There was a lot of dross released in the early 80's. There, said it, upset a lot of people maybe, but it’s true. But there were a few artists that shone through. One such performer was Natasha as she was known then. There can’t be many men who watched Top Of The Pops religiously each Thursday who weren’t mesmerised by her when she appeared on the show for the first time singing ‘Iko Iko’. And it wasn’t just because Natasha had made a better job of updating the Shirley Ellis song than the Belle Stars who stalled at number 35 with their reading of the song the same year that Natasha took her recording to number 10. Here was a stunning woman and no doubt that evening many a young man's thoughts were locked in those first few moments when they had seen Natasha for the first time.

Natasha’s first album, ‘Captured’, was released later that year and I’d put money on the fact that if any album was purchased in 1982 because the cover was so attractive then it had to be ‘Captured’. But the music contained within proved that Natasha was more than just a pretty face and a perfect pair of legs. Here was a woman who could sing and not just in the style of her hit singles. In many ways she reminded me of another young lass who hailed from Scotland, Lulu. Both were diminutive girls with big powerful voices but where the comparisons end is that Natasha was also composing many of her own songs. Not only that but it appears that Natasha was involved in other aspects of the music business before she actually started recording.

With Natasha only troubling the charts with two singles ( 'The Boom Boom Room' swiftly followed 'Iko Iko' into the charts ) and her debut album, in spite of that cover, only selling enough to reach around position 50 in the album charts it’s not surprising that many thought Natasha was a mere flash in the pan. 1982 was her year and that was that.

The sad fact is that if those people who bought Natasha’s first album had hung in there for another couple of years they would have been surprised just how good her follow up album, ‘Don’t Walk Away’, which was released in 1985, was. Co-composing all ten songs showed that not only had this talented Scot grown as a songwriter but her vocals and delivery had matured more than we could have expected in a few short years. In short, it was a better album than ‘Captured’ and this was totally due to the fact that on ‘Don’t Walk Away’ Natasha (now billed as Natasha England, her full name) had ditched the cover versions and shown the world that she had the talent to record a whole album of original songs that still stand up over 20 years after she first recorded them.

It hasn’t helped that details, unless you knew where to look, of what Natasha has been doing since the late 80's have been thin on the ground. None of her work has been available on CD and it seemed that she had simply vanished.

Then, out of the blue a month or so back we received a double CD compilation of all her work, ‘Back From The Mists Of Time’, which not only included both the above albums in their entirety but also all of Natasha’s singles; something those of us who still remember that Top Of The Pops performance had given up all hope of ever seeing. But more than that, it seems that after an eventful life Natasha is ready to perform once more and there is even talk of an album of new recordings. There is a lot more to Natasha England than a couple of great albums and a handful of well-received singles as you will find out when you read what Natasha had to tell us when we were fortunate enough to ask her a few questions recently.

PB : 'Back From The Mists Of Time’, the double CD compilation which has just been released, is a pretty comprehensive collection of your work. Is everything that was generally available to date included on those CDs ?

NE : The 'Back From The Mists of Time' anthology contains all of my releases since 1979. There are a still a few unreleased tracks from early album sessions that were not quite finished that I hope to finish and release at some future date.

PB : There’s even a couple of singles on the collection which were released before 1982, the year that you first tasted chart success. The Flirts single from 1979 is the earliest. Was that your first ever recording?

NE : The Flirts single release in 1979 was my first general release. This was released on Magnet Records. This did get airplay. In fact I believe Simon Bates of Radio One actually played the title track twice in succession on a BBC road show, saying "that was so good I am going to play it again." At that time the BBC had to see some movement in the chart to continue to play list the track and unfortunately Magnet Records distribution screwed up and they did not get the singles into the shops until three to four weeks after the first Radio One airplay by which time the Beeb had stopped play listing it. I left Magnet and did not release any more singles with them.

That was around the time my then husband Bob and I set up our own independent record label, Towerbell Records. I wanted freedom to express myself in many different styles of music so I parted with the other girls in the Flirts and went solo. It was then I started to release on the Towerbell label.

There are still several recordings of original songs that I did solo and others with various bands in the years prior to 1979. None of this material has been on general release as yet.

PB : How did the compilation come about and why issue it now ? It’s been over 25 years since your biggest hit, ‘Iko Iko', and there must have been many requests for your albums to be re-issued over the years.

NE : Yes, there has been many requests for my albums to be re-issued digitally but because of my contractual problems my hands were tied. I had not been represented for 25 years and none of my material had been transferred onto digital. It was all effectively 'lost in time'.

