Transcript: Transcript Dexys’ Dynamo: The Enchanting Helen O’Hara

Breath of Fresh Air Seg 1

(0:13) Welcome to A Breath of Fresh Air with Sandy Kaye. (0:18) Cause it’s a beautiful day, a breath of fresh air, beautiful day, oh baby any day that you’re (0:29) gone away, it’s a beautiful day. (0:35) Hello and welcome to Holiday Show number one.

(0:39) I hope you’ve been enjoying the countdown of my favourite episodes over the past few weeks (0:44) from five right through to number one. (0:47) It’s been really difficult for me to select my top five. (0:50) There’s something I love about each of the artists I chat with (0:53) and as a result, I’m sorry to say I find myself unable to make the top choice.

(0:59) So what I’m going to do is split first place into two. (1:04) What that means for you is that you’ll hear this week’s episode (1:07) as well as our final holiday show next week. (1:11) Hope you’re okay with that.

(1:13) So today in equal top position is a woman who featured heavily in the success of 80s band Dexys Midnight Runners. (1:22) You remember this one, right? (1:23) Come on, let’s go. Come on, let’s go.

(1:29) To a paradise. To a paradise. (1:35) Come on, let’s go.

Come on, let’s go. (1:42) Today the band is simply known as Dexys. (1:45) It was founded by Kevin Rowland back in 1978 (1:49) and took its name from the recreational drug dexedrine.

(1:53) Our story today, though, comes from one of Dexy’s longest standing members. (1:58) She’s violinist Helen O’Hara. (2:00) Helen, how are you? (2:02) Very nice to meet you.

(2:04) And you. Thank you for inviting me. (2:06) Helen, I’m confused.

Are you Helen Stokes or are you Helen O’Hara? (2:11) Well, Helen O’Hara is my stage name. (2:13) It was the name given to me by Kevin Rowland when I first joined Dexys (2:18) and I’ve always kept it as my professional name. (2:22) Stokes is a married name, except I’m not married anymore.

(2:25) So I’ve actually collected a lot of names over my lifetime. (2:30) But Helen O’Hara is the musician. (2:33) It’s me, actually.

(2:36) And why did he give you that as a stage name? (2:39) He didn’t like Stokes? (2:39) I wasn’t Stokes then. I was Bevington then. (2:45) And he didn’t like that? (2:47) Well, what he did is he, Kevin put the Emerald Express together, (2:52) which was three violins, a violin section of three fiddles for two ria.

(2:57) And he called us the Emerald Express and he gave us all new names. (3:02) He’s very theatrical, Kevin. (3:04) In fact, he gave a lot of the band new names.

(3:05) So I was Helen O’Hara in the Emerald Express. (3:08) One of the other fiddle players was Steve Brennan. (3:11) So all Irish names.

(3:13) And the other one was Roger McDuff. (3:16) And the guitarist in the group was called Kevin Adams, (3:19) but he didn’t really want two Kevins in the group, (3:22) so he renamed him Billy Adams. (3:24) The bass player became Giorgio Kilkenny, Irish-Italian.

(3:28) He was actually Mick Gallick. (3:29) And so Kevin created this wonderful sort of theatrical group. (3:36) We all had these sort of new identities, which kind of discoloured everything.

(3:41) It made everything… (3:43) It must have made it quite surreal. (3:45) Yeah, but it felt very natural as well because Kevin choreographies the show, (3:51) you know, so there’s always lots of stage movements. (3:54) And his lyrics are very, you know, he’s a storyteller.

(3:58) It never felt odd, to be honest. (4:03) Oh, Gino (4:03) Back in 6th Street, waiting to swear at the club (4:07) Oh, Gino (4:09) Boy, Jimmy’s my zine on the rocks that he rub (4:16) Oh, Gino (4:18) On the night when the clouds didn’t suit my shoes (4:21) I didn’t wake up looking like I was in school (4:25) Oh, Gino (4:26) We’re staying in the club at night (4:29) Just apprentices like we should be when I don’t do fights (4:34) I’m gonna build an inspiration cave (4:42) You’ve got cool drama (4:45) The fight isn’t won (4:49) Oh, now just look at me (4:52) As I’m looking down on you (4:56) No, I’m not a big deal (4:58) Fresh is what I’m looking for (5:08) Nobody minded at all. (5:09) Everyone just went along with it and thought, yeah, this is a great idea.

(5:12) Yeah, I didn’t see anybody mind at all. (5:15) It just felt right. (5:17) And I actually love the name Helen O’Hara.

