Carol Grimes is one of the music business' true survivors. A variety of
styles over the years stretching back to the early 1970s Delivery (which
also featured Aylesbury legend Lol Coxhill) and Uncle Dog and right
through to 2012 where she still gigs. Carol played Friars in August 1976
with the London Boogie Band and as you will see has quite a story to her
and thank you for agreeing to chat to the Friars Aylesbury website. You
may have seen we have some photographs of you on the site which was when
you played Friars in 1976 supporting Curved Air as the Carol Grimes London
I have a vague
memory of it (laughs)
It was a long
time ago! The London Boogie Band period. It's a great band name and
reading up on that period you were getting great reviews and you were
being compared to Janis Joplin.
I didn't name
that band. I got a call from a guy called Stuart Lyons who was working for
Nigel Thomas saying that a bunch of guys in various bands including Boz
Burrell and Tim Hinkley (Jody Grind) had got together as the London Boogie
Band and had cut some tracks.
I went to
Olympic Studios in Barnes and put on a vocal and they released it. I got
signed to a five year contract to Nigel Thomas,. He had been managing Joe
Cocker and The Grease Band amongst other artists. I went to America and
recorded an album in Memphis (1975's 'Memphis Album') with various
luminaries including most of what had been Otis Redding's band. Certainly
at the end of his time with Thomas, Joe Cocker had to buy himself out of
his contract. I was tied up to this and dreadful things went on which I
won't go into. I couldn't record for the next five years.
So in terms of
the Boogie Band who played Friars, who was in that line up, apart from
There was Henry
McCulloch, the Boogie Band became mainly me and Henry - a shifting band
of musicians in and out ..sometimes on the road and often just London
Almost like a
It was a
collective, yes - there were the likes of Boz Burrell, Tim Hinkley, Terry
Stannard. Neil Hubbard. I can't remember who else may have been in the
band at that time. They were crazy times and I was a single parent raising
contractual issues explains the large gap in your discography from
Yes. Everybody in
the band got on rather well and they evolved sometimes into ‘Dick and The
Firemen,’ which was a large version of the London Boogie Band, fronted by
Mike Patto and included the Tim Hinkley, Mel Collins (Camel, Kokomo ) and
Bobby Tench. So for five years I worked with ‘THE BOOGIE BAND’ Henry and
Neil Hubbard, Paul Carrack for a while.. The Fireman even had its own
drink ‘A Hosepipe‘ couldn’t drink it now! Lethal.
That really is
In that game,
once you get past 30, no 25, with no hit record, you're fucked as far as a
commercial career is concerned. But some people would say "what a
disaster, poor you" but in fact, although it was not financially good for
me, I was able to experiment and do other things and as a result I have
had a very interesting career and I am still singing. But I may not have
had that had I gone down the commercial route, because prior to Nigel
Thomas, I was managed by Robert Stigwood and that was also a disaster.
I know from
talking to others, the 1960s and 1970s in terms of the music business, it
could be a very shitty business to be in.
It's a very
tricky business and I found myself in some very nasty situations.
To not be able
to record for five years which was your living must have been horrendous.
It was everything
and there wasn't the wherewithal that the current generation have with
home studios and technology shrinking in size where it's all very compact.
different time then and especially for a woman. I’ve often find myself
being written out of history. For example, I have seen sites that focus on
the Ladbroke Grove Scene and Dingwalls. I was managed for a while by Roger
Bannister who ran Dingwalls and during the time of the London Boogie Band
and just after.
We played Dingwalls regularly and if you look at the Dingwalls Facebook page,
there's very few women on it. When you look at the Ladbroke Grove scene of
the late 1960s, it's all about the likes of Pink Floyd and Quintessence. I
was there. I played the very first Glastonbury in 1970. It's very rarely
mentioned that I played there.
You are part
of Friars' history and as far as I am concerned you are not written out of
It does happen
unless you had good management and good PR. The only thing they couldn't
write me out of was Rock Against Racism which I was a part of right from
the beginning in 1976/1977. They couldn't write me out of that as it was
too well documented! If you were around the late 1960s/early 1970s often
you weren't well cared for, it was a dangerous business.
