Cumberland News 2007
email 2006
Sounds 1974
Chickfactor 1999
Zig Zag 1973
Liqourice 1976
Q 1994
Email 2004
  Mojo (book) 2000  
  Ptolemaic Terrascope 1995  

   Songman by Will Hodgkinson (Bloomsbury) contains a chapter on Bridget St John.  2007  











Cumberland News

By Anna Richardson 
She’s worked with iconic figures like John Martyn, Kevin Ayers and Mike Oldfield, 
was one of John Peel’s favourite singers and was voted fifth most popular female 
singer in the 1974 Melody Maker poll – just below Olivia Newton John. Yet Bridget St 
John, who plays her first UK gig in 12 years at an intimate Cumbrian venue next 
week, insists she’s not an icon.  Speaking from her New York home she 
says: “I never really realised how famous I was. I never read about myself in 
case it was stuff I didn’t want to read. “For the last four years of my 
life in England I wasn’t really part of a scene other than doing gigs. I 
certainly didn’t have a sense of being really famous or anything, I just did 
what I did. I have a hard time when people describe me as a Sixties icon. Maybe 
John Martyn, but I’m just me.” Bridget was playing small gigs for friends 
in the late Sixties when one of them passed a tape of her music to DJ John Peel. 
He fell in love with her voice and took her under his wing, signing her as the 
first act on his cult record label Dandelion. Peel produced her first 
album, Ask Me No Questions, and also gave invaluable support to a young girl who 
knew nothing about the music business. Bridget says: “I don’t think I 
would be here without him. Certainly when I started I was very, very shy and I 
was so lucky that he found my music and that he wanted to record me. He got me 
some gigs and was really instrumental in me getting where I am today. Without 
his support I probably wouldn’t have got the gigs that I did – I really didn’t 
know about gigging, I had played at university and hall balls but I had never 
really done gigs in front of people I didn’t know and I had no idea about 
putting a set together.” Cult folk singer John Martyn is also among her 
close friends going back more than 30 years. She says: “He actually came with me 
to buy my first steel-string guitar. I would watch him play and learn different 
tunings from him. He was a huge early influence on me.” After recording 
two more albums on the Dandelion label, things went a little quiet for Bridget 
in the UK. She emigrated to America and settled in New York’s Greenwich Village, 
stamping ground of the young Bob Dylan. She hasn’t toured since the 
Seventies but continued to work in music, playing gigs at local clubs and 
writing songs. Her last album, Take the 5ifth (Road Goes on Forever) was 
released in 1996 but in 1999 she played a Nick Drake tribute concert in New York 
and last year toured Japan with the minimalist French musician 
Colleen. She’s coming back to the UK to see old friend and fellow 
musician Michael Chapman, who lives in Greenhead, and who organised next 
Thursday’s gig at Stones Barn in Bewcastle. It will be the first time 
the pair have shared a stage for more than 30 years. They even recorded a single 
together in the Seventies – a version of Leonard Cohen’s Passing Through – but 
it was never released. Bridget says: “Michael and I were talking about 
doing a tour together in the spring and then this trip came up. I’m testing the 
waters. I’ve just realised that people quite like the idea of me playing and 
that makes me feel good.” Bridget’s doesn’t come across as a false 
modesty – she really is shy and music is a way to express her feelings. 
 She says: “It’s always something that makes me feel; something often 
related to a life experience or something I feel strongly about. Look At This 
Child was written when the first gulf war started. My daughter was seven and 
it’s really about those issues and what was coming next and needing to express 
something. “I’m not a narrative songwriter – I don’t sit down and write 
stories, I just write feelings out. “I speak better in songs than in 
conversation – I don’t get tongue-tied in a song.” Bridget St John plays 
Stones Barn, Bewcastle, on Thursday, supported by Michael Chapman. Starts 8pm. 
Admission is £8 on the door but reservations can be made through Andru on 016977 
47571 or Angie on 07771 993 094.







September 2006

 Please tell us about your forthcoming tour of Japan.

Kazuki Tomita from wind bell records - an independent label based in tokyo - contacted me a couple of years ago about reissuing my dandelion catalogue - but for whatever reason that did not work out and we lost touch - but earlier this year he asked if i would be interested in playing japan again since he had the idea to promote a tour - which would include colleen on the bill

Have you got a big following there ?

i don't know how big my following there is - but i know i have fans - there was recently a big article in
the Dig magazine written by a wonderful writer - Tsuyoshi Kawasoe - who also is friends with Kazuki Tomita... 

backing musicians ?

This will be a small tour and there is not a big enough budget for me to take Mick Gaffney who usually plays (guitar) on my US gigs with me - but Kazuki has suggested that one of the japanese musicians who will support the tour might play some songs with me - we will see what happens when i get there...

Was that your own dog on the cover of Songs for the Gentle Man ?

No - i loved that dog but he belonged
to the photographer.

Are you a pet owner now ? 

i have always had animals - dogs and cats whilst i lived with my parents and after that just cats...currently i and my partner have 4 cats - two sets of twins - kisco and salem who are 13 yearold female calicos and rufus and seamus who are male 'irish shorthairs' and just turned 1 yearold

Why did Take the Fifth take so long to get released  ? Were the tracks recorded for a major label ?

the six tracks with stuff were recorded with the intention of a major label becoming interested in a full album - but whilst there was a lot of interest nobody knew where to place me or how to 'sell' me so nothing happened. the other 'band'tracks were also laid down with the idea of getting a record deal - and
some of the others were just laid down to lay them down! in 1995 i decided i would like to gather together some of the several tracks i had done since jumblequeen and put them together as an album - the timing coincided with my feeling ready to begin playing or thinking of playing again

You seemed to be going for a different sound (with a  band etc.) then.

 i played with several different combinations of musicians in varying versions of my madhatters band - from 1978 to 1981 and even tried to play electric guitar for a while... just exploring different musical paths the musicians i played with included - in addition to stuff - chris white, jimmy ripp, jeff golub, paul socolo, denny sawan, ted perlman, stu woods... more will come to mind....

You still perform Ask Me No Questions live today.  It's like a standard .. Could you  tell me about writing the song and your thoughts on  it now.

 ask me no questions was one of the first songs i wrote after being able to play guitar more than just a little bit and after learning open d tuining - so after meeting and becoming friends with john martyn -
who i would credit with having a profound influence on my guitar playing... i don't think i conciously wrote
the song - it is one of several that just appear and come through me - i think of these songs as some kind
of a gift... (i do remember playing it to my mother who was always ready to listen to what i had just written and so supportive...) i still like the song and feel a connection to it - and also feel it is one of the threads that connects me to John (Peel) and Sheila and a time that was very special

 On the list of BBC sessions it says you recorded  Head and Heart. Does the tape still survive ? 

yes and will be issued sometime next year by hux records as part of the compilation they will put together of my bbc sessions

 I read that you recorded a track with John Cavanagh.  Please explain.

 John contacted me and said he would like to have me sing on one of his compositions - and i agreed to do that. he then sent me the track and lyrics to 'see a sign defined' - and after working on it at home for a
while he came to new york and we laid down my vocal and harmony at mark dann's studio on franklin street in tribeca apparently he has a label that will be releasing it as a single - but i have not heard of a release date yet...


Sounds 1974


THE IDEA of Bridget St John on tour didn't seem to fit somehow. She's always seemed the kind of person who would turn up to play at scattered gigs maybe once or twice a week, would play her songs, and then disappear back into another life for a few days until the next gig. Someone who played rather than someone who worked.That was. to an extent. True. But the fact that Bridget committed herself to a tour during June is one indication of a kind of new altitude: she doesn't feel she's changed as a person so much as become more organized in her approach. More positive perhaps.  "A tour like this is very, very tiring. and at one time I Would have thought 'I wish had a few days off to go home and do other things'. but I don't feel like that any more. I suppose I'm giving more to actually playing. I'll just go on working until I've finished the tour and it doesn't really matter if I don't have time to do anything else. Before the gigs were ... well. I love doing them but they were almost like a sideline. I didn't look at them like that at the time but looking back it seems that I was really very honest about how much I was putting into them. It was like playing at gigging really."  

We are talking in the grounds of St. Mary's College. Twickenham. Where her tour with Isaac Guillory is that night. The grounds. it has to be said. are far more pleasant than the gig. which features the usual trademarks of the dreaded teachers' training college gig circuit.We'll gloss over the details —- it was pleasant sitting under trees. Frightening gnats and talking to Bridget St. John. It is a tribute to her new attitude that ~ she rode the indignities of the evening with a smile.It is good to find her making music again and feeling enthusiasm and new impetus: when Dandelion folded. She moved to MCA but never signed a contract, and made only one single for them before moving away again The single was nice. And had the distinction of being played three times on the BBC before they decided to refuse to play it because it was too "depressing''. Or something. Apparently they felt that to express the sentiment that one War leads to another was too somber a thought for their jolly day time listener. After all. Who can blame them? I mean, who wants to think while they're listening to the radio. Anyway. Bridget started to have second thoughts about her involvement with the company. felt it wasn't really the right place for her. And then she changed management from Clive Selwood to Jo Lustig. she also changed to Chrysalis.  "I switched from Clive because it felt that we were walking down a nice cul-dc-sac: it was very comfortable but I didn't really want to be comfortable. I wanted to be extended somehow. wanted something that would stretch me a bit rather than just go along very easily doing the same gigs..."  Did she have a change of attitude ?   "It was a change in me somewhere. About a year ago I began to feel very positive about what I was doing instead of being a bit lost about it. But 1 didn't feel the things around me were very positive: like the MCA deal. it wasn't a good deal for me and it didn't seem like it would be worth all the time and trouble it would take to make it a good deal.It all seemed very unsatisfactory and I just felt that if I was going to go on, I wanted things to be right. not just alright. I just felt strong enough to say look. this isn't really good enough and to want things to be positive.I don't think I've changed as a person. I just feel a bit stronger and I say what I want instead of just agreeing with things that people say are right at the time. If don't think it's right then l say it. and I never used to do that. I just used to accept whatever happened.1 think I'm giving a bit more now. Not so much to the business but to the music side of it . . and in a sense to the business too because I'm watching a bit more what's happening around mc and if I don't agree with it I say so. Before. I just watched it., But I feel l'm giving more to actually playing."

