Clare Grogan “arrived” in 1980, with Gregory’s Girl and Altered Images – the group had a series of hit singles (‘Happy Birthday’, ‘Don’t Talk To Me About Love’) and albums (notably, 1983’s Bite). Grogan left to pursue a career in film (Comfort And Joy) and TV (Red Dwarf, Father Ted). Today, she appears on Shooting Stars and Never Mind The Buzzcocks, has her own show on VH-1, and plays a detective in East Enders.
How was your first EastEnders love scene with Ian Beale?
“I describe it as a pillow fight, because you don’t really know what we got up to in that room. I looked a bit dishevelled, he looked perfectly groomed. No, there are no X-rated versions lurking.”
You’ve been termed “a prophetess of post-feminism”. A “fluffragette”!
“I’m an absolute feminist, always was. It was lipstick feminism. I never had a problem with wanting to look a certain way and yet have certain views.”
You, Nick Heyward, David Sylvian, Phil Oakey – was 1981/2 the last great era for British pop staffs?
“Absolutely not – there’s loads of great music now. They’re not quite as flamboyant now, true. All the boys wore eyeliner and baggy pants back then. The grunge thing nipped that in the bud. But Jarvis [Cocker] is sexy, and Damon [Albarn] is pretty cute. I want to kiss the TV screen when my favourite pop stars come on. I get a wee electric shock. There’s talk and there’s debate about music again. That’s great. I went to a rave – once – there were 12,000 people, all E’d off their faces, and I just couldn’t identify with it. Everyone was loving each other. I prefer spitting on people. Rebellion. Anarchy in the UK.”
Martin Fry recently told Uncut that pop had become consensual; a bit jamming-together-on-Later with Jools Holland.
“There was quite a lot of band rivalry in the early Eighties, although we’d get on well when we met up at Top Of The Pops. I do look back at us and see the excitement on our faces – we weren’t cool about any of it. We were like, ‘WEEE’RE ON TOP OF THE POPS!’“
Gregory’s Girl and Altered Images – a great start to anyone’s career.
“It was an extraordinary start, and almost impossible to maintain on that level without giving up everything that makes you who you are. I know that sounds really wanky, but you do start to forget who you are. Eventually, it did catch up with me a wee bit.”
You could have been a monster?
“I think monster would be too strong. I was terribly spoilt. People indulge your every whim and it’s not healthy.”
Did you want it to end?
“People really believed I left the band to have a fantastic solo career, which was not the case. I left the band to have a boyfriend and some normality. It’s kind of ironic that I ended up marrying someone from my band!”
It’s a shame your solo phase (‘Love Bomb’ came out on London in 1987, although an album was shelved) didn’t happen. You could have been a wickedly intelligent Louise.
“I resisted any attempts to manufacture me, and I got pulled all over the place; I didn’t know what the fuck I was supposed to do. But I always say, ‘Never say never.’ If I go and see a band I want to be on stage, not in the audience. I still write pop songs.”
Could you write one as good as ‘Wannabe’ or ‘Say You’ll Be There’?
“It’s the hardest thing, to write a great pop song. Hanson do it. And the Spice Girls. But my last excursion was with [indie band] Rosa Mota, and we worked with Steve Albini – I like a lot of noise.”
You’re more Courtney Love than Mel C?
“Well, I think I’m more Minnie Mouse, to be honest.”
You were a kind of parody of an ‘ickle gurl’…
“I never behaved badly. I’m attracted to it, though. You can be really starry and also be civil. Noel [Gallagher] is a fantastic example – he’s a total man of the people but he always arrives in a limo. And he probably throws telly sets out of hotel windows. I’m capable of behaving mildly badly. I left the Tank Girl party on a stretcher! I had two black eyes. I was dancing with Pam Hogg and fell. Drugs? My hand on my heart, I always kept away. I must have been ridiculously naive, but I never saw any evidence. I was like a nun! I’d be in bed by 11 o’clock.”
But you must have had boys throwing themselves at you?
“I swear to God – never. I’m not just saying this for effect, I never had a boyfriend – they didn’t ask me out or phone me. The only boy from a band who took me out was Gary Kemp [of Spandau Ballet], and he was fantastic. He always bought me great presents! But we drifted apart due to musical differences (laughs).”
Have you seen Edwyn Collins lately?
“I see him occasionally. He used to go out with my sister – she chucked him! He was very upset. I love revealing these things now that they don’t matter. Nick [Heyward] married a girl from my class, called Marion. None of us really hung out together, but we did have the occasional night. Who could forget dancing with George Michael at the Epic Records party? That was the most embarrassing moment of my life. George Michael, the most co-ordinated white man in Britain, and Clare Grogan, the pixie of pop. What a laugh.”
Are you nervous with celebrities?
“I never said a sensible thing to John Peel in my life. All I can do is stumble through a sentence. It’s weird. I get like that with people I admire. I couldn’t be in the same room as David Bowie. I’d die.”
What are you all-time favourite 45s?
“‘Hong Kong Garden’ by Siouxsie & The Banshees made me want to be in a band. ‘Teenage Kicks’ [by The Undertones]. Prince’s ‘Sign O’ The Times’ – the most poignant pop record ever. And The Sex Pistols’ ‘Anarchy In The UK’.”
What are the nicest and nastiest things ever written about you?
“That whole Melody Maker thing [unforgivably, in the mid-Eighties the paper called Clare “scarface”] broke my heart. The nicest? I liked it when Paul Morley said he’d eat my socks.”
© Paul Lester, Uncut, March 1998