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INTERVIEW

This appeared in the 2 Feb 1985 issue of Record Mirror.

Mike Gardner

Cover

Husband Aid : Record Mirror 1985

PicYes, it's Kirsty work being a chartbound mother-to-be.  Ms MacColl (alias Mrs Lillywhite) tells Record Mirror why.

How does that song go again - 'I knew the bride when she used to Rock'n'Roll'? Well, for recently married Kirsty MacColl there's no "used to" about it. She's riding high with a sparkling version of Billy Bragg's A New England and she's becoming a bit of a "mutha", as they say in rock circles. Well, quite a lot of a mother really. She's expecting her first child in the middle of February.

The 25 year old Croydon-born singer is the daughter of folk singers Ewan MacCall and Peggy Seeger [er, not! - Ed]. But she made her name as the songwriting talent behind hits like There's a guy works down the chip shop swears he's Elvis and Tracey Ullman's They don't know and Terry.

It was in the unlikely role of backing singer with Simple Minds on the Sparkle in the rain LP that love blossomed between her and top record producer Steve Lillywhite. Was it love at first sight? "Apparently for him", she says. "I was too nervous singing with my favourite group to notice him. It happened in October 1983 and it was one of the highlights of the year. I sang on the single Speed your love andthe Lou Reed song Street hassle. I'd heard of his reputation as a producer and I was surprised how young he looked - rather like a jolly sixth former. I assumed he'd be going out with a Page Three girl or something. He was very nice but I didn't really pay any attention to him - it was work." 

A few weeks later Kirsty had her first inkling that she'd created an impression with Lillywhite. "He invited me to watch Big Country recording Wonderland and I got suspicious because there weren't any backing vocals needed."

Their first date was at Virgin boss Richard Branson's lavish Guy Fawkes night party in Oxford. "I couldn't believe he was so nice", she recalls. "I kept waiting for the truth to come out - some deep dark secret, but he was wonderful." How did he propose? "This will sound soppy", she says. "He was doing the sound for a live concert in Glasgow for Big Country on New Year's Eve. I went to give him a kiss at the midnight hour and on the 12th stroke he asked me. Just then a piper's band came on and everyone did Auld Lang Syne. We told everybody immediately and we jumped around and got really excited. We went back to Jim Kerr's house to celebrate Hogmanay and crack open a few bottles of champagne. I can't remember much about the next day."

Most of the wedding arrangements fell into Kirsty's lap. "It was easier for him to get out of it as he worked in the studio" she saya. "It's difficult to say I'm busy songwriting because everybody assumed I'm at home doing nothing all day." In fact they hardly saw much of each other since work meant that Steve was sent to distant lands such as Paris with Frida of Abba and Sweden with Big Country.

On the big day in August, she arrived 45 minutes late for the ceremony. "My friend who was doing my hair got stuck into the champagne early in the morning and she was pretty slow" she says. "We had a pink cadillac and a chaffeur dressed in a pink uniform - I felt like Lady Penelope with Parker in 'Thunderbirds'. I was practically hysterical with nervousness and kept wanting to giggle" she says. "In the congregation were Frida from Abba, Holly and Paul from Frankie Goes To Hollywood and various members of U2 and Big Country. The most moving part of the ceremony was Bono of U2 reading the lesson. He read that part of Corinthians that begins 'When I was a child, I spoke as a child'."

"The reception was great - I've never had so many friends together in one place at one time. My mum kept Holly Johnson on the dance floor for ages until he complained of exhaustion. The only minor disaster was when Steve did a Leonard Rossiter on me and spilt red wine down my cream silk wedding dress, just like in the Cinzano ads. Luckily everybody was drunk by then and it was time for me to change into my going away suit. They spent their first night of marriage in the plush surroundings of London's famous Ritz Hotel. "They gave us some free champagne so my wedding night was a blur - but it was memorable" she adds quickly, with a twinkle in her eye.

Their romantic honeymoon in Barbados coincided with the rainy season and the worst floods the island has had for 83 years. Since their joingin together in holy matrimony Kirsty admits she only gets to see Steve in the bathroom in the mornings because he works such long hours. But the A New England single afforded the pair the chance of working together for the first time on one of Kirsty's projects. "I'd always liked the song and told Billy Bragg I felt like having a go at it." she says. "It was too short in its original form for a single so Billy wrote an extra verse for me. It was easy doing the single. Steve and I are used to working with each other now."


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