After years of contractual/legal wrangles I at long last through the default of the record company and my manager and ex husband got the rights back on all of my material. I was determined to re-launch my career and finish what I started when I got breast cancer at the end of 2004. Yet again my plans had to be put on hold.

After my illness and my subsequent recovery I was more determined than ever. I now had the rights back to all of my music and more importantly I had my multi tracks that I had carried around with me for years waiting on this opportunity. I could now at long last have this material digitally re-issued.

It all came about with the help of Ewan Mckenzie from Platform Records and Alan Connor. I wanted to re-launch my career and I thought that I should get a MySpace site together to help my profile and put me out there again. When I went to set this up I was shocked and pleased to find that a MySpace had already been set up for me. Ewan Mckenzie had set this up and Alan Connor had contributed and between them the site was up and running. They had both been trying to find me for years with no luck. I had lived both in the UK and Canada over the years and had moved around a lot, and despite all of their efforts they had still not managed to trace me. I had tears in my eyes when I saw this MySpace.I got in touch with both Ewan and Alan and we met up in London. These guys knew more about me than I did and they were so dedicated to my music. I was introduced to Dean Murphy by Alan and Dean transferred my quarter inch masters and my two inch multi track reels to digital ready for mastering.

I did not have the multi track to 'Iko Iko' so I re-recorded the track [Mel Collins again did sax] and I had several different mixes done, nine in total including both radio and club mixes which I released along with the original 1982 version this year prior to the release of the double CD.

PB : Did you have any input into what went into the collection and how it was presented?

NE : Yes, thankfully I had total control over what went on this anthology. I also worked closely with Ewan in deciding the layout of the artwork and I provided all of the photos. Ewan Mckenzie and Alan Connor were instrumental in getting this entire project off the ground.

PB : You had some talented and big names backing you back in the 80's. Did you request those musicians knowing of their reputations or was it just luck?

NE : Yes, I had extremely talented musicians who worked with me on my albums. I knew of all of these musicians and I requested everyone of them. When I recorded 'Iko Iko' it was on Tom Newman's 16 track mobile which was plugged into Richard Branson's Barge Studio in Little Venice. Tom couldn't get a parking space on his road in Maida Vale so we cadged some electricity from the Barge. Tom had originally set up the Barge Recording Studio and the Manor Studios for Richard Branson and he had produced and played on 'Tubular Bells for Mike Oldfield. Anyway I wanted Graham Broad to drum on 'Iko' and he was on tour with Paris. I tried two other drummers but they were not right so I waited on Graham coming off tour. I was right to wait because Graham, who is now playing with Roger Waters, is an incredible drummer and person and when he played it all just fitted into place. His drumming on 'Iko Iko' contributed greatly to the song's success along with Brad Lang on bass and of course the wonderfully talented Mel Collins on sax.

PB : You were involved in the music business before you actually started singing, weren’t you? Weren’t you involved in a company promoting some pretty well-known artists?

NE : When I first came to London to pursue a career in music I joined a band. I had to pay the rent and have a regular paying job so I figured the best thing for me would be to work in the industry that I would hopefully be involved in as an artist. I landed my first job as secretary to Tony De Fries, David Bowie's then manager. I worked on the 'Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars' album and tours. I worked with the best in the industry during the day and at night I performed with my band.

During that time through David I also worked with Lou Reed and Iggy Pop. I also helped set up Mainman for Bowie (Bowie's 70's production and management company-Ed) with Nicky Graham from Sony/CBS and Dianna Graham from BMG

We shared an office with Gary Glitter and his managing director and producer Mike Leander. At Gary's request I appeared for the first time on Top of the Pops at the side of the stage wearing a Gary Glitter T-shirt on Gary's debut performance for 'Rock n' Roll Part 1'...Little did we know then what was in store for him.

I went on to work with Billy Gaff, Rod Stewart’s manager. We shared an office above the Marquee in Wardour Street with the Marquee management and the managers of Status Quo and Rory Gallagher.

At the 1973 Reading Festival we took over the whole of the back stage as the Faces were headlining, supported by Status Quo, Rory Gallagher and Strider.

I was still in a band and played the Marquee every other week, Sometimes the support couldn't make it and Jack Barry from the Marquee would pop over to my office and ask me to do the support that night with my band.I would immediately get on the phone and sure enough we would be on stage that night. It was whilst I was working with Billy Gaff and playing with my band that I met Bob England, my soon-to-be-husband, who came to work as a booker/agent for Gaff in his agency.