   Moving to Chrysalis meant another and rather unexpected change: Leo Lyons saw a gig and said he'd like- to produce her album "Jumblequeen'' Originally she'd intended to do it with John Martyn' — they've worked together before though not with John producing—but circumstances conspired against that. Leo at first sight an unlikely combination;— she's made possibly her most polished. most consistent album. A lot of thought obviously went into the settings for the songs and it has worked to enhance the basic Bridget St John without losing the essentially straightforward nature of her music. " At first I thought 'oh great'. and then I thought about the group that he plays in and wondered if we'd have anything in common. so I said I'd like to meet him first to see how we'd get on. He was such a nice person a real gentleman that I thought that it would be at least worth trying. I'm very glad I did because he's very good to work with. a very positive person. He won't put up with any of that  'well that was alright' sort of attitude — he'll say yes. but let's try it again. He really thought a lot about what to do with the songs too. instead of it being whatever came out came he'd put a lot of ideas into who to use and different ways of doing the songs."  She had the songs for the album. but because she was working with someone she didn't know too well she approached it without many pre-conceptions about how it would turn out. "I had no idea of how it would sound when we'd finished. I didn't really know a lot about Leo. I suppose, but I trusted him not to make the songs something that they weren't. I didn't really even have any idea of who to use as musicians ... I left that to Leo too. and I'm really phased with what happened. If someone had said to me let's use the lead guitarist from Wild Turkey' I'd have perhaps not thought that was a good idea. but I trusted Leo to know what was best for the songs. and it worked. It's good to try people out and see how they play- with your music. 1 don't think that I ever had a complete enough idea of how it should turn-out before and it used to come out just as we played it. Whereas with -this one we'd try different ways of doing a song before we decided which was best."  She's talked before of working with other musicians on stage. but it's never been the right situation. Was the idea still in her mind. particularly as she's pleased with this album. "I don't think I'm ready to sing with drums yet, partly because of volume. I'd quite like to work with perhaps a bass player. and a guitarist and perhaps a piano player. But if I worked with other musicians I'd want it to be something more than just having other instruments there to fill out the sound. I'd want it to be positive for everything to have a reason for being there."





issue 12


interview by Sam Brumbaugh

in 1968, the enduring DJ john peel started his record label, dandelion, around the young folk singer bridget st. john. over the next five years, she was a vital part of an unprecedented and still unmatched wave of british folk rock talent (fairport convention, nick drake, bert jansch, al Stewart, john martyn, the incredible string band) that flourished in the acrimonious success of late-'60s london, and outlasted kamikaze psychedelics well into the '70s.

bridget st. john s music is cloistered yet honest, her husky voice unhurried and glowing. songs such as "lizard long tongue boy", "barefooting around the city", and "goodbaby, goodbye" are uniquely british folk rock vacuum-packs, languid, rarified, and unabashedly romantic. her songs are sad but they strive to connect. there's hope in them too, as if nico had possessed desire.

I met with her in cafe mogador and we talked about her friends and musical peers back then (nick drake, david bowie, kevin ayers, sandy denny, buffy sainte-marie, john martyn), and life these days with her daughter. she is a clear-spoken, warm person. personable and private. she's lived in new york city since the mid-'70s and has recently begun performing again. 

chickfactor: what are you doing with yourself now? 

bridget st. john: I'm writing songs and am beginning to play a few gigs again. for awhile I tried to do voiceovers. but you can't get an agent until you get a job and vice versa. I did do one for an art shop. got $50 for it. l had to take three trains, but it was 30 seconds of work for $50 thank you very much. to try and get more gigs I would have had to call every morning "hi, you really want me, don't you?" 

cf: you have a daughter? 

bridget: yes. she's pretty centered now. I mean, the beginning of teenage years are pretty awful and that's the time that I think they need parenting. they're so difficult, they're difficult to them-selves. but now she's really in a great place. 

cf. is she old enough to have a sense of your career as a singer? 

bridged oh yeah. now she's very proud. she takes cds with her, she's like a little agent, she came to the gig in london at the weavers last year. she's seen me perform when she was a little girl but she doesn't remember that, so that was the first time she's seen me. she's totally supportive, she wants me to do this now. I think three years ago it would have been a scary thing. but now it's like, I'm very cool now. 

ck and then who knows in a year? 

bridget well, have to take what you have now. 

cf: how did you start with music? did you learn on guitar? 

bridget:  I didn't even have a guitar till about a week before I left high school. when I was younger, I played piano until I was 11. I hated my teacher and thought, I'm not gonna do this mountains and molehills and all this. so my mother said "okay, you can give it up but but you have to do another instrument." I said I wanted a guitar. "no! you can't play a guitar." so I did the viola for two years and tried to play it like a guitar and my teacher ended up giving me a banjo because it was so clear that I didn't want to play the viola. finally my grandmother wound up giving me £20 so I went and bought a guitar. then when I went to university I was around all these people that could play. I would just watch them, try to figure out what they did. my second year at university I met john martyn, so then I started learning a lot. I had been in the south of france with this american girl. buffy sainte-marie. who is, to this day, amazing to me. she's one of those few people who is political, but can combine it musically so that it's still very mo\ling. the woman listened to when I was much younger was Helen Shapiro she was an english singer who had three or four hits her first hit was "don't treat me like a child". she gave me hope because she had a deep voice—and all these other women had high voices— and I finally thought, maybe you don't have to have a high voice. and the beatles. but that was before I had a guitar. and bob dylan. I used to listen to a lot of bob dylan. I still do. 

cf: what do you remember about bowie? 

bridget:  bowie used to have a folk club, some-thing called "the beckenham arts lab", and he actually ran it. he'd sit there with his acoustic guitar and play and then introduce whatever guests. I also opened for him at an open-air festival when space oddity first came out, and I'll never forget, we were all sitting around backstage listening to the single, and every-body was looking at him like this is so great and he's got his long curly hair...very sweet. and then later I opened for him in his ziggy stardust days, down in portsmouth. there was a huge storm, a hovercraft overturned, that was such a weird night. and there he was in his platform heels and I remember thinking, oh, that's not the same guy that I remember. 

cf: you were friends with nick drake? 

bridget: we used to play at "cousins," which was a little club. paul Simon used to play there when he first came to england  john martyn played there all the time. there was a greek restaurant upstairs and it was owned by this big greek guy named andy the greek. then he had this cellar—'les cousins ' it was called. anyway it was this great little place where you could always go and hear so many people. nick and I played there a lot. we were very much alike— we tended, if somebody's talking, to be kind of quiet. I didn't need to say much with him. I can remember sitting outside on greek street— outside a pub opposite les cousins waiting to go in and play and not really saying very much, and it was very comfortable—I don't have to fill up the silence if it's not necessary. 

cf: john martyn was a good fond of his also... 

bridget: oh yeah, they were really close. he was really upset when nick died. 

cf: what do you thank went wrong with him? 

bridget: I think he was very depressed actually. I remember having a conversation with john when nick died, and at that point— I don't read about people and find out what happened—but he heard he'd taken an overdose of prescribed antidepressants. 

ck well, of course, with his musical resurgence, there's been a lot of speculation surrounding his death— accusations that he was damaged from acid use. what do you think? 

bridged well, I don't see the point in speculating since he's not here. enjoy what he left behind, instead of worrying over what might have happened. in terms of acid, my head is in the ozone, but as far as I'm aware, that's not my impression of him at all. I know, I can remember other people that I definitely knew were using, or had been. nick wasn't like that. knowing what I do about depression, I would definitely say it was much closer to that. but you know I loved his music, that was nick drake to me. you know, "could have been a poet could have been a book..." it's just lovely thinking. 

cf. your songs have a similar atmosphere. 

bridget: we were very complementary. we didn't write the same things—but we definitely had some sort of balance—especially in terms of performing. 

ck in retrospect it seems very natural, you two being in the same time and place perfoming together

bridget:  yes.



Zig Zag 27

Spring 1973

Interview by John Tobler


''I was studying at Sheffield University, but the only thing that really interested me and caught my imagination was music; I'd been learning how to play the guitar and as soon as I thought I was proficient enough to at least have a go at performing, that's what I did. Once I'd thought about the possibilities of making ends meet as a folksinger, I couldn't seem to think about any other career.  That, in a nutshell, is how I happened to enter this sphere, but obviously it wasn't as basic and seemingly mindless as that it was the result of a great deal of thought—but in the end, I knew that singing-and playing was what I wanted to do.

I left university with a degree in French and Italian, but, because I wasn't too involved with the subjects, I didn't do enough work to get a really good pass .... it was a very ordinary degree. which meant that very few doors were open to me other than teacher training college or a secretarial course. Neither of these was particularly appealing and so almost inevitably, I pursued this ambition of becoming a professional singer this was in summer 1968.

