This interview was conducted February 21, 2001
Kiki Dee, or Miss Amoureuse to some of us, is still Loving & Free, as her classic self-written track from 1973 rings in our ears. She conveys instant warmth that has never faded, despite the roller-coaster ride of contemporary music.
She has managed to fend off the vices that caught out others, such as the three “ds”drugs, depression, and drink problems, and her 1981 hit Star says it all: “Don’t you tell me it’s tough…They can build you up, and they can break you down, with just the right words”.
In this interview, Kiki tells it all. She has views on the get-rich-quick phenomenon, underlined by the “Popstars” hype, and even re-assessed the song Star while we were chatting. That’s how Kiki is: no fixed, stubborn views. Always prepared to think it over again. So what was it about Star? She admitted it was not one of her favourites. She’s happier with the acoustic guitar in hand, and the gentle ballads. She’s especially proud of her first ever attempt at song-writing with Loving & Free.
Star was more commercialised. But I suggested the song was a decoy. Much like Terry Jacks’ 1974 classic Seasons In the Sun, so too with Star. It is an up-tempo feel-good rhythm which conceals bitter or forlorn lyrics.
Her latest album, recorded at the Tickety-boo offices in 1998, is Where Rivers Meet. It’s an interesting blend of Asian culture music, and underlines a complete revisionism in Kiki’s work. That change and lust for experimentation is thanks to the new music influence in her life, Carmelo Luggeri. Recently, he has opened a studio in Hertfordshire, north of London, where demos have already been recorded.
Kiki would sure like to record again with Elton, what with a number one UK hit in 1976 Don’t Go Breaking My Heart, and follow-ups Loving You is Sweeter Than Ever (1979), and True Love (1993). Most recently, she partnered again, at MSG last October. But Kiki doesn’t want to be labelled as “Elton’s singer”; she wants to be defined as an individual. “Me and Elton are musically a million miles apart with my current direction,” Kiki says.
Kiki, real name Pauline Matthews, has a nickname Elton gave her. “He calls me Stan, after the footballer Stanley Matthews,” she says. “Also, I’m sometimes known as Perilous Pauline, by mostly just Keek.”
Getting her name right is really important since she became a radio presenter. It was a nerve-wracking experience, when she narrated the 3-part The Elton John Story on BBC Radio 2, in November 2000. In her own words:
“It was quite challenging. First of all, I was interviewed for it as a contributor. I heard they had thought about Phil Collins doing it, and I thought it was an odd choice. Then they asked whether I would present it! I had a script written for me. I remember having to lie down at home after doing it! I tried to narrate it in a natural way, but without punctuating it with too much of my own personality, especially since it wasn’t my words. I kept it deadpan really! It was fun.”
There were a few aspects Elton might not have appreciated in this rockumentary: “There wasn’t time for me to sit and analyse it, I was reading it off the cuff, and didn’t contribute towards it. The moment when John Reid was applauded for steering something, and the drugs thing. I feel people do dramatise that part of his life, which is understandable in journalism.”
GM: Elton does seem to encourage that too, talking a lot about the drugs situation. It came through in the recent Parkinson interview, as elsewhere.
KD: “Yes I guess he does. But the Parkinson interview was very good, Elton came across very grown up.”
And which Elton songs does Kiki like? “I like Rocket Man, and ballads like Come Down In Time from that period. Daniel, because I have a friend called Daniel in New York, and I’m Still Standing. I like the ballads most.
Nigel Olsson asked Kiki to perform the Roachford song Naked Without You, for his new album, out in Japan since February. Nigel approached Kiki during the MSG show last October. Much like with Don’t Go Breaking, this song was also recorded by adding Kiki’s vocals on the other side of the world, Nigel in California, Kiki in London. The song was recorded in England in November, and Carmelo produced the vocals. “I haven’t heard it yet, ha!” Kiki said it’s close to the original version of the song, but as a duet. “I liked the lyrics, and I think my voice sounded good on it.”
Kiki, born Bradford, Yorkshire, 6 March 1947, knew she wanted to sing since she was 10. The rest, as they say, is history.
Stan! – Saturday, February 22 2003 at 20:08:44