Wendy Roberts was chosen by Mike to sing on the Platinum LP and the tour that followed in the period 1979/80. More recently, with partner Phil Aldridge, she has been re-creating the sound of the Carpenters duo. Her singing voice was discovered to be very close to that of the late Karen Carpenter and that has opened up a new dimension to her career. The demand for these tribute concerts is very great, particularly in SE England, as people fondly remember the myriad of hits the Carpenters had in the '70s. I had arranged to meet her at one such performance at the Great Danes Hotel, Hollingbourne, Kent on 25 Mar. 95. Due to the obvious time constraints of sound check, discussions, eating, and meeting other people I think I was lucky to have the 40 min interview, particulary as I was not there to discuss the Carpenters. I started of asking the obvious question of how she came to work with Mike in the first place.
I used to work in this pub in Chelmsford, of all places, and somebody came up to me and mentioned doing a recording for Terry Oldfield. I thought that would be interesting, so I went into the studio with my pianist, a blind pianist called Pete Jacobsen, great jazz player actually. We did a song called 'Sorrow Lives Here' with Terry producing. Got this telephone call from Mike Oldfield about 2 mornings later, so it wasn't for Terry at all, he said "Get a taxi, tomorrow morning, to my house". I had to get up about 6am, I think he was living in Denham.
How would you have described him in those days?
Quite laid back, but positive, definitely knows what he likes and obviously a genius composer and player. A really nice friendly person, the sort of guy you'd wind up in his local pub for a drink and a chat.
Was there a sense of urgency to get Platinum together to recoup the losses from the ambitious 1979 Exposed tour?
I was actually unaware of that at the time. You have to remember I was also very young when I did this, I'd never sung to an audience above 300. I'd only done local things.
What are your memories of the recordings and where were they done?
Very fond, they were done in his own house. That's where I met Tom (Newman) who was producing, really nice guy. That was good fun, made me feel more than welcome there.
How did you feel when you were asked to sing a classic like 'I Got Rhythm', particularly as it was a slow version?
I suppose, secretly, I thought it was quite amusing. Although he takes his music very seriously there is this kind of "Lets try this, it's so off the wall".
Everyone remembers 'I Got Rhythm' ........(she sings the opening of the standard version and laughs at the comparison).
I then asked about the Sally track, causing some confusion, as she thought the track she recorded was called Sally and not renamed on the LP as 'Into Wonderland'. She was also unaware that an earlier track, also called Sally was withdrawn from all but very early copies to be replaced by 'Into Wonderland'. So I played it to her and she thought it sounded like a demo for what she recorded as Sally. This gives an added twist to the chain of events surrounding these tracks as she is uncredited for the latter recording on early pressings. Sort that one out!
I remember Sally, whom he was with at the time, she often came on tour actually, with the baby, Molly, who would be leaving school, I expect, now. It's funny 'cos at that time I'd not long had my daughter, she was about four when I went on tour with Mike.
Did you know that Mike wanted the album to be called 'Airborne'?
No I didn't. It was 'Platinum' as far as I knew. I remember 'Airborne' being mentioned at the time, perhaps the tour or a single had the 'Airborne' name. It really rings a big bell with me. (It's the first section, Wendy!)
What did you do between the recordings and the tour?
I remember recording about the August/September time of '79. Well obviously rehearsal before the tour. Rehearsals were at Shepperton studios, then owned by The Who, amazing, incredible place that was. Great big hangars. I remember the second day of rehearsals I got lost and walked through a door thinking that was where we were rehearsing and there's this big film set with sand and sailors!
How much preparation did you have to do for the tour?
I was given copies off all the recordings that he was doing live and there were "parts" as well, which helped, there was plenty of preparation. It was great because he's got all these really weird time signatures in his music, I wasn't used to having to count at the time. I like to do things instinctively and obviously it did become instinctive after a couple of weeks. At the time I was very much into the American West Coast Rock thing, like Linda Ronstadt and Bonnie Raitt. I remember when we first did 'I Got Rhythm' and the 'Sally' track, particularly, and he was saying it would be nice to get more of the Cockney side of your voice in there. That was really interesting doing that
There were suggestions of a US tour in the Summer of 1980. What happened?
Yeah, I don't know what happened. I think we got the itineraries at one point and thought it was definitely happening, then it didn't, which was really unfortunate. That would have been great, doing that.
I was at the concert in Gloucester and Mike gave money to the person who could dance the best to Guilty. Did this happen at all venues?
(Rather amused) As far as I am aware it didn't happen at all venues. I think he might have been inspired that evening and done it for some reason or other. That wasn't a habit, he might have done it another evening, but it wasn't regular.
How did Maggie Reilly become your partner on stage?
She was actually friendly with a dark haired sound guy, can't remember his name, and she came along to a few of the venues with him. Eventually ended up singing with me and took off with a single after. It sounds a bit self defending, but he does tend to change his musicians every year, the year before me there was, a great singer, Maddy Prior. But, I think that's important now, doing my own show like this, to keep the excitement bubbling away there, because people do become complacent. I can't pretend it wouldn't have been nice to have had the single.
What do you recall of the Knebworth performance?
Arriving by helicopter backstage, you could see this tiny field, crammed with thousands of people, which got larger and larger. Myself and my daughter were sharing the helicopter with Richard Branson, which was really good fun. He came to a couple of the gigs because obviously they had remained good friends and associates throughout, he was a really nice guy. It had been quite bad weather early in the afternoon and when we came out and I did my lead thing in the show, people singing along and everything, this big rainbow came out. I
remember them mentioning this in Melody Maker. I'd been to Knebworth in 1975 and seen Pink Floyd there and in 1980 I was actually on the stage, over the years you get used to facing audiences, but at the time my mind was completely like ...WOW!, look at this, such a huge scale. Good expeience doing it.
Was there a concert in Wales?
There was, but, I can't remember where it was. I remember going to Wales with Mike, and Ireland a couple of times.
What can you tell me about the Alright Now track featured on Tyne Tees tv?
Yeah, I can remember recording that. Malcolm Geary was in on that, he's done lots of tv, The Tube being one which was huge. That was recorded aswell in his house, I don't know who produced it, it might have been Tom again. I remember Malcolm saying to me "If you've got anything original, spin it my
way", but at the time I didn't have.
Were you aware of another recording of you singing 'I Got Rhythm', released later on the Tellydisc "Impressions" set?
No I wasn't, when was this." (After the tour in 1980) "No, I didn't know anything about this!. Sidetracking slightly, I can remember sitting in a pub with Mike, towards the end of the big rehearsals before we went on tour, and him saying to me "I'm thinking of doing an album of Mike/Wendy" more featured things with me, but it never got past the talking phase. I think he was looking for something and it came along with Maggie, vocally.
What is your overriding memory of you time working with Mike?
I've got two memories, some really happy experiences that I wouldn't have had at that time of life, but I've also got the big cringe factor. I was so young and naive at the time that had it been 10 years later it would have
been a different ball game for me. You can't put an old head on young shoulders, and you mature through spending 17 years in the music business.
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