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Julie Felix interview

 

 

Digger interviews sixties folk Queen Julie Felix

 

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Julie Felix was the first folk singer to be signed to a major record label (Decca). She was the first folk singer to fill the Royal Albert Hall. She was the first resident folk artist on a prime-time TV show in the UK. She was the first artist to record on Mickie Most's Rak label which was a hit-making machine in the 70s. She was the first to have a colour entertainment series on the BBC.

All in all, Julie has achieved an impressive number of firsts in her career and has never seemed to go with the flow. Coming to England from California at the start of the 'British Invasion' of the USA, she quickly established herself as 'Britain's answer to Joan Baez' (the press always wanting to label and compare people, as they did with her contemporary and friend Donovan who was labelled 'Britain's answer to Bob Dylan'.) She popularised the folk medium by virtue of her weekly appearance on the David Frost show which was transmitted into a third of the UK's homes every week. Dylan's work was very evident in her output, as were the songs of Leonard Cohen and Woody Guthrie and she scored a number of album successes as well as some singles success, particularly with the Paul Simon song El Condor Pasa. A lady with a strong social conscience (currently headlining an anti-war concert against the Iraqi conflict), she was perfectly in tune with the protest and peace movement and in the vanguard of its development on this side of the pond. Skillfully straddling the worlds of popular entertainment and the folk circuit, she was in demand from the likes of Brian Epstein who had her appear at his beloved Saville Theatre.

Julie spent some years in Scandinavia and studied yoga, healing and meditation whilst pursuing a recording career there. She decided to return 'home' to the UK, where, apart from recording and touring, she organises tours of sacred sites around the world and also pursues her concern for the poor of Latin America. Additionally, she has a web presence at www.juliefelix.com and continues with a gruelling touring schedule, as well as running her own very successful record label Remarkable Records. She kindly agreed to talk to Digger about her life and career.

 

Julie Felix still hasn't got used to the British weather but, that aside, is a confirmed Anglophile. "I love the climate in California," she says "but I hate Los Angeles." Julie tells me she found, and finds, the US too insulating and introverted. As a child of the Beat Generation, she travelled to Europe from her native California in '62/'63 and spent two years touring before settling in her adopted land. "I still have a US passport as well as a UK one, which means I can miss the queues at both ends!" she tells me joyously. "What I like about Europe is that you can just pop over to Holland or Spain and there's so much diversity and cultural richness and everywhere is so close. Britain is great because, despite the fact that we supported Bush during the Iraqi conflict, which I strongly disapproved of, we could still obtain independent information in this country. That just doesn't happen in the States. What Bush says is seen as more or less gospel. " On a less serious note, Julie says that the TV over here is a lot better. "In the States, there are commercials every few seconds and the sponsors have a direct influence on the programmes." Having said that, she notes that many British entertainers have made their homes over there, including friends John Cleese and Peter Noone.

Julie has had a sad time of it recently - a double blow with the sad loss of her dear Mother as well as close friend, music producer Mickie Most, who had such a big influence on her career as mentor to a young lady rather inexperienced in the intricacies and eccentricities of the music business. She believes in the afterlife and guardian angels, I am not surprised to learn, and this spiritual faith (Julie describes herself as a pagan,) seems to be a great comfort and positive force in her life and in her ability to deal with such sadness.

Although she was aware of the huge musical and cultural explosion that was happening here when she arrived, she really just happened to be here at the right time. She claims her life has been haphazard and not organised or planned to any extent. She likes to be more open to what fate has in store for her. Certainly at that time, fate had a lot in store for her as she, was very soon after her arrival here, crowned as Queen of British folk to Donovan's King. Julie says "This was the first time that Troubadours had been in the hit parade", and that her agent "didn't know what to do with me and so put me on a show called the Hootenanny Show." That was where she was 'discovered' by David Frost, who, along with Most and Donovan, has been another life-long friend and mentor.

