"Princelet Street the album is inspired by the street and a sense of family, past and present"..........Catherine Howe
Princelet Streetis in Spitalfields and crosses Brick Lane in London's East End. With Bethnal Green Road to the north, Whitechapel High Street to the south, Princelet Street has been home to generations of immigrants.
Many of the buildings date back to the Protestant Huguenot silk manufacturers of the eighteenth century who fled persecution in France. The nineteenth century saw an arrival of Irish immigrants followed, in the 1880s and onwards, by Jewish refugees.
The area is now home to a large Bangladeshi community. Spitalfields remains a fascinating place. Dickens drew upon it for his novels; Jack London wrote about his attempt to survive it; Jack the Ripper stalked it.
In the 1970s and 80s, when its existence was threatened by modern development, Dennis Severs re-enlivened his house on Folgate Street. Behind 19, Princelet Street, stands one of the oldest English synagogues surviving.
I was five when I wrote my first song, which I can still partly remember and, being the youngest of five children, there was recorded music for the hearing from even earlier. One brother introduced me to Fats Domino, a sister to Buddy Holly (a first hearing of Maybe Baby in the 50s was an earth shattering event). Peter, Paul and Mary, The Beach Boys I found for myself, also The Four Seasons.
I had a big thing for Gene Pitney, and loved I'm Gonna Be Strong. Songs that did it for me when I was young, and still do, are Del Shannon's Runaway; The Moody Blue's Go Now ; Bacharach's Anyone Who Had a Heart (declaring for Cilla's), The Look of Love ; He's A Rebel by the Crystals . Contrary to occasional rumour, my music is not a child of traditional music but of unadulterated pop and rock, with a little bit of everything else thrown in for good measure
An English teacher at primary school one day said to me, “Go home and tell your parents you should have your voice trained”. I couldn’t get along that road in Halifax and on to our house fast enough. Two days before my twelfth birthday I arrived at Corona Stage School in Hammersmith; we did academic work in the mornings, drama in the afternoons.
‘We’ comprised a truly interesting group of adolescents, included Judy and Sally Geeson, Susan George and Sheila White. But childhood dreams turn into what is real: my family was in Yorkshire, I was twelve years old in London and homesick to a cruel degree.
At Corona we had a good training for a career in the theatre. The principal, Rona Knight, was a great teacher. A friend of mine called Judith and I got together with Kaplan Kaye to form an extremely short-lived trio called The Bottletops, and which gave me my first opportunity, when I was thirteen to sing on TV. We did a rendition of 'If I Had a Hammer' on ATV’s ‘The Five O'Clock Club’.
To tell the truth I wanted to be a librarian but, having escaped an academic schooling by the time I was eighteen it was too late for that. Instead I enjoyed a surprisingly successful start as an actor with roles in Theatre 625, Wednesday Play, Dr Who, Dixon of Dock Green, Z-Cars and the rest.
By now I'd written dozens of songs, all down on a domestic reel-to-reel and too many for anyone to listen to. In the 60s you took your songs to a publisher and you sat down at a piano in his (always a man's) office to play and sing. In some ways it was easier in those days.
As for recording, CBS seemed like a nice label. Every time I played the song, which really got me writing with purpose, Bacharach's The Look of Love, I'd watch that orange CBS label go round and round. So one day I walked to Theobalds Road (28/30) the home of CBS Records with some songs on paper. There I met, in the foyer thanks to a kindly commissionaire, Andrew Miller, then of Reflection Records.
We did some voice and piano demos at CBS studios in the summer of 1969 and some months later Andrew phoned, in a panic because he'd not been able to find me, to say, "Meet me tomorrow, your producers have arrived in England and we're recording next week".
What A Beautiful Place followed. We chose the songs, Bobby Scott (writer of greats Taste of Honey;He Ain't Heavy) scored them, and we recorded, all within ten days. The great blessing is that Bobby played piano.
