Jools Holland invites legendary Sandie to be his very special guest
The self confessed ‘improviser’ talks about his Kenwood anniversary performance
Jools Holland is delighted to return to Kenwood House after performing at the picnic concerts two years ago.
In addition to his usual entourage of talented musicians, the musician and TV presenter has persuaded pop legend Sandie Shaw to be his special guest star at the concert on June 25.
The singer, famed for her barefoot performances during the swinging sixties, had numerous hits with the likes of Always Something There to Remind Me, and won the Eurovision song contest in 1967 with Puppet on a String.
Holland, who was born Julian Holland in 1958, loves playing outdoor venues.
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“The ideal weather isn’t rain, what’s worse is cold, that’s the risk you take like so many things in life, but it’s a risk worth taking because if it goes well and the sun shines, the evening is magical, so much better than the controlled atmosphere in a theatre.
“You get a very mixed crowd, from eight to 80 and it’s the way they respond. It awakes something in people that goes back to Merrie England in the 14th Century when feasts and celebrations at this time of year revelled in a certain joy of nature.”
Holland’s big band – the Rhythm and Blues Orchestra - who have played with him through “hundreds of gigs” includes legendary Reggae trombonist Rico Rodriguez, his old friend Gilson Lavis the drummer from Squeeze, singer Louise Marshall, and “boogie woogie Queen” Ruby Turner”.
“She’s the only person who can mix together gospel and old style blues, and for the first time I have Sandie Shaw who has never wanted to tour until now.
“She’s turned it down for years but we managed to persuade her and she’s really enjoying it now. When she comes on, the crowd love her and her music is a very different thing for us, but it suits a big band – it’s quite orchestral.”
Shaw has spoken out recently about not enjoying her early years of fame because she felt under too much pressure.
“She really was very young and became a huge international success around the world,” agrees Holland.
“Going to places and touring where people had never been before. Many performers enjoy what they do all the more the older the get when you stop worrying whether something’s groovy or not groovy. Instead you think ‘I’ll do it, people will like it or not’. The great thing about music is there is always something new to learn.”
Holland’s long-running programme Later with Jools Holland fills a time-honoured but vanishing remit in the TV schedules to introduce audiences to rising musical talent.
The former presenter of legendary music show The Tube, says Later… aims for a mixture of emerging and established artists.
“We want to inform people of what’s new and what’s great – which are not always the same thing – to mix someone contemporary with a legend, someone who’s popular in their own genre, like the ska, jazz or reggae world but not necessarily known outside that world, along with touring legends.”
Holland admits the programme is a rarity, commenting drily: “well done to the BBC for keeping me on these 20 years,” but relies on researchers to do most of the work saying: “I spend a lot of time creating my own music and I’m not an office type.”
Despite the fact that he once got into hot water for letting slip a swearword in a pre-watershed trailer for The Tube, (something he describes now as “a regrettable incident”) Holland thrives on the deceptively difficult skill of live TV presenting – whether it’s fronting a gig or his annual Hogmanay Hootenanny.
He is famed for a rambling, laconic but wry delivery that has kept him time-defyingly cool and contemporary well into his 50s.
“I’m essentially an improviser. When I’m on stage I never play the same thing twice, I’m a jazz musician, and when I’m on TV I don’t have a script. The spontaneity is heightened because you are live. Living in the moment is what feels comfortable to me. I am full of admiration for great actors who remember huge chunks of script, but if I have to rehearse a script, something prepared earlier, I find it boring and difficult.”
Though he thinks The Tube was “a great programme”, he comments that it “opened the floodgates to reality TV and the lunatics being in charge of the asylum, but also to lots of other unfortunate behaviour which I rather regret.”
As for the current state of the music industry, he says the declining power of record companies and the rise of iTunes has made it harder for artists to sell their albums – just at a time when more people than ever want to be famous or ‘be in a band’.
“People are struggling to sell albums and there are fewer small clubs and pubs where they can go and play early gigs and learn. On the upside the live music experience is more popular than ever and in the end true talent will come to the fore like the rise of amazing female singer songwriters like Amy Winehouse, Duffy and Adele who all have long careers ahead of them.”
Although he’s dabbled in acting and is known for his presenting, music remains unsurprisingly Holland’s first and true love. Over the years he has enjoyed working with numerous legends including Eartha Kitt, BB King and Bono.
“My appetite for music is insatiable, the more you listen and learn the more mysterious it becomes, but music is an international mouthpiece that transcends everything. The simple act of boogieing is the hardest thing on earth to get right- to get the tempo feeling right. But when the boogie is working and you are really swinging, you look out at the people who are responding by beating their foot or shaking their head, and you think ‘this is fantastic, I am communicating what I feel, the pure feeling of the music’ that’s a fantastic moment to be in. You couldn’t want for any other job or to be anywhere else.”