Title: Changing dollars
Author: Dave McCullough
Publish date: February 1985
Since the demise of Dollar, hailed in their time in some unlikely quarters, Thereza Bazar has not been idle. She’s been recording an album with Arif Mardin and is about to be launched upon an unsuspecting world. Interview by Dave McCullough.
IN COMPARISON with ZTT everything else in the music scene looks, feels and, for all intents and purposes, is from the Stone Age. There, somebody had to say it and it might as well be me.
Elsewhere in the music scene we can only look to the likes of Wham! or the odd Nik Kershaw to reveal signs of (surprising) goodness. They are doing what Thereza Bazar and her erstwhile Dollarmate David Van Day did around five years ago - debunk the serious ‘hip’ of the likes of the Smiths, Bunnymen, Bragg et al. They are gifted with the stance of the true outsider (they make good records too, astonishingly).
Ironically, now with ZTT well and truly founded, Thereza Bazar should be moving up a category with them. In brief, she almost signed to ZTT, didn’t in the end and is now, after almost a three year gap since silly-marvellous Dollar, about to Launch Her Solo Career with MCA.
MCA have improved as a label but they are no ZTT. One worries slightly.
Launching Her Solo Career is taking Thereza ages. I interviewed her last summer! Arif ‘Abandoned Luncheonette’ Mardin is producing in place of Horn. Reliable rumours say the material is high-class, a fistful of hits. In a backstreet studio somewhere Godawful in East London Thereza looks, as she must look, stunning.
“OH DAVE, I didn’t know it was going to be you!…”
The journalist goes bright pink; eavesdroppers gnash their teeth in envy; Thereza, all four foot and an inch of her, looks smashing.
She is very showbiz by nature, very 1950’s British actressy. Not really belonging to the pop world at all, which obviously in part contributed to Dollar’s brilliant muddling of what pop should be. They were so wrong they got it right. Every pop songstress should be a Thereza Bazar and NOT have spent all their teenage years listening to Leonard Cohen or Siouxsie Sioux. Thereza’s, and Dollar’s, stiltedness used to look great in a medium that, in after-punk times, was becoming dangerously flexible and all-encompassing.
Now, though, I suspect she’s changed. I think she’s aiming either at becoming a serious hipster, which would be awful, or at being big in America - she talks significantly of her fondness for Cyndi Lauper. One worries: it’s like George Michael suddenly saying he likes the Bunnymen and Redskins.
How do you look back on Dollar?, I ask.
“Oh we didn’t take it seriously. We sent ourselves up terribly, didn’t we? I mean, you couldn’t have taken that seriously now could you!…”
I keep quiet.
A LITTLE BIRD told me you have four hits on the upcoming album…
“Really? Well, it was six last week, so obviously it’s gone down!… No, it’s going really, really great. It’s just a little strange, that’s all. It’s taken so long making sure, not just diving into a solo career, going out and making an album and putting it out just to see how it does.
“I just decided that if I was going to continue with my career it had to be done properly and on a worldwide scale. Otherwise, what’s the point? I might as well go and do production full-time or host a TV show anything but dabble…”
Did you ever consider quitting the pop scene?
“Oh never! I’m more obsessive now about music than I’ve ever been. I think that’s partly due to the writing side - it’s always been very important, but you have to be very courageous to seriously become a writer because you’re leaving yourself open to all sorts of things, the most of which is failure, I suppose. It can be a real let down if someone says your songs aren’t good enough.”
How much did you write in Dollar?
“Really very little. It was never encouraged particularly… And the whole process of promotion is so time-consuming I never really had a chance. It was a very soul-searching moment when I decided to write and perform on my own. Because if I didn’t come up to scratch I’d be really disappointed in myself.
“I just got really very lucky when a friend introduced me to Phil Pickett, who wrote Karma Chameleon and plays keyboards for Culture Club. He started to co-write with me and I’ve never looked back since. The whole co-writing thing then sort of snowballed into me writing with Terry Briton who did Tina Turner, with Graham Lyle and several others who really make up the cream of British song writing talent. In all there’s six different co-writers on the album. But I think it has my own personal style over every track…”
Why did you need co-writers
“Well, I’m not learned enough in songwriting - which is a real creative art. I can plonk on a piano or put ideas down on an eight track but that’s about it. I’m the sort of person who gets melodies in her head when she’s in the supermarket - that sort of thing!…”
What does the new material sound like? (At time of going to press pre-release cassettes were still not available from MCA.)
“I think it’s probably the perfect extension of where Videotheque left off, which is where Dollar stopped functioning, really. There’s nothing cynical or calculating about the direction I’m taking. This is a real representation of me and some of the music I like.
“It’s very, very melodic, very contemporary. It’s not schmaltzy, there’s a lot of edge in the music. Because my voice is so soft really there has to be a lot of toughness in the backing track…”
Will you be credible this time?…
“I’m very serious about this project. I mean, it’s taken over two years to get it together so it’s been no picnic or as glamorous as Dollar used to be...”
Do you regret not signing to ZTT?
“…I spent a lot of time talking with Trevor and Paul. I was going to do a whole album with them, it was supposed to be their first release. And then Trevor did first Yes and then Frankie and I was left waiting. It would have been lovely, of course it would have been. But… what I’m doing now sounds like pop but there’s a sophistication to it. I think we’ve got a really adult feel with Arif’s involvement. He has this quality that brings out the best in people. He’s not over-technical or anything, he just brings out little nuances that you would never have noticed otherwise…”
But he’s no Horn…
“I didn’t want to work with anyone else except Trevor…!’
That seems a genuine loss to the music scene. It could have had great results, maybe better than the limited Frankie…
“I waited nine months, Dave! It was very sad and I think Trevor was upset too. The contracts were drawn up and everything. It was very disappointing.
“Mind you, Trevor was delighted when he heard Arif was doing it, and Arif had been into Dollar all along because of the work Trevor had done there…”
There’s two sides to every story and the other side of this particular tale relates that Thereza’s new manager, a Yank named Budd, was requesting rather a lot from our ZTT pals. Thereza, though, still says she’s a “Trevor Horn disciple” and hints at working with him again some day. One worries slightly for the present (the lesser talented Kim Wilde’s MCA launch was scarcely inspiring).
What about a new image? What’s it to be?…
“No idea. I’ll know when I’ve completely finished mixing the tracks. Really, it’s gonna have to be Me As I Am.”
What were ZTT going to do with you?
“It would have to have been Me As I Am there too. There’s no real need for big pretentious images. That could only be trying to say there’s something lacking in the music, which there isn’t this time. I mean, lyrically Dollar were pretty lightweight, weren’t they? It won’t be like that this time around…”
Will you be a ‘Serious Artiste’ now?
“Well, I’ve a kind of dual personality. There’s one side of me that does take things very seriously but there’s also the side that likes to have a giggle.
“I just want to be stunning: I want to be stunning in every possible way…”
Are you being honed in any way for an American market?
“Not really, it’s just that I’ve grown really disillusioned with the Durans and Whams in general and I’m listening to more American chart music than I am to British. I like Toto, Hall and Oates, Cyndi Lauper - I think she’s great, Was Not Was. English bands have got a bit boring.
“One good thing is that MCA are an American company. As well as that, my manager’s American, my producer is American - so, you know, ZTT doesn’t have everything!”
It would be a shame if MCA couldn’t make you as modern as ZTT could have done, that’s all I’m saying.
“Yes, it would be. I suppose I’m going to be terribly headstrong. I can’t see myself smiling nicely into Joe Bangay’s camera for a piccy for the Sunday Mirror…”
And she smiles a significant smile. I hope she wins through, against the odds.