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Swing Out Sister

September 2008

"I was named after a poodle" - Corinne Drewery

EVERY time EG catches up with Swing Out Sister's bob-haired singer she reveals a new fact about herself.
This time it's the origin of her name.
"I was named after a poodle."
It was because her mum ran a poodle parlour in Beeston, Poodle Trim, which is still going although was sold by the Drewery family way back.
"So, thanks for that, mum" she says with a laugh.
Did you ever meet the poodle?
"I don't know. I don't remember. Probably. All the dogs that were being clipped were like my brothers and sisters. They were family to me."
Did mum ever "clip" your hair?
"Not really. It's a bit of a different style," she laughs.
Corinne went to Dorothy Grant school in Beeston (now Dagfa House) where she recalls being "a tyrant".
"I remember wearing a posh school uniform with a little boater and a beautiful blazer. The first thing I did when I got there was wet my pants. A teacher put me in these big baggy drawers so I started off the day looking very posh and came home looking very dishevelled."
After four years in Beeston and another four in Long Eaton – "I can't remember the Long Eaton school apart from a competition we had to see how high in the air you could kick your shoes and I kicked my shoe on to the roof" – the family moved to Lincolnshire. But by the age of eight she had already displayed a passion for art and music.
"I've always loved drawing and painting and singing. My parents are both musicians; my grandmother was a singer and pianist."
She adds: "The first record I can remember being obsessed by was River Deep, Mountain High by Ike & Tina Turner in my mum's flat in Beeston. I used to stick my head inside the stereogram – which was like a little wooden cabinet – because I liked the smell of it. I must have been about three.
"The flat is no longer there. It was in Beeston Square above a photographer's shop. I remember learning how to tell the time by looking out of the flat window at the Post Office clock."
She adds: "My mum and dad used to have a lot of parties there. My dad was in a band called the Junko Partners and they used to support acts when they came to Nottingham. I know he supported Tom Jones once which I asked him about when I met him on a TV show in the 80s. He'd booked a tour of England, then It's Not Usual became a runaway success and gone to number one so everyone expected him to cancel the gig. He said he remembered it well. His manager wanted him to pull out because the venues were too small but he didn't want to let his fans down."
She also recalls boarding The Beatmen's tour bus.
"They were friends of my mum and dad. I went running down this bus, loving it saying 'I want to come on the tour, I'll be really good.'"
She adds: "I actually didn't go on tour on a bus until about four years ago when we toured America. Due to airport security and fuel costs it wasn't possible to tour the way we used to, flying everywhere, so we went on a bus. It was my dream come true. We had parties every night."
Early 60s Nottingham – and Beeston even – were swinging places, she says. One wouldn't think of Beeston or Long Eaton as breeding grounds for the creative?
"The most surprising places force people's creativity out.
"Long Eaton and Beeston are quite industrial places and that kind of squeezes the creativity out.
"The album title, Beautiful Mess, really comes from that very idea – that some of the best things are created in the most unlikely places.
"Creativity is an escapism, isn't it? So if you don't think Beeston and Long Eaton are thriving hotbeds of creativity you may have to look again," she says with a chuckle.
Corinne ended up at the prestigious St Martin's College of Art in London – in the same year as jazz pop singer Sade.
"I nearly didn't go. I was actually hoping to go to Trent Poly because then I could live with my grandma in Long Eaton but my tutors were keen for me to go to St Martin's because places were in short supply."
She adds: "I miss her not being there now because whenever I was travelling up and down the country I'd stop off to see her. I'd pick up some fish and chips from George's in Long Eaton and we'd have a good supper together."
While at college, where she studied fashion, Corinne would be seen around town in all manner of fanciful designs. One of her friends at the time, GQ editor Dylan Jones, described her outfits as made of "pink plastic carrier bags", "a dress made entirely of hula hoops" and looking like a "day-glo flowerpot".
"I don't quite remember the garments he was talking about but I did have a pink dress made of a pink plastic table cloth. I don't think it was carrier bags. And I'm very good at hula hooping so maybe he's just merged his memories."
And he recalled a time when they were together that he was attacked by a group of "townies" and stabbed in the head and back.
"I do remember that and it was very scary. We spent the night in the Northern Royal Hospital. That was a glamorous night out.
"We didn't have any money because we were students so we used to walk everywhere. If you walked in to the wrong backwater... I suppose it's still the case."
After college she ran a fashion label and sold to places like Bloomingdales in the US and Harrods – all the fabrics used came from her home city.
"It finished after three years because I was hopeless at business," she admits.
After meeting Andy Connell, a one-time member of A Certain Ratio and ex-Magazine drummer Martin Jackson, they produced a series of demos which attracted the attention of several major labels, including Phonogram, who eventually signed Swing Out Sister in 1985.
Their take on soulful and jazz infused pop earned them several hit singles including Breakout, Surrender and Twilight World, and a No. 1 album, It's Better To Travel.
Success followed in Europe, Asia and the US, where they were nominated for two Grammys.
While the name rarely gets a mention in the UK these days, the band enjoy sell-out shows and hit albums in other territories, including Japan and the Philippines. A review of one show in the latter country cited her 'most useful asset – a pair of large, expressive hands.'
"I wondered what you were going to say then," she laughs."Maybe different cultures notice different things. Perhaps the hand movements were saying more than I knew."
She likes to keep her relationship status private but admits she's "not the marrying and babies type".
Corinne still has family in the region – an uncle and aunt live in Ilkeston – but she doesn't get back to the city as often as she'd like.
"I was there a few months ago with my mother looking around our old haunts. It occurred to us at the time that we'd never been in the caves."
"I wonder if we could do a gig in the caves? Wow, that would be an idea. The acoustics would be fantastic.
"Ooh, now you've set me thinking..."

Swing Out Sister's new album, Beautiful Mess , is out on September 8.

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