(5:19) I think it sounds very romantic and quite like another identity. (5:23) There’s a Stalin O’Hara, right? (5:24) Exactly. (5:27) And it’s far cooler than Bevington, you know.

(5:30) Oh, I don’t know. (5:32) Bevington sounds just fine to me. (5:34) Well, it’s fine.

(5:35) But it’s kind of quite nice. (5:38) And it’s also quite useful, actually, to have two names sometimes. (5:41) Sometimes it’s confusing with passports.

(5:43) Yeah. (5:45) You know, legal things. (5:46) And other times it’s just nice to have this other persona.

(5:51) Well, Helen, whatever you want to call yourself as a last name, (5:54) can you walk us through all the steps that came to be for you to join Dexys? (5:59) I believe that you started off life knowing at nine years of age (6:03) that you wanted to be a violinist, which is incredible. (6:06) That’s right, yes. (6:07) As soon as I heard my sister Jenny play the violin (6:10) and there was an opportunity at school to learn, (6:13) I put my hand up, said, yes, please, love to play.

(6:16) And as soon as I picked the violin up, (6:18) I sort of knew that that is what I wanted to do. (6:21) But I had a very classical upbringing, (6:24) but I came from a big family of seven children, (6:28) and I’m one of the youngest. (6:29) And there was a lot of pop music being played in the house, (6:32) and that was always my first love.

(6:35) As much as I love classical music, it was the excitement, (6:38) it was the Three Minutes song and the Rolling Stones that caught my heart. (6:43) I see a red door and I want it painted black (6:49) No colours anymore, I want them to turn black (6:55) I see the artist goes (7:07) I see a line of cars and they are painted black (7:14) Flowers and my love hope never to come back (7:29) Everyday (7:31) I wanted to be in a band from a very early age, (7:34) but the violin, I thought, well, obviously it’s not electric guitar, (7:38) it’s not drums or anything, how would it fit? (7:40) When I was 17, I saw an advert in a local paper (7:44) for a pop group wanting musicians to join. (7:48) Any instruments, they said.

(7:49) So I wrote myself and my best friend, who played viola, (7:56) we applied and basically got the job. (7:59) It was a band that had been formed by a group, (8:03) the drummer from the Grand Hogs, (8:05) who were a very well-known three-piece, (8:08) very heavy rock progressive group in the 70s, (8:12) led by a guy called Tony McPhee. (8:14) And Ken Pustelnik, the drummer, had put, (8:16) he’d left the Grand Hogs and he’d put this instrumental prog rock group together.

(8:21) We joined, and that was my introduction and my way in to pop music. (8:27) From there, I then joined another group, but on keyboards this time, (8:30) a sort of soul group, which then morphed into a new wave punk group. (8:35) That group did very well in terms of, we gigged a lot, (8:38) we won a lot of competitions, we made a single with the BBC, (8:42) we won, you know, we were doing very well, (8:45) but nobody signed us, no record company signed us, (8:47) and we felt we’d gone as far as we could.

(8:50) And my sister Liz said to me, I was at a loose end, (8:54) I didn’t really know where to go from here. (8:56) And she said, well, why don’t you go to music college (8:59) and spend a few years there developing yourself as a violinist? (9:03) And I thought, you know what, that sounds a really good idea. (9:06) I applied to Birmingham, the Birmingham Conservatoire, (9:09) got a place there, felt that I was probably now going in a classical direction.

(9:13) At the end of my four years, I was auditioning for orchestras, (9:17) I got a job with the Bilbao Symphony Orchestra. (9:20) But at the same time, an ex-member of Dex’s, Kevin Archer, (9:24) had left Dex’s, he’d formed a new group called the Blue Ox Babes. (9:45) When you walk out the door, I’ll see you no more.

(9:49) There’s no deceiving you, you fight to the country. (10:00) He came to the college looking for violinists to play on his demos. (10:05) Found me, I played on them.

(10:06) He played those demos to Kevin Rowland from Dex’s. (10:10) Kevin Rowland then asked me to play on his demos, (10:14) and basically from there… (10:15) You were in. (10:16) I was in.

I was at the end of my degree. (10:19) This was all just before Come On Eileen became a hit. (10:22) I recorded to R.A.A. with the band when I was still at college.

