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Clare Grogan

May 2009

SHE has no time for anyone looking down their nose at pop nostalgia.
"I hate the snobbery attached to what we do," says Clare Grogan, the voice of early 80s indie-pop outfit Altered Images.
"There is a danger of taking yourself too seriously. At the end of the day it is showbusiness."
That said, the 47-year-old daughter of a Glaswegian fishmonger dad and hairdresser mum admits when she was first approached to join the tour, she was hesitant.
"It wasn't something I was sure I did want to revisit."
Particularly as she'd not sung a note of an Altered Images song in 18 years.
"I didn't even own the records," she laughs.
"I had to get in touch with Sony to ask them to bike over some of my old records.
"It was part of my life that had been great fun but it was my past. But what comes with age is nostalgia. You can't help yourself.
"Because there was such a gap I felt quite detached from it. But I liked it. I became a bit of a fan of myself," she laughs.
Tomorrow she lines up at the Trent FM Arena with Rick Astley, Kim Wilde, Howard Jones, Kid Creole & The Coconuts, Hazel O'Connor and Brother Beyond.
"It really is a nice gig. It's all about being young again. And to have a night remembering what it was like before you had a mortgage.
"We work pretty hard to put on a good show but I don't think any of us take it too seriously. We just want people to really enjoy themselves. We're playing to our contemporaries because we're all middle-aged with children.
"We've all grown up together. I know that sounds a bit corny but it's sort of true."
She'll be doing just five songs as third act on but without any other members of Altered Images.
Each singer is backed by a house band.
Is she still in touch with any of them?
"Well, I'm married to one of them."
(Note to self – sack the research assistant).
Why isn't he doing it? Babysitting duties I suppose? (The couple have a four-year-old daughter).
"There's a bit of that but it's not his thing," she says of multi-instrumentalist Stephen Lironi.
"He's a record producer now and he has absolutely no desire to perform again.
"Johnny McElhone (Altered Images bassist) is in (the band) Texas. He's been working on Sharleen (Spiteri)'s solo stuff. The others I don't see so much of because their lives have gone a different route altogether.
"But when I first got approached about joining the Here And Now thing I got in touch with them all and said 'how do you feel about me doing this?' They were all like, 'fine, you get on with it."
Altered Images hit the charts in the early 80s with the singles Happy Birthday, I Could Be Happy and Don't Talk To Me About Love.
They were one of the first bands to play Rock City in 1981.
"I remember that the stage was quite low."
They weren't as pop as the rest of the Here And Now stars. Their first tour was supporting Siouxsie and The Banshees and indie champion John Peel was a fan.
"I was heartbroken when he died. It didn't seem like his time. I was really taken aback. He made such an impact on our career. If we'd not had John Peel on our side I'm not sure how things would have progressed for us."
After the band split she presented shows on MTV and VH1, appeared in EastEnders, the original series of Red Dwarf and played a surly rock star in Father Ted.
Last year she published her debut novel for children.
"Every so often I think should I knuckle down and focus on one thing but I'd have missed out on an awful lot of fun if I'd have done that. Some of the best jobs I've had have been the presenting jobs where I've got to ranch cattle in Arizona."
Even while in Altered Images, Grogan was pursuing other projects, appearing in Bill Forsyth's acclaimed movie Gregory's Girl.
How did the Father Ted gig come up?
"The first series I absolutely loved it. And when I heard they were doing an episode with a Sinead O'Connor type, they asked me to come in and see them about it and I was like 'you've got to let me do this'.
"They said 'if your Dublin accent is good enough then you can. They took a wee bit of convincing.
"I did hear that Sinead saw that episode and said to the writers 'I don't know why you didn't just ask me to do it?' I'm so glad that they didn't."
So, a half-hour set on the tour – easy life.
"I know."
What do you do the rest of the time – sit backstage telling each other old stories?
"Yeah and new stories. Talking about our kids, our gardens, we even manage to partake in a little rock'n'roll fun – drinking. We're not completely squeaky clean. That would be too tragic."

The Here And Now Tour 2009, Trent FM Arena, Saturday May 15, 7.30pm, £36.50, 08444 124624.

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