Having had no "folk" background (I'd never been a regular folk club visitor, for instance), I had no preconceived ideas about the romanticism of a folksinger's life—in fact, I didn't even think of myself as a folksinger, because I was only singing my own songs to begin with—but I started with the optimistic hope that everything would work out alright. As it happened, the very early weeks did work out very smoothly; I mentioned to John Martyn, who I vaguely knew through a friend, that I wanted to try and make it as a singer, and he took me round to Al Stewart's place, where he helped me, to record a tape of my songs. At that time, I was going out with Pete Roach, who was involved in John Peel's Night Ride programme peripherally—he told John about me and got him to listen to the tape ..... John liked it and within three weeks I'd done a session for his programme. It was just an incredible run of luck—the sort of thing that most singers wait years for, and it just happened to me straight away—even before I'd got enough songs together to perform.

A couple of days after the Night Ride broadcast, John Peel rang up and asked very sheepishly if I'd be Interested in singing a song on that television show he was on ('How it is') and of course, I jumped at that just couldn't believe it. Then, continuing this amazing run of luck The Central Office of Information phoned and asked if I'd do a film with them. So in the early days, everything fell into place almost by magic.

I was very lucky with performing too, because John often used to take me to gigs where he was playing records, and I was able to get some experience singing in front of an audience, which was relatively new to me. They weren't particularly nice places, but John made them nice because he used to tell the people who I was and that I was going to sing a few songs and they respected him to the degree that I was able to sing to a perfectly silent audience, who were both open minded and appreciative.  It wasn't long after that, that I realised the true shape of things that my career wasn't going to fold out magically in front of me unless I did something to make !t, I went through a period of very few gigs, and the ones I did get were often benefits which I didn't get paid for or else gigs which weren't really very suitable—like sharing the bill with a group in some rock club, where the audience weren't even prepared to listen and just talked right through the set. It was then that I realized how difficult it was going to be; I was very naive about the various kinds of pop music rock music and folk music and so on, and I had to sit down and have a good think about how I was going to plan out my future. You see, I'd been aware of pop music, like Cliff Richard and the Beatles but I didn't pick up on folk music until I was at college so my knowledge was really quite limited. I'd learnt some Buffy Sainte Marie songs because when I was at Sheffield, I shared a flat with five other girls, one of whom played guitar and used to sing Buffy songs which she learnt from her albums, and I learned a couple of Bob Dylan songs, but I was playing a nylon string guitar and none of it was sounding too wonderful—on top of which, I hadn't fully appreciated what was expected of a folk club performer I had no connection with the folk scene at all. It was a question of observing the situation and adapting myself to it, slowly working myself into a position where I could fill the role of a club performer was something of a struggle, particularly financially—I had to live with my parents because I couldn't even afford to rent a flat.

Nowadays, I find myself in the pleasant position of being able to be more selective in the gigs I'm offered—like I no longer have to do places which I don't enjoy, because of the audience or because of the barmen ringing up tills throughout my singing, or whatever—because I don't believe that you should perform just for the money, irrespective of whether or not you enjoy it. I can earn enough to get by, without resorting to gigs that I find unpleasant, but in the early days I obviously couldn't pick and choose I had to play every gig I was offered in order to make ends meet, and there was no geographical pattern—it was one gig somewhere in the north, followed by one in the south, then another in the north and so on carefully planned tours or anything like that, unless I managed to get a few dates in Scotland,  and then my agency tried to work out a little tour for me up there. But I still go off to gigs by myself usually— catch a train to wherever it is— and it could be a solitary sort of existence, but, in many cases, the club organiser or some-one meets me at the station and treats me as a great friend and the whole thing is lovely and very complete from beginning to end. On the other hand, some promoters greet you with "I'll show you to your dressing room and come and get you when it's time to go on", and then it does become lonely just sit there and tune up and rehearse and so on but I don't really mind that because they re the only opportunities I have to be alone and in peace; if I'm at home the phone's ringing, there are things to be done and so on, and it's good to just sit and play without any disturbance. Most of the places I play though, are friendly, and if they do leave me alone in my dressing room, It's often because they're shy or else maybe think that they'd be disturbing me or intruding on my privacy or something. Being a one-man band. as it were, has its drawbacks, but it has its compensations too. For instance, if I can't get back home after the gig, there's usually someone willing to let me stay at their place over- night ...which is invariably better than getting the milk train back or catching a sleeper, which are never conducive to sleep ..... if it's not too hot it's too cold, or else you have to share with some old lady who keeps waking you up to ask what time it is. It's much nicer to go back with someone and continue the feeling of the gig. if you understand what I mean so much better than piling into a cold railway station or a hotel room.


As far as songwriting goes, I've got to feel I want to write a song, or it just doesn't happen; it's not inspiration so much as a frame of mind that urges you to write ...I can't just sit down and think "what shall I write a song about?" that  would just be meaningless. I recently did a gig with a group and we were talking about our approach to writing; they said .that whenever they needed songs, like for an album, they just sat down and worked until they came. If I did that, I doubt if I could be satisfied with anything that came out of it you must lose so much—but then, some people treat songwriting as a necessity for an exercise and don't even try for any feeling it's all a matter of personal choice I suppose. For instance, I can only write about things I know about I couldn't write a song about Ireland, because, although I feel strongly about the situation there, I don't really know about it first-hand—I've only read about it in the papers. Maybe if I went there and saw things for myself I could write a song about my observations, but I would never dream of attempting a song which put the whole thing into perspective, or anything like that I must write about things that have affected me personally. In the same way, I no longer sing other people's songs unless I can relate to them in some way or feel close to them.

My first album was recorded at a time when I was very unsure of myself and was more or less feeling my way, and it was one of the first releases on Dandelion. John Peel produced it and neither of us had the technical knowledge to make it a very wonderful record. but it was interesting.

Then there was quite a gap before 'Songs for the Gentle Man' because there had been talk of my doing an album with Paul Samwell-Smith, but all that fell through and I was pretty sad as a result. It took me a long time to prepare the material and work everything out and after I'd given him the rough tapes, everything fell through, and I was left at a bit of a loose end. As it happened, everything worked out very well, because Ron Geesin produced the album and made a beautiful job of it as far as I was concerned. I knew Ron as a friend, and I just asked him if he would do it much to everybody's horror because they all associated him with weirdness and didn't think for one minute that he had the delicacy to handle the kind of songs I'd got ready to record. But that freaky stuff is only one facet of his music, the part that he chooses to project on stage, and I knew that he was capable of much more—for instance he'd just completed the music for 'The Body' and-'Sunday Bloody Sunday' and some of that was just beautiful.

Apart from one song, "The Lady and the Gentle Man", which I don't really like at all any more, that album turned out exactly as I wanted it to I think Ron put in some lovely work on it. At the time, he had his own studio, and I used to go round there and we'd discuss each song I'd go over it. and he'd note the chord shapes and so on, and then I'd leave it to him to arrange, so that when I next saw him, he'd have the arrangement all ready to record.

That was very satisfactory from my point of view, and things worked out very well, but on the other hand I felt a little too detached from the music; I was in effect saying "here's the song. can you do something more to it?" With my last album 'Thank You For . . .', I had total control and did more on my own was more like going into the studio with friends and working on each song, and I managed to get a little more promotion on it as well. With 'Songs for the Gentle Man', Kinney only gave me one ad (in Zigzag, as it happens) and though the album sold very well, I felt that with a little more advertising, it would have done even better..... I was a bit resentful, I must admit, because they'd spent so much money doing that place up, and yet they weren't even prepared to spend even one wall of paint's worth on a few more ads.

Dandelion's had more than its share of problems with various record companies, but even if it means that I never sell any more records than I do at the moment, I'd still prefer to stay on with them, because I'd rather feel good and keep chugging along than be wildly successful and be treated as a "product". At least with Dandelion, you feel as though you have a few friends protecting you from all the horrors than can fall upon you in the pop world."



Issue number 1


Chatting With Bridget St John

by Malcolm and Irena

For as long as I can remember, Bridget St. John has been one of my favorite lady singers. She's always seemed something special to me. Her records are consistently good, and they have a friendliness and warmth about them, which is sadly lacking to-day. I've seen Bridget play lots of gigs too, and they're just like watching a friend play.

So it's a treat to feature Bridget in this the first issue of Liquorice. Irena, and myself went up to the charming and healthy little Derbyshire town of Buxton, to meet Bridget who lives not far away, in the little village of Sparrowpit. We all adjourned to a cosy little cafe where we sat and chatted to the clinking of innumerable coffee cups, for a couple of hours, and illicitly munched this cake I'd made for Bridget.


Bridget: Well as the story goes, I lived near Richmond in a place called East Sheen, not Hancock's Cheam, but East Sheen. And like when I left school, the week before, my grandmother gave me twenty quid to buy a guitar with. So I bought one with nylon-strings. Then I went to Sheffield University and the girl I was in digs with could play guitar a bit so  I'd sit and watch her, start learning it.  So I had three years at Sheffield, just slowly learning to play and then writing as well. because I always wrote poems before I played guitar at all.  And even before I could actually play the guitar, I'd written a song, and then I fitted the two chords round the tune if you see what I mean.


Liquorice: How did you meet John Martyn then, because he got you to make a tape, didn't he. 

