Hazel O’Connor is touring a show celebrating her landmark 1980 punk film, Breaking Glass. MALCOLM WYATT found out more
Hazel O’Connor was back in County Wicklow when I caught up with her, after a long haul from a gig in Taunton, Somerset, includingg a late-night Holyhead-Dun Laoghaire ferry.
“My boat got me in about half past midnight. It’s quite a palaver, but I don’t like flying, y’see,” she tells me.
While hailing from Coventry, Hazel’s been in the Irish Republic since 1990, and now has a base in the South of France too, handy for regular European dates.
She says: “I always try to do a show nearby, where there’s a really nice arts theatre, but it’s hard work organising. I love being in France though, love hanging out at my place.”
Now Hazel has another run of shows, screenings of a digitally-remastered uncut version of breakthrough film, Breaking Glass, followed by a Q&A, a live band performance, then a special ‘meet and greet’.
“The last two weeks it was myself, Clare (Hirst, saxophone, who also played for The Belle Stars, The Communards, and David Bowie) and Sarah (Fisher, keyboards, previously with The Eurythmics).
“We were doing what we were in the first part of this year, an up, close and personal thing, and we’re back out on the road in 12 days.”
She’s about to release new album, Hallelujah Moments, but this month’s shows are about the film that changed her life, not only making the lead role her own, but also writing the songs.
The soundtrack LP went double-platinum over a 38-week chart run, songs like the powerful Eighth Day and Will You truly resonating. But she told me she never made a penny from Breaking Glass.
“Pretty much. It’s just a shame the royalties would have really reached their peak in the first couple of years, and the record company I was in litigation with for so long kept reaping the benefits,” she says.
“Even though they went into liquidation in 1987 and were dissolved by 1992. It was only in 1996 that I started getting royalties, by which time …”
Do you remember the first day of filming?
“I remember the first day we recorded a music scene. We did many in the first few weeks, I reckon so they could make me feel relaxed.
“They called in about 200 punk extras from Brixton to this production village in Cricklewood, having built this pretend pub, giving them alcohol from 8.30 in the morning.
“By the time they were ready to shoot, the assistant director said (adopts posh voice), ‘Okay everybody, do something really punky’. That sounded a little patronising.
“When they heard the words ‘rolling’ and ‘action’ they did just that, destroying the set, which then had to be re-jigged until about half three that afternoon. After that they weren’t given alcohol again.”
What were your first impressions of co-star Phil Daniels? He was a bit of a Jack the lad then, fresh off the set of previous hit, Quadrophenia.
Hazel says:“I thought he was great. They’d chosen me as lead and gave me the benefit of viewing potential leading men, so I sat in on auditions for the guy who’d play the manager.
“They told me Phil was coming in, I’d seen a print of that film, and he was wearing one of his Quadrophenia suits from his last job – this Mod suit.
“He quickly scanned the script, including a line, ‘Voila, Kate – a new flat!’ And I understand this as I’m dyslexic myself, but he stood and went, ‘Viola, Kate – a new flat!’
“Everyone cracked up. He did it with such aplomb. He was something else, very witty, a clever actor. He was very kind, taking me to his acting school in Islington. He helped a lot with my acting.”
How about Jonathan Pryce?
“My God – Mr Perfect Actor! They were both perfect actors in different ways. Bloody hell, Jonathan just became ballistic from there in his acting. He too was wonderful and lovely.”
When was the last time you watched Breaking Glass from start to finish?
“Mmm. Quite a while now. I get a bit upset. I was slimmer then. Ha! It’s just a woman thing really.”
Well, we all look back at photographs, wondering where the years have gone. So with moving images …
“It’s terrifying! You can whip yourself about stuff like that, so I tend to be careful about what I look at, what I believe . Good or bad, it’s just subjective really. It’s the same being in a film as a young woman. And now I’m not a young woman.”
Hazel O’Connor brings her Breaking Glass show to Manchester’s Royal Northern College of Music on Wednesday, November 14. For tickets, tour details and news of her new LP try www.hazeloconnor.com. You can also head to https://www.facebook.com/HazelOConnorOfficial.