Linda Lewis Sunderland Empire 1975
Support from Labi Siffre
Linda Lewis worked incredibly hard in the first half of the 70s. It seemed that everywhere I went, I would saw her perform. One of the first occasions I became aware of her was when this chirpy, cheeky but obviously nervous young lady took to the stage to sing and strum her songs early one day at the 1972 Reading Festival. She then popped up as the opening act on a number of concert tours of major artists of the time. I recall seeing her open for Cat Stevens, and Elton John, and there were certainly others. And she also took to the stage of the 1975 Knebworth Festival, sharing the bill with Pink Floyd, Captain Beefheart, Roy Harper and Steve Miller (and of course DJ John Peel).
Linda always came over as a genuine person. She would chat with the audience, and had an engaging, chirpy and bubbly personality. Her songs were a mix of folk, pop and R&B; as a result she was quite difficult to categorise. As the 1975 tour programme explains: “Tonight, ladies and gentlemen you have the pleasure of viewing one of the great contradictions of our time; Linda Lewis. Sounds like a bit of a cheek? When Linda greets you on stage or in person there is an immediate air of warmth, good will and earthy sensitivity. Between those occaional high pitched giggles, there is an outspoken artist who is very much her own woman.The contradiction lies with us her audience. Look around you tonight and you’ll see the kind of melting pot that Linda attracts as her fans. There are those who welcome sweet singing Linda, wrapped in delicate shawls, long skins and singing the misty lyrics of her early days. To the younger ones, Linda is the chirpy voice on the Spangles ad and the crooner of ‘Rock A Doodle Doo’. Late nighters have been swayed by her sensuous jazz influenced sets down at Ronnie Scott’s Club twice this year. And across the ocean, her old tim€e soul singing on ‘It’s In His Kiss’ probably has them envisioning her as the British Gloria Gaynor. Giving credit where it is due for diversity, it’s not everyone who has shared the stage with Elton John and The Staple Singers, Ritchie Havens, Jim Webb, Family plus tackled the Knebworth festival.”
By 1975, Linda was out on her own headline tour. My friends and I caught the tour when it called at Sunderland Empire in October 1975. She was promoting her fourth album “Not a Little Girl Anymore” which featured quite a racy photo of Linda on the cover. She had already hit the UK singles chart in 1973 with “Rock-a-Doodle-Doo” which reached No 15; produced by her husband Jim Cregan, of Family and Cockney Rebel. Linda hit the chart again in 1975 with her cover of “It’s in His Kiss”, which reached No 6 and was later covered by Cher. Her set consisted of some of her own songs, and a few covers, including a great version of John Martyn’s “May You Never”. Support act Labi Siffre had seen chart success himself with “It Must Be Love” (No. 14, 1971, and later covered by Madness) and “Crying Laughing Loving Lying” (No. 11, 1972). This was a pleasant evening with two great, and often under-rated, British singer-songwriters.
I lost touch with Linda Lewis as the 70s came to close. I remember seeing Labi one more time, at a Friday night gig at Newcastle Poly Students Union. Its time for me to look for copies of Linda Lewis’ early lps and catch up with her work again.
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Linda Lewis Sunderland Empire 1975