(10:25) I had this dilemma of a secure job with a Spanish symphony orchestra (10:30) or joining Dex’s, who had no money at the time, they were broke. (10:34) If Come On Eileen wasn’t going to be a hit, the band would probably break up. (10:39) But something in my heart said, this is it.

(10:41) This band is very special. Kevin Rowland is very special. (10:46) And I thought, you know what, even if the band was to not make it, (10:51) I can still play the violin.

I can still find something else. (10:55) I can maybe join another orchestra, another group. (10:58) But a few weeks later, Come On Eileen went to number one.

(11:01) I sure did. (11:06) Come on Eileen. (11:13) Oh, Johnny Ray.

(11:16) Johnny, Johnny, what a great radio. (11:19) But the feeling in my heart’s just not enough. (11:22) I love it, it’s wild.

(11:26) Settle on, hold it, and then (11:31) You’ll never see radio. (11:34) I’ll wear the same hole as never. (11:38) Come on Eileen.

(11:39) Chula, lula, chula, lula, ay, ay (11:45) I wanna sing this lullaby (11:51) Come on, Eileen, oh, I swear, baby (11:55) At this moment, you mean everything (12:00) And I trust my thoughts on your breath (12:03) We’ll join the team, oh, come on, Eileen (12:10) You definitely pulled the right rein, didn’t you? (12:13) It was magic. (12:15) But I can imagine that your parents must have been really upset with you. (12:18) From the age of 17, you were already heading off in a direction that they, I’m positive, didn’t condone.

(12:24) You could say that. Actually, my parents split up when I was a teenager, when I was 13. (12:29) My mum had quite a difficult time with me because I was a very strong-willed, became a very rebellious teenager.

(12:36) And, yes, she really, I suppose she was just worried for me. (12:41) You know, I was joining a progressive rock group. (12:43) Yeah, she wanted you to have a future.

(12:45) Yeah, exactly. I mean, totally understandable. (12:48) You know, sex, drugs and rock and roll, not great, you know.

(12:52) But then when I went to music college, she thought, great, you know, Helen’s now seen the light, she’s settled down. (12:58) When I rang her to tell her that I wasn’t going to join the orchestra and I was joining Dex’s, (13:04) she was so upset. She was just, she was beside herself because, you know, you can imagine, (13:10) she thought she’d got me back on the straight and narrow, as it were.

(14:01) Put you a dress, I’ll leave nothing, yes, I’ll come on, yes, I’ll come on, I’ll leave you, yeah. (14:10) Put you a dress, I’ll leave nothing, yes, I’ll come on, yes, I’ll come on, I’ll leave you, please. (14:21) Come on, I need to loo, right? (14:25) Come on, I need to loo, right? (14:29) Now you are wrong, now you are sure wrong.

(14:34) Oh, I live. (14:37) Come on, I need to loo, right? (14:42) So, are you free? (14:45) I don’t want to say, well, let’s never, things run away. (14:50) I said, come on, I need to loo, right? (14:54) To loo, right? (15:00) Come on, I need to loo, right? (15:04) To loo, right? (15:07) Once I was on top of the pops, you know, she was over the moon.

(15:11) Was she really proud of you then? (15:14) She was really proud of me, yeah, yeah, she really was. (15:17) And she met Kevin and she really liked Kevin, you know, and she saw that I was really happy doing what I was doing. (15:26) And I think she then understood that, you know, if you have determination and you have a talent and you’ll be okay, you know what I mean? (15:37) It’s like, you know, life is all ups and downs and we all have to make choices and yeah.

(15:43) You certainly made your choices, didn’t you? (15:46) So, just to back up a little bit, you played on the recording of (15:50) That’s right, yes, I played on all the songs. (15:53) I was leading a double life, really, when I was at college. (15:56) So, you know, one minute I was having violin lessons and leading the college orchestra, you know, then I was in the studio with Dexys recording the whole of (16:05) But, I mean, you know, I was in my 20s, you know, had the energy to do that.

(16:12) Of course. (16:12) How did that experience feel for you? (16:14) You must have been swept away with the fact that you were even helping make music for this rock group. (16:21) That’s right.

(16:21) When I walked into Dexys rehearsal studio the very first time, something just blew me away. (16:28) There was, I didn’t even have to think about it. (16:31) I knew I was with a very special band who had the discipline and the same approach to classical music.

(16:39) You know, they worked really hard. (16:41) They gave their attention to detail. (16:43) Kevin was an amazing leader.

(16:44) He still is. (16:45) He, everybody worked really hard. (16:47) Everyone had the same vision.