It was whilst I was working with Billy Gaff that I was headhunted by Tony Visconti, David Bowie's producer, and Roger Myers, Argent's manager, to set up Good Earth Promotions. It was at my suggestion that we brought Bob England to Good Earth and we both ran the agency /promotions company together. Jon Moss who went on to drum with Culture Club worked for us as an agent alongside Paul King who went on to manage Tears For Fears and Level 42 amongst others.

We promoted the Average White Band's' first UK and European tour after they left to live in the States. We also promoted Kool and the Gang, the Commodores with Lionel Richie, Chuck Berry, James Brown and Jerry Lee Lewis amongst others.

I spotted the Darts whilst at a club with Jon Moss. The Darts were a breath of fresh air in amongst a sea of punk bands. I loved them and decided there and then that we would manage the band. So it was then that Bob and I went into management. We left Good Earth and set up on our own.

We started managing the Darts and we signed them to Magnet Records. They went on to sell millions of records with tracks such as 'Daddy Kool', 'It's Raining', 'Come Back My Love', 'The Boy from New York City' and many more singles and hit albums. We were not happy with how Magnet were treating the Darts at this time. We felt that the record company was not spending enough time or money on the Darts and that they deserved more. We wanted to release them from Magnet on to our soon-to-be new label Towerbell but unfortunately Michael Levy [now Sir Levy of the cash for honours scandal] made this very difficult for us and the Darts. He made the release clauses so bad that for a while after the Darts could not release their material and Towerbell was unable to help. Thankfully now after a very long absence the Darts are making all of their material available and are rumoured to be in the studio recording some new material.

PB : Could you tell us more about co-managing Towerbell Records, the label that released your most successful records?

NE : Towerbell Records was set up by myself and Bob. We also set up Rockney Records for Chas and Dave, who we had just started managing. Their first release on the Rockney label was 'Rabbit'. We had previously had to deal with other record companies in particular, Magnet Records. We found ourselves doing a lot of the record company's job so we decided that we might as well have our own label. When we formed Towerbell and Rockney Records we were one of only two independent record labels then...Towerbell and Stiff Records.

PB : After a couple of albums and your hit singles you seemed to drop out of the public eye and music altogether. Why was that. Was it intentional ?

NE : No this was far from intentional. I was actually prevented from releasing records due to contractual disputes with my husband. I had put my career on hold in order to further Bob's ambition. He relied on my business acumen to help create his dream. I had given up several years of my ambition to create his. We were doing really well and I took the opportunity to get back to what I had come to London to do i.e. sing, perform and write. I had an opportunity to sing lead with the Flirts and I took it. Bob found out through the grapevine and loved what we were doing. He said, "Why get a manager ? We are both managers. I will manage you." If only I had known then what was to transpire...

I went on to follow a solo career and I had several releases on Towerbell Records that proved very popular in the clubs, but I could not get any significant radio airplay. It was not until I released 'Iko Iko' that I got the airplay I needed. 'Iko Iko' was the highest climber and the highest entry in the charts and sold over a million copies. I went on to have chart success with 'The Boom Boom Room' and the first album 'Captured'.

By now things were not good in my marriage. Bob was putting a lot of pressure on me not to continue as an artist. Having put children on hold because he needed my business acumen he was now putting pressure on me to have children. I was several years younger than him and I wanted to have a year to establish myself and then have children but he was not dealing with my success and he kept up the pressure. It was then that I realised just how selfish he had been. This put a great strain on our marriage and how I felt towards him. I went on to release a new album, 'Don't Walk Away', a bit of an open book to my life at the time. I released a few singles from that album but yet again I was not getting the airplay I needed. The rot had set in in my marriage and Bob and I ended up divorcing. That's when the fun started. Bob punished me for leaving him and he made it very difficult for me to continue in my career.

I couldn't sign with another label until I was out of my contract and I was unable to release any new material. The time I spent unable to release material was the kiss of death to my career. It took me many years to sort this mess out and I discovered that any money I had made had been misappropriated. Bob England left the country in a blaze of publicity owing a considerable amount to various people including me. He spent over six years out of the jurisdiction of the English courts living in Antigua.

My hands were tied so I got back to the real world and nature, riding and rescuing horses from the meat man and saving chickens from battery hen farms. I was far happier standing in six foot of horse shit than dealing with the bullshit in the music industry.