BS: I met him the year before I left Sheffield in 1967. I had to spend a term in France as part of my course and I'd met this American girl called Robin and she wanted to come to England, so we hitched back from the south of France to London and she stayed with me for a while. And have you heard John's first album ("London Conversations"), well the song "Sandy Grey" was written by her. Then she went to Bunjies one night and came back and said, "I've met this fantastic guy, he's also, really loaded". so we went round and met him. That's how it happened. Then, when he'd come to Sheffield gigging, he'd stay with us. So when I was leaving he said if I wanted to make a record, I should make a tape and send it to him. Also he knew Al Stewart who had a revox or something, a tape recorder anyway. I can't remember. So I made a tape there. When I made the tape, a guy who I was going out with, called Pete Roche, knew John Peel. He was a poet.


L: Occasional Word Ensemble. 

BS: Ah, you've done your homework. Well he used to introduce John to a lot of poets he didn't know of, but perhaps wanted to. And so he said I'll take the tape to John's  producer and if he likes it, maybe he'll give you a session. So, he did and I did! I recorded six songs. So the producer said come to the programme because John always likes to meet the people that have done the sessions for him. It was really nice, so I went to the Night Ride programme and John really liked what I did and the next day he rang up and had got me a television thing. Then, somehow he'd take me on gigs. I can't remember exactly how it happened. We'd go to discotheques and things, and I'd play for half an hour.


L: Actual discotheques. 

BS: Yeah, I can remember one now in Derby called Cloud 72. He'd just say. to the audience "I want you to be very quiet because she's very shy" Just really nice. And they'd really listen, maybe they weren't into what I was doing, but at least they'd give me a chance. It was an opportunity to play in front of people because I hadn't done that a lot. I'd done gigs at college but it's different playing in front of people you know anyway.


L: I remember seeing a gig in Manchester once with Peely, Family, Roy Harper, and yourself which was amazing.

BS: Yeah, they had some fantastic bills in those days.


L: After "Ask Me No questions", came "Songs For The Gentle Man". How did that come about with Ron Geesin. 

BS: I met him through John in fact, John Martyn. When I was still at college, at this club in Sheffield called the Highcliffe. They have some very good people on there. I was on the same agency as him and we'd get occasional gigs together, so I got to know him. Then I was talking to John Peel about the next album and he said I think you need a producer.


L: Do you like it still as a record  ?

BS: Yeah, I love bits of it, but I'm bound to feel like that. Like the last album, I don't like parts of that, but it's only my singing. I could have sang a lot better. I like a lot of the ideas in it.

L: I think your albums have developed a lot, there's been a progression, do you feel that  ?

BS: Yeah, I think so I feel that I definitely sing better now than I did on the last album. That's because I stand up now, and I sing much better. It's taken me six years to dare to stand up really. Because I didn't think I'd be able to play standing up because I learnt sitting down in fact; And it always felt natural to hold the guitar sitting down. And writing I feel, too, like thereto a line in a new song I've written, "I know I have traded innocence for sophisticated ease". I know that I've lost a lot or the innocence that's on the first L.P. but that's bound to happen. You grow older and go through more things, and you're bound to lose some of the naivety, and the first album is quite naive I like it for that, I'm not putting it down.


L: on the back or "Jumbloqueen' you wrote "with thanks from Dandelion, for time to grow". A lot of record companies say "let's get a record out..." 

BS: Well, I've just left Chrysalis for that reason. It was a bit more complicated; but I'm not earning them lots of money. I'm a bit fed-up of everyone saying you've got to channel yourself into something so we can market you.


L: What did you feel then when Dandelion busted up ?

BS: It was a bit like losing a family, but on the other hand it was a little bit comfortable if you know what I mean, like I knew that I would stay with them. But it was bad for distributing through companies because they never got into the people on the label really. So that it was always frustrating You always felt that however good you tried to make a record. As soon as you'd made it, that was it, it was gone into this big concern that didn't really bother. It felt like that anyway.


L: Dandelion records were so difficult to get hold of. 

BS: Exactly.


L: But you could always get hold of your albums, more so than say Beau or Mike Hart. 

BS: I suppose that they did get behind me a bit more, because I was actually working. But even so they were hard to get hold of. And even this album hasn't been in the shops. That really annoys me. Because they say you're not selling records but you can't sell them if they're not there, especially because it's such a fickle market. If it's not in the shops people aren't going to remember to buy it next week. It's got to be there. So I've started selling albums at gigs.


L: When you left Dandelion, did you sign with M.C.A.   ?

BS. Well the guy who was managing me then, Clive Selwood, John's partner in the record company, sort of fixed up this contract and there were bits of it that I didn't like at all. And I decided they weren't right for me. The music business is such a business now, you've got to have someone working for you who knows how to market you, it's horrible. It's not enough to make nice records anymore. You've got to have a whole campaign behind you. 

L: Remember "Oyster And the Flying Fish" with Kevin Ayers. 

BS: There was supposed to be an album of children's songs, it'll maybe happen one day. I didn't see Kevin for a while,I suppose that's what it was. 


B: Have you ever thought about putting out a book of poems  ?

BS: Yeah, very strongly. I wanna be in control of it. Like I've had so many hassles with middle men. So I just think I'll wait till I'm in the position to publish it myself and sell it on gigs, and I'm sure it must be possible to do it through certain bookshops. It must be possible to do it. I want it to be a beautiful book, with lots of nice illustrations.


L: You've got some poems in the "Country Bizarre" book. 

BS: Yeah, I mean I think that book's forever, so lovely to have.

L: With "Jumblequeen" did it take you a long time to get the songs together ?

BS: It was over about two years, since "Thank You For", whatever had been written since then. In fact it took nearly two years to get a contract after leaving Dandelion. With the M.C.A. thing it was nearly a year before I did that album. So it was Songs which had evolved over two years.

L: Leo Lyons produced that and it was good, because I didn't think a Ten Years After man could do it. 

BS: I was very dubious, I was going to do the album with John Martyn but he was so exhausted when he came back from the States. He just wasn't in a fit state to do anything. So then I was let down, not by him. Because I got really excited about it, it would have been an amazing album. I'd still like to do one with him, though he's going to live in the States.


L: How did Beverley get to play on "Curious and Woolly" on the album  ?

BS: 'Cos I've known her for about two years less than I've known John, they were living in London, and I was living in London, and I just used to go round there. And I've always liked her voice. I think we're in the same plane, we haven't got the same voices but we're on the same plane. Like she hasn't got a girly voice, that was one thing about the single "Fly High", I didn't like those girly voices. I know that Beverley's voice goes well with mine, but I'm a bit sad that on the record it's not been mixed that well, you can't hear it that well.

L: Do you buy a lot of records to listen to at home. 

BS: I do, I buy a lot of records. I buy more than I probably like because I like to find out about things, Often I make mistakes, but that's because I want to know. I haven't got the time to go into a record shop and listen to a track from every album. My turntable's broke at the moment but I've just bought Adam Faith's album because I was just interested to see what he was doing. Also Georgie Fame's album because I've heard two tracks off that and I think it's great. I know I'm gonna like that. I got them in a sale in a record shop. I love John Lennon a lot. Stevie Wonder. And John's album "Sunday's Child". I just cried when I heard that, it's just so lovely. Also Isaac Guillory's new band, Pure Chance are amazing. I stayed with them last night and they played me a tape. Incredible band.


L: Are you going to develop yourself with a band, not a set of back-up musicians  ?

BS: Before I left Chrysalis, I wanted to put a band on the road but I think it's like wanting to run before I've learnt to crawl yet. So what I'm doing, is that I'm going to start working things out with Pete Berryman, like I said rehearsing in the letter. And seeing how that works with him 'cos he's very sensitive.


L: He made a nice record with John James.  

BS: Right. he's a lovely guitarists and very much not stuck in a group or into one sound. He's just very free, which is what I need, I don't want someone who takes my sound over. Someone who's not that rigid.


L: That would be good, because people tend to put "folk" labels on you. 

BS: To me, I've never been anywhere near the folk scene at all. It's just because I'm acoustic and quiet, And also when I started off it was the days of love and peace, man, flower power, everything was very gentle and very nice and what I did fitted in very well with that. So there was no sort of push or anything, it was just laid-back But that meant people filled you into a slot. And the other person I'd like to use is Lol Coxhill. I think that'd be a really nice trio to start off with. And I've got to have an acoustic band because I can't afford to put a band on the road.

L: In "Jumblequeen", there's a line "flying to Belfast", did you do a gig there  ? 

BS:. At the Queen's University. That was great, lovely. Very receptive, like a lot of people refuse to go over there which is bad to me. It's a bit like saying I can drive a car but I can't go out in case I get hit. You should just share your life, if they're having a hard time you should just go out and make it a bit nicer for them. I mean my aunt and uncle live there, they've had their windows smashed, but they're alright. It's usually if you're involved in something that something happens, She says, probably next I'll go, I'll get blown up or something. That's part of it all. It's like Scotland, very few people go up there as well, which is wrong.


L: People who play in folk clubs do tend to get categorised too much. 

BSJ: I think it's alright if you're a musician as Opposed to a complete entity. like it's far harder to classify Danny Thompson, he Just plays with lots of different people so he doesn't get in a rut. like everyone needs labels. I don't understand it, but they always do.


L: Do you ever get pissed Off to the point where you think is it worth it  ? 