I believe you
discovered your singing talent through busking?
I think that's
brilliant and a wonderful notion. I mean that with the greatest of respect
because it's a wonderful story.
I started off as
a bottler to a busker. A bottler is the one who goes round with the hat
collecting the money. The strange thing is that I have been writing and
scribbling things down for years and in the late seventies, a playwright,
Sarah Daniels approached me about writing a play loosely based on my life.
I read the first draft and thought I didn't want this. Also a rock
journalist around that time started to write (about me) and I didn't want
to be written about, but i am now doing it myself.
strange coincidence...I was doing a gig with The Shout and in the bar
afterwards, chatting to a woman, friend of a friend .. who had seen me
perform a few times and was interested in my lyrics. She asked me if I
did anything else apart from song lyrics. I said I had wanted to write a
book for years but it was still under the bed! She gave me her card and
she was a literary agent. She got in touch and I gave her two chapters
and I've tried to finish it but life got in the way for a while...one
thing and another.. I am now cracking on with it! As I write, I realise
you are being an observer when you write about your own life..looking at
it and trying to remember it all.
But given all
the troubles you have had in the music business, did you find it cathartic?
that! And yes, it can be ..
I know that's
not original, but I know people who have written books and have had to
revisit bad times and express it, I guess it's how honest you want to be
Exactly. But I
have been very very lucky in that I have had singing to express myself and
writing has been difficult especially about my childhood, but it's
exciting and it's moving along and I have lots of ideas. The book deals
with my childhood - I was born in 1944 into a world of London bomb sites
and spent time living in children's homes which wasn't good in 1950s
Britain, then onto finding by chance I could sing, well, sort of ... and
realising I didn't have to get a proper job! (laughs)
In terms of
Sarah Daniels approach to you, which you ultimately declined, was it
because it was too painful or you
weren't interested at that time?
In the 80’s I did two loosely autobiographical shows
at the Drill Hall in London which focused on the funny bits, all of life
isn't a tragedy! (laughs) One show was called ‘Lipstick and Lights’ and
the other was ‘Daydreams and Danger.’ So I had a crack at the idea back
then and it got left behind and I lost confidence but I am on it again.
What I think
is great is that it is many years since you played Friars and you are
still in the business singing, still doing what you enjoy. That means a
lot to me as many dropped by the wayside and gave up when hit with huge
Once I found it,
it was something I had to do. I love it.
discussed, you were shafted in terms of recording so we didn't see
anything till the Sweet FA album...
Yes then I did
two albums in the mid eighties/early 90’s ‘Eyes Wide Open’ and ‘Why don’t
they Dance?’ In the 2000’s I had an album called Mother out... and am
in the middle of recording tracks for a new one. with my loverly Band with
Doran Ford. Fingers crossed. But it's been sporadic.
There was a
guy looking after me who was also looking after Joe Strummer, a bit of an
odd pair to manage some would say! We'd been on the same bill a few
times, politics, Rock against Racism, Poll Tax .. so not as strange as
He, the manger
chap, rang me up and said I've bad news/good news. What he had done was to
submit, without asking, a song I had written it with my former partner Maciek Hrybowicz, to The Eurovision Song Contest! It was a political
feminist song, Heart to Heart, and then it was in the 10 songs to be
televised for Public voting on the Wogan Show. By then I was in my late
thirties and gigging a lot in London and being part of mixed music and
comedy bills. The GLC days...
Someone in the
Eurovision camp said 'bloody hell, Carol Grimes, is she still around?' I
wasn't even 40! They auditioned various singers, pretty young Blondes,
and they ended up with a woman from Bristol who I later found another
strange connection with. Viv Stanshall’s Moll The Cat Show .. She was a
Lesbian with a fabulous singing voice, but less media friendly back then,
than I would have been!
invited to the transmission and met George Martin who was on the judging
panel. He had managed to swing my song in, but admitted afterwards we
didn't stand a chance in hell! It was a good song but certainly not
Eurovision. That was a big sign to me that if my name did come up it was
with derision at my great age! I was gigging 4-5 nights a week! They can
stop you being promoted but they cant stop you singing!
