England's First Generation Working Class Diva
by Sam Leighty
Sandie Shaw was born Sandra Ann Goodrich on February 26, 1947 in working class Dagenham. The same kind of hell that broke loose and happened in America when The Beatles played on Ed Sullivan in February 1964 had already happened in The UK and Europe when "Love Me Do" b/w "P.S. I Love You" was a hit in October 1962.
Sandra was 15-years-old and she was a big fan of beat music. She had records and a radio and her bedroom was littered with rock and roll magazines. "Beat music" is the term used to describe The British invasion styled rock and roll music on its own turf in the UK and Europe as it ensued after The Beatles came out with "Love Me Do." The term was first coined by a local newspaper in Liverpool in 1961.
Sandie graduated from the British equivalent of high school in 1963 and worked at a Ford plant in Dagenham. In England, students leave school a year ahead of their American counterparts and begin art college, prep school, vocational training or full time jobs.
There were package tours in those days, which featured beat groups and made the rounds of cinemas and youth centers. A tour could cover about 30 cities or middle-sized towns in the British Isles and last about a month. There were a lot of bands and singers on these tours who had made their first 45's and the scene was fueled along by offshore pirate radio and the then new UK music TV shows like "Top of The Pops" and "Ready Steady Go." Record collectors will remember The Rockin' Berrys, The Honeycomb, The Fourmost, Cilla Black, Lulu, The Nashville Teens, The Remo Four, Unit 4 plus 2, etc.. These tours came to a gradual stop as the album oriented era came around in 1967 and 1968.
These shows featured local talent as well. One night in 1964, Sandra had gone to see Adam Faith and The Roulettes at The Commodore in Hammersmith and wound up giving her first-ever performance that evening. The early part of the show was a talent contest which she won. By all accounts, her appearance was impressive. After the show, one of The Hollies took her backstage to meet her hero. She had the confidence to start up a conversation with The Roulettes. Adam was impressed with her that night. Not only did he like her performance, he liked her rapport with the acts backstage.
One week later, Sandra Goodrich had an appointment with Eve Taylor. The chain-smoking Taylor was a big time manager like Brian Epstein or Andrew Loog Oldham. She was well known as an effective arbitrater who got her way. Taylor managed acts who had major label hit records and played large venues. Sandie was (and is) very lovely- she's 5'10 and they say that in person, you couldn't take your eyes off of her. So, with a little sprucing up from Taylor, Sandra Goodrich became Sandie Shaw. For starters, Sandie stopped wearing her glasses for publicity appearances. She could always throw 'em on at home if need be. She was given a Vidal Sasson hairdo which characterized much of her sixties career and it looked stunning. Sandie was outfitted in mini-dresses too. More importantly, Sandie could sing. She has at times produced and composed her own records. Taylor teamed her up with writer/producer Chris Andrews who worked with Adam Faith for years.
Shaw caught on with the record buying public in England soon after that. Her first outing with Andrews as producer was "As Long As You're Happy, Baby" which was a near hit. It didn't chart highly but it did get some airplay and notice. It helped her that when TV or the press interview her, she's freindly yet plain spoken, and she's both working class and reserved. Up until the beat group era, English TV news and talk shows usually featured high brow Oxford and Westchester accents, pundits and reporting. Young kids in London, Birmingham and Liverpool were glad to see the ice broken a little bit.
For Sandie's second single, Taylor had been on a song-shopping trip to music publishers in the USA. Lou Johnson had covered Burt Bacharach's "Always Something There To Remind Me" early in 1964 and Eve introduced the song to Sandie and Chris who went into the studio and put together a haunting rendition of this tune, which is still considered by many to be Sandie's signiture song. "Always Something There To Remind Me" was a big hit worldwide for Shaw and solidified her place in the music business. The Chris Andrews penned "Girl Don't Come" was also a very big record. In fact, these two songs were big hits in the U.S.A. in the closing weeks of 1964. Sandie appeared on American TV's Shindig program three times as a result.
