26 November 2017 (released)
26 November 2017
“I'm very un-showbiz, I hate it.” A statement which when uttered by any number of artists might feel a little untrue, but when said by the iconic Elkie Brooks, it is perfectly believable. For Elkie Brooks is unlike most household names. Yes, she has had phenomenal success as a solo artist, and is once again enjoying huge radio success for the release of Pearls: The Very Best Of, but despite all the success, she is clearly still as genuine and approachable as she will have been at the outset of her career. Now managed by her son, she sees her career as a family affair, and as I apologise for the lateness of my call for our scheduled interview, she immediately forgives and launches into a friendly conversation, which shows she has done as much research for our interview as I have.
Once we have caught up on my own career achievements and personal life, with a special mention of my Dad, who is a big Elkie fan, we effortlessly move into a relaxed and open conversation about her family, of whom she is clearly extremely proud, before discussing her recording career which started with 1975’s Rich Man’s Woman, but was propelled to international acclaim with the chart success of her signature song Pearl’s A Singer.
While the song is now known the world over, it is clear that Elkie had never really dreamed as big as her she was destined to achieve. “To be honest with you, I was more than surprised when it became successful in 1977. I never really thought I'd have a record in the charts.” A clear believer that success is not just about the individual, she notes, “I was with A&M and they were determined it was going to be a hit record. They put all their big guns behind it. It was a good album, but it is like all these things. There are loads of good albums out there, but if they don't get a proper push then it doesn't mean anything.”
A strong team is clearly at the core of her current chart revival once more. Centred around her family, she is managed by her 38 year old eldest son Jay and his wife Joanna. All members of her family have a hands on approach to her career. “We have a lot of mutual respect. I've done a lot of albums previously with my husband as well, and the boys have always been on the road with me other than the last 10 years, as they have their own careers now. They were on the road early on in their life. They used to help out. Jay used to be guitar and drum teching, Joey was doing keyboards. They served their apprenticeship, most certainly.”
With the #14 charting retrospective having reignited interest in her back catalogue, Elkie reveals that she was not the driving force behind the trip down memory lane. Having been approached by the record label, who own the rights to her material, she felt privileged that Bruno Morelli and his team saw her as the ‘Queen of Blues’ and wanted to remind everyone how great she is. It is with their support and the support of her family that the record has gone on to dominate airwaves. As with her early success, she notes that the path to fruition is not in the individual. “You can be amazing and have the most brilliant voice in the world, or play the piano and guitar brilliantly, but if you don't have the big machine behind you, people aren't going to know about it.”
While she is currently working on her 21st studio album, which will be the fourth album produced by her elder son, she is a woman without regrets. While her career may have had many highs and lows, she never dreamt of superstardom and is just happy to enjoy the ride. “My attitude has always been, I enjoy what I do and I enjoy the music. I have a fine band and really and truly, we are just doing the same stuff we have always done regardless of whether I am flavour of the month. I just go out there and do what I do. I started off reasonably good and I've got better. I still have to keep practicing and trying.”
Inevitably there are avenues she has pursued that she no longer holds in high regard. When probed about reality television, she recalls Reborn In The USA, the reality show that my father used to really ignite my passion for his own musical icon. “I thought it was going to be a better show than it was, but it was awful. If I'd have known it was going to be that bad, I wouldn't have involved myself in it. I am not a reality TV type of artist. I don't do that. I don't like it.”
Although this means we won’t be seeing her on the Strictly ballroom any time soon, we can instead look forward to the new music that the future holds. While the album is still a project in development, she is clearly excited about a track contributed by the one and only Pete Townshend. Although as an artist she has never sought out external contributions or demanded high profile collaborations, she is pleased that this song found its way to her. She explains, “My great friend Susan Da Costa, who was the late Humphrey Lyttelton's partner and manager knows Pete very well. Hump was a big friend of his, and after his death they communicated a great deal by e-mail. During their conversations my name came up, and he said he was a really big fan. Susan told me that has a big fan, so I told her to ask him to write me a song. He said to her that he was going to write me an Opera, so I said to Susan that I don't need him to write me a bloody Opera, just get him to write me a song. Which he did, and it's fantastic. There has been a lot of to and fro-ing, with him adding guitar work and Jay adding licks.”
Although ambition has played a big part in Elkie’s career, it is lack of ego and desire for stardom that has ensured the career longevity she has maintained. As we close our truly enjoyable conversation, we discuss the possibility of meeting up for a face to face conversation in the future, as she notes, “I really don't care as long as the album does well, I am quite happy. Also as long as I have my health, as that is the most important thing. A lot of people around me, good friends of mine, do not have their health. So what is the point in having tonnes of cash if your health isn't good?”