By Mathew Robson
To mark the anniversary of Marc Bolan’s passing, music icon Natasha England has recorded her version of a T-Rex classic- ‘Get it On’. Natasha was kind enough to talk to us about all things Bolan and where her music is taking her.
Natasha England is not an unfamiliar name to music aficionados the world over. Having been active in the industry for close to four decades. She started her career working in the back offices for artists such as Bowie and Rod Stewart, as well as fronting her own band. The early 70s, a busy decade for Natasha, saw her not only marrying Bob England, but forming their own music management business- Good Earth Productions.
With considerable business acumen supporting her career, Natasha inevitably moved into the limelight; showing off her skills as a versatile performer. Her biggest commercial success came in 1982 with Iko Iko.
Throughout the 80s and 90s Natasha continued touring and writing new material. A planned comeback in the early 2000s was postponed when Natasha was diagnosed with breast cancer. Fortunately, radiotherapy treatment led to her making a full recovery.
In 2010 Natasha released her first new album in 25 years Deeper Into Reality, which was released to critical acclaim. Following this, on September 16th 2013, Natasha released a cover of T-Rex’s Get It On, to commemorate the passing of one of rocks greatest frontmen, Marc Bolan.
Natasha was kind enough to take time out of her bust schedule and chat to us here at Secret Sounds.
The song, Get It On, has met with the approval of the Marc Bolan Appreciation Society. Was their approval something you sought after or just an additional bonus to the recording?
The Bolan Society the longest established Marc Bolan organisation in the world is run by Andrew Gardner. Andrew, being familiar with me and my music, suggested I do a Bolan track. Get it On was a very significant track to me in many ways, so I chose to do that one.
The recording coincides with the 36th anniversary of the tragic death of Marc Bolan. What is it about Bolan that drew you to commemorating his legacy?
My love of everything Bolan and Andrew Gardner’s involvement and suggestion to cover a Bolan track. Growing up in Scotland I had the opportunity to see ‘Tyranosaurs Rex’ several times live and was captivated. At that time
T Rex were one of the few bands that actually took the time to tour Scotland. I recorded my version of Get it On several months ago but decided to release it now as part of the anniversary of Bolan’s death and birthday.
Your choice of song is interesting. Get it On is considered a fairly iconic song in the T-Rex canon. What made you choose this song?
Again my love of all that is Bolan and the fact that just prior to me moving to London from Scotland to follow my singer career, I won a big dance competition and one of the three tracks I danced to in the final and after winning was Get It On. This song has many good memories. When I went to London not only was I in a band playing support at the Marquee, whilst working for David Bowie, I was also making a bit of a name for myself as a Go Go Dancer all through winning this dance competition and the press that followed. I was burning the candle at three ends. Amongst others I had a residency at The Chelsea Drug Store and Dolphin Square restaurant and complex where Princess Margaret had an apartment. There was a pole at The Chelsea Drug Store which I did use in my routine so I suppose I was one of the first Pole Dancers with Clothes on, albeit very little. All thanks to Get it On that inspired me to dance.
Was it quite challenging to make the song your own as well as retaining the essence of the original?
When I decided to record Get it On I knew exactly how I would do it. I had no intentions of copying the original as nothing can surpass the original. I wanted to do the song as a tribute to Bolan’s writing. I did not listen to any other versions, I just knew that I wanted it to be laid back and I wanted to put my slant on it while doing the song justice.
In regards to your music, your last album ‘Deeper Into Reality’ has met with almost universal acclaim. Are there any plans of releasing new music in the near future? Or plans of a possible tour?
I have just come back from Ireland where I have began recording a new album with Tom Newman who produced ‘Tubular Bells’ and my first album ‘Captured’.
I have been waiting for a while to do this due to Tom and my schedules. Having started the album, I am looking forward to getting back to Ireland to continue with this. I wrote a couple of new tracks for this album whilst I was in Ireland in the studio and it will also include some tracks that I have written over the years. I started work on 3 tracks when I was there- 2 new ones ‘Wake Up’ and ‘Hook Line and Sinker’ and another track that I had previously written called ‘Work it Out’, It is all sounding rather good and I am very happy with the progress so far. I will be releasing ‘Hook line and Sinker’ as a single from this album in the new
Year . There is a strong chance that I will do some dates to promote this album next year.
