Musician and Singer-Songwriter Sam Brown is another of the very special guests to have joined me on the The Paul Weller Fan Podcast in our journey so far.
I’ve been a huge fan for over 30 years – since buying that smash hit single Stop on 7″ single from my local chemist (Lord knows why they were the shop to go to for buying records in Laindon, Essex in the late 80s). I have bought (and loved) all the singles and albums since; so the fact that Sam had connections to Paul Weller with recorded and live music was a wonderful bonus and meant that I could invite one of my favourite singers for a lovely interview back in the Summer of 2021.
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EP55 – Sam Brown – Musician, Singer, Songwriter – ”We talk and we talk until my head explodes” – Desperately Seeking Paul : Paul Weller Fan Podcast
Sam first came to prominence in the late 1980s as a solo artist, and released six singles that entered the UK Singles Chart during the 1980s and 1990s. She has also worked as a hugely successful session backing vocalist with bands and artists such as Pink Floyd, Gary Moore, George Harrison, Small Faces, Spandau Ballet, Adam Ant, Tina Turner, Nick Cave and of course Paul Weller.
The first story that we talked about (which I think Paul Weller would love as a super-fan of the band) is that Sam’s first job on record was aged 14 – singing on the final studio album by Small Faces. The original line up had reunited in the 70s – with Sam performing on their fifth and final studio album called 78 in the Shade. It was released on the Atlantic label in 1978 and re-issued in 2005 on Wounded Bird. Incidentally there’s another Weller connection on the album with American Soul Singer, Madeline Bell, who went on to sing on Woo Sé Mama for the Weller album – A Kind Revolution.
Sam first performed with Paul Weller at the Ronnie Lane: One for the Road Memorial Concert in 2001.
The event at London’s Royal Albert Hall celebrated three principal phases to Ronnie Lane’s musical career (Small Faces, Faces and the “solo” years with Slim Chance). Sam made several appearances throughout the evening and was certainly one of the stars of the night both on backing and lead vocals.
Paul was her on stage (and the band) for one of the most popular songs from Ronnie’s solo days The Poacher along with a little known Ronnie Lane song that had appeared on the album – Live in Austen called Spiritual Babe. Sam and Paul were also joined for a surprise appearance from Ronnie Wood for one of one of the most popular Faces songs Ooh La La which (as you can see on the video below) also brought an appearance from two can-can dancers! Brilliant!.
At the end of 2001, Jools Holland released a new album with his Rhythm & Blues Orchestra (and friends) called Small World, Big Band. Sam performs an incredible version of one of my absolute favourites from her called Valentine Moon (I’ve posted a video below) – such a beautiful song and performance – and on Track 3, Paul Weller pops up for a version of Will It Go Round in Circles which also featured Sam on BVs.
I also have to mention and recommend an amazing project called HomeSpun that you really should check out. Sam was a key part with David Rotheray – best known as the guitarist and tunesmith for The Beautiful South. In 2002, the band had taken a year off from touring and recording, and so David stayed at home in Hull and put his time to good use, embarking on a musical diary of his year.
This project was a purely recreational venture, recorded at home with a few close musical friends, and done without any intention of commercial release. The intended light-hearted diary quickly developed into something more personal. A collection of songs emerged that were less reflections on the year and more a series of musical tributes, apologies, good-byes and thankyous to close friends and family. It became clear that these songs required a singer who could do them justice, and the notion began to develop that this project, embarked upon purely for its own sake, could turn into an album.
After a few false starts with various singers, Dave’s collaborator Tony Robinson proposed Sam to tackle the tunes. Dave called her and a week later Sam took time out from her schedule with Jools Holland’s band, drove up to Hull, and one afternoon and a few Bloody Marys later Homespun was born. Incidentally David has come up before on the podcast as he worked with Kathryn Williams on a couple of his solo albums – The Life of Birds and Answer Ballads – both of which are beautiful LPs.
In 2004, Paul released his seventh solo studio album – Studio 150 – which featured covers of songs by a variety of artists, and showcased a myriad of musical influences and songs that he felt he could connect with. It was named after the small Amsterdam studio in which it was recorded. Although Sam didn’t get to join the trip to Holland – she performed backing vocals on the final 2 tracks on the album – All along the Watchtower (written by American singer-songwriter Bob Dylan) and Birds (originally written & recorded by Neil Young for his 1970 album – After The Gold Rush). Sam was joined on backing vocals by Carleen Anderson & Claudia Fontaine (Claudia was also part of Afrodiziak with Caron Wheeler. The duo had performed backing vocals with The Jam in 1982. Claudia sadly passed away in 2018).
In July 2006 Sam started to experience problems with her voice and as she explains on the podcast, it wasn’t possible for her to reach the high-notes and sing as she had. This meant that her music career veered off in a completely different direction as she started teaching ukulele with the creation of The International Ukulele Club of Sonning Common. She now has over 150 pupils and teaches in Oxfordshire, under the Umbrella name of The Fabulous Ukulele Club.
2021 did however see the release of Sam’s 7th solo album called Wednesday the Something of April – a complete recording of her one woman show, circa 2004. She sings, plays piano and Fender Rhodes, ukulele and bass guitar. Sam explores every emotion, and executes her performance with her tongue in her cheek and a laugh on her lips. You can buy the album here.
During our podcast chat, Sam also exclusively revealed that she has been working on a new album over the past couple of years – so fingers crossed for a release in 2022.
Sam Brown Discography
1988 – Stop
1990 – April Moon
1992 – 43 Minutes
1997 – Box
2000 – Reboot
2003 – Homespun (as part of Homespun)
2004 – Effortless Cool (as part of Homespun)
2006 – Ukelele and Voice EP
2007 – Of The Moment
2007 – Short Stories from East Yorkshire (as part of Homespun)
2021 – Wednesday The Something of April – Live LP – recorded in 2004
Jools Holland + Sam Brown + Paul Weller – Will It Go Round In Circles
Paul Weller – Studio 150
Sam sings on All Along The Watchtower and Birds.