Thursday, August 09, 2018

Lesley Duncan, born August 12th

It's a strange situation, where we can thank the Japanese for preserving the work of British and American singer-songwriters. If you want some of Lesley Duncan's albums, or Bobby Cole on Concentric or Craig Doerge on Columbia or Severin Browne on might find cheap used vinyl but if you want state of the art's Japanese CDs only. No other choice.

It's been said, and it's accurate, that the Japanese not only have a greater respect for some of our music than we do, but they also have better technology. If you check a Japanese import of the average rock album against the re-issue from an outfit like Collectors Choice, there's no comparison. But, unfortunately for the artists and their legacy, the average asshole not only thinks mp3 is good enough, but will happily "share" entire albums and discographies, to the point where re-issue labels can't even break even and only "eccentrics" support the high price of Japanese imports.

I didn't envision a future like this, when I was getting promo copies of albums and reviewing and promoting them. "Maybe Its Lost" was the first Lesley Duncan album that came my way, although she'd been having successes for many years. Oddly enough, though she wrote some great songs ("Love" was her song, the only song on "Tumbleweed Connection" NOT penned by Taupin-John) it was one of her covers that impressed me most on "Maybe It's Lost." It's Walk in the Sea" by Alan Hull.

Hull (February 20, 1945-November 17, 1995) like Ken Kesey, allegedly wrote his best material on LSD, including "Clear White Light," "Fog on the Tyne," and "Lady Eleanor," the latter apparently inspired by his love of Edgar A. Poe the author of "Eleanora." His "We Can Swing Together" was a big hit for his group Lindisfarne, which was a very big-selling group circa 1972. 

Lesley Duncan (August 12, 1943-March 12, 2010) died at 66 after struggling with cerebrovascular disease.

Sometimes called "the British Carole King," she was one of the few female singer/songwriters from England back in the 70's. It was tough for her getting started, because when she began she didn't fit the mold of a Petula Clark or Cilla Black: “You had to be glamorous and pretty and I just couldn't play that role, I found it absolutely impossible. You'd be the token pretty girl and I just couldn't be that. I didn't even try; I'd have just felt a total phony. But I've been at odds with the business all along, starting very early. I always felt uncomfortable with lots of aspects of show business. I think they found people like me a little hard to handle, 'cos I was rebelling already - whereas I think they were very sure of what to do with the more compliant ones, like the Susan Maughans, who were happy to play the game, to play the glamorous dolly-bird, do the TV shows and the cabaret.”

“And also, because there weren't that many girl singer/songwriters around at the time, there was nowhere to put me comfortably. Lots of girl artists, but not many who were writers too and so it was a bit uncomfortable for me because I had no-one helping me out, as it were. It has come a long way, but I think I was one of the forerunners….I was one of the early ones blazing a trail, if you like."

She dropped out of school and took the usual miserable waitress-type jobs while trying to sell her songs. Though she managed to get face time in the movie "What a Crazy World" (1963), she remained mostly behind the scenes, waiting for one of her songs to be a hit for somebody else.

She sang back-up for Dusty Springfield, then got a big break as a performer via her Elton John duet on "Love Song." The following year finally released her first album "Sing Children Sing" in 1971. She also appeared on Pink Floyd's "Dark Side of the Moon" and sang "If I Could Change Your Mind" on the Alan Parson album "Eve." She was a backign vocalist for Elton's pal Kiki Dee and many others, but her solo career stalled by 1974's prophetic "Everything Changes," and her last album, in 1977, was "Maybe It's Lost."

Fortunately, the demise of her career as a viable singer/songwriter was the beginning of her successful marriage to record producer Tony Cox in 1978 (her two sons were from a previous marriage). One of her last recordings was a version of Bob Dylan's "Masters of War" circa 1982. Her disappearance from the music scene was a combination of family interests and physical problems. She said some years ago, "I've been fairly quiet musically for various reasons. One is that I can't seem to think straight with two teenage sons around me!

"I've built up a little stockpile of tracks again, though. It's a bit like a repeat of the 60s, where I've had a lull, and I'm gradually compiling a little dossier again. I've got about three or four recorded now...I'm beginning to recover energy and thinking maybe I'd like to do that. But it's hard, because as I've told you, I don't really care much for the business and I don't want to go out and sing, so I suppose it's unfair to expect a record company to invest a lot of money letting you make an album if you're not prepared to go out and promote it - which I'm not, that life is just not for me."

Walk in the Sea: Lesley Duncan

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