It’s just over 25 years since an album icon of Brit soul was released…. ‘The Chimes’ by THE CHIMES. The band was essentially a trio … Mike Peden, James Locke and Pauline Henry and back in 1990 cuts from the album were being played out everywhere. Their version of U2’s ‘I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For’ scaled the charts and even hard-to-please Bono was heard to say how much he loved the Chimes’ version.
To celebrate the anniversary, bbr records have just reissued the album … along with a plethora of bonus cuts (see our “Reviews” section). Now old soul heads are once more enjoying some original and ground breaking Brit soul and we felt we couldn’t let the anniversary go by without finding out a bit more about the elusive and short-lived Chimes. After considerable detective work we tracked down singer, PAULINE HENRY and fired all kinds of questions at her. First, though, we wanted to know how she felt about the album reissue after all this time….
The reissue came about when a fan reminded me that it was “The Chimes 25 years anniversary, and how nice it would be to see the Chime reunite!” So I initiated the idea with Sony Music about a re- licence, and that is when BBR Records and Cherry Red got involved. And you know I am excited about it for many reasons. Firstly because the Chimes did not fulfil their potential. We signed to Columbia for a five-album record deal but we only made our one “brilliant” album. So the reissue with the un-released songs and re mixes on feels like the second album that never was. I get to savour tracks I have long since forgotten about. I’m totally loving “Stay”, “Stronger” and ‘No Need To Pretend’. It takes me back to the innocent and early days of the Chimes. Secondly, too, we are gaining new audiences as well as re engaging our established fan base. Thirdly, re-working the songs gives them a new lease of life.
Tell us how the original album came about in the first place… and how you got involved?
I met Mike (Peden) and James (Locke) when they were auditioning for a singer to form a band. Due to the expense and the unsuccessful rate at which they were flying singers from London to Scotland for auditions, none of which were suitable. This translated into me having to conduct an impromptu singing audition down the telephone. Satisfied with what they heard, I was promptly flown to Edinburgh where I met them. They played me a combination of songs and backing tracks. I liked what I heard surprisingly. The first song I tried out on was “Love So Tender” … A beautiful ballad which I was able to show off the full range of my vocal ability… It was clear they were very impressed with me and decided that I was the singer they were looking for.
Well, it t was to be the beginning of the love /hate affair. No sooner had I accepted the post, I stormed out of the studio with the intention never to return. They told me they would write the songs and I was just going to sing them, in other words, I was just the singer and they would to tell me what to do. There was no question of my aspirations. Had they taken the time to ask, they would have found out that I had plans of my own. I was heading to New York; there was a lot interest already in the States for me (I’d been known for my session singing). So when they said they would get a record deal, my attitude was that I had heard it all before. However as fate would have it, we did. That day I left my portfolio with my pictures at their studio. I had to return the next day to retrieve it. It seems my return was eagerly anticipated. The duo and an unknown warm charming man greeted me. He turned out to be our future manager, Walter Morris. He was financing and supporting the project with Mike and James. He was very frank and told me, “Mike and James said you’re the best singer they have ever had, but we don’t get on…”
How did you resolve things?
As the lads sat quietly in the studio, Walter got them to apologise to me, which they did sheepishly, and he made them promise to be nice to me and to treat me with respect, all in a light hearted mood, defusing the tension in the room as he told them off like naughty little school boys. He asked me to stay and see the project through. After a rocky start, I would fly up and stay with Walter in his swanky Glasgow mansion, but I would commute to Edinburgh in the days to work. This was fun for me. I liked the more cosmopolitan atmosphere in Glasgow compared to Edinburgh. Walter was very sociable and became like a Father figure to me as well as my manager. He was a lot of fun to be with, he owned and knew half of Glasgow, so we were always going out, and I got introduced to a lot of interesting people. With Walter as mediator and surrogate Father, it made the transition easier for me spending long period in Scotland. Mike, James and I eventually settled down and the album started to take shape. It was never easy but somehow we finally became THE CHIMES.
I read there were plenty of other issues….
Right, I laugh now thinking about it, but I remember fighting for my musical life in our lawyer’s office. When it was time to sign the publishing deal. Mike and James had at least conceded that I was entitled to some publishing but a lesser share. They felt that they should get the ‘Lion Share” as I recall. I on the other hand, vehemently disagreed. Armed with the knowledge that I had substantially contributed to the new songs we had worked on, and, that “song writing” was the most important aspect for an artiste’s earning potential. I firmly believed that I was an equal part of the creative process, a joint author by all accounts. After what seemed like hours, the Lawyer could see that no agreement was going to be reached between us. Finally he suggested that we leave it at equal share…”For Now”. That is how it was left and the subject was never raised again nor did anything change.
What else can you remember about those heady days?
I remember flying to LA to shoot the video for “Still”… Stretch Limo’s… Photo shoots in amazing urban lofts in NYC… flying in Lear jets around the worlds… palatial hotels with a bottle of something sparkling and a personalised welcome note on arrival…. wearing beautiful clothes, the lavish parties that I attended, the constant stream of invites, me buying my first home and my first sports car and motorbike, which I am professionally trained to ride. The adorations of fans… the ‘A list parties where the likes of Kylie Minogue, Lenny Kravitz and myself chatted casually over drinks.
You became a jet setter overnight?
Sort of… what I remember most is the constant stream of beautiful bouquets of flowers that would be delivered to my door from well wishers, celebrities and admirers. One such admirer was Lisa Stansfield. She sent “une grande bouquet” of flowers congratulating me on our success. One day I had the pleasure of meeting her. When she saw me, she ran up to me excitedly”OMG, its Pauline Henry… I Love You…”… Astonishingly she then bowed down, knelt at my feet and kissed them. I thought she was pretending to be a star struck fan, but she was not acting at all. she was very sincere. It was all so surreal and hilarious at the same time!
