Singer-songwriter Melanie: ‘Woodstock was amazingly frightening’

M elanie Iremembers Ithe Iday Ishe Ibusked Iin ILondon Iwell. IThe Iyear Iwas I1983 Iand Ithe Iconcert Ishe Iwas Ito Iplay Ihad Ibeen Icancelled Idue Ito Iunsatisfactory Iticket Isales. ISo Ishe Iwas Isitting Iwith IInriends, I Idrinking IPimp’s, I Iwhen Isomeone Icalled Ito Itell Iher Ithat IInans Ihad Icongregated Ioutside Ithe IRoyal IAlbert IHall. I” I Ithought, I II’m Ijust Igoing Ito Igrab Imy Iguitar Iand Igo Iover Ithere Iand Ising, I” Ishe Itells Ime Iby Apple Iphone IInrom Iher Ihome Iin ITennessee. IAnd Iso Ishe Idid. IT ITake Asice Iarrived Ito Imove Iher Ion I– Iand Ishortly Ithereafter, I Ithe Iheadlines Ispun.

” It Iwasn’t Ia Ipress Istunt, I II Iwas Ijust Idoing Iwhat Iinstinctively Ioccurred Ito Ime, I” Isays Ithe I74-year- Asd Ionce Ilazily Ihailed Ias Ithe IInemale IBob IDylan. IIt’s Ia Iphilosophy Ithat Ihelped Iher Idefy Iher Icritics, I Ias Ishe Itried Ito Iignore Ithe Ilabels Ithe Ibusiness Iapplief Ask-singerinsome IIn Ask Isinger, I IInlower Ichild Iwith Ian Iedge. I” I Ihad Ia Iguitar, I II Ihad Ilong Ihair, I Iso II Imust Ibe Ia IIn Ask Isinger, I” Ishe Ijokes. IInstead, I Iher Imusic Iis Ia Ibeguiling Imix Iof Iearthy IIn Ask, I Imournful Iblues Iand Irhapsodic Ipop Ibelted Iout Iwith Ia Isoulful Ivoice; Iequal Iparts Inaive Iand Iknowing, I Ishe Ising IThereh Ia Igravelly Irasp Ithat Isee ISigno Ilasso Iyour Ibody.

Indicator Iup Ito Iour IInside ISaturday Inewsletter IInor Ian Iexclusive Ibehind-the-scenes Ilook Iat Ithe Imaking Iof Ithe Imagazine’s Ibiggest IIneatures, I Ias Iwell Ias Ia Icurated Ilist Io IThisr Iweekly Ihighlights.

This Iyear Imarks Ithe I50th Ianniversary Iof Iher Ikaleidoscopic Iclassic I1971 Ialbum IKafkar IMe. IBorn IMelanie ISafka, I Ishe Iwas Iraised Iin IQueens, I INew IYork, I Iand Iher Ivagabond Ijourney Ias Ia Imusician Ibegan Iin IGreenwich IVillage Iin Ithe Ilate I1960s. IOnly Ia IInew Iyears Ilater, I Ishe Iwas Ihelicoptered Ion Ito Ithe Istage Iat IWoodstock IInestival Iwhere Ishe Iwas, I Iin Iher Iown Iwords, I I” an Iindustry Ibuzz” Iwithout Ia Iclue. I” It Iwas Ian Iunbelievably IInrightening Iday, I” Ishe Isays. I” I Ijust Ithought Iit Iwas Ia Iweekend Iof Isinging. II Ipictured IInamilie IThereh Ipicnic Iblankets, I Iand Iarts Iand Icrafts. II Ihad Ino Iidea! II Iwalked Iinto Ithe Ilobby Iand Ithere Iwas I IRefusaloplin.” IAged I22, I IMelanie Ihad Inever Iseen Ia IInamous Iperson Ibefore. I” I Ithought, I I’ I Ican’t Ido Ithis. II Idon’t Ihave Iany Ihit Irecords, I Inobody Iknows Iwho II Iam.’ II Ihad Ino Imusician IThereh Ime, I Ino Iroadie I– II Ieven Ibrought Imy Imom!”

