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INTERVIEW

This appeared in a 1981 issue of either NME or Melody Maker.

Daniela Soave

NME or Melody Maker, 1981

PhotoThere's a girl who writes good pop songs swears she's sober

With a title like There's a boy works down the chip shop swears he's Elvis you'd think there'd be a funny story behind it. You couldn't be more wrong.

"Why do artists paint pictures? Why do authors write books?" cries Kirsty MacColl when I ask what motivated her to compose the song. I was beginning to experience how vivid this girl's imagination was, and how she managed to write the above single, even if she wasn't saying so in as many words. The fact that she'd polished off a vast amount of brandy during her day's worth of conveyor belt interviews didn't aid matters either.

You might recall that this young woman with a penchant for very short skirts (the Ed would give her a job in here any day) had what is termed as an airplay hit with They don't know on Stiff roughly 18 months back. What this means is the DJs loved it but no-one bought the darn thing. Anyway, the poor girl didn't get into the charts and shortly after this non-event parted company with the label. 

"I became very prolific after that and spent a lot of time working on new material", she says now. "I had a single called Keep your hands off my baby at the beginning of this year which didn't do anything either. Funnily enough that didn't upset me so much because it wasn't one of my songs so it didn't seem like a personal attack on my composing."

Undeterred, Kirsty continued writing and recording material for her forthcoming LP, co-writing with Lu Edmonds (her long standing guitarist), Phil Rambow and Phil Johnson*. As Elvis is different from They don't know, so is the material on the album. "I'm still kind of jet lagged from recording it, but even I'm astounded by its continuity", she says. "I've used the best of all my stuff and I was a bit worried it wouldn't flow, so it came as a pleasant surprise, even though there are many styles. The hardest part is working out the arrangement because I feel too strongly abou tmy songs to let someone else put their ideas over it. It's a very personal thing, and since other people interpret songs differently, they might change the whole aspect of the song."

Kirsty's been writing songs seriously since she was 17, and admits coming from a musical family helps, if only in the fact they didn't try to prevent her from getting into the business. Now, at 20, she has to face the prospect of live gigs. "I will be going out on the road but I'm terrified at the thought." she moans. "However after seeing Bruce Springsteen (who else?) I've either got to get on with it or slit my throat. Apart from anything else, the on-the-road life doesn't appeal to me at all; it's not my idea of heaven."

Sadly as an interviewee, Ms MacColl is seemingly devoid of revelations. The most interesting thing I learned during our discourse was that her brother is an acupuncturist. But as a songwriter she is very talented. The moral, I suppose, listen to her music, not her thoughts.

Daniela Soave.

* listed as Johnstone on the album credits


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