But Reflection Records didn't last, and it took four rather long years before I was able to record again, this time thanks to Paul Rich of Carlin Music who heard What A Beautiful Place playing at Carlin's offices on Savile Row.
Harry was released through RCA in 1975, produced by Del Newman, and then followed much fun with Pip Williams and team (with Miles Laurie in NY managing, then Laurie Jay in the UK), for the second RCA album Silent Mother Nature. By now all the paraphernalia was in place - publisher, record company - and all that goes with it.
Despite promotion and tours with Andy Fairweather-Low, Chris de Burgh, David Soul and later with Randy Edleman, the albums and singles didn't sell enough. I thought it was because of me, but it was as much (I've since learned) because they weren't in the shops to buy.
To remedy this it was suggested that maybe I should write 'country and western', maybe I should change my hair, maybe wear black leather. So the music business, which I loved, and I parted company. Like a bad marriage, some damage was sustained before separation took place.
I went home to Halifax, married and had a baby girl now sixteen years old, studied for an Open University degree in history and religion and, latterly, have researched and am writing a short book on the early life of George Jacob Holyoake, nineteenth century secularist, socialist, propagandists and champion of a free press. All these events have affected my song writing which I eschewed for many years.
In 2000 I turned fifty and thought, as none of us will ever pass this way again, that I would go back to the studio. Guitarist Kevin Healy, a friend of many years, and I produced Princelet Street.
I wasn’t concerned about songs – I already had enough for the album – but almost as soon as we started recording, new ones poured out.Princelet Streetthe album is inspired by the street and a sense of family, past and present.
Generations of my family lived in or near the City of London. My great-grandmother Susannah Constantine was born on Princelet Street in 1851, her mother worked as a silk winder, her father as a fancy comb maker. As a young man my father used to work as a salesman for Geo Glanfield & Sons on Brick Lane. Long before I knew this I used to go city walking there as a girl because it felt like coming home.
Princelet Street: After the Spitalfields street of the same name and written in 2000. Princelet Street crosses Brick Lane and has been the home to generations of immigrants of hugely varied cultural and religious persuasions. If you haven’t read about the area and would like to, these books are good: Rodinsky’s Room by Rachel Lichtenstein and Iain Sinclair, Brick Lane by Monica Ali, Hawksmoor by Peter Ackroyd.
You Never Know: There’s some interest in just how much writers use their own autobiographies for song material. Bearing in mind that writers are as likely to express the exact opposite to their own views and experiences as they are to use autobiographical sources, in this instance You Never Know is pure autobiography and is dedicated to Bobby Scott who produced What a Beautiful Place in 1971. There is a musical clue to the fact. It was written in 1991 a few weeks after his death.
All I Can Say: Composed in 2003 in response to religious activities affecting the world. Poet Rabindrawath Tagore says it best: “God seeks comrades and claims love; the Devil seeks slaves and claims obedience”. It seems to be our lot never to achieve that state to which religion tries to bring us. I think it hinges upon love, or lack of it.
Shine Like a Star: A song that I penned in the mid-80s as a practical and personal version of the utopian ideal above.
You Are: To describe the mundane effects of the opposite of the utopian ideal above. The inspiration for this song came to me around 2002
Come Back Soon: An early song, probably written before the album Harry was recorded, i.e., the early 70s. This is its first outing on an album and its interesting (for me anyhow) to hear it set amongst the later songs. Its qualities are a little rarer, but then everything was a little rarer in the early 70s.
Someone’s Been There Before: A song from 2002 written after seeing my daughter off on her first day at a huge secondary school. I came home, sat down, wrote this and waited the seven hours for her to come back home again.
Say The Word: A love song circa 1980.
Brothers (1850): Written while walking the dog in 2003. It wrote itself really. The song Brothers comes from my own family history but tells the story of just about everyone else’s family history too – the story of poverty, of a society in which improvement was impossible, and emigration.