Oh yes, and over
the top. I started with a Blues band called The Race, managed by Hilton
Valentine of ‘The Animals’.... then had a baby and went back into singing,
I found myself drifting towards jazz. Without blues, there would be no
some of your current material, it seems jazzy blues to me?
would have been a gig at The Map Cafe in london, a trio gig. But I still
dip into R & B and Soul material now and then. And still write my own
songs, currently with Dorian ..Check out BBC4's Soul Britannia at the
Barbican on YouTube.
I haven't seen
it yet (he said shamefully!) - what did you perform on that?
I did ‘Uphill
Peace of Mind’ from The Memphis Album, which was put out on a funk
compilation. Again, no-one asked me, they just put it on. I went on the
road touring with Madeleine Bell, Linda Lewis, Root Jackson - it was
great, really good fun, that was about 200 ....? forget .. all on my web
Tell me a bit
more about Sing For Joy. That's working with people suffering from
Parkinson's isn't it?
And MS and other neurological diseases. Last week,
Barbara Thompson and Jon Hiseman had a documentary on BBC (about Barbara's
battle with Parkinson's) and one of my choirs is featured in that. If you
go to the Jazz UK site, the Feb/March issues which you can download, and
that covers much more of what I have been up to now.
you're still out there and still working!
career has taken a different path...I'd have been trotting out what I did
in the 70s and in fact I have had a very interesting a varied life because
I didn't cut it commercially. Although I have very little money coming
in... and I will be a poor old lady...but hey, we can all hope and dream!
Please do let
us know when the book is finished because I will feature it.
in your story and never cease to be taken aback at how management types
behaved and got away with it.
I am told that
people still suffer from bad management today, but it's not as easy to
behave as badly as people did then. With the media being what it is, so
instant and global, and the young so much more savvy....
I've done a
lot of work with youth and they ask if I did this or that when I started
out. I thought that a workshop was a place where you banged nails into a
piece of wood. There was nothing back then such as Residential
courses....Arts Centres with Music sessions, you can do a bloody degree in
rock and roll!
has changed everything I guess.
It's not just the
internet, it's education and adult education, they can learn the tricks of
the trade, go to Westminster University, or other courses out there, and
do three years and come out with a BA in commercial music and lots of
good experience and contacts.
theatre does monthly workshops, be it for sound engineering, lighting etc
and they all sell out.
It's all out
there - back then it wasn't and the recording equipment wasn't as
But you are a
true survivor in this business and you have a refreshingly positive take
on your life, still gigging and still enjoying it. I'm looking forward to
forgive me if this sounds odd. You talked about marrying art forms in the
sense of music and story, but did you ever consider or were you offered
anything in the theatre? I ask this because having recently listened to
your Daydreams and Danger album again (from 1988), there's stuff on there
that would, in my opinion sit well in musical theatre.
No, never have.
I've always been on the fringe of everything I have ever done. Never
auditioned for anything like that. But with The Shout, (contemporary
opera) I toured internationally for ten years. I also did a contemporary
opera in Japan (not with The Shout) a great experince for me.
That gave you
opportunities you may otherwise not have had.
Some of it I
liked, some was a load of old tosh (laughs), but you're working for
somebody else and doing their work and you won't always be enamoured with
it! With The Shout, half the group were Opera singers, the remainder were
jazz, gospel or musical theatre. They had all been to music college,
whereas I literally came up from the street. A very different background
which sometimes caused paranoia on my part, that I wasn't good enough and
didn't know as much, but I got through it and lived to tell the tale!
you so much for talking to us.
Thank you very
interview and its content are © 2012 Mike
O'Connor/www.aylesburyfriars.co.uk and may not be used in whole or in part