Sheet music for the "Pawnbroker, Pawnbroker" single (1968)

Sixties publicity still

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Cool Britannia

One of the most interesting things I did was a radio series called Cool Britannia for the World Service. A lady named Pat Osborne, a producer at the BBC, offered me that job. Gary Osborne and I were co-presenters. We'd have features on fashion, whatever was new, not strictly music. I interviewed people like Duane Eddy, Lulu, Diana Ross, which was wonderful, and Jack Jones. Duane Eddy was very nice. We became good friends, actually. As I was so interested in writing, I thought it would be good if we had a special slot where we featured other writers. That gave me a chance to interview Jimmy Webb and Clive Westlake. Jim Webb was my absolute hero, as a songwriter - him and Bacharach, of course. I was thrilled to interview him. Richard Harris was there as well. Jimmy was quite . . . spacey. He sat down at the piano and played a little bit. I thought that was the ultimate. He was terrific. Richard Harris was easy. He was the one who did most of the talking.

Pawnbroker, Pawnbroker

Then President Records took over the Pan-Musik catalogue. I was part of that catalogue, so they decided to record me as well. By then I'd become more interested in doing the whole thing myself - production, arrangement, everything. I loved that side of the business, anything to do with production. You often see a song one way, then an arranger or someone gets hold of it and it's out of your hands. By the time I was with President, I remember when a song wasn't going the way I intended, I barged in and told them to put everything down and start again. It didn't make me very popular, but I felt it was the only way to get where I wanted to go. To make the unusual sound on "Pawnbroker, Pawnbroker", on the original demo I used a comb and paper. On the actual record we used a penny whistle and a fuzz guitar.

Gentlemen Please

"Gentlemen Please" was written for the Eurovision Song Contest. It wasn't selected but did win another song contest on German TV. At that time, 90% of all records played on German radio had to be in the native tongue, so I was asked to do a German version. I didn't speak the language, so I learned the lyrics parrot-fashion. When we sent it over to Ariola, they said they didn't understand a word of it! So I had to go over to Berlin and do it again. It sounded the same to me, but this time they could understand it. It ended up doing quite well on the German charts and I got quite a lot of television exposure. I went back over there to record some German language follow-ups.


After "Gentlemen Please," they told me that I had to get out and do more stage work, it was important. They got me an engagement at Raymonde's Revue Bar in Soho - upstairs in the Birdcage Room, so they weren't all nude! I went in as a relief for someone who was ill, but I ended up there for about three months. From there I went to the Stork Club, which was an interesting place. It was run by a load of gangsters. You had to keep your eyes and ears closed to what was going on! That was interesting work, and very good experience, but I didn't like cabaret work. You'd be expected to do all this crabby stuff, like "Fly Me To The Moon," but I used to stick in a few of my own songs. I remember going to Manchester to do some clubs. They asked me for my music, the band parts. So I gave them my music. They looked at it and said, "Oh, it's this London music again, oh well." (laughs) That was a good start! I asked them if I could tune my guitar, and they said, "Oh, you're playing that, are you?" Murder! I didn't like touring. I was very nervous of going on stage. TV was easier, and radio wasn't so bad. Really, I just wanted to sit in a studio and write songs and produce.

Song Festivals

I sang "Hail, Love!" at the Festival De 2 Roses Song Contest in Antibes in 1969. After that there was Split in Yugoslavia and the Bern Festival. That was a good one. They used to broadcast them over here on Radio 2, I think. I must have done about seven or eight different festivals. I even won a couple, which was nice. Then they set up a huge tour, which would have been a really big break for me. But it was doomed. I'd got married and was pregnant. I would have been eight months pregnant at the start of the tour, so that all got cancelled. That was the end of my German career. After I had the baby I didn't want to travel.

The Serpentine

But I had started working at the Serpentine restaurant in London. Performing there was great fun. I worked right up until I was seven months pregnant, singing and playing guitar. They had a really great crowd in there. It was only a few weeks after I had the baby that they 'phoned and asked me to come back. There was a room upstairs for the baby. My husband was just starting up his own business. He used to come along with the baby and I used to go upstairs to feed her during my breaks. But in the end she got too big to cart about, so it all came to an end and I retired from the business. My husband Andrew and I turned our attention to our setting up our own business. Then I had another baby.

I got to see and do quite a bit in my time, even though I never hit the headlines. If I could go back, there were an awful lot of opportunities that I threw away. There are times in my career that I maybe should have taken a different path. I realize now that there are things that I should have done, but didn't do. But it's too late now. I had quite a good run, about eight or nine years in all. I still love music, lots of modern stuff, from Will Young, to Dido, to people like Gladys Knight. She's brilliant. Joni is my favourite, Joni Mitchell. I would like to have done something like her.

Recent years have seen a revival of interest in Barbara's recordings, with several of her Piccadilly sides included on the "Here Come The Girls" CD series and some of her 45s changing hands on Ebay for more than £60 ($100) a copy. As we go to press, the release of an entire CD of her vintage material is imminent.

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