In the late 1980s, Wendy James was the goddess of choice for many a teenager’s bedroom. She was sexy, beautiful and her band Transvision Vamp dominated the UK charts with their post-punk pop. Wendy was everywhere, a teenage wet dream, which kinda overlooked the singer’s real talent and incredible energy.
It was her unacknowledged talent (and a fan letter from Wendy) that led Elvis Costello to write the pop princess her first solo album, Now Ain’t the Time for Your Tears in 1993. It was a bloody impressive recording, which kicked even her harshest critics into touch. But let’s not forget, the pop world is fickle, and riddled with jealousies, which means, sadly, there are always those who will not think about Wendy beyond the pull-out posters that once decorated their bedroom walls.
Now, this should be about to change, as Wendy James has released the best album of her career so far, I Came Here To Blow Minds, which she has written and produced herself. I spoke to Wendy over the ‘phone last week and asked her about the process of writing the album.
Wendy James: ‘I wrote it in summertime in New York. I went up onto the roof of my apartment, with my guitar and worked on my songs up there. I write all the time, and have notebooks full of writing and songs all around. Then one day it just starts, and I have an outpouring of these songs and ideas, for about two months. And when I write I have to lock myself away. I just can’t enjoy other things. It’s kind of like a pressure cooker, and you put a lid on to stop it boiling over, but then you can’t stop it boiling over.
‘For me, it’s a very solo outpouring. It takes everything you’ve got for that moment in time. But it’s the ultimate thing for being an artist.’
It’s a cathartic process, and writing the last song, is like ‘waiting to exhale.’ On I Came Here To Blow Minds, Wendy’s songs range form the punky “New Wave Flowered Up Main Street Acid Baby”, through “Municipal Blues” and the jangly indie pop of “One Evening in a Small Cafe” and “You Tell Me” to the sixties’ Marianne Faithfull-like “Where Have You Been, So Long?”. The musical references are all there, and have developed over Wendy’s twenty-plus year career, from teenage pop star to older, wiser solo artist.
It started in her teens, when Wendy saw Joe Strummer of The Clash in concert and thought “I want his job.” Her wish soon came true, when she formed Transvision Vamp with Nick Christian Sayer in 1986. Sayer wrote the songs and James supplied the image. Three albums and a slew of hit singles were released, including “I Want Your Love” and “Baby, I Don’t Care”.
Wendy James: ‘Without really knowing, I was in Transvision Vamp. I didn’t really know what I was doing. But you learn really quickly, it was a fast track, you learn how to rehearse, how to deliver. It all came together so quickly. On the first album, I was just singing. By the second I wanted more.’
Their second album, Velveteen was a massive hit, but Wendy was growing up.
Wendy James: ‘Something in my soul was telling me I had to live in my own world. I had to do my own thing. Something was going on inside, and by the third album, it wasn’t enough.’
Then Elvis Costello wrote an album for her.
Wendy James: ‘But still there was this inner voice, you know, these were Elvis Costello’s songs, and not mine.’
It took time. In 2004, James returned as Racine - ‘...the name I called myself for two albums…’ - and then began writing the songs for I Came Here To Blow Minds, which she recorded in Paris. Now, Wendy has plans to tour the UK, Europe and the US later this year. She is also working on songs for her next album.
An initial pink vinyl pressing of ‘I Came Here To Blow Minds’ is now available
Wendy James: “New Wave Flowered Up Main Street Acid Baby”