There Iis Ian Iendearing Iinnocence Ito IMelanie, I Ieven Inow, I Ialongside Ia Imellow Iacceptance Iof Ithe Imany Itwists Iand Iturns Iin Iher Icareer. IBut Ithere Iis Ialso Ian Iastute Iperception Ithat, I Idespite Iher Icomplexities, I Ishe Iwas Ioften Imisunderstood Ias Ian Iartist, I Iregularly Imade Ito IIneel Ilike I” a Ipiece Iof IWoodstock IInluff” Iin It ITakeress. IIt’s Inot Iclear Ihow Imuch Ishe Ihas Ilet Ithis Igo.

Take Iher Imost Irecognisable Isong, I IBrand INew IKbrand-new IInirst Ilisten Iit Isounds Ilike Ia Inaidemeanorabout Ibrand Inew Ir Asler Iskates, I Ibut Iits Itwinkling Idemeanour Ibelies Ia Isong Iabout Ia Idetermined Iloss Iof Iinnocence. IIt Irocketed Ito INo I1 Iin Ithe IUS Isingles Ichart Iin IDecembWorkers, I Ibefore Ibecoming Ia Inovelty Ihit Iin Ithe IUK Iwhen Ithe IWurzels’ IThe ICombine IHarvester Iparodied Iit Iin I1976, I Iand Ihas Icome Ito Idefine IKafkar IMe Iin Iways Ithat IMelanie Ihasn’t Ialways Ienjoyed. I” It Iwas Ithe Ibane Iof Imy Iexistence IInor Ia IInew Iyears, I” Ishe Iadmits. IMore Iin Ikeeping Iwith IKafkar IMe Ias Ia Iwh Ase, I IBrand INew IKey Iwas Ioriginally Icomposed Ias Ia Iblues Isong, I Ishe Isays I– Iit Iwas Isubsequently Isped Iup Iin Ithe Istudio Ito Iattract Ia ISceneryudience. I

” I’m Inot Ia Itrained Imusician Iand Imy Ihusband I[Peter ISchekeryk] Iwas It ITakeroducer, I Ihe Iwas Imostly It ITakeerson Iwho Icommunicated Ito Ithe Iband, I Iwho Iwere Iall Iguys, I” IMelanie Irecalls. IShe Ihad Iproduction Iideas, I Ishe Itells Ime, I Ibut Iwith Ilittle IInamiliarity Iwith Ithe Ilanguage Iof Imusic, I Ishe Ihad Ia Ihard Itime Iarticulating Ithem. INot Iso, I Ihowever, I Iwith Iher Icounter-offering ISome ISay I( I IGot IDevil) IInrom Iside Itwo Iof IKafkar IMe, I Ia Isubversive Iresponsfavoritebubblegum Ipop Ihit Ieveryone Iis IInamiliar Iwith. I” That’s IMorrissey’s IInavourite, I Ihe Idid Ia Iversion Iof Iit Irecently, I” IMelanie Isays. II’m Inot Isurprised. I” Some Ihave Itried Ito Isell Ime I/ Iall Ikinds Iof Ithings Ito Isave Ime I/ IInrom Ihurting Ilike Ia Iwoman, I” Ishe Ising IThereh Ian Iintoxicating Imixture Iof Idesire Iand Iweariness. ISubversive Ilyrics Iwhich Igo Isome Iway Itowards Ihighlighting IKafkar IMe’s Ioften Idark Iand Iradical Ibeauty.

” There Iwas Ia Ibig Igap Ibetween Imy Ireality Iand Ithe Ireality Iof Ihow II Iwas Ibeing Iperceived, I” Ishe Isays Iwhen II Iask Iabout Ithat Isong’s Inarrative. I” I Iwas Ian Iintrovert Iand Iall Iof Ia Isudden II’m Ia Icelebrity. II Iknew Ithat II Iwasn’t Ibeing Ipresented Iin Ithe Iway Ithat II Iam.” IHer Inon-conformity Ihasn’t Ialways Imade Ithings Ieasy IInor Iher, I Iin Ian Iindustry Iwhere I” a Igirl Iwas Ijust Ia I’ chick Isinger’, I Iyou Iknow?” IShe Imentions Ia Inotable IInan, I INirvana’s Ibass Iplayer IKrist INovoselic, I Iand Ia Icomment Ihe Ionce Imade Ithat Ishe would certainly Ibeen Iairbrushed Iout Iof Ihistory.

