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Interview with Elkie Brooks 2008

Image: Elkie BrooksNo More The Fool. Singing Superstar, Elkie Brooks, Discusses The Secrets Of Maintaining A Long And Successful Career With Chris High.

Elkie Brooks is, without doubt, a legend. Born Elaine Bookbinder in Salford, Manchester, Elkie has become one of the most successful singing talents in the UK, with a career spanning nearly five decades, producing 19 studio albums, and earning her numerous awards and accolades.

As a 15 year old with a passion for the blues, jazz and great artists like Ella Fitzgerald, Elkie left her childhood home to pursue dreams of becoming a singer. Releasing her first single, Something’s Got A Hold On Me, in 1964, several more releases followed but chart success proved elusive and Elkie spent the next few years appearing on package tours with various artists including The Animals and The Beatles. Live performance remains very close to her heart and she is currently in the midst of a UK Tour – including a stop at St Helens Theatre Royal on May 10th.

‘To be honest, I have never been off the road and have toured almost constantly since 1977,’ Elkie explained. ‘The last couple of years have been the most rewarding of my career and my current band are terrific musicians and people, some of the best in their field, and I am privileged to be singing with them. I no longer tour in the conventional sense of the word, but instead play around 70 shows a year doing just a couple per week. This way I can put much more into my performances and conserve my energy on days off. Good music, good fun and nice frocks are what audiences can expect,’ she laughed. ‘The first half my show is packed with hits and favourite tracks from my past albums and, after the interval, we all move up, having great fun playing rock and blues music.  The audience react so well to the rockier numbers and it never fails to get them moving.  It is important for me to keep the music fresh for myself, the band and the fans who turn up every year to see me.’

In 1970, Elkie’s career took on a whole new direction after meeting guitarist Pete Gage. Together they formed rock fusion band, Dada, with the group working well but changes were brought about with the arrival of another future star by the name of Robert Palmer and Dada transformed into Vinegar Joe.

Robert was to prove the perfect foil for Elkie and their raunchy, rocky and outright sexual live performances became legendary and secured them a record deal with the Island label. Despite critical acclaim and huge success on the live circuit, the band eventually dissolved in 1974 when their appeal failed to translate into record sales.
‘If I was starting again today, there are certain things I would do differently,’ Elkie said. ‘I like to think I’d be more aware of clauses in recording contracts, for example. The legalities of the business are much tighter now and people are guided on what offers are good for them.  Many years ago, young artists were taken advantage of by managers and companies and are paying for this even today. Working in the music business has always been hard and demanding work and very little has changed over the years.  It is still an image led market and requires luck as well as talent.  There are so many wonderful artists out there who are still waiting to achieve major acclaim that, possibly, never will come and it saddens me that there is so much manufactured music out there. If you have the right attitude and determination, though, I still believe you will make your mark.’

On her 32nd Birthday, after many years of glowing acclaim but limited chart success, the single that was to make her name, Pearl’s A Singer, was released, providing Elkie with her first Top 10 hit. The song became an instant anthem, proving so memorable that even today it remains Elkie’s most popular and enduring hit. Further success followed with the hit singles Sunshine After The Rain, Lilac Wine, the evergreen classic Don’t Cry Out Loud and the hit albums Shooting Star (1978) and Live and Learn (1979).

During this period Elkie undertook major tours selling out each venue she visited including the Royal Albert Hall and a week-long engagement at the London Palladium. Pearls II, released a year later, was met with enormous success, reaching the top 5 and producing the hit singles Our Love, Gasoline Alley and a stunning reworking of Nights In White Satin.

In 1981, the release of the Pearls album propelled Elkie into the realms of superstardom. This collection of past hits and new recordings shot to number 2 and stayed in the album charts for an incredible 79 weeks. At the time of release it became the biggest selling album by a British female singer in the history of the UK charts, selling over 1.2 million copies and proved that hard work and determination pays off every time.

‘You simply can not have a long career without being good at your craft,’ Elkie said.  ‘I sing every day at the piano and it most certainly keeps my voice in check and is in better vocal shape than ever before. Being true to yourself and your identity is very important. Over the years, management and record companies have forced me into various corners where my artistic integrity has been compromised, but I’m now at a point in my career where the enjoyment factor is of utmost importance.’

Further hit albums followed with Bookbinder’s Kid (1988), Inspiration (1989), Round Midnight (1993), Nothing But The Blues (1994), Amazing (1996) and The Very Best Of Elkie Brooks (1997) earning the singer recognition by the Guinness Book of Records as the most charted female album seller of the last 25 years. The new millennium saw Elkie release the albums Shangri-La (2002), a contemporary experimental body of work, and the pure jazz of Trouble In Mind (2002) with her old friend Humphrey Lyttelton. Elkie will be performing with the Jazz legend in Buxton on September 20th. ‘Humph and I first worked together in the early 1960’s and he has always championed me. His humanity, spirit and humour are so potent he is a special person and dearly loved by us all.’