(16:48) It was like I had found my dream group. (16:52) Everybody was totally dedicated, serious, you know, nobody took drugs, nobody drank. (16:57) It was like totally… (16:59) Dedicated to the music.

(17:00) Dedicated to the music, yeah. (17:02) But still fun to be with. (17:04) It was the approach and the songs particularly that blew me away and the musicianship.

(17:48) When My Light Turns Green became one of Dexys highlights from their first album, Searching for the Young Soul Rebels. (17:56) Don’t go anywhere, Helen O’Hara’s story continues in just a sec.

Breath of Fresh Air Seg 2

(0:00) This is a breath of fresh air with Sandy Kaye. (0:04) It’s a beautiful day. (0:08) Welcome back.

As we’ve heard, Dexys Midnight Runners had begun to fly high (0:12) with their first number one smash hit, Come On Eileen. (0:17) Violinist Helen O’Hara had been brought into the band by its founder, Kevin Rowland, (0:22) and their relationship was about to get a whole lot more complicated. (0:26) I’d sort of walked into this perfect dream group, really, (0:30) and there was never any doubt where I belonged.

(0:33) Was anybody else classically trained? (0:35) Yes. Jim Patterson, who co-wrote the songs with Kevin on trombone, (0:39) he studied at Leeds College of Music. (0:42) He was classically trained.

(0:44) The two other fiddle players in the Emerald Express, (0:46) who I’d asked to join the band for Kevin, (0:50) they were obviously music students with me. (0:52) A few of the band were classically trained, (0:54) but hadn’t been to music college. (0:56) The other half of the band, like the drummer and Billy Adams, the guitarist, (1:01) were self-taught like Kevin.

(1:03) So it was a really good mix of people who had the freedom to think (1:07) without any verticommas rules that they’d learned, (1:11) and those who had the classical knowledge, (1:14) which was also very useful for Kevin as well. (1:31) This is a really good mix of people who had the freedom to think (2:03) without any verticommas rules that they’d learned, (2:03) without any verticommas rules that they’d learned, (2:06) without any verticommas rules that they’d learned, (2:13) The Celtic Soul Brothers was a track featured (2:15) in the 1982 album, Two Rye Aye. (2:18) It proved to be one of the band’s favourites, (2:20) given its members shared Celtic roots and a love of soul music.

(2:25) But it was Come on Eileen that really took the world by storm, (2:28) Spending 17 weeks in the UK Charts, four of them at No.1 (2:33) Helen admits to being pretty surprised by its success. (2:36) I think the success of the songs, to me, were always there. (2:42) The quality, I always felt the band deserved the success.

(2:46) But to get to number one is sort of beyond your dreams, really. (2:51) I’d never imagined that we’d be number one. (2:54) It’s a weird thing.

(2:55) I felt more dedicated to the music and the group than thinking about the sort of media (3:01) success of having a number one single, if you know what I mean. (3:03) But when it did happen, it was just amazing because then you felt that Dexys were getting (3:09) the success that they deserved. (3:10) They’d had a struggle to get there because of lack of money.

(3:15) Basically, what happened with Come On Eileen is that one of the pluggers was Oda Radio Play (3:20) and Come On Eileen was played on Radio One. (3:25) And that play helped push it up the charts. (3:28) And from there, we got more plays and ended up on top of the pops.

(3:32) And then the wheels started turning and because it was such a great song, it then took off. (3:38) But if that play hadn’t have happened, it’s that thing in life, isn’t it? (3:43) The chance. (3:44) I mean, sliding doors.

(3:46) Although sliding doors. (3:47) Yeah. (3:48) Yeah.

(3:48) So what impact did hitting number one have on all of your lives? (3:53) How did it change your lives? (3:55) Well, I still remained in my student flat. (3:57) I didn’t move out. (4:00) I just sort of didn’t have time really to look for anywhere else.

(4:03) We were incredibly busy. (4:05) Everybody wanted us to do interviews and be on the TV show. (4:10) And you suddenly realize you don’t have a minute to yourself.

(4:14) Incredibly exciting. (4:16) Just wonderful, really. (4:17) I mean, it’s euphoric.

(4:19) Euphoric for me. (4:20) Yeah. (4:20) I mean, it was it was life.

(4:22) Life couldn’t have got any better. (4:24) How amazing. (4:25) Did you have to pee yourself? (4:26) It must have felt very surreal.