Julie's friend Dusty Springfield had a horrendous tour of South Africa in the sixties where she was thrown out of the country because she refused to perform to segregated audiences. "We have a responsibility as artists to use the medium and the celebrity to put messages across. Dusty was right to point out that it was wrong," she says.  I ask Julie how she rates Dusty and she agrees with me that she is probably the best white soul songstress these islands have produced. "She had a charisma, a great sense of humour and was a wonderful mimic." Julie is still close to Dusty's brother Tom Springfield. 

Julie describes Dylan as "The voice of a generation," and says that "he uses language like no other, grappling with the real struggle. He is not dark yet there is despair in some of his songs. He questions organisations and institutions and their workings." Julie is very deliberate and slow and chooses her words very carefully when answering my questions - she's thoughtful in both senses of the word.

I ask Julie how she dealt with fame. "I never realised how many people were watching," she says. "After a while the recognition got to me. I had a place with a high fence and used to hide when the doorbell rang. It's great being famous but there's a guilt that you don't deserve it or aren't good enough. I know a lot of people who have this," she tells me. She sees herself as older and wiser these days. "Yes, we are all here to learn lessons and to cope with our insecurities. We all have a special gift of some sort and should learn how to use it." She tells me that it was a conscious decision not to do adverts or to promote products. "As soon as you use your face and name to promote toothpaste, or whatever, people don't trust your opinions on anything ever again!" And she hates the idea of being described as a retro artist. "Right now, I am dealing with issues like Iraq and so on and don't want to be stuck in a groove." When she performs she tries to maintain this honesty and integrity with her audience and talks about the death of her parents or whatever is troubling or motivating her. She likes to feel as though she can befriend and gain the trust of her audiences, even those few who come simply expecting to hear her sing 'Going To The Zoo' and are unfamiliar with her other work. "I hope I am very NOW," she says. 

We discuss the therapeutic effects of music and Julie agrees it has the capability to heal as well as to simply change one's mood or state. 

And who are her heroes?........ she thinks long and hard on this one. "Martin Luther King, the astronomer Liz Greene, Dylan, John Lennon............................... Joan of Arc, John Michell - author of View Over Atlantis." 

What are her ambitions? "To make the world a better place. I see that as very important. I am doing some concerts against landmines." She tells me she has met-up with Heather Mills-McCartney in this context. "And against pollution. I think we should all put our energy into the betterment of the world. The crunch is coming very soon. We are just a part of the universe and we need to realise that we haven't created everything nor can we influence or control everything. You only have to watch the behaviour of the weather and see how we can't tame that to see this is true."

I then ask Julie to describe in a few words several of her friends with whom she has collaborated over the years or people that had a major impact on her career or who touched upon it:

David Frost. A supportive friend. The best interviewer. Always very informed politically and culturally. Loves the whole entertainment business.

Donovan. A gentle soul who is spiritually tuned-in.

Bob Dylan. The master and a craftsman. A Gemini. A searcher to discover the truth. Artistically expressive and multi-faceted. A seeker of the truth. 

Dusty Springfield. Charismatic. A lady of integrity. A perfectionist. One of the best modern female singers. A good friend.

Marc Bolan. He came to see me at the Fairfield Hall in Croydon. He came backstage and told me how much he loved my music. I was very flattered.

Mickie Most. He inspired me. My mentor in the recording studio. One of the best producers of all time. He knew just what sounded right and what was right for the moment.

Julie Felix. A child of the world. A searcher and seeker. A troubadour. A Mother and a lover of nature. Mercurial and someone who means what they say. 

Paul Simon. An amazing songwriter.

Brian Epstein. A gentleman. Kind and generous. He put champagne in my dressing room and treated me like a lady. He was a huge fan of Georgie Fame and wanted to see him do well. Both he and Mickie Most loved the music and that is unusual these days in managers and producers.

John Lennon. A beautiful rebel. A mover and shifter. An excellent writer. A peace fighter.

Cat Stevens. One of the inspiring voices of the 60s and 70s. 

I asked Julie about the current music scene. She loves the power that technology can bring to small groups where they are empowered to make a CD although some of the technology is not so relevant to her as she is an acoustic artist. 