Just as many people identify Sandie Shaw by "Always Something There To Remind Me," Sandie's other trademark was performing barefoot. That started at the recording session for "As Long As You're Happy, Baby" when Sandie took her shoes off. Taylor and Andrews didn't know what to make of that. Adam Faith was on hand and he advised them that "she knows what she's doing." To this day, Sandie always performs barefoot. One of Sandie's finest hits was 1965's "Long Live Love." This was a much, much bigger hit in England than in the U.S.A. but I remember hearing it maybe once or twice on AM radio, although it wasn't a major hit stateside. By this time, Sandie had become very respected. Sandie was glad to be successful yet people have noticed how nonplussed she is about it all. She's been very cool about it.
The hits kept coming throughout the sixties and sporadically in the seventies until 1975. For a little while in 1966, Sandie was pestered by the tabloid press because she had been going out with a guy who was separated but not divorced. The controversy eventually wore off and it was forgotten. In 1967, she was the winner of the Eurovision singers competition. It's been said that Sandie was far too dark and mysterious, with a smouldering appearance to be rated as an effervescent Eurovision winner. Still, this was very prestigeous both for Sandie Shaw and England. Sandie appeared on Beat Beat Beat and Beat Club, both on German TV. In a 2008 Perfect Sound Forever article, I reviewed Sandie's appearance and the entire May 1967 Beat Beat Beat broadcast which also featured the then newly-formed JImi Hendrix Experience. At that time, she recorded an EP with Andrews which included the three songs: "Puppet On A String," "Had A Dream Last Night" and "Tell The Boys." These were performed on Beat Beat Beat and all three songs are great examples of sixties Britpop at its best (and "Had A Dream Last Night" is a very classy piece of studio craftwork). And Sandie is a killer in her psychedalic mini-dress, Yardley cosmetics and trademark Vidal Sassoon hairstyle.
Sandie was a guest on Beat Beat Beat not long after her Eurovision appearance. After she finished up with her three songs, Top 40 deejay Charlie Hickman, an American from Chicago who spoke fluent German and was the host of Beat Beat Beat's 1967 installments. He presented Sandie with a "Madame of Beat" medalion possibly in some sort of dual recognition with Eurovision. Sandie was pleased and laughed, so the idea thought up by the show's producers worked out just fine.
As the sixties drew to a close there were people who thought the music scene from 1962 to the mid-sixties was for the most part "bubblegum music," at least there were people who thought so in the U.S.A.. These were rock fans who beleive Sgt.Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band and how it paved the way for progressive rock and the proliferation of FM rock radio saved rock and roll. I'm gonna turn down the sound on the telly and say rude things... but to continue, Sandie had to go through some lean years. By this time, Shaw must have had 50 or 60 45 rpm releases in the UK and other countries too. Some of them made number 1 and some of them barely charted. That's not counting EP's and albums. Most of these records were produced and written by Andrews and we all know that Sandie has that overpowering beauty and presence, but she has written and produced quite a few of her own records.
In 1970, Sandie marketed a line of Sandie Shaw clothes. At that time, she was married to fashion designer Jeff Banks. She spent a lot of her time at home with her children throughout much of the seventies. Sandie was slipping away from the charts and the record buying public in the seventies as the people who were associated with her music and records tried to mould her sound into something contemporary and progressive.
The handful of records that came out of those circumstances are pretty good, to tell you the truth. But it's unfortunate that people were trying to Nashville Pop Sandie's sound when in the first place she was a "buck stops here" drop dead diva female icon (and she still is) with her own sound, like Marianne Faithful. I guess I'm saying all that stuff should've been good enough in the first place yet for about 10 years "heavy underground music," also called "classic rock," held sway both here and across the Atlantic. Sandie has a lot of interesting stories to tell about her still continuing career. In 1969 or 1970, Harry Nilsson was very fascinated with Sandie. He contacted her about doing some recording together so she flew over to New York. Harry didn't waste anytime in asking Sandie if she would marry him. She told him no. But she did pal around with him for a couple of days and they recorded a few tracks which I don't know if these were released or not. Not to rub Nilsson's face in the mud. Lots of guys would eagerly pop the question to Sandie and possibly have many times. She has an appeal which is hypnotic.