(4:28) Yeah. (4:29) Do you know what? (4:29) I still pinch myself about everything that’s happened in my life, really. (4:33) I just think I’m so lucky.

(4:35) Yeah, I still pinch myself, really. () I think that’s a huge part of that band, weren’t you? (6:45) I was.

Yes, the lineup had changed, the music had changed. (6:50) It felt a very natural progression, (6:53) I think, as I worked more and more with the band and just became more involved (6:59) and got to know everybody more. (7:01) I suppose Kevin introduced me into the writing team, (7:12) director, I could audition musicians, write parts out, help Kevin with some of the practicalities (7:18) of the music he was writing.

He’d come up with a great tune and I’d be able to put some (7:24) chords underneath. It was a really good musical relationship and myself, Kevin and Billy Adams, (7:31) we were then the core of that next album. And all our personalities and our skills really (7:38) worked well together as a trio.

We never argued. We had the same vision, the same dedication, (7:45) and it was a really good working relationship. Which was your personal favourite song from that (7:50) album? This Is What She’s Like.

I mean, okay, it was written about me, but I didn’t want this to (7:55) separate myself about the content. But I just think it’s probably, well, Kevin said as well, (8:03) he thinks it’s the best Dex’s song, and I agree. (9:15) All right, let me put this another way.

(9:59) I think it’s the best Dex’s song, but I think Kevin Arlene is a particularly special (10:04) song as well. It’s like the two, I think, are just incredible. Helen O’Hara from Dex’s Midnight (10:11) Runners.

What’s she like? Tell us the backstory about that. How did that come to be written about (10:16) you? Well, Kevin fell in love with me, but I didn’t realise when we were on tour. One day, (10:24) after about, I suppose we’d known each other about a year, he sort of professed his feelings (10:29) towards me when we were in Ireland actually on tour.

And I suppose it took me back really, (10:36) because I hadn’t really thought about Kevin in that way at all. But when he started talking to (10:42) I saw him in a different light then. I didn’t see him as the leader of the band.

Well, I mean, (10:48) he was, obviously, but I saw another side to him. And I sort of was fairly, okay, I’ll go out with (10:56) you. It was a bit like that.

I mean, there was something about him. It wasn’t that I wasn’t just (11:03) sort of saying yes. But I think every woman listening to this could certainly relate to (11:09) the fact that you see a man in one way.

And then when they put it on the line for you, (11:14) all of a sudden your vision of them changes. And you have to make that assessment. Is it like, (11:18) can I do that? Can I see him in this way? So you were obviously able to see him like that.

(11:26) Yes, that’s a very, very good way of putting it. There is something instinctive, isn’t it? (11:31) That you know, it’s yes or no, isn’t it? There’s no in between. I suppose I had to think a little (11:37) bit more because we were working together.

But we started dating. But fairly soon, (11:45) I really fell for him. I mean, we really fell in love.

It was a really amazing romance. And then (11:53) he asked me to move in with him. And we started life together.

And then he wrote the song about (12:00) me. And he wrote another song about me called Listen to This. And I mean, I was able to separate (12:07) that when we were working together.

Yeah, I mean, you sort of had to put things in a (12:11) different context, you know, but it was always there, you know. (13:18) We were just great friends as well. And it was wonderful.

But it’s always about, (13:51) isn’t it? It’s always about. Just before we were going to record the album, Boat Standing Down, (13:57) Kevin ended the relationship. As I said in my book, he couldn’t have ended it in a nicer way.

(14:03) But, you know, there’s no nice way, isn’t there? And of course, I was devastated then because it (14:08) was sort of, I suppose my feelings had grown more and more for him. And he was then beginning (14:13) to tail off. So it was this awful, awful scenario.

I mean, it was a desperately sad time. I mean, (14:21) but the thing with Kevin and me is that we both, you know, it was never even discussed that (14:27) I would leave the group or anything. You know, we both knew how dedicated we were to the album.

(14:33) And we managed to continue working together and separate, you know, our relationship ending with (14:41) the job of making the music. And even though it was difficult for both of us and probably more (14:46) so for me, I’m sure Kevin would agree with that, we managed to make the album. And I think, you (14:52) know, the album has the sort of love and the listen to this to me, the song has this darkness about it (15:01) as well as this extraordinary passion about, you know, Kevin saying that, you know, he loved me (15:07) and that he that I didn’t realize that, you know, he loved me at the time.

And then but he’s also (15:13) ending the relationship. So it’s this incredible three minutes of every emotion. But also, it has (15:20) an emotion from the rest of the band who are playing, who we have a lot of difficulties (15:23) in making the album in Montreux.