BS: oh yeah, Sometimes, it doesn't last very long, but like I can always find a reason for it. like if it's a badly Organized gig, then it's not down to me. When I'm tired I'm very sensitive to everything, and every little thing in the audience I think is against me. Like when you're growing up and just getting used to being with people, and you hear someone laughing when you're walking down the street, and you're shy, then you think they're laughing at me. But they're not they're laughing at something else, and you turn everything against you especially in a concert situation where you can't imagine that they can be talking about anything but you. And I don't mean that big-headedly 'cos presumably that's what they're there for to listen. 'Cos the good times are so great like last night was a great gig, I felt really, really nice. Just lovely

L: With living in Sparrowpit, do you find you're writing more than when you lived in Manchester  ? 

BS: I didn't really live very long in Manchester I think I'm getting into writing much more 'Cos I've always felt very unsettled in London. I felt that I had to go out once a day. there's something about the city, it's like a giant Suction pad, it sucks you out of your house and you've got to go and spend some money or go and see someone or go and walk round a bit and it's very negative a lot of the time. Where I live here, if I want to go and see someone it's because I really want to see them. None of my close friends actually live where I live, so it's a very positive thing. In London it gets a bit negative. In London I lived near Primrose Hill "go and watch the sun go down on Primrose Hill". It's a really Magic little hill actually. I mean it's not stuffed (laughs) with people. If you get to the top and it's not misty you can see right across London. You can still see St Pauls cathedral.


L: How about reading, do you read a lot of books  ?

BS: I do spasmodically. I tend to start a lot, then I go off because I drive myself and a lot of time is taken up getting to somewhere, and getting ready to play, and afterwards I never feel down enough to read if you know what I mean. If it's good you're right up there and you can't settle to anything like reading. Sometimes I know that what I need is to read something. I started reading a guy called Flan O'Brien, "The third Policeman", a most amazing writer. A just lovely way of writing. It's like a sort of serial story, I like Aldous Huxley a lot.


L: Do you listen a lot to Joni Mitchell   ? 

BS: I think She's amazing too. I listen a lot to her. But she's not like my favorite singer. I suppose what it is, as I feel she's fairly cold as an actual person. Maybe, she's not really, perhaps that's the side of her she needs to write about. It's like  when I'm down I need to write out those times. Whereas there's a whole lot of other sides to me that hardly come out. Maybe, it's unfair to say that, you just write what you have to write out of you. She's very educated, her command of language is very, very great. It's like she never uses the same word twice, see what I mean. she must have read an awful lot.


L: The "Peel and Pig" song was a nice little touch, did you make that up on the spur of the moment    ? 

BS: Yeah, like I knew the week before, I was going to do something. And I couldn't think what, then about the night before it just came to me,.... no it was driving home and I thought I'll do that. And I Just worked it out with Chick (Churchill) in  the studio. But apparently John was in tears when he heard it, he was really knocked out. I didn't actually do it on the radio 'cos it's so much just for them,


L: It sounded good, I can still remember the words now. De you get a lot of people writing into you, Saying they like this and they can identify with it. 

BS: I get the odd nice letter from someone saying I like what you do. I think that's what's missing. In the old days you'd get groups of writers who'd get together and discuss with each other things in each other's writing or painting. It's like when people do reviews of records, I suppose that space prohibits it but it would be nice if people sort of analyzed things a bit more, not in the destructive way that you're taught at school but a bit more than it sounds like so and so, or she's got so and so backing her.

L: You mean more of why you like a record, not in the A level English sense, which you get a lot of.  ?

BS: Yeah) exactly, like there was one in this month's, no last month's "Beat Instrumental", and I just felt that he'd actually listened to the songs. And he said what he thought was one of the threads through my songs. It's nice that someone had actually looked at everything as a whole and found certain things and quoted certain lines to say why he felt like that.  Maybe it's a selfish thing but it seems much more positive if people would just go into things a little more deeper.


L: It's interesting because when Paul Kossoff did the gigs with John Martyn, he was on the front page of all the music papers.

BS: No, right exactly, he was on the front page. Paul said all they wanted to know was "what drugs I'd been on, man", and "how long I'd been out of my head'', as simple as that. Sad, because that's not what he wants. I never buy music papers because they just make you feel frustrated 'coos you realize the con that they are they're not telling you about people at all, it's more a publicity angle or whatever, the Occasional article will be good though.   It's not worth wading through it all. I like Rolling Stone actually. It's just so expensive, I mean if you're on the road and you get three stacked up, it takes you a month to read them,  there's so much in them, It's like the Sunday newspaper, you can spend hours reading them.


L: Do you feel isolated, coming back to the idea of groups of writers and such  ? 

BS: Sometimes, not always it depends on how strong I feel. Sometimes I feel very much out on a limb in relation to the rest of the business, but only in the same way that John Martyn is really. I mean 'cos he's nothing to do with making money, I mean he makes money obviously, but that's not his reason for doing things.


L: Do you feel the need to go and talk to someone when you've written something  ? 

BS: Yeah, sometimes especially when I've just written something I really love to just play something to someone to know that it's alright. If I'm excited about a line, I really need to say I've got this line. I really like it. To know that it's either worth going on with or what's finished is as good as you feel it is, or communicates as much as you can. like I've written this song on harmonium, and there's one line in it that I really like and it's about this old lady who died in the village but it's not necessarily about her, it's about how people grow very old and just seem to sit there the last few years of their lives, they're just hanging on yet they're not doing anything, And the last verse goes "done are the days of tea and company, the drips and drabs of pain." And I really like that 'cos like she was in hospital and was on a drip right so there's that sort of the drips and drabs, and it's like the way the rain Just goes on and on, drips and drabs, well it's dribs and drabs usually. I got really excited about that, and I needed to talk to someone about it.

L: Coming back to that record you were telling me about there's lots of good music, we must never get to hear. 

BS: Yeah, I Just got it sent 'cos these people in the States, who like what I do sort of think oh Bridget would like that, and they know that record would never get to England but it's  by an American lady Mary McCaslin, and it sounds interesting because it says on the sleeve,  this label gives the artists complete artistic, creative control.


L: That's why Peely's so valuable because he plays things you might not get to hear. But they've ruined it because you can't hear it properly now. 

BS: I can't get it, you get this deep end classical music interrupting -


L: And going louder and quieter. 

BS: It's alright at night because you can get VHF but it's all rubbish at night now. That's why it used to be nice ten, well twelve because you could get it then, and it was lovely to go to bed at ten and lie in bed if you felt a bit tired but not too tired to sleep. I never think to put the radio on at 5.15 now, you're either out or you're traveling.


L: Musically, there ought to be a lot more labels, not concerned with 'hit' bands, specialized like some of the folk labels, Leader for instance.

BS: Billy Pigg - I love that yeah, I like the Chieftains a lot as well people who are really strongly into what they're doing. That's what's depressing about the narrow thing that sells, a narrow area of music that sells a lot not the fact that it's making a lot of money, but the fact that the people who are buying it possibly never hear anything else. And you just don't get the chance to hear it, maybe there's one track on John Peel, but he can't play everything because there's so many other things to play.


L. Have you made a lot of friends through being in the music business,  ?

BS- oh yeah, most of my friends are in music there's one girl who was at school with me and her old mans who I still know. I suppose it's bound to happen like that it's a bit like another world in a way.  Some people just don't relate to it and it's hard to step out of what you're doing. It's a bit like going to grown-ups parties, coming away from - or friends in music and going to people who've got nothing to do with it. Not always but sometimes. You see music's very free, people aren't'  very middle-aged very early. It's a very unsettled life there's no sort of rules that you fit inside . There are for some people but mostly you don't know what's going to happen in a year's time look at some people my age that I was maybe at school with or something and it horrifies me, so settled their whole life's planned out, it frightens me .


L: What did your parents think when you first started singing  ? 

BS: Like they were very worried, my mum was less worried than my father,  my father had a very insecure childhood, like he left school at 14 and he ' s always worked hard and he really believes in giving his children everything he has, I've got two sisters as well, and then it was also like watching me say, "well, I'm not gonna bother with all that you've built up for me and I 'm just going to go into what I want to do" and he was just worried . I think it was hard for him to realize that I had to find out what I really wanted to do. After a while when things started to work out, he's really knocked out by it now. He loved the idea of me writing it was the actual music business side that he was worried about, gigging and things like that. He's always on at me to do a book. People 's reactions to you are funny.  When I first started and I'd meet people that I'd known "what are you doing now" (high upper class stones), "I'm a singer", "oh how nice", It's a bit like saying you're a prostitute or something, It's that far away from anything they knew, a bit seamy maybe, you 're raving all night s all the time. I don't know why.


L: You know you did that interview for "spare Rib", what do you think of the women's movement. (Big question),  ?

BS- I find it hard to answer, like I get that magazine and I hardly ever read it, I don't seem to have time to read it.

L. (Irena) It takes me two months to read it, I keep it by my chair .

BS: I always read the music things, and if I have the time, I look at something else, I approve of what the women's movement is trying to do, which is to help women who don't know how to help themselves in a way. But I read something that said "if women get their whole way it's going to reverse everything, so that the woman is dominant over the men", whereas it's been the other way round, so it's almost like two frontiers it seems there are a lot of things wrong but there's a lot of things that it's up to you to change or an organisation on your behalf to do it.


L: A lot of things happen because of stereotypes and conditioning, 

BS: I find that terrifying, A lot of people are brought up to believe I mean you read magazines, things like Valentine, and stuff like Woman's Own and the whole thing is looking for a Mister Ideal and everything is blissful and roses, and sweet music and magic all the time My father frightened me once, he said you get married to have children. I thought that was awful, you don't have to do that at all. Sometimes I think, I really want a child, then I think that's stupid, I can't have one, I can't play music and have children, what does it involve. You've got to decide what's more important, and in the end you've got to do everything that you've got to do inside of you. Then, when you've done that o.k. if you can't give yourself to a child completely then you shouldn't have one.


