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Elkie Brooks - Biography
|last update : 07-07-2006 19:58|
|Elkie, whose early musical influences included Billie Holiday, Etta James, Ella Fitzgerald and Nina Simone, is a vocalist whose singing style has successfully embraced pop, rock, ballads, blues and jazz, and a performer who has never compromised herself in order to pursue the latest pop music trend. For many years, back in the Sixties and early Seventies, she had to languish on the professional sidelines while female pop contemporaries like Dusty, Cilla, Sandie and Lulu, enjoyed chart stardom, with all its attendant trappings of fame and fortune. However, when chart success did finally knock on Elkie's door in 1977, she rapidly became the biggest-selling female album artist in the history of the British pop charts.
Elkie's many hit singles have endured to the present day, with pop standards like Don't Cry Out Loud, Sunshine After The Rain, Pearl's A Singer, Lilac Wine, Fool If You Think It's Over and No More The Fool still garnering airplay more than two decades after their original release. A succession of big selling-albums have also underlined Elkie's persistent search for quality and excellence during a lengthy performing and recording career dating back some four decades.
Elkie Brooks was born Elaine Bookbinder in Salford, Manchester, and certainly paid her professional dues and demands before finally achieving the proverbial 'overnight' success as a major recording artist in the mid-Seventies. In fact she was following a family tradition: Elkie's brother Tony Mansfield was the drummer with Billy J Kramer and The Dakotas, another brother had his own Manchester quartet, and her uncle Nat Bookbinder was a respected local bandleader.
After leaving school at the age of 15 Elkie travelled to London where she became the singer with a dance band, before graduating to appearances with the respected jazz bandleader Humphrey Lyttelton (a professional association that is still enduring at the time of writing, 2003), while also making several early radio broadcasts.
The young singer however hankered after a career as a pop vocalist and, managed for a while by the formidable pop impresario Don Arden (father of the equally formidable Sharon Osbourne, Ozzie's missis) the young Elaine Bookbinder briefly became Elaine Mansfield before deciding on the more charismatic name of Elkie Brooks. She appeared on several pop package tours, including with The Animals, Carl Perkins and The Nashville Teens, and also supported The Beatles on tour.
In August 1964 Elkie released her first single, Something's Got A Hold Of Me (which had previously been recorded by Etta James), for Decca Records. This was followed by a handful of other singles, including 1965's He's Gotta Love Me for EMI Records. Success however was stubborn in coming and eventually Elkie found herself relegated to playing the Northern cabaret circuit, a professional comedown for a singer and performer who had such a distinctive soulful style and deserved so much more..
In April 1969 Elkie recorded a one-off single Come September for NEMS Records but, like its predecessors, it was met with public indifference. In 1970 however she was persuaded by Pete Gage to join the jazz-fusion rock band Dada, and shared vocals with Paul Korda on their only album, called Dada, released by the Atlantic Records subsidiary label Atco.
With the arrival of a young blue-eyed soul singer called Robert Palmer (replacing Paul Korda), who shared lead vocals with Elkie, Dada metamorphosed into Vinegar Joe, and the band – signed to Island Records – recorded three critically acclaimed albums, Vinegar Joe, Rock And Roll Gypsies, and Six-Star General. Their many live performances included the Reading Rock Festival in 1972.
Following the break-up of Vinegar Joe in 1974, Elkie briefly joined the line-up of boogie band Wet Willie, basing herself in the United States. Some 12 months later however she decided once again to pursue solo career plans and signed a recording deal with A&M Records. It proved to be the long-awaited springboard to success. Elkie's first album Rich Man's Woman, which included an excellent revamp of The Crystals' He's A Rebel, helped to finally spread the word about her remarkable vocal style.
Rich Man's Woman was followed in 1977 by a second album Two Days Away - produced and part-written by the legendary team of Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller -which reached number 16 in the UK chart and took up a 20 week chart residency. The album also gave birth to two major hit singles, Pearl's A Singer which clambered into the Top 10, followed by Sunshine After The Rain (written by Ellie Greenwich).