So, given a choice of anybody living or dead, which other artists would Elkie like to perform a duet with and which of today’s singers does she most admire? ‘This is such a difficult choice. Billie Holliday is a real favourite of mine and it would be between her and Janis Joplin, I think. As for current singers, I just adore K. T Tunstall she has such passion and earthiness. The jazz singer, Liane Carroll, is also a rare talent and a wonderful woman, but Paul Rodgers is the top man in my eyes.’

And her advice to aspiring artists is simple. ‘Keep practising and do not give up.  There are so many people in the industry that will knock you down many times before they give you any credit that it is so easy to lose heart and develop a complex about yourself.  Don’t be pushed around, be true to your own vocation and enjoy every moment even when it feels like you do not have an ounce of strength left in you.’

Elkie is currently working on a new album and hopes it will be released later this year. ‘I wish I knew when, exactly, it is going to be released but we are in negotiations with record companies at the moment and I sincerely hope we will have something released this year.  I had such wonderful feedback on my last album, Electric Lady, in 2005, that it has given me the desire to keep recording. It is nice to give new songs to the fans who have been there throughout the years. We have recorded several tracks including a great ballad called “Why” which we have been previewing on the tour and has had a wonderful response, though I would like to keep the sound a little edgy in places, as I am still a rock and blues girl at heart.’

Elkie's great friend, the jazz musician Humphrey Lyttelton has passed away
at the age of 86.

Humph had been admitted to hospital earlier this week for surgery to
repair an aortic aneurysm and he died peacefully in his sleep yesterday
evening, surrounded by family and friends.

Elkie is extremely upset as she has lost one of her closest friends and
her love and thoughts are with his wife, Susan, and his family.

Elkie and Humph first began working together at the start of her career in
1963 and she has credited him as being responsible for her first big break
on the jazz and blues circuit. They worked together often throughout the
'60s although it wasn't until 1975 that they got the chance to record
together when Elkie supplied vocals for Humphrey's "Take It From The Top"

In 2001 they were reunited to record the "Trouble In Mind" album which
Humph described as "the fulfilment of a long-held dream". Regular sold-out
concerts followed and they were to have performed together again in
September at the Buxton Opera House.

As well as his jazz career, Humph was also best-known as the presenter of
the long-running BBC radio comedy series "I'm Sorry I Haven't A Clue"
which began in 1972 - the spring series was recently cancelled after he
was admitted to hospital.

In 1993 he received a Sony Gold Award for services to broadcasting and in
2006 he published an 'autobiographical scrapbook' called It Just Occurred
to Me.

Paying tribute, BBC director general Mark Thompson said: "Humphrey
Lyttleton will leave an enormous gap not just in British cultural life as
a whole but in the lives of many millions of listeners."

2008 Tour Dates:

APRIL 2008

TUNBRIDGE WELLS - Assembly Hall - 05-04-2008
KINGS LYNN - Corn Exchange - 19-04-2008
JERSEY - Opera House - 26-04-2008


MAY 2008

ST HELENS - Theatre Royal - 10-05-2008
SHREWSURY - SOLD OUT - 16-05-2008
DARLINGTON - Civic Theatre - 30-05-2008
SKEGNESS - Embassy Theatre - 17-05-2008
ALNWICK - Playhouse - 31-05-2008


JUNE 2008

ALNWICK - Playhouse - 01-06-2008
MANCHESTER - Bridgewater Hall - 08-06-2008
BIRMINGHAM - Town Hall - 13-06-2008
NEWBURY - Corn Exchange - 14-06-2008
ORSTON - SOLD OUT - 21-06-2008
LICHFIELD - Garrick Theatre - 26-06-2008


JULY 2008

WIGAN - Jazz Festival - 12-07-2008
CANTERBURY - Marlowe Theatre - 15-07-2008
GILLINGHAM - Gillingham Festival - 17-07-2008
KINSALE (IRELAND) - Arts Festival - 19-07-2008




LEEDS - Harewood House - 08-08-2008
ALCESTER - Ragley Hall - 09-08-2008
PETERBOROUGH - Elton Hall - 15-08-2008
SUFFOLK - Somerleyton Hall - 16-08-2008



BUXTON - Opera House - 20-09-2008
(with Humphrey Lyttelton)
BOURNEMOUTH - Jazz Festival - 27-09-2008



LOUGHBOROUGH - Town Hall - 10-10-2008

Parts of this interview have, or will, appear in other publications and in other formats.

If you would like to comment on this interview with Elkie Brooks, please feel free to contact me - GUESTBOOK

“Writing gets me away for a while' from this world and into one where I, alone, can make or
break the rules as I see fit.” - Chris High 2003.
© 2008 all rights reserved