I continue to work with Robert Logan who I co wrote and recorded ‘Deeper Into Reality’ with. I rate Robert very highly and I am fortunate to have met him, he is definitely a kindred spirit. I am the only singer/songwriter that he collaborates with as the majority of his own music is purely instrumental. We both have busy schedules and we are both away from London quite a bit so we try and meet at our earliest convenience when ever both of us are in the same city. We have mutual respect for each other and love creating music together . I have several tracks that I plan to release within an new album we are doing. I am releasing a limited physical CD of both the radio and mellow mix of ‘Get it On’ and I plan to include some bonus tracks of which ‘Shine on’ and’ It’s my Life’ two new tracks I wrote and recorded with Robert Logan will be included.
I have spoke to Robert about doing some live dates to promote our music and he like myself would love to do this as soon as is feasible. It is down to schedules again. Robert Logan is off to L.A. to attend the EMMY’S as he has been nominated for his music on a documentary ‘Silence in the house of God’. It is the only documentary to be nominated. What an honor just to be nominated. Whatever happens on the night I am so very pleased for him and I am hoping he wins an award.
Following your recovery in 2000s, in 2007 you re-released your biggest hit to date, Iko Iko, and a two disc set ‘Back From The Mists of Time’- featuring several unreleased songs from your diverse career. What was it like looking back on all of this material?
It really was a blast from the past and it brought back a lot of memories good and bad. Because of contractual problems none of my past catalogue had been transferred from analogue to digital. I had carried the master reels around with me for several years but it was only in 2007 that I had the opportunity to transfer all of theses tracks from big bulky multi track 2″ inch tape reels to digital.
It was a delicate process as we had to bake all of the reels before transferring them to digital. Some of the tapes disintegrated after transferal but thankfully I got them transferred just in time. This then allowed me at last to release my entire back catalogue on digital including Iko Iko which had not be available since the beginning of digital.
Unfortunately I did not have the master for Iko Iko as this had been lost when the record company I had been with went in to receivership back in the 80’s and I had to use a straight copy from vinyl. When I wanted to release several different mixes of Iko Iko for the Iko Mixes CD I had to record the track from scratch. Mel Collins who played saxophone on the original came along and re-recorded his part for this and when the track was finished it was more or less impossible to tell the original track from the re-recording.
Throughout the 90s you were writing copious amounts of new material for a comeback. I was wondering if you could talk us through your writing process. Do the lyrics or melody come first?
Yes I do have copious amounts of new material that I have written over the years that to date no-one has heard. Trouble is, I keep on writing new material so I can never quite catch up on re-recording and releasing them all quite yet, but I will. Writing comes quite naturally to me as music has a way of transporting me to another place and the melody and words flow. I play most instruments badly but thankfully well enough to write, arrange and get my song down. I know exactly what I would like the instruments to do and how they should sound. I was a real tom boy growing up and I was also a fidget who had to be active all of the time so consequently I was too busy climbing trees, swimming, running or riding horses to sit down in one place for any length of time and truly learn an instrument. My voice and melodies are my instrument. When I do get the chance to record these songs for real I usually I call in the big boys to play on the track.
When I am being creative and inspired I see visuals of the story I am telling and singing and it’s like painting a picture. I can write anywhere, on my own or with another musician and my preferred instrument is piano/keyboards but I always prefer to write in the studio with my headphones on and the record button on before I open my mouth. Nothing is planned and when I work with another musician, I just close my eyes and loose myself in the track and melodies and words come to me. I may play an idea or chord with a sound that inspires me and they then will play and follow me and all the changes, we are both in tune with each other and on the same page and before you know it a new song has been born.
With Robert Logan nothing is premeditated, the studio is all is up and running and set to record from the off and we play write and record simultaneously.
Robert’s playing and sound has been the inspiration for some of my most conscious work. I do not open my mouth until the record button has been pushed as I have lost so many ideas and songs by not recording. The whole album ‘Deeper into Reality’ was written and recorded this way. I go with a blank page and let the music inspire me and I will start singing a melody and writing lyrics simultaneously. Every track on ‘Deeper Into Reality’ musically, melodies and lyrics did not change one bit from the original idea and recording. I very rarely change any lyric from the original thought or idea. A simple sound or chord can transport me and inspire me to write.
