Stiff Girls #1 – Lene Lovich

“When I was little, I used to write da, dum, da, de, da, dum, dum, those actual words, on a piece of paper. Then, I looked at them the next day, they didn’t make any sense at all. So it was a great help when cassette players were invented, I’ve really just stuck to that simple method.” – Lene Lovich

Formed in 1976, Stiff Records were not only responsible for releasing what is generally recognised as the first punk single, “New Rose” by The Damned, but were also one of the first independent labels to take on a significant number of, very different female artists. As the stable-mates of a generally male cast and crew made up of of new wave pub rockers like Ian Dury and the Blockheads, Wreckless Eric and the many guises of Nick Lowe, Lene Lovich, became Stiff’s resident space cadet.

c0e36081ccc07ff4205e02868d710e9bOriginally hailing for Detroit, Michigan, Lili-Marlene Premilovich and her family relocated to her mother’s hometown of Hull, and in 1968, at the age of 18, Lene moved to London to study at the Central School of Art and Design, where she also took saxophone lessons. It was here, it is claimed that she first started styling her hair in her now trademark plaits, apparently to keep them out of the clay.

“I learned to play sax because people weren’t really ready for my voice.”

Ready or not, Lovich began to dabble in whatever opportunities her arty student life threw at her; busking, choir member, go-go dancing…and lyric writing.

“It all started with a vague phone call while I was in the studio with a soul band (The Diversions?). Somebody needed somebody to work with this foreign guy who couldn’t speak much English, but he was into disco, and because we were doing soul/funk, they just sort of shouted in our direction. And I, grabbing every opportunity whether I could handle it or not, said I could do that, and because I had put my hand up I ended up being on a plane to Paris and had to figure out how to do this new thing”. – interview in furious.com

That guy, it turns out was none other than french electro-pioneer Cerrone, and those lyrics were for the soon to be futuristic Euro smash “Supernature”. Lene only went and wrote the lyrics!

lene-lovichAfter this, and presumably encouraged by the success of her collaboration with Cerrone, Lene started singing, which in turn brought her to the attention of Radio DJ Charlie Gillet, initially via a live radio phone in where she asked for band members to join her on a new venture. After receiving no phone calls at all, Gillet himself put her in the studio where she recorded a version of “I Think We’re Alone Now”, which in turn landed on Dave Robinson’s desk at Stiff.

lene-lovich-lucky-number-stiff-3

In 1978 Stiff released the song, backed with an early version of “Lucky Number” after which Lene was promptly packed off on a Stiff Records Tour with label mates Mickey Jupp, Wreckless Eric and Rachel Sweet.

 

By February 1979, a reworked version of Lucky Number reached Number 3 on the UK singles chart, and thanks to the video and TV appearances, Lene’s image and vocal delivery set her way apart from the Pop Parade’s regular dirge. Her trademark plaits, her unique sense of style and exotic accent, Lene not only became one of Stiff’s big sellers, but one of post-punk’s most interesting artists. Looking and a sounding a bit like a mutual friend of Princess Leia and Kate Bush, or even Bjork’s babysitter, Lene took the sound of Stiff from punk and pub rock, to something much more sophisticated and then added a visual layer on top. Lene’s sound was futuristic, and instead of guitars it relied more on synthesizers, electronic drumbeats and unusual lyrics. Plus we could all join in on the “Ahh Hooo, Ahhh, Hooo” chorus

“Sometimes you can create an emotion without saying any words; its a little bit subliminal, but it is direct communication. The human voice – there’s nothing like it to really get through. All the songs that I do are to create an atmosphere, an emotion, so that I can tell my story.”

fursLene also collaborated with bandmate keyboard whizz Thomas Dolby on the single New Toy in 1981, and later appeared with Nina Hagen on the single “Don’t Kill The Animals”.

In 2017 she toured the UK as a guest of The Psychedelic Furs.

Lene launched her own publishing company in 2013 and her website can be found HERE.

1 thought on “Stiff Girls #1 – Lene Lovich

  1. Ah! Lene Lovich! How my life improved when I saw her early music videos in ’79-’80. She’s still a refreshingly unique performer with a singular style that I’ve never seen anyone try to co-opt. I just wish she had more music under her belt. She only released two albums following 1982! It did take me decades to find out that she took a lot of vocal inspiration from Yma Sumac. When she resurfaced some years back in 2013 I had wondered what had happened to her partner Les Chappel, who was with her every step of the way. While Lene has a new band and gigs out these days, I’ve seen no mention of Les.

    Like

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