A portrait of Kate Jackson (ex-The Long Blondes)

English: no original description

English: no original description (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

White gold, black diamonds: a necklace on top of an upright piano stolen from Elton John, according to its mysterious delivery women. The house of Kate Jackson: Voyage Voyage uncoils from a record player, a heap of scarves and hats on a chair resembles the Kremlin.

Kate has been a chanteuse since she was a child. Suede, impossible-fit corduroys, plays Ariel as Aladdin Sane in The Tempest during schooldays; then up North. Sheffield loves The Long Blondes: rocknroll you can dance to. The singles are terrific, Vogue is a fan. Albums: Someone to Drive You Home, Couples. Kate the sartorial pin-up strutting Sunday broadsheet catwalks. The Long Blondes soar, then fate strikes them down.

To a Victorian terraced house in Hackney. A pretty blonde had let me in, waved toward an ancient brown sofa, vanished upstairs. Kate appears in a doorway with a tray and proffers a mug of frightening, medicine-strength tea and plate of custard creams, sits. Music.

The new songs are composed of glass, verdigris, damasque – then a glorious hook and she’ll sing right at you with a drop-dead put-down served up from a filthy New York City dancefloor. She brings the girl-behind-the-bar sparkle, the risk. Old Baroque straight, no chaser; the tunes’ll drink you under the table, Homeward Bound to Jennifer Herrema.

She says that after The Long Blondes she has to make beautiful things, that anything less is sacrilege. “Sometimes you have to because there’s nothing else. I was working mad hours in a shop, exhausted, walking home at night and there’s this streetlight shining out of tree branches, a trapped angel or something. I mean, Einstürzende Neubauten are gorgeous, but some of Barry Manilow’s songs are just beautiful.”

Concerned, I look up from my notes. She says: “Taste is a matter of taste. Actually, that’s nicked from Bright Lights, Big City,” adding that she’s only recently moved to Hackney and joined a local library that morning. A well-thumbed Jilly Cooper on the coffee table.

More from the new album: an airport’s architecture, of perfume, liquor, windows gaping heavenward. Awakened in Nebraska, riding shotgun to a roadhouse night, Kate’s due on at 10.

She strides on stage, sings, dances, and for an hour this most magnificent orchid owns the room with her wicked, wicked ways. Killer heels, mascara. The crystalline voice, crashing-chandelier-guitars: the completion of beauty. Then the lights go up.

The future: next year an impromptu performance in a Monte Carlo club leads to a liaison with Sicily’s 11th richest man, murder, tea with Alan Bennett, a US tour.

The music stops, it’s time to go. She’s off to Barcelona, booked to spin records in a thunderous basement. Kate waves goodbye at the door, back out into the warm Hackney afternoon. I’d forgotten to ask about Roxy Music influences. Then a lad in sunglasses and a Bryan Ferry t-shirt walks by.

April, 2010. The above makes grateful use of Errol Flynn and Thelonious Monk. Some elements of this story took place, others are fantastical.

Kate Jackson, singer, songwriter, painter, printmaker extraordinaire, is here. 

The Long Blondes on last.fm are here.


About James Willsher

Newspaper and magazine reporter since 2004, has freelanced in Russia and Central Asia, and does local government PR. Likes green tea and interviewing people / places. Phil Garrett was a pen name. @JGWillsher jamesgwillsher@hotmail.co.uk
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