It just wasn’t gelling. But this song did. And we captured that (15:30) song.

It was the only one we came away with in Montreux. And everybody was having problems. Our (15:35) keyboard player Vince was having mental health problems.

He was having a breakdown at the time. (15:40) We didn’t realize that. What year was this, Helen? This was 1985.

And Crusher, our drummer from (15:48) America, was having problems himself in that he was finding the album quite difficult to record. (15:54) He was finding the Swiss difficult. Everybody seemed to be having difficulties of their own.

(16:02) Wasn’t a good year. Yeah. I mean, we were trying to make this awesome album and nothing was working (16:08) except that song.

And it came out in that song. And then we had to sort of start again after that (16:16) with new musicians or some new musicians. So it took a long time to record the album.

(16:24) A life of myth, it’s a prize you were able to express myself. (16:31) But first, my name is Kevin Rolland, I am the leader of the band. (16:43) Hearing your wish to clarify, really I state my plans.

(16:51) I’ve tales from near and far and parts of all my friends. Before we start, I would like to call (17:36) on you. (17:46) The title track from Dexys third album, Don’t Stand Me Down, released in 1985.

Stay tuned as (17:53) Helen O’Hara continues her intimate tale about the rise and fall of Dexys Midnight Runners.

Breath of Fresh Air Seg 3

(0:00) This is a breath of fresh air with Sandy Kaye. It’s a beautiful day. (0:07) So happy you’re still with me.

I think many of us can relate to being dumped by a partner and having to continue working with them. (0:15) Not an easy thing to do no matter who you are, but possibly even more difficult when you have to do so in the public eye. (0:23) Dixie’s Helen O’Hara was forced to be brave.

(0:26) You’re amazing though because despite all of that you hung in there. It was another couple of years before the band actually broke up. (0:33) That’s right, yeah.

I think I’ve always been able to compartmentalise my life and work in difficult situations with other often tricky things going on. (0:45) I’m sure a lot of people have to do that in their lives and you can either do it or you can’t do it. (0:51) Well that’s right.

I’m not sure that there are many that would appear to be quite as brave as you during those days. (0:57) It would have taken a lot of courage to keep putting one foot in front of another in those circumstances for sure. (1:03) Why did the band break up in the end? (1:06) After Don’t Stand Me Down, we’d toured the album, we’d done a UK tour, we didn’t have much support from the record company.

(1:14) We’d spent an awful lot of money making the album. (1:18) We’d gone against the grain in recording a 12 minute single, which wasn’t the format that BBC would want. (1:27) We were being criticised for our look, which was the Brooks Brothers look.

(1:32) It was going against everything that was happening at the time musically. (1:37) Without promotion and support from the record company, the album wasn’t a commercial success. (1:45) Obviously for us it was a creative success, but commercially it didn’t do well.

(2:22) Was it an amicable breakup? (2:24) Yes, it was. After Don’t Stand Me Down, we were asked by the BBC to make a theme tune piece of music for a very long running successful sitcom called Brushstrokes. (2:36) Which was probably the last thing people would have thought Dexys would have done.

(2:41) We recorded a single called Because of You, which was the music for that, which became a top 20 hit actually. (2:46) A really lovely song, another song that was sort of written about me. (2:51) Aren’t you lucky, I can hear all of these people listening to this going, oh gosh, why isn’t there a song written about me? (2:57) In fact, I’m thinking the same, why hasn’t anyone written a song about me? (3:01) Well, this was a really beautiful song actually, written about our friendship.

(3:05) That we’d come through all this and it was very light, but it was also very, just very beautiful really. (3:11) But I didn’t realise it was written about me until quite recently when I was talking to Kevin about asking him things about my book. (3:18) You know, questions, just checking some facts with him.

(3:20) And he said, you know, that song was about our friendship, Hal. (3:23) And I just didn’t realise, it was only recently that I discovered that. (3:27) I didn’t put two and two together.

(3:31) Because of you, these things I do. (3:38) Because of you, because of you. (3:47) Because of you, because of you.

(3:54) Oh, and you love nature, you love nature. (4:01) You love nature, you love nature. (4:05) You love nature, don’t you? (4:12) So the two of you have remained friends.

(4:14) We have, yeah. (4:15) You know, there’s been ups and downs obviously, but yeah, we have remained friends. (4:20) Incredible.