In 1978 Elkie achieved three more significant hit singles, Lilac Wine, produced by Mike Batt, which went to number 16, Only Love Can Break Your Heart written by Neil Young (number 43), and a tender reading of Peter Allen and Carole Bayer Sager's Don't Cry Out Loud (number 12).
Elkie consolidated this success with a succession of best-selling albums, including 1978's Shooting Star, which reached number 20, and 1979's Live And Learn which was another Lieber and Stoller production (number 34). In 1981 and 1981 respectively A&M Records released Pearls I and Pearls II, both of which reached number 2 in the UK charts, and which had combined sales of over 1.5 million copies - the biggest-selling albums by a British female singer ever at the time. Pearls spent a staggering 79 weeks on the charts while Pearls II took up a 25-week residency.
These record sales were converted into box office success as well: Elkie's frequent nationwide tours were regular sell-outs, and she appeared in concert at the London Palladium, Royal Albert Hall, Dominion Theatre and Hammersmith Apollo among other prestigious venues.
The hits singles continued: in 1979 Elkie breached the Top 50 with The Runaway, and two years later she returned to the Top 20 with a revamp of Chris Rea's song Fool If You Think It's Over. The year 1981 saw her back in the charts with Our Love, followed by another imaginative remake, this time of the Moody Blues' Nights In White Satin which reached the Top 40 in 1982. The same year Elkie chalked up another hit single with Gasoline Alley, previously recorded by Rod Stewart.
For the next five years hit singles eluded Elkie, but she continued to tour successfully and secured several more best selling albums. These included 1984's Minutes (number 35), and Screen Gems (number 35). Among the singles which escaped the charts were Dance Away, which was at least a radio airplay hit, and Paint Your Pretty Picture, both of which were produced by the late Gus Dudgeon, the man behind Elton John's earliest recording successes.
Other singles followed including Why Don't You Say It, produced by Alan Tarney, and a re-make of Percy Sledge's classic Warm And Tender Love. However, despite the lack of commercial success in the singles market, Elkie continued to tour successfully and there were further best-selling albums including 1984's Minutes and Screen Gems, which featured her interpretations of some of the best-loved songs from the silver screen.
In 1986 Elkie signed a new recording deal with the fledgling label Legend Records and the first single, No More The Fool, written by Russ Ballard, quickly restored Elkie to the upper echelons of the album chart, peaking at number 5 and spending 16 weeks in the Top 50. Her album of the same name also reached number 5 and took up a chart residency of 23 weeks. This success was followed by two more chart hits, Break The Chain and a revival of Bob Segar's We've Got Tonight, both released in 1987. Elkie's triumphant return to both the singles and album charts was once again a solid reminder of her great vocal talents, some 23 years after she had released her first solo recording.
The hit albums continued to roll in for Elkie during the Eighties and Nineties. Theses included the 1986 Top 10 success The Very Best Of Elkie Brooks, Bookbinder's Kid and Inspiration (both 1988), Round Midnight (1993), Nothin' But The Blues (1994), Amazing (1996), and another The Very Best Of Elkie Brooks (1998). In fact, Elkie has been recognised by the Guinness Book of Records as the most successful British female album seller of the last two decades, with numerous silver, gold and platinum awards to her credit.
In recent years Elkie and her husband, sound engineer Trevor Jordan, have lived quietly at their home in Devon, although she has continued to perform in concert and release quality albums. Hopefully Elkie's TV career resurrection via Reborn In The USA will finally cement her place in British popular music history.
This new CD collection brings together 20 of Elkie's finest recordings, including the hits singles No More The Fool and We've Got Tonight, and her splendid interpretations of evergreen standards like Cry Me A River, I Can Dream Can't I?, Thelonius Monk's 'Round Midnight, Black Coffee, and I Ain't Got Nothing But The Blues. This is the musical proof - as if it was needed - as to why Elkie Brooks' musical career has proved to be so successful and enduring.