L: What are your future plans then Bridget, ?

BS: Well, Pete Berryman will come up and stay for three days and we'll see how it's going. If it's working then I'll do a months gigs with him and see how it seems to be developing.  It 's down to money realty like bringing Lol in, if I can do a gig near London then he can just come along and play, because he's got the album so he'll be doing some arrangements anyway. things will Just slowly come together.


L: What about football, do you follow it. ?

BS- It's a lovely game, I follow Derby County . I've been to see them twice. Saw them beat Liverpool, was amazing that. It would be nice to just have a games room in a big attic one day, with an old railway track.  You just don't realize what you're gonna like when you get older .


Q magazine

December 1994

Jumblequeen's disappointing sales caused Chrysalis to drop her. She only reached the demo stage with MCA so she took off for New York - "there was more interest from the American label but it came to nothing," Has lived in Greenwich Village since. It's hard to rationalise why but I felt at home as soon as I arrived, and I still love it. I'd vegetate without New York's energy." Finding it hard going living off music, she started waitressing, bartending and cooking for various downtown clubs (Bitter End, Kenny's Castaways, Cat Club), progressing to day manager before giving it all up in 1990 - "I knew if I didn't, I'd never sing again."

Is currently working part-time in computers and as a PA to a local artist while recording voiceovers for cable TV and ads "There aren't many English people doing it, so it's easy. It's another way of using my voice, as long as I'm not advertising things I disagree with. " Having guested at The Strawbs' 25th anniversary show in 1993, plans to release new material. I stopped singing when my daughter was born as she was the most important thing in my life. I didn't feel I was giving anything to my music then - I was playing for the sake of saying I still could. But I've never stopped writing or making demos, the last being two years ago I want to compile some demos and remix others for a CD. I feel ready to do it now."

Jumblequeen's disappointing sales caused Chrysalis to drop her. She only reached the demo stage with MCA so she took off for New York - "there was more interest from the American label but it came to nothing," Has lived in Greenwich Village since. It's hard to rationalise why but I felt at home as soon as I arrived, and I still love it. I'd vegetate without New York's energy." Finding it hard going living off music, she started waitressing, bartending and cooking for various downtown clubs (Bitter End, Kenny's Castaways, Cat Club), progressing to day manager before giving it all up in 1990 - "I knew if I didn't, I'd never sing again."

Is currently working part-time in computers and as a PA to a local artist while recording voiceovers for cable TV and ads "There aren't many English people doing it, so it's easy. It's another way of using my voice, as long as I'm not advertising things I disagree with. " Having guested at The Strawbs' 25th anniversary show in 1993, plans to release new material. I stopped singing when my daughter was born as she was the most important thing in my life. I didn't feel I was giving anything to my music then - I was playing for the sake of saying I still could. But I've never stopped writing or making demos, the last being two years ago I want to compile some demos and remix others for a CD. I feel ready to do it now."





Mojo - The Definitive Collection

Bridget St John 

Songs For The Gentle Man

Exquisitely arranged folk album by unheralded contemporary of John Martyn and Nick Drake.

Responsible for the very first album on John Peel and Clive Selwood's quirky Dandelion label, folk singer Bridget St. John was a unique talent that, in her understated way, occupied the same creative space as her better known male contemporaries (and friends) John Martyn, Nick Drake and Michael Chapman. That album, Ask Me No Questions, was a bare-hones production that introduced to the world a quiet, thought provoking singer/songwriter with a deep voice not unlike an on key Nico; part of its minimalist charm was the simple fact that it was recorded in 10 consecutive hours at CBS Studios. 

"I don't know if that was the time I was given, but that's the time it took," says St John today, now in New York, a resident there since 1976. "That was my first ever thing in the recording studio, so I wouldn't have known how to do anything differently John Peel was producing it, and he really just made it sound like I was at that time, and that was a very honest recording." 

But by no means was its follow-up, Songs For The Gentle Man, dishonest on any level. A simply gorgeous album, the 1971 disc paired Bridget with producer/arranger Ron Geesin, whose work with Pink Floyd (Atom Heart Mother) and Roger Waters (Music From The Body) had brought him significant critical success. Unrestrained and inventive, Geesin provided the gentle singer a context that was extremely alluring. 

"I did a lot of work with Ron on that" she says. "l remember going to his house, where he had his own studio and we did a lot of preparation there." Filled with cellos, violas, flutes, bassoons, a celestial organ and St. John's own guitar and harmonium, Gentle Man is a quiet jewel of a record that sounds surprisingly contemporary 30 years on. 

A final Dandelion album would come, then a brief move to Chrysalis for Jumble Queen in 1974, but in 1976, Bridget departed for New York to be with boyfriend Gordon Edwards of american band Stuff (who once backed Fred Neil) and has lived there since. One is tempted to say in obscurity, but every one of her albums has been reissued on CD since (though as we went to press they were currently out of print). "It absolutely amazes me" she says. "My boyfriend is Gordon from Stuff, and I think of them as a massive band and yet Warner Brothers has never re-released their albums over here. It's incredible to me."




Email Q and A 


December 2004

Greetings of the season to you Bridget.  You  recorded a lovely version of In The Bleak Midwinter for a  BBC session a long time ago. Do you like this time of year ?

My favourite season would have to be the Autumn

“Autumn is my season
I am bound to Fall”
(a very short poem!) But I am thankful to live in a place where I do feel the changing of the seasons - I feel quite conflicted about this “time of year” though- if it is just the physical season you mean - I do like the hunkering downedness of this time of year - and I think if I were able I would probably hibernate... I am always excited when December 21st arrives and the shortest day passes .but as to this season in the sense of Christmas or Chanukah or Kwanzaa I am overwhelmed by the commerciality and choose to extricate myself from the giftgiving merrygoround for the most part by donating (in my friends and family’s names) to something that has meaning for me.  In 2004 it was to the AIMS Hospital in Kochi India where my daughter volunteered for 5 months in the Pain and Palliative Care unit, and
where a little money goes a long way to providing help/relief to many...

An occasional feature on John Peel shows during the 80's were letters from listeners wanting to know whatever happened to Bridget St. John.  So what did happen to Bridget St. John  ? 

To quote from a yet to be recorded/released song: 

"I cut the old familiar ties
to test my head on harder skies
there’s a certain sense of freedom in not knowing
what’s to come...”
© Bridget St. John/ Point of No Return
That’s the short version! I left England for New York in November of 1976, (having spent 6 weeks there in the summer of ‘76,) not really knowing how long for - but knowing I had come to a place where I felt at home - surprisingly - and energized and comfortable.  I continued to play music- and did many gigs including Carnegie Hall, The Bottom Line, Central Park - and record - some of these recordings found a place on Take the 5ifth.  Through developing relationships and friendships and the birth of my daughter Cristy in 1983 I have found myself completely “at home” here... I still gig and plan to record more

Take us back if you will to the time in London from '70 to '73.   There still seemed to be a sixties feel about the place, John Peel was championing various bands,  the first festivals were happening,  the corporate world hadn't taken over the music business yet.  How was it for you starting out  ? 

I actually “started out” towards the end of 1968, when having left Sheffield University, a friend, Pete Roche, took a demo tape to John Peel and I did Night Ride - which really was the beginning of my connection to the possibility of being able to do my music... Those were very different days - laid back and creative - and certainly being connected through John to recording and gigs - not that pressured.  The possibility of being allowed to grow at my own pace and create what wanted to emerge - rather than being expected to produce something that conformed to someone else’s idea of what I should be doing was, in retrospect, awesome - I’m not sure if I was aware of what a privilege that was at that time... There was Les Cousins on Greek Street that was a scene of sorts, there was Bunjies and The Crypt at St. Martins in the Fields; there was a great college circuit and as you mention Festivals and there seemed not to have been much division between types of music - at least as far as booking me was concerned. Perhaps it was because of the agency that booked me out - Blackhill Enterprises who I would describe as progressive and openminded - but I played on bills with people you would perhaps not think of including me with - Deep Purple, David Bowie, Jethro Tull, King Crimson, The Moody Blues to name a few - but I think that was indicative of those times when music was not so compartmentalized...

The themes of nature and love and a sense of purity from an earlier time seem to inhabit your songs.  Were you influenced by any particular school of poetry (or songwriting) ?  

I would not say so specifically - but definitely influenced by growing up with a large garden to roam in and very near Richmond Park... my parents were great gardeners and knowledgeable about birds... at school we read Keats and other classic poets and I was always influenced by poetic writing... I grew up without television until the age of 16 - and I am sure that is a big factor in feeling connected to what was/is around me... I have always loved and felt an affinity with animals and all nature and to this day my most peaceful times are when I am directly connected to this real world... As to songwriting - I write what comes through me with no particular thought of how things should be written - though I know I must be influenced by everything I hear that peaks my interest - and then my writing songs is limited to what I am able to express through my guitar/piano playing - though there are songs that come without me being at an instrument...

What's a laird  ?   Is that like a title  ?

A Laird is Scottish for A Lord - so yes it’s a title! Lord of the castle - or in this case Connaught Hall - which was - maybe still is - a Hall of Residence for London University! 

A Song Is As Long As It Wants To Go On is just over a minute long.  Why didn't it want to go on  any longer  ?