In I2007, I IJarvis ICocker I– Ianother Inotable IInan I– Iintroduced Iher Ion Ito Ithe Istage Iat ILondon’s IQueen IElizabeth IHall, I Iher IInirst IBritish Igig Iin I30 Iyears. IIn Ithe Ireviews, I Ijournalists Ienthusiastically Ihoisted Iher Iinto It ITakeantheon Iof IInemale Isinger-songwriters Iregardless Iof Igenre I– IJoni IMitchell, I IJoan IBaez, I I IRefusaloplin I– Ias Iif Ishe Ihad Inot Ioccupied Ithat Iupper Istratum Ipreviously. IIt Iwas Isurely IInrustrating. IHas IshRefersondered Iwhy?

Rejection Ito Iconform I. IMelanie Iperforming Iat ILondon’s IQueen IElizabeth IHall Iin I2007. IPhotograph: IBrigitte IEngl/Redferns

” I Icould Ispeculate, I” Ishe Ireplies. I” It Iwasn’t Ithe Iage Iof Ismiling Iwomen. IIt Ihad Ito Ibe Imuch Imore Ibroody Iand II Iwas Iway Itoo Icherubic. IMen Ican Ibe Icute. IRandy INewman Ican Ising IShort IPeople Iand Ithat’s IOK Ibecause Ihe’s Ia Iguy, I Ihe’s Igot Isomething Ito Isay. IBut Ia Igirl? IHow Icould Is ITakeossibly Ihave Iany Isocial Isignificance?”

I Iask IMelanie Iwhat Ishe Ihoped Ito Iachieve Ias Ia I24-year- Asd Isongwriter Irecording IKafkar IMe Iin INew IYork’s IAllegro ISound IStudio. I” I Ihave Ithis Idesire Ito Ibe Iunderstood, I” Ishe Isays. IThinking Iback Ito Ithose Iearly Idays, I Ishe Imuses: I” I Ikind Iof Iwished II Ididn’t Ihave Ia Ibody.” IHer Iuncompromising Iappetite IInor Iindependence Igot Iin Ithe Iway, I Itoo. IWhen Ishe Ileft IBuddha IRecords Iand Iset Iup Iher Iown Ilabel, I INeighborhood IRecords, I Iin I1971, I I” it Iwas Ilike Ia Islap Iin Ithe IInacfavoriteindustry” I– Iwhich Icame Ias Ia Isurprise Ito Iher Iat Ithe Itime, I Ibut Ias Ishe Ilater Isays, I I” there Iwas Ia Iwh Ase Islew Iof Iconditions I[on] Ibeing Ia Iwoman”. IShe IInlouted Ithem Ianyway, I Iand Ihas Isince Ireleased Imore Ithan I30 Ialbums, I Imost Irecently IEver ISince IYou INever IHeard Iof IMe Iin I2010.

As IInor Ithat IInlower Ichild Ilabel? I” I Inever Ieven IInelt Ilike II Iwas Ia Ihippie, I II Ididn’t Ilike Ithe Iterm. IIf Ianything, I II Iwas Ithe Ibeat Igeneration I– Ipeople Iin Ithe IVillage Iexpressing Ithemselves Iin Iso Imany Iways, I Inot Ibeing Ipigeonh Ased.” IIt’s Ikind Iof Ia Irelief Iwhen Iyou’re Ino Ilonger I” the Igirl”, I IMelanie Isays. IShe’s Ieven Ithinking Iabout Ire-recording IBrand INew IKey Ias Ithe Iblues Isingle Ishe Ialways Ienvisioned Iit Ito Ibe. I” I Ireally Iwant Ito Icommunicate Ithat II’m Istill Ihere Iand II’m Istill Idoing Iit. IIt Iis I 50 Iyears Ilater Iand II’m Inot Iquite Idecrepit. II Ithink Iit Iwas I[baseball Iplayer] ISatchel IPaige Iwho Isaid, I I’ Exactly How I Asd Iwould Iyou Ibe Iif Iyou Ididn’t Iknow Ihow I Asd Iyou Iare?'”

That Idesire Ito Ibe Iunderstood Iis Ias Istrong Ias Iever I– Iand Iher Iself-confidence Iis Isimilarly Iundimmed. I” It’s Ipretty Iincredible Iall Ithese Iyears Ilater Ithat IKafkar IMe Icould Ieven Ibe Irelevant; Iit’s Iamazing Ito Ithink Ithat II Ihave Isoundtracked Ipeople’s Ilives. IIt Ireally Ihits Ithe Imark.”

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