‘Through Thick and Thin’ is the new single released today by Bonnie Tyler and Lorraine Crosby in aid of Teenage Cancer Trust…By releasing the record and helping to raise money we hope it makes a huge difference to teenagers with cancer.
I worked with Bonnie on another recording a few years ago in a studio down in Battle where Def Leppard recorded Hysteria. We get on really well, she’s fantastic, one day I went to her house and we had the same clothes on! She’s another one in the business who really works her socks off.
The North East has a pedigree for strong woman, do you think you fit into that ?
We had a hard upbringing living in sheer poverty, so there was a fight to get out of that. My father died when I was only two so my mother was a young widow with four kids to bring up.
On a Friday we’d have a box of food arrive from the shop and that would have to last a week, when all that was gone, and we were starving literally we went in the garden as we had a rhubarb patch at the bottom.
I used to break off sticks of it and dip them in a bag of sugar…..diarrhea for the weekend (laughs).
We’re laughing about this but really, I used to walk into the kitchen and clap my hands to scare the mice off. That was my youth. We had absolutely nothing.
Yes, they were hard times, and you had to be strong to get through it, but through sheer determination I dragged myself out of it, it makes you very resilient.
What does music mean to you ?
I think music saved my life. It was pure escapism. I remember being at school and sneaking off to the hall to put classical music on the record player then dancing around like Margo Fonteyn,
I got caught and given the belt. These days they would suggest drama class or dance class to embrace the passion not reprimand you !
I played clarinet and violin but got bullied because of it so I bullied back as a form of self-protection, I only realise that now and how wrong it was but when you’re young and don’t really have any parental guidance you just survive the best you can.
Was music in your family ?
No don’t think so, New Year’s Eve you’d have the family and friends getting out the banjos and accordion, singing along and it was a magical time I so looked forward to going there and singing
I was in the church choir at Walker school, so I think my desire to be a singer came from there. I’ve been told that I was an outgoing kid and at my dad’s funeral I got up singing and dancing to cheer everyone up because they were all crying, so yeah something triggered in me then at just two years old !
When I left school in Newcastle I trained as a hairdresser, but when I found the stage I didn’t stay for long, yeah always been a performer.
Is that where you feel most comfortable ?
Yes, and as long as people are coming to see me, I won’t retire. I’m still rockin’, Tina Turner did till she was 77 so why can’t I ? I’ve even done panto.
Five year ago I was asked and told them ‘Yes but don’t let me make a fool of myself’. Only a small role they told me, turned out to be the Queen in Snow White (laughs). But I embraced it and loved my time there.
I thank my mentor Leah Bell for turning me into a West End Wendy.
We’ve supported Status Quo many times and I’ve been on stage with Spike from The Quireboys. I’ve just been on an album with Elton John, Rod Stewart, Paul Carrack, Willie Nelson to name a few.
I’ve sang on cruise ships and have done shows on American Military bases when I lived out in Japan in the early ‘80s, that was a real culture shock. We did four 45-minute sets, on a weekend it was six shows, I retain thousands of songs up here (points to head).
Japan was hard going but the alcohol afterwards might not have helped as we drank the local hooch, it was wild. After Japan I came back to the UK that’s when I met my husband Stu Emerson, formed a band and ended up in America recording with Meatloaf.
First time I saw Lorraine Crosby was on a Meatloaf documentary I watched a few weeks ago. Meatloaf and musician Jim Steinman told stories about the first album Bat Out of Hell but it was the second album where Lorraine appeared.
A single ‘I’d Do Anything for Love’ was released in 1993 and was a massive hit, would you say that was a magic moment in your career ?
Just getting to do the Meatloaf song was great. What happened was Stu my husband and songwriter, knew a guy called Dan Priest in London and he sent our tape to Jim Steinman – he loved us and wanted to be our manager, so we moved to New York to work with him.
Jim was recording Bat Out of Hell 2 and one day he called me up ‘Lorraine can you come along to the studio and sing this part?’
Well Meatloaf is like a method actor he wanted to hear the female voice so he can react off it, so originally, I sang on just a demo of the song that’s why I wasn’t credited on the track.
We recorded some more songs and he played it to the record company who gave me a deal off the back of them.
Then a phone call came in saying what I’d recorded on the demo they were putting on the record and releasing it as a single. Originally, they were going to get someone else in to sing the part, but yeah that was a defining moment for me.
Not long after, we were driving down to Venice Beach and the song came on the radio it was just like, wow, crazy ! We knew it was gonna be big.
Then walking on stage at Whitley Bay Ice Rink singing it live with Meatloaf was a great moment, like scoring a goal at St James’ Park. I also appeared on Broadway with him, so yeah, a couple of really big moments. Great memories.
Does that story follow you around ?
