, um, it's very gentle, it's, it tells you about how I came through it. Um, it's acapella. For anybody who doesn't know what that means, it means there's no instruments - except there's a few birds twittering on it.

MK: Oh, nice.

AH: Yeah

MK: Okay, shall we have a listen?

AH: Mmm

MK: And I'll say thanks

AH: Okay. Thank you for inviting me.

MK: And, as I say, you must come back sometime.

AH: Yes, right, I want to see if we can work on that.

MK: And we'll have a look round the hospital

AH: Yes

MK: Annie Haslam, thanks very much. We're going to play a track now called "Blessing In Disguise," and we hope you enjoy it.

Plays "Blessing In Disguise" By Annie Haslam

Interview Transcribed by Richard Messum

This interview is © Martin Kinch and may not be reproduced in whole or part without permission

Annie Haslam Website

August 2010

Roy has joined forces with Annie Haslam again to record a new version of Flowers In The Rain, which will be included as a bonus track on a re-released CD version of her solo album, 'Annie In Wonderland'.


Annie told me ..

"Roy recorded and mixed the backing track in the UK, whilst I added the vocals over here (in the USA)",

. "Friday Music (the label) asked if we had any extra tracks that we could use as bonus tracks, which we didn't, so I asked Roy if we could record 'Flowers'... We recorded it in the Spring this year. (2010)

It was re-mastered by Rave Tesar at Studio X in Ridgewood, NJ. Rave is now one of the keyboard players in Renaissance. I think it's due out in the Fall...soon."

My thanks to Annie Haslam for the interview

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