So in answer to your question, I write alone on piano/keyboard finding a sound that inspires me and melodies and words more often than not come simultaneously. I go where the music first takes me whatever it evokes in me, it’s the most natural and honest place to go. I have been lucky with my choice of writing partners we have a knack of being in tune with each other and we channel the music and emotions and follow, work and inspire each other to a common goal. It’s a wonderful feeling to be at one with the music and each other. It is the most natural process It makes it all so effortless. The day I do not get inspired to write and sing will be the day I give up. For the moment I love nothing more than to sing and be creative.
Radioplay has unfortunately been somewhat elusive for you; what is it that drives you to continue writing and performing your music?
You could say that, it’s been the bane of my music career. I have never had the airplay that I would have liked or hopefully deserved. I had several releases before Iko Iko that were real good songs but got none or very little airplay. Iko was the first of my tracks to get airplay and it was the highest climber and highest new entry in the in the charts. It got to number 10 in the charts but I have it on good authority that it should have had a much higher position in the chart more towards the top 2 sellers at the time. The reason for this I was told was that there might have been some corruption of the tick box system they used at the time for the official charts that worked against me.
You can have the best track, voice, song in the world but if you do not get airplay then no one hears it and you don’t exist, no one is going to buy a factitious track that they have never heard. All any musician/singer/songwriter ask is that their music gets played and this brings it to the attention of the listeners. It’s up to the listeners then as to whether they like it or not and whether or not they buy it.
Airplay in this country is a problem for many artists who are not signed to one of the few remaining major labels or larger independents. I see young bands and singer songwriters all of the time and there is so much talent out there that nobody ever hears and I wonder if they will ever get the airplay their music deserves.
I continue to write record and play music because I am passionate about music. I did not get involved in music for money and fame [that’s a bonus] I got involved with music because I love Music and I believe that I have something to offer. Trust me if I did not think that I was good enough or if I did not believe that I could compete in this market I would have given up a long time ago and saved myself a lot of pain. I love music passionately and nothing gives me more pleasure than to know that my music gives someone else pleasure and hope for the future.
I am an eternal optimist [never say die] but I am also a realist and I tell it how it is. Whether it’s a love song or a more world conscious track I tell it how it is good and bad. Ultimately I would like to think I offer some consolation, understanding and a possible solution. When it comes to love and relationships it is a minefield out there that we all have to carefully negotiate in order find the companionship and happiness that we seek.. Most songs out there are about Love in some form or other. After all It is better to have loved and lost than never to have been in love at all. Whether personal or global this world we live in can not exist without love. We are human and we can not live without love and we all know that ‘Love can and does conquer all.’
If you had any advice for up and coming musicians/artists, what would it be?
If you are truly passionate about music and following a career in music and you or others are not deluding you about your talent or commitment then follow your dreams. If you feel you have something to offer or contribute to music and that your music has a market and you are good enough to compete in that market then follow your heart and stay true to yourself and above all be honest and real. As hard as it is Nothing is Impossible if you truly believe. Learn your trade, play, write songs join a band and get out there and perform live it will all benefit you in the end. Be prepared for the long haul it may take you longer than some to achieve your goal. Find your own voice or sound and be innovative and original, there are enough clones out there.
It is not always the most talented artists that have success but if you have something different and unique to others you will have a much better chance. Timing and luck will have a lot to do with whether you succeed or not.
At the very worst you will have the most wonderful way of expressing yourself and bringing joy to others and you will have a diary of your life through your music. Remember music is a very powerful medium and very influential and you have a responsibility to your fans to set a good example and not be a bad role model [there’s enough of them out there already].. Try not to be too influenced by the shallowness of the industry and the fame and financial gain.
To be able to perform your music and get paid is a bonus.. Stay real and true to yourself and others. You have a gift that should not be abused only used for the good. The music industry is a tough nut but if your good enough and you stick at it you can crack it.
Oh and if you must get in to drugs [alcohol inc.] make sure you Use drugs and they don’t Use you, there are enough casualties out there already. I wish you every Good Luck in the world.
‘Keep the passion and let the love and the music flow…………’
The single is available on iTunes and all main download stores.