I never lost my passion for music and throughout my enforced absence from the music industry I continued to write and perform in various different bands both here and in Canada where I lived ,wrote and played music for a couple of years. My writing partner in Canada was Gregg Deckert. Gregg, who is a pianist and keyboardist, had worked along side my best friend Jodie Linscott, a percussionist, on a Dave Gilmour tour. After Dave's tour ended Gregg was asked to play with Paul McCartney here in the UK but he wanted to return to Canada. We had been writing here and when Gregg went back to Canada I decided as I could not do a lot here that I would go to Canada and continue my writing with him. I have several albums worth of material that I wrote over this time.

PB : You co-wrote all of the songs on your second album, ‘Don’t Walk Away’, but only a handful on the first. There’s talk of a new album from you soon. Are the songs originals on that too?

NE : I have always been a writer and I have several albums worth of material that I have written during my absence from the music industry. I love music passionately and I love all genres of music, as long as it touches me in some way and is believable and honest. I hope that I will be in a position very soon to record a new album. I so want this opportunity to show what I am really capable of. I need to get a major label or a manager on board who can arrange the resources to enable me to get back in the studio. I am also working with a young guy called Robert Logan. Robert is making a bit of a name for himself. He is a pianist/keyboardist/programmer who is very progressive. He pushes the boundaries of electronic music. We have several tracks that we have written that are ambient and progressive. I am hopeful to release several of these collaborations in the next few months.

PB : What direction are the new songs taking? You’ve covered a whole range of genres in the past.

NE : I will always enjoy the freedom of the big ballad to express pure emotion along with the energy of dance and the moods of jazz and blues and every other style in between.

There are so many different emotions that I wish to express and I never wanted to be restricted or limited in my mood or expression so therefore my choice of music is and will always remain eclectic.

PB : You’ve recently been on stage again. How was that after not performing for so long ?

NE : I had my first significant live performance in 25 years on the 29th August at the Retrofest Festival in Strathclyde Country Park in Scotland. My band all travelled up from London to Scotland the day before by air, train and plane and all seven of us stayed at my Mum's house in Hamilton, both inside the house and outside in tents in the garden. It is quite ironic that the first major gig that I have done after so many years was in my hometown. I have come full circle.

It was wonderful to be back on stage. I had the best time. We performed live and did some hits from the 80's alongside some new material that I have written with Robert Logan. There was so much energy on stage and the band were incredible and I sang my heart out. The audience loved us. I can't wait to do more live performances. I have another festival in Eastbourne on Saturday 13th September. There will be several bands/artists from the 80's performing. This is a charity gig on behalf of a little boy who has an incurable decease and who has a short time to live. The proceeds will go towards sending him on the holiday of his lifetime.

PB : Do you have any plans to tour the new album when it is released?

NE : I would love more than anything to complete a new album and be able to go on tour to promote this album. I have to find the resources to record and produce this and I am working on that now. Material is not a problem as I have so many songs that I have written over several years along with up to the minute new material that i am writing now. I also have the musicians that I would like to perform on this album ready and waiting. I just need to find the money/backing to do this new album. Oh well, where there's a will there's a way. Nothing is impossible if you truly believe. I will find a way.

PB : What song do you feel is the best you’ve ever written or sung? Or do you feel that your best work is yet to come ?

NE : There are so many songs that I have written that touch a chord in different ways. I love the big ballads as I can have the space to really express the emotion behind the song.'Stay with Me' from the second album is a prime example and a very poignant song. It was the last song I wrote before I left my husband.

'I Casually Strolled By' is a song from the first album that I particularly like as it encapsulates my real life experience as a young woman working in Wardour Street in the Soho area of London and having to deal with all the shady characters that lived and frequented this area. I also love the sleazy jazz overtures with the trumpet and flute. 'Love's Not A Game' is one of several ballads. I wrote in Canada. It instills the message "better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all." This song was an honest reflection of my life, loves, hopes and fears and a true justification and reminder of who I am. 'Homeland' on the second album is a very powerful song. This was me re-discovering my true self and my true identity during a very emotional and heart breaking period.

I have many songs that I have written that have not yet been released that I am very proud of. Some of them could be big hits for other established or new artists.

I love writing. It is how I express myself and I hope to get the chance to bring all of this material to a much bigger audience. Only then can the people hear them and decide for themselves.

I am always looking to write 'the song'. I believe there is much more inside of me that has still to surface. My songs will always be the first to tell the true story.

So yes I believe there is many more songs inside of me and my best is yet to come.

All I ask is the chance to prove my worth.

PB : Thank you.

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Natasha, the most innovative musician and most beautiful woman ever seen on Brtish TV

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