As the seventies dragged on, Sandie was running out of money and her marriage was going down the tubes. She still recorded once in awhile, but she needed the kind of assistance that would get her back on track with all current trends yet at the same time wouldn't make her look like William Frawley or William Demarest crashing the beach party. In the late seventies, Sandie Shaw was flat broke with children to feed and she took a job as a waitress at a touristy sidewalk cafe in an arty section of London. Patti Smith has always pointed out that Sandie was an influence on her music. Guess what? Patti was in London and having coffee at that sidewalk cafe when she found out that one of the waitresses was Sandie Fucking Shaw! Patti told Chrissie Hynde and the word spread like wildfire. Sandie was aproached about doing some records with Phil Collins. Collins isn't exactly The Jam or The Flamin' Groovies, but he does have a sixties tendency which has been at times his strong suit. Phil grew up with offshore pirate radio and movies like A Hard Day's Night (which he was a background extra in). Sandie did several records with Phil Collins. Then The Smiths had a technopop hit with a synthesizer/keyboards version of "Always Something There To Remind Me." So Sandie began a creative relationship with The Smiths. Sandie had hits in the eighties as a result of this colaboration such as "Hand In Glove" and her version of Patti's "Frederick."
Sandie was then on various UK late night TV shows often with exciting performances. I have some old VHS tapes of some shows from the eighties. "Are You Ready To Be Heartbroken" and "Nothing Less Than Brilliant" are excellent songs. Sandie married again somewhere along the line and became a devotee of Buddhist meditation to which she has remained up to the present. Sandie was very exciting in concert in the sixties, yet in her later appearances she's even better. I have a VHS tape of a long set, I think it's in NYC in 1984 but it doesn't say so on the cassette box. The concert is definitely high energy and The Smiths are her backing group. The guys in The Smiths probably heard Sandie's records when they were growing up and they provide sympathetic backing. It's a great combination.
This past June, Ray Davies of the Kinks curated England's Meltdown Festival and was asked to book a lot of the acts for the show. For instance, there was Ray with a backing group playing many familiar hits. There was Ronnie Spector(!) doing Ronettes hits. Paul Jones, Tom Mcguiness, Mike Hugg (billed as The Manfreds) with supplemental musicians doing the hits AND the Dylan covers AND the blues. Shaw was chosen by Ray to appear too and she performed old hits such as "Girl Don't Come" and "Always Something There To Remind Me." The audience response was incredible. Sandie really came alive on stage. She blows kisses, shakes hands and moves around sort of like Mick Jagger. After the show, she posed with Ray Davies for awhile as press and photographers took shots of the two of them together.
Sandie did a tour of The British Isles a few months ago which included 30 dates with the pianist Jools Holland and his orchestra. It was her first tour in recent years. There are many new clips from the tour on You Tube. Usually, her sets last a long time. She plays a mixture of 10 or 15 new songs and 10 or 15 old hits. I'm not sure how many people are in the orchestra but it's a lot and there is everything from electric guitars to string and horn sections to about five backup singers. I've seen some of the clips and she never sounded or looked so good. She plans to go out on the road again and once again she'll be performing with Jools Holland and his orchectra. And she'll be going into the recording studio again soon.
In 2010, Shaw released a new set of recordings to be downloaded from her official website. Her website is perhaps one of the best fan pages on the Internet. There are items to buy at reasonable prices such as Sandie's 1991 book which she will personally sign on request and there are CD's, MP3's and autographed posters too. There are sections where you can get to know other fans and trade home music tapes and video that are Sandie-oriented (trades only, no cash). The page features a kind of journal of reports by Sandie keeping you up on personal news for those who are interested. the journals go back like 5 or 6 years and are indexed to be downloaded and read. Sandie is on Facebook, too. She keeps regular tabs on her facebook page and reads all posts and messages.
In three years, it'll be Sandie Shaw's 50th aniversary of her first hit record and 50 years in the music business. She's 64 years old and her music sounds better than ever. She sings and looks great. Hopefully, she'll continue for a very long time and we'll see her again in America. And it would be interesting if AM radio over here picks up on a CD single or two of Sandie's.
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