What makes her angry? "Traffic jams," she tells me. "and American imperialism." What makes her laugh? "People seeing their own foibles, irony and incongruity in things. People being able to laugh at themselves." And what makes her sad? "I had deep sorrow when my Mother died. I also find it deeply moving when I see and hear a young person playing a musical instrument, even if not particularly well, as I find their desire to create music so beautiful."

Does Julie have any advice for us? "Listen to your inner voice and get in touch with your guardian angel. Feel good about yourself. Spend time celebrating the gift of life." 

Singles 
Someday Soon/I've Got Nothing But Time Decca F12246 1966
I Can't Touch the Sun/Rainy Day Fontana 1F734 1966
Saturday Night/The One I Love the Most Fontana TF786 1967
The Magic of the Playground! 
Somewhere There's Gotta be Me Fontana TF875 1967
That's no Way to Say Goodbye! 
This World Goes Round & Round Fontana TF969 1968
If I Could/Alone RAK RAMGI 1970
Heaven is Here/Soon RAK RAM OS 1970
Snakeskin / Watching, Waiting RAK RAKiOS 1971
Moonlight/Portrait of a Mistress as a Young Girl RAK RAM 16 1971
Lady With the Braid/Roadie Man EMI EM12152 1974
Finally Getting to Know One Another/Song for Spring EMI EM12224 1974
I Dreamed I Saw St. Augustine/My Electric Angel EMI EM12406 1974
Hota Chocolata/David (Norway) Talent T8064 1977
Come Out/Lady (Norway) Talent T8072 1978
Yoke (We Believe)!Colours in the Rain (Sweden) Scranta SA5128 1981
Dance With Me/I Miss You (Sweden) Scranta SAS132 1981
The Sea and the Sky/The Witch Song Remarkable RR99 1988
Woman / Nuclear-free New Zealand Remarkable RR299 1992

E.P's 
Julie Felix Sings Dylan & Guthrie Decca DFE8613 1965
Songs From the Frost Report Fontana TE17474 1966
Songs From the Frost Report, Vol.2 Fontana TE17494 1967
Hits of Julie Felix (Cassette Only) Fontana MCF5OOl 1967

L.P'S 
Julie Felix Decca SKI/ LK4626 1964
Julie Felix, the second album Decca LK4724 1965
Julie Felix, the third album Decca LK4820 1966
Changes Fontana (S)TL5368 1966
Julie Felix, live in concert World Records (S)T842 1967
Flowers Fontana (S)TL5437 1967
This World Goes Round & Round Fontana (S)TL5473 1968
Going to the Zoo Fontana Special 5FL13117 1969
Julie Felix's World 
(Re-issue of This World Goes Round & Round) Fontana 6857002 1970
Clotho's Web RAK SRKA6752 1972
Lightning EMI EMC3O3O 1974
Hota Chocolata Monte Rosa GTCSOO7 1977
Hota Chocolata (Re-issue) Gull Records GULP) 032 1979
Colours in the Rain (Sweden) Scranta 1982
Blowing in the Wind (Sweden) Scranta 1982
Blowing in the Wind Dingle's Records D1D714 1982
Amazing Grace Starburst SMT01O 1987

CDs/Cassettes 
Bright Shadows (Cassette Only) Remarkable RR199 1989
Branches in the Mist Remarkable RR399 1993
Windy Morning (CD Only) Remarkable RR499 1995
Fire - My Spirit (CD only) Remarkable RR599 1998
Live From The QEH Birthday Concert (Double CD) Remarkable RR699-2 2000
Starry Eyed and Laughing. Songs by Bob Dylan Remarkable RR799 2002
I Walk With Beauty (CD Only) Remarkable RR800 2003

Website: www.juliefelix.com

 

 

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Many thanks to Julie Felix and Jane Quinn for the interview and for their kindness and assistance. This page layout and content  is the intellectual property of www.retrosellers.com and cannot be reproduced without express permission.


If we have inadvertently used any image on this web site which is in copyright and for which we, or our retailers on our behalf, do not have permission for use, please contact us so that we can rectify the situation immediately. Images in this article are, to the best of our knowledge, either in the public domain or copyrighted where indicated. 


 


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