Number 1 in 28 countries, sold 15 million records, won a Grammy…It’s a hell of a claim to fame isn’t it ? You gotta shout about it. As I said when we were in America we signed as a song writing duo Emerson/Crosby and Jim Steinman got us a big deal with MCA.
We went in Power Station studio in New York city with Bernard Edwards from Chic, there was the Bon Jovi bass player, keyboard player with Bowie, you know they were all in there when recording our album.
My husband Stu has always been my backbone, he has supported me and is a great songwriter.
His early band back on Tyneside were called Emerson, they were part of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal and recorded a single on Neat records and were on the brink of getting somewhere but split as some of the band joined Samson just before their big break.
We thought we were really getting on and putting things together over there. Steinman was mentoring and helping us with our writing and as he was based in Los Angeles we ended up moving to L.A. living in his house in the Hollywood Hills at first and recording in Ocean Way studio.
The record company then paid for apartments in Hollywood and San Fernando valley, that house had a studio in it where Earth, Wind and Fire recorded, Harry Neilson had been there, it was a real old ‘70s studio.
Jim is one of the most incredible genius’ I’ve ever met. I remember we didn’t see him much during the day, he was very nocturnal with his silver foil at the windows to stop the light coming in.
But he had his own career and it had really taken off so he couldn’t devote the time to us.
Meanwhile the second Meatloaf album which I sang on, went over budget so the record company sacked the guy who we were dealing with, and every band on his roster including us, went with him.
So, no manager, being dropped by the label and no money left, we reluctantly moved back to the UK. We heard three month later the last house we were in was destroyed in an earthquake.
What state of mind were you in when you returned to the North East ?
I was gutted, there was a number One album I was on and everyone thinking I was earning millions!
So, looking for a new manager I found Smallwood and Taylor, Rod Smallwood was Iron Maiden’s manager. I was with him for a couple of years, and he got me a couple of development deals with Chrysalis, Hansa and some others but unfortunately nothing seemed to gel with the songwriters I worked with.
I was based in the North East and travelling down to London to try and get things going.
One time I went out to L.A and worked with Andy Taylor from Duran Duran, we recorded a few songs, but they weren’t pop enough for the label, I’m more rock and blues.
So that time with Rod Smallwood ran out, no hard feelings involved, he had exhausted all the avenues and we parted.
Looking back, it was a daft decision to start back in cabaret and clubland, but you know you live an’ learn. Thing was I needed to pay the bills because I didn’t have anything then, but I’ve never stopped working, my voice gets better and my range has gone through the roof.
Did you have a wow moment listening to a song when you said ‘I want to do that’ ?
Yeah Lene Lovich. I heard her song Lucky Number on the radio and thought it was so bad anybody can be a singer. My mam said ‘Well why don’t ya’.
There was a music shop in town called Rock City and it had a notice board with adverts on for bands looking for singers. Me and a friend chose a country and western band first then left them to join a group called Time Out.
We played the working men’s club circuit for a year, but I was only backing and not developing my voice so with a couple of other guys I formed my own band, Foxy.
This was the early ‘80s and with a few agents working for us we did American Military bases all over the world.
Who else have you worked with ?
I’ve sang on albums featuring Rod Stewart, Kid Rock, done some backing vocals on the new album by John Parr, he’s a lovely man. I’ve worked with great musicians who have retained their skill, they aren’t like a lot in the charts now who just want to be famous, they have music in them and they still love what they do.
What’s next Lorraine ?
I was at the same charity event as Producer Geoff Wonfor and we got chatting and he said why not do Sunday for Sammy ?
This year it’s the 20th Anniversary of the popular live entertainment show featuring North East actors and performers.
Not long after I got a call asking me to do a duet with Tim Healey (Benidorm, Auf Weidersehen Pet) and we did Anything for Love. So that was my first time, then I became a member of the house band and I love it.
Where else would you see a show that’s had AC/DC’s Brian Johnson (He was in a sketch rebuilding the roman wall when I was at the show at Newcastle City Hall 2004) or Brenda Blethyn (Vera) Johnny Vegas, Trevor Horn, Joe McElderry all these people who wouldn’t normally perform together, it’s just magical.
The show is a charity that helps people in the arts and it’s very important now as funding for the arts is being cut. So yeah, it’s really special and the whole show has adapted to the size of the Arena, it hasn’t lost its feel from the City Hall.
After Sunday for Sammy, we are recording my new album, very rock and blues stuff I’m sounding Jimmy Barnes meets Bonnie Tyler. It’s very rocky and a bit like Vintage Trouble who I’m a huge fan of.
I was also asked by Spotlight TV to present a music video show called On Demand Country, people request songs from artists like Dolly Parton and we play the video.
The studio is Jam Jar Studios in Gateshead where we film it with a green screen behind me so we can project the video onto that. The techies do a great job behind the camera.
First time I’ve done it and really love it, so looking forward to doing more shows.
Interview by Alikivi 2020.