Mostly the way I write is inspirational rather than graft - if I allow them to, the songs/poems come through me/ are given to me - and sometimes what comes seems not to want to get any bigger!  Perhaps it’s creative laziness on my part - but certainly in this case that was all I wanted it to be!

The church bell on Ask Me No Questions.    Did John Peel get that in the BBC sound library along with the birds  ?   It chimes beautifully with the guitar.

I am almost certain that the church bell came from the archives as did the birds - I think it was a happy circumstance that the bell sounds the way it does.  It was quite a magical session - and John was very into the production - I still have a mental picture of sitting in the CBS control booth whilst he worked his magic! 

Your Dandelion  records came out on Elektra in the US.  Did you do any live shows or promotion in the US at that stage  ?.

No - the first time I went to the States was in the summer of ‘76. 

You are working on an album of covers.  What songs will be on it   ?

Most of the work is in my head still! But I do have live versions of some of the songs I know I want to use - Nick Drake’s One of these things first and Devendra Banhart’s The Body Breaks.  I’m very wary of saying I’m going to do something until it’s underway - so I will say there will be a Dusty Springfield song and a Gordon Edwards song (actually music - to which I have written words), and I would like to put down my version of the Mentor Williams song Drift Away - I’ve done that live a lot when I have had the luxury of a band... 

Will it include Tous Les Garcons et Les Fillies by Francoise Hardy  ? 

Well that is a possibility - if I can make it ‘my own’- I did not realize until I searched for the words just how many other people have covered that song!

Your BBC sessions are coming out on cd  ?  Have they still got them all  ?  

I am led to believe that there are a lot of tapes missing - I would love to know if anyone recorded those sessions and  might have copies of them?

 You knew Nick Drake and played gigs with him at Cousins.  What year was that?   Was it like a residency or something ? What was he like as a live performer ?

I cannot say for absolutely sure but I believe it would have been 1969/1970 - I just found an old diary from 1969 and I was definitely playing Cousins then - and I believe the next year too.  It was not a residency for me - I did not play there as often as some other people - and part of that was perhaps due to my newness to the whole gigging thing - and a shyness....  I know John Martyn played there regularly - but it was more like the kind of place where you could drop in and play as well as there being acts booked to play there... It was run by Andy whose father owned the Greek restaurant above it - where we would eat after we played...  Nick and I were quite similar in our shyness and I would say that the picture on the cover of Bryter Layter gives you a good idea of how Nick was live - curled over his guitar and involved in his playing and singing - not extrovert at all and I would say shy and  uneasy with the in-between of songs...

Did you have much contact with him later on?   I read that he became depressed at not finding an audience for his music. 

I really didn’t - I would have news of him through John - and on the couple of occasions when I met Paul Wheeler - who was a close friend of his...  I believe that he was very talented but not thick skinned enough for some of the cruelties of the music business - and it must have been hard not to make the kind of money he should have been able to make and needed to make to feel validated  - it’s ironic that now I imagine his music is earning more than he would have dreamed of...

Would you have discussed things like guitar technique or songwriting with contemporaries such as Nick Drake and John Martyn ?     For example you seem to use open tunings like them.

Not with Nick - but I have always credited John Martyn with being my guitar mentor... I first met him through Robin Frederick - in London in the summer of 1967 - and then he stayed with me in Sheffield when he had a gig in the area - and I don’t remember the start of learning tunings from him - whether it was from watching and then figuring one or two out - or whether he actually showed me -  but he helped me buy my first steel string guitar in 1968 - and to this day we have a friendship... I don’t think we ever talked about songwriting as such - we might have played each other new things or things we were working on -  but I think we felt the process of writing was whatever it was for each of us - certainly that’s how I felt...

Any new artists you like especially  ?

The only thing I don’t like about this question is that I will leave someone - many ones out - because I won’t remember them... I am fascinated by Devendra Banhart, and some of Joanna Newsom...  I like Keane and I love Coldplay... The Streets... Wilco...Not that she’s that new but I admire Jill Sobule...If I’m ever in the car and have my choice of radio station I listen to college radio and there’s a lot that I hear that I like - the above is just a slither...

Your desert island  top 5    ?

Oh my!  That’s an impossible choice - can they be whole albums? I think I would want to put together 5 compilation albums actually - with the help of my friend Henry Race who has compiled the most intriguing collections for me  - but since that would be cheating... I think I might take in no particular order and with the provision that I might change my mind before I go - Pink Floyd - Dark Side of the Moon, Buffy Sainte Marie - Coincidence and Likely Stories ,  Prokofiev’s Romeo & Juliet,  Pablo Casals - Schubert Unfinished Symphony/Brahms: Variations on a theme of Haydn (Marlboro Festival Orchestra , and Ray Charles Complete Country & Western Recordings 1959-1986  (I know that’s 4 cds but they are boxed together!)

Any plans to play more shows over here (UK /Ireland)   ? 

I would love that - I would especially love to play in Ireland again - I have memories of some wonderful gigs... I don’t have a manager/agent and in the last few years have accepted what the universe turns my way - and things have worked well this way...  but I would be glad to play! 

Ptolemaic Terrascope



- An  interview at John Tobler’s place, High Barnet, Thursday 23rd November, 1995. 

The night before, Bridget had played her first London gig in two decades at the Weavers. She’s spent the last 20 years living in Greenwich Village, but 1994/95 saw the reissue of her back catalogue and a new album, ‘Take The 5ifth’- (See discography at end), which prompted her return to English soil.

NB: Please don’t go expecting the more traditional-style historical Terrascope interview. We just sat around Tobler’s kitchen table, drinking tea and chatted about various topics!


PT: How do you think the Weavers gig went last night?


BSJ: Oh I loved it. I felt really comfortable. I enjoyed it a lot.  


And that was the first major gig you’ve played over here since the mid ­70s?


Yeah, apart from the five songs I played at the Strawbs gig (30th anniversary gig in 1993 - NC). I really prepared for this gig so hard - we really rehearsed, every Wednesday!


Did you give the set list a lot of thought?


No, yesterday was the first I thought about it. You have to know what you’re going to start the first set with. But actually when I got up for the second set, I changed my mind. 


So it wasn’t a case of just getting up on stage and finding your levels, as it were?


When I rehearse I don’t really sing out, but something takes over when I perform live. It lets this bigger voice come out or something. It feels good to do that.


Apart from these two UK appearances, when was the last time you played live in America?

Apart from sitting in with people, 1983. The year after Chrissy [Bridget’s daughter] was born. I still played that- whole year and it was so difficult because I was breast-feeding. It wasn’t just looking after her and then singing at night. It was working all day and looking after her. It was pretty clear that I couldn’t go on doing that. And I felt I was mechanically playing - I had no creative energy except for her, and I think if you speak to most mothers, they’ll say the same thing. That’s where you have to be.


Yep, I understand... So is there a big difference for you between British and American audiences?


I think it’s different everywhere. I think every gig is different. It’s not’s just because it’s English, it’s because of everything... the weather even! I suppose audiences are different but because I haven’t played full sets in America for so long, I can’t really say that. I wouldn’t play the same places in New York that I played 10 or 12 ‘Years ago, because they’ve changed. When I was first in Now York, we had these incredible evenings. We’d all do our sets and then way into the night - 4 or 5 in the morning - we’d all be out playing our now stuff. Stuff we were in the middle of writing, or stuff we wanted to try out before we actually put it into a set. Now it’s so different. And then, too, people came out because they wanted to see live music and now you have to have your mailing list and you have to try and get people to come out and pay at the door.  You didn’t used to have to pay at the door. Everything’s changed, rents are going up so club owners charge more money. It’s all business now, it’s not like the scene it used to be. The clubs I used to play, Kenny’s (Castaway) and the Bitter End, have 4 or 5 acts a night each doing one set, nearly always bands. Sometimes they’ll put together an acoustic evening but each of those acts is expected to bring along their audience, then they clear the room and then the next band brings their audience - it’s just different, it’s not relaxed, it’s very tough. You don’t expect to make money. You play hoping that someone will come down and see you, but I don’t want to play like that. There are other clubs and I’d just have to find the ones where I’d be comfortable and play.


Do you think you’ll tour the States at all?


Yeah, definitely. There’s someone on the West Coast who wants to put some gigs on. He’s done that for Michael Chapman. I’m going to explore a whole lot. I’d like to play in New York and down the East Coast, I’ve only really done New York State and Long Island. I’ve never played in Boston or Washington.


John T: Which British festivals did you play when you were still living over here? Did you ever do Cambridge?


No,I didn’t actually. I’d have to look through my scrapbook to see which festivals I did. There are so many festivals now, there used not to be so many.


They’re the only places now where you see a lot of people still coming together. Maybe you should play at the Guildford Folk Festival - they had a new site this year, in a beautiful park, Loseley House...


Where they make great ice cream (laughter). Cambridge is kind of very high profile now? It used to be so laid back.


John T: Exceptionally. There’s now 15,000 people beating their way through. I was just thinking that the festivals would be a good place for you to aim for.


You said you only did a very short set at the Strawbs festival?


Yeah, by their request. Not because I said I wouldn’t do more. Basically I asked if I could do it, it wasn’t like they called me up in America and said, come and do it. They said, “we’ll squeeze you in, but you can’t do more than 20 minutes”! They were terrified I’d play longer. It wasn’t very relaxed for that reason.


How was the reaction there? Were people surprised that you were on?