OK back to the music… you were all writing original songs, so how come you chose to cover a U2 song of all things? Most people would think it too rocky for a soul song!
The song that catapulted us into worldwide fame was never intended. The circumstance that surrounds the release of the U2 cover was all very innocent, yet life changing at the same time! So, we were doing our very first TV promotion in Scotland. As part of their format they ask guests to perform a cover song of their choice to show a different side to the band. Well as it happens I did purchase the U2 ‘Joshua Tree’ album, purely because of the Harlem Gospel Choir section at the end of the song where it becomes really spiritual and heart felt with dynamic gospel vocal range. As part of my daily practice work out, Mike heard me singing it and remembered it when the opportunity came for us to do the cover. He asked me what the name of the song was, and I told him, “I Still Haven’t’ Found What I’m Looking For” by U2, and so we performed it. After the performance we were then asked to record it, on the premise that… “it’s always nice to have a cover on the album”. Then it was penned in for release as a single. The rest of course is History. .
Did you ever get to meet Bono or speak to him?
In a word NO… nor did he ever get to meet me! For sure there is a mutual admiration and respect for each other. Me, for his gift of song, and him, for my gift of interpretation of his song. He said as much with his famous comment about our rendition. At last “someone who can sing the song the way it was originally intended”. For years I never really understood what he meant by that. I later discovered that Bono had chosen the Harlem Gospel choir because he wanted the song to have a spiritual feel to it. I had automatically tuned into that… combined with Mike and James’ inspired soulful production. I am ever grateful that he inspired us such that we were able to make this iconic song our own, transformed form Rock to RnB genre.
How did the success of that song (and eventually the album) change you?
In a round about way I will answer your question. I first discovered “Change” in the people around me. My parents taking me more seriously, my close friend showing signs of envy and jealousy, the many disguises I donned so I could go about my daily life, the VIP reception when I turned up to a club, the way I was now perceived by other people, the special treatments and interest I received as a result of singing. I imagine it is how being royalty feels …very special! To be honest I took it all in my stride, I was very naive to the whole business. Later when fame became too much I had noticed that I was turning inwards on myself, almost reclusive, everywhere I looked there were eyes, cameras or some kind of attention on me. I am a very private person so the whole show biz lifestyle was not for me. I became guarded and at time paranoid about whom to trust. After the Chimes split there was a three years gap before I launched my solo career, so it was a welcome break back to normality.
Like you say, the band then disintegrated…. what happened?
In short, after the phenomenal success of first album Mike and James declared that they were making more money as producers. They went off and did their own thing and I was left with no choice but to exercised my “leaving member clause”. I went solo.
Apart from the fact that the Chimes disbanded way too early, I regret that I did not get the opportunity to work with Bryan Ferry. He had requested for me to work with him on his album very early on, but I believe that Mike and James vetoed it on the premise that we should not take the focus away from the Chimes. The irony is, they did exactly that! Afterwards I was really angry about it. I felt used. I do believe they had intended it to be the end of me. They always reminded me that I was just another singer that could easily be replaced; they even tried to replace me while we were still under contract, such was the arrogance and male archetypal attitudes toward female singers. It only made me stronger and better. They did not have by best interest at heart, which was very hurtful to me, but the label saw my potential as a solo artiste.
Tell us what you’ve done since then…
In my absence away from the industry, I started my family, did two degrees (Law and Chef Degree) then my masters in IP law. I returned to the industry, set up my own independent label producing and releasing music and performing. I have been writing new songs for releases in 2017 with various writers. I also run seminars for fellow artistes to guide them through the traumas of the music industry. I want to position myself as an Artiste, Entrepreneur and Music Educator.
… and what about Mike and James?
In anticipation of the upcoming interviews and promotions, I got in touch with them both. This is a direct quote form Mike Peden…” I Just finished Tunde’s LP in New York…. he’s the Lighthouse Family’s singer/writer. I’m working next month with a good friend of mine, Mike Pela; we are working on Sade’s next record. I have a film being made next year called ‘Band On The Run’ in Hollywood. It is to be released in 2018″. James also relayed that he is still producing Music and his Son is also making headways in the music business.
So I’m guessing you don’t speak much to them anymore….. Will there ever be a Chimes reunion?
Due to the fact that Mike lives abroad, and James in the Highlands, I do make a point of keeping in touch with them from time to time. Like family, we send each other Christmas and Birthday wishes. But you know, we are intrinsically linked through our music. We have talked about the possibility doing some shows in Australia, New York and London at some point. Also we’re planning to do a new record in 2017. The difficulty is we all live in different parts of the Globe now and have various commitment of our own. So in reality I would say watch this space. In spite of everything, the good and the bad and the ugly, there is still a meeting of the minds when it comes to music.
Back to the reissue album…. amongst the “extra” tracks on the album is a lovely song called ‘Ready For Love’… what can you tell me about that one… I think it’s lovely.
What I can tell you is that ‘Ready For Love”? It’s one of the newly discovered tracks I have fallen in love with, and had long since forgotten about. Had BBR/Cherry Red not taken on the reissue, songs like that would have been lost in the archives? What a shame that would have been!
What will you be doing to promote the reissue and how can we find out more?
Now through to 2017, I am doing the rounds with the promotional aspects. For New Year I will be the ‘Ministry Of Sound performing the Soulful House mix of ‘Heaven’ with DJ Spen. It will be a great party atmosphere and an ideal launch pad for the digital release in the New Year. Regarding live performances, my agent and promoter are looking at dates to be announced in 2017. More info? just go to. www.paulinehenry.com