(4:21) It feels like your musical journey is really only beginning because you went on after Dexys Midnight Runners to work with a singer called Tanita Tikaram. (4:29) Is that how you pronounce it? (4:30) Yeah, that’s right. (4:31) And you were also a session player for a whole bunch of people.

(4:35) Some of whom we know in Graham Parker, who’s one of the show’s favourites, and Mary Colquhoun and the Adventurers. (4:42) Yes, that’s right. (4:43) It was actually a lovely sort of continuation really.

(4:45) So after I left Dexys, we just felt it was a very natural breakup. (4:51) Kevin went on to record a solo album. (4:53) I went on to record a couple of solo albums myself.

(4:56) More as a challenge for myself than anything really. (5:00) I never really thought, or never was looking to become a solo artist. (5:04) It was more a musical challenge, I suppose.

(5:06) It was a wonderful thing to do because I met the extraordinary session player called Nicky Hopkins, who sadly isn’t with us anymore, (5:15) but has played on just about everyone’s record, all the Rolling Stones records, She’s a Rainbow. (5:21) He played on Jealous Guy. (5:23) He’s worked with everyone, Graham Parker, The Kinks, almost everyone.

(5:27) It was such a privilege to work with Nicky on the album. (5:51) Making that album took me to work with Nicky, and also then to work with Tanita for a couple of years. (5:57) That was wonderful because she was this 18-year-old who was having this incredible success.

(6:02) For me, it was lovely to have a period of time where I wasn’t the focal point or anything. (6:08) I was a supporting musician, and it was a lovely position to be in. (6:14) I really enjoyed working with Tanita.

(6:16) In fact, I’m working with her again now. I’ve just done a gig in Poland with her. (6:20) Amazing.

The other one that I noticed you work with is a young man by the name of Timothy Burgess, (6:26) who was the lead singer of the Charlatans. (6:48) You get around, don’t you? (6:51) Well, that came about. It was absolutely wonderful.

(6:54) In the lockdown, Tim Burgess created the listening parties. (7:00) Dexys were invited to take part. (7:02) Through this, Too Right A and Don’t Stand Me Down were played.