Yeah, I think so. I was, well not in a daze exactly, but I wasn’t really sure what happened when I played and there was a whole lot of feedback that put me off.


I’m sure you’ve been asked this a whole heap of times before, but why did you actually move to the States in the mid-70s?


The immediate reason I visited there was because I was seeing somebody that ended up over there. I booked to go there for 6 weeks and of course, as soon as I got there, he was living with someone else. He’d forgotten to tell me that before I went. It was like, “Oh shit! I’m in this city, I don’t know one person”. But Stefan Grossman had always said I could stay at his parents, ‘cause we were friends, and that’s what I ended up doing. Because a menage a trois is not my idea of fun! Especially not in a hotel room! So that’s the actual thing that got me there, but having said that there was whole background of feeling drawn to checking it out, as well. I liked it, I felt as if I’d come home for some reason.


It seemed like you weren’t going anywhere career-wise in the UK when you moved there. Two years between albums...


Definitely. I remember saying to people that I felt creatively as if I was walking down a cul-de-sac. I could go on doing college gigs and it was all lovely, but I didn’t feel I was being stretched at all. I need something to stretch me, it’s hard to motivate myself constantly. And New York definitely stretches me. All the time. Plus it was very hard with the Chrysalis thing. It was very clear they didn’t care about that album [‘Jumblequeen’].


Were you still signed to Chrysalis?


Yeah. What happened was, they didn’t pick up the option for another album, but they had my publishing for five years, so that was really frustrating. Everything I wrote would be theirs and they weren’t doing anything with it. But when I came to the States, Mark Goodman, who was then running the Chrysalis office, was much more open to letting me go and make demoes.


So that’s how you got to record those four tracks that were added to the BGO reissue of ‘Jumblequeen’?


No, not all of them. ‘Curious & Wooly’ I paid for. That was done at Right Track with Steve Burg who did Steve Forbert’s first album. ‘Easy Come, Easy Go’ Chrysalis did pay for.


How quickly did you assimilate yourself into the New York scene?


In terms of playing gigs? My first gig was in June of 1977 so it took me almost a year - 10 months.  Having said that, I was in Canada for three and a half months of those. I'd been talking to Island Records, they'd heard 'Moody' and really liked it and they were half thinking of doing something with me, but then I left for Canada. When I got back, my first gig was at Kenny’s Castaway opening for John Martyn. From there it was relatively easy to get gigs.


The stuff on ‘Take The 5ifth’ has a very major label sound to it. We’d get snippets of news across from America that you were still doing things. I just wondered why there wasn’t another album until the ‘collection’ this year? 


I think the problem with me and major labels is, they don’t know how to market me because I’m really not ‘product’, I’m me! I’m not about to change the way I look or talk just to suit a marketing plan. But at the same time, they don’t know how to market me and one company said, these songs are great but we don’t know what to do with you. They didn’t understand how to put some one like me in the big machine - and I think that’s probably why nothing happened.


It’s interesting what you say about marketing and your image. During your years with the Dandelion label, do you think your image with the nice dresses and long hair was an honest representation of you?


Oh absolutely! I was wearing long skirts when I was in university and people would stare at me, but I felt comfortable in them. Somebody said I was a beatnik.  I thought, what’s that? I just felt comfortable in those clothes. I got this old velvet skirt from some thrift store.  I just bought things I liked to wear. It wasn’t a cultivated image or anything.


One thing that someone said last night was, it’s obvious you’ve really looked after yourself in the intervening years since that time. I was curious to know whether, when everyone else was indulging in that hedonistic lifestyle, you were ever drawn into all that?


I’ve had drinks and I’ve been drunk, but I can’t do that on any kind of sustained basis, so I don’t enjoy it. So while I tried things and used things, it was never a regular thing. I get high off people and ideas and things. I don’t mean to sound pure, but I know what my limits are and I don’t go beyond them. I don’t do myself much damage.


There’s been a long gap between records. Obviously you’ve been bringing your daughter up?


And working at the same time. I got really angry when people said, why’ve you given up singing? I said, I haven’t given it up. I was ‘breathing in’ - that’s the way I looked at it, and there are times when you’ve got to do that, because there’s something else you got to be taking care of. It’s like if fields lie fallow, they get richer when they do that. They don’t deplete, they get better. I don’t see time as a problem, I know that in the scheme of the big machine it’s terrible not to be 25, but I don’t really care about that ‘cause I can’t change it. I know what I have inside of me. I know I can write and sing. I knew it wasn’t the right time to be performing because I couldn’t give the right energy to it.


Do you think now that you’ve got this really great back catalogue available on cd, it’ll help?


Yes, definitely, It’s amazing how it’s all come out together. It’s perfect actually. I couldn’t have planned it better than this and yet it just happened this way. 


How did the material come together and how did the deal for ‘Take The 5ifth’ come about?


The deal came before deciding on the material - the material was always there - I had no exact concept of what would be on it. I talked to Brian Willoughby about wanting to put out a CD and he said, “well you should call John Tobler at Road Goes On Forever”, so I did. I think he was a bit sceptical until I played and proved I could still actually sing! He was very encouraging after I played. After that, I got all the masters that I had and gave them to Ron Geesin to do whatever he had to do with them. We got it down to a short-list of about 24 songs to choose from and the 17 that are on ‘Take The 5ifth’ are the 17 that whenever I listen to them I don’t cringe. 


JT: I felt it was very important to show that Bridget was not stuck in the long-dress/Dandelion syndrome and that this was now 25 years later and there was progression.


I have to say that ‘Catch a Falling Star’ is my favourite track. One of the interesting things about it is that it’s got Steve Hayton from Daddy Longlegs on it... how did you get to know him?


Through Ian Tilbury. I think he used to work with Julie Felix, who he managed. I can remember it was done at a greasy November night in this little dark studio in Hendon - I think it was the only song we did. I like songs with melodies and a lot of those old songs you just can’t not like them. Some of them I wouldn’t want to sing because I don’t really want to sing the words, but the melodies are great. And I just like the innocence of it. That’s kind of how I am - always look for the good in things, always hope that things’ll work out. That type of stuff.


The other reason I brought it up it is that at one point you mentioned to me that either when you were still with Dandelion or just after it, you were going to do a full album of classic cover versions.


Of standards. It was when Dandelion had just finished and they were looking for another deal for me. And the suggestion was for me to do an album of standards but I didn’t think I’d live long enough to do an album of standards. I hadn’t had the experience to sing some of these incredible songs. I don’t even know if I do yet. 


You had a long-standing relationship with John Peel, his programme and record label.


He’s still my friend. I’m terrible, I usually call him the day I’m leaving but this time I called him the day after I got here and he was so surprised. I always call to say hello and I send him stuff, I send him clippings of really weird things in New York, or stuff I know he’ll relate to. 


You don’t have to answer this, but were you disappointed that he wasn’t there last night?


No, he told me he wasn’t going to be. He was recording his programme and even if he wasn’t recording, I would have very surprised if he had come along cause he’s very busy and he’s got his own life. 


One of the things that surprised me last night was that you didn’t stand up to play guitar! Do you only do that when you play the electric?


Well yeah, and also because it was the first gig for a long time, I just wanted to feel really comfortable and I wasn’t sure how I would feel standing for two sets. Also because that stage is high enough that if you sit down, it makes it very intimate.


When did you last do any proper demoes?


Well the last one I did I had to pay for myself and it cost four or five hundred dollars, and that’s quite a lot of money. And that’s a basic demo. Before that I demoed ‘Look at This Child’ - I was so emotionally involved with that

song, and the whole thing that was going on at the time, that it came out so over­produced I would never consider putting it out as it is now. That cost fourteen or fifteen hundred dollars to do one song. It’s very expensive to do it, but at the same time when I really believe in something I’ll just go do it. I can’t afford to demo everything.


The trend seems to be for people to use portastudios. I don’t think people care if there’s a little bit of imperfection on it.


They don’t unless it’s at top 40 level. It’s hard to get there. What I think should happen and probably could happen is that with a lot of these little labels, if somebody on radio opened up and said once or twice in a programme they’re gonna play things that nobody normally hears, things could take off, if they really believed it.


Written and produced by Nigel Cross, directed by John Tobler. Edited by: Phil McMullen © Ptolemaic Terrascope 


If you want a feel for what Bridget’s music is all about, you could do a lot worse than check out her recently released EP ‘The First Cut’ on Nigel’s Shagrat label, a beautifully sepia sleeved 10" featuring her touching tribute to John Peel, ‘Pig ‘n’ Peel’ plus 4 others, including a fine version of ‘Ask Me No Questions’ and the haunting, otherworldly ‘Lizard Long Tongue Boy’. 





i. Ask Me No Questions/Songs For The Gentle Man (See For Miles SEECD 408) [her first 2 Dandelion LPs on one disc but a bit naughty considering they left off ‘Early Morning Song’from ‘Gentle Man’] 

ii. Thank You For + (See For Miles SEECD 428) [her 3rd Dandelion LP plus her live set from Montreux Pop Festival, April 72] 

iii. Jumblequeen + (BGO BGOCD 260) [her 1974 Chrysalis album + 4 unreleased cuts] 

iv. Take The 5ifth (Road Goes On Forever RGF CDO26)



There’s Some Fun Going Forward .... Plus (See For Miles CD 427) [reissue of 1972 Dandelion sampler - Bridget’s cuts are ‘Fly High’ (45 version) and ‘Early Morning Song’ from ‘Gentle Man’]



The First Cut (Shagrat EP ENT 007 10")


Peer into the Terrascope