(7:06) We were all messaging each other during these parties. (7:11) Then Tim messaged me privately and said, (7:14) Can I send you my solo album, I Love the New Sky? (7:18) Would you be interested in recording a sort of cutting a direct-to-vinyl song with me and his solo band? (7:27) I was like, wow, I’d love to. (7:44) I’ve been dreaming lately (7:47) The whole world is there to discover (7:51) If you need adventure (7:56) Treasure (7:58) There we gather (8:00) It might not lead you to treasure (8:05) See the skies, drink a wine (8:08) Close your eyes, check the time (8:10) Listen, hold your hands, we are living (8:14) Taking the sun, wanting it all (8:21) We have friends in other dimensions (8:27) They come with the sweetest intentions (8:30) Suspended in dreams and beautiful things (8:38) That’s how I met Tim and then from there he asked me to join his band (8:41) and I’ve been in his solo band this season (8:44) I’ve been touring with him and playing festivals like Glastonbury this year (8:48) How awesome! (8:49) It really is awesome, Sally (8:52) It’s such a diverse career you’re enjoying, it’s just wonderful (8:55) Helen, what’s Too Right A as it should have sounded? Tell us about that (8:59) Okay, so when the album was made, I mean, I thought it was terrific (9:03) I thought it was great and everything (9:05) but Kevin, I didn’t realise until later, had always felt the mix (9:10) the original mix was rather harsh (9:12) There was no criticism of the producers (9:15) because it was sort of how 80s music was sounding then (9:20) as a finished veneer, if you like (9:22) At the time he’d asked the record company (9:25) Can we remix this? (9:28) Not change any of the instrumentation or anything (9:31) He was very happy with the way it was musically (9:33) but the actual sound, they said no, there’s no money (9:36) it’s going out as it is (9:38) and so for 40 years, Kevin (9:40) Wished it was different (9:41) Wished it sounded different (9:44) Yeah (9:44) Exactly (9:45) Then with the 40th anniversary, he put it to the record company (9:49) Can we remix this? (9:51) and they said yes (9:53) and he asked me and Pete Schweer (9:55) who has been his long-time engineer and co-producer on various albums (10:01) and we got together, we remixed it (10:03) very subtle changes really (10:05) we changed a few little bits and pieces (10:08) for example, the beginning of one song (10:10) called Until I Believe in My Soul (10:11) started with a tin whistle (10:12) it had originally started with Jim on the trombone (10:15) so we put that back in (10:17) but we didn’t add any new recording to it (10:20) there was just a few little changes (10:22) but it was the sound of it (10:24) So we’re going to introduce 2IA (10:26) as it should have sounded to a whole new audience (10:28) Absolutely (10:29) I mean Kevin was (10:32) I can’t tell you how pleased he is (10:35) and how much it meant to him (10:37) To finally get it done (10:38) He messaged me one day almost in tears (10:40) he was so happy (11:10) I’m not sure where I am (11:25) Oh I swear baby (11:27) At this moment (11:30) You mean everything (11:33) We’ve got dressed for a hundred friends (11:36) We’ll join the team (11:38) I’ll come for a ride (11:40) We are here (11:57) To face the reason to what their fight is (12:04) But no (12:08) We are far too young and clever (12:13) To run, run, run, run (12:18) Oh I swear baby (12:29) Come on let’s (12:30) Say everything (12:33) Helen, I’d just like you to tell my audience (12:35) all about your book (12:37) which is called (12:38) Obviously, What’s She Like? (12:40) Tell us a little bit about that (12:41) Well, it was my mum’s idea (12:43) I mean sadly she died in 2021 (12:46) of Covid sadly (12:47) but she was nearly 101 (12:49) She’d had a pretty good life (12:50) but she’d said to me (12:51) Well, she’s had a great life actually (12:53) and she’d said to me a few years ago (12:55) Helen, you should write your memoir (12:57) You know, you’ve got a lot to say (12:59) a woman in the music business (13:01) and all this sort of thing (13:02) Initially, I thought (13:04) You know what? No (13:05) And then I thought about it (13:07) and I thought, yeah, she’s got a point (13:10) and I started just (13:11) I just started to write it (13:14) You know, it just sort of started to tumble out (13:16) tumble out of me really (13:17) Anyway, I’m really, really, really pleased with it (13:20) because it’s helped me (13:22) organise my chaotic life (13:24) putting it on the page as it were (13:26) It’s helped me get to know myself (13:28) a lot better (13:28) So Helen, in one sentence (13:31) how would you sum up What’s She Like? (13:33) Ooh (13:35) I’m not sure I can, Sandy, actually (13:37) We’ll have to read the book, will we? (13:40) You’ll have to read the book (13:41) I didn’t mean to put you on the spot (13:42) Sorry (13:45) It’s a great read (13:46) I mean, there’s so many fascinating bits (13:48) that I haven’t even got time to go into (13:51) with you now about (13:52) what it was like to be a woman (13:54) amongst all those guys in the music industry (13:56) Yeah (13:57) Must have been just sensational (13:59) It was pretty groundbreaking (14:01) It was, yeah (14:02) You know, you deserve (14:05) massive congratulations (14:05) for all your courage (14:07) and all your tenacity (14:09) and all that brilliant music that you’re making (14:11) because you’re an exceptionally talented musician (14:14) and having the guts to (14:15) follow your heart and go with rock and roll (14:17) instead of going the classical way (14:20) It’s just fabulous (14:21) Music is all the better for having had you there (14:23) Oh, thank you (14:24) I suppose that’s the thing, isn’t it? (14:26) I mean, listen to your heart (14:28) Follow your dreams if you can (14:31) Yeah, yeah (14:32) That’s how I try to still live my life (14:36) So nice (14:37) Helena Ahara, such an absolute pleasure to meet you (14:40) I wish we had longer that we could chat (14:42) but I’m very grateful to you (14:44) for spending some time with me (14:46) and my audience today (14:47) Thank you so much for inviting me, Sandy (14:50) It’s lovely to meet you (14:51) and thank you for all your research (14:53) I can tell you’ve really, really (14:55) looked back at my career (14:57) and I appreciate that (14:59) Such a joy to chat about your life (15:01) Thank you so much (15:02) Thanks, Sandy (15:03) I hope you’ve enjoyed following (15:05) Helena O’hara’s journey (15:07) Her style has certainly changed over time, hasn’t it? (15:10) If you’d like to know more about Helen (15:12) pick yourself up a copy of her book (15:14) called What She Like (15:16) It’s a great read (15:17) Thanks for your company today (15:19) and reminding you that if there’s someone (15:21) you’d like me to find for you (15:22) just send me a message through the website (15:26) (15:28) Well, that’s Holiday Show number one (15:30) Done