One Percent: Inspired by emotions felt watching on the news pictures of people trying to survive Punjabi flooding, immediately followed by a documentary on the Holocaust.
No Matter: The sort of song which comes from motherhood – a song of affirmation. Written in 2003.
C’est la Vie: All to do with getting older. Also something to do with girls’ nights out.
Yorkshire Hills: A song that came to me in the eighties in Halifax. I wanted to express what I feel about the history of Yorkshire (my family’s adoptive county) which you can feel permeate your bones and spirit when you walk there – especially in towns like Halifax and Huddersfield. Halifax is threatened by development predators these days.
Princelet Street CD Number HO 41229423 Release Date: Available Now Distribution: Proper
2006 HO41229423 Princelet Street. (Jan 23 2006)
Jeff Leach on keyboards with exception of the track Princelet Street. You Never Know, Come Back Soon, You Are. Andy Vinter, and All I Can Say – Catherine Howe; Kevin Healy on acoustic and electric guitars; Phil Cranham on bass guitar; Don Richardson on double bass; Steve Rushton on drums; Martyn David plays percussion; Dave Bishop on sax; Nicki Woods on Cor Anglais; John Francis and Andrew Laing on violins; Andrew Byrt on viola; Julia Graham on cello and solo cello on You Never Know Produced and arranged and engineered by Kevin Healy. Recorded at GraceNotes Studio, Pinner, Middlesex
1979 Ariola ARL 5013 Dragonfly Days.
Dragonfly Days, produced by Richard Hewson for Ariola Records
Peter Boita on drums; Alan Parker, Chris Rae, Foggy Little and Paul Keogh on guitars; Les Hurdle and Melt Kingston on bass guitars; Chris Karan plays percussion; Richard Hewson on synthesisers; David Hancock on flugal horn; Pete Wingfield, Catherine Howe and Dick Holmes on keyboards. Produced by Richard Hewson, engineered by Nicholas Sykes, recorded at R G Jones Studio, Wimbledon.
1976 RCA RS 1041 Silent Mother Nature.
Silent Mother Nature produced by Pip Williams, for RCA Records.
Fiachra Trench on keyboards with exception of I’ve Had Freedom Enough; Keep Me Talking; Crumbs on the Table; Callous Young Man; You Make Me – Catherine Howe
Paul Keogh on electric guitar; Pip Williams on acoustic guitar, electric sitar and solo guitars; David Wintour on bass guitar with the exception of Lucy Snow – Chris Laurence; Mike Giles on drums; Frank Ricotti plays percussion; Peter Zorn on alto sax on Just Supposing and flute on All the Music In Me; Alan Dalziel solo cello on Callous Young Man; vocal backing on What Are Friends For Anyway and It Took My Breath Away by Barry St. John, Lize Strike and Sunny Leslie. Arranged and produced by Pip Williams, engineered by Derek Varnals recorded at Threshold Studio, London in 1976 with additional recording at Lansdowne Studio (engineer John Mackswith) and Marquee Studio (engineer John Eden)
1975 RCA SF 8407 Harry
Produced by Del Newman for RCA Records, in 1974
The title track “Harry” was a hit single and received an Ivor Novello Award in 1974.
Mike Silver and Paul Keogh on acoustic guitars; Paul Keogh on electric guitar; Catherine Howe and Mike Moran on piano and keyboards; Brian Hodgers, Darryl Runswick and Dave Maqee on bass guitars; Charlie Smith and Barry Morgan on drums; Mox on flute. Produced and arranged by Del Newman recorded at Nova Sound Studio, London in 1974. Sleeve photographs by Roy Round at Hebden Bridge, Yorkshire.
1971 CBS REFL11 What A Beautiful Place
What a Beautiful Place, produced by Bobby Scott, writer of Taste of Honey’ and ‘He Ain’t Heavy’, for Reflection Records, 1971. Stan Gorman played drums and Bobby Scott who played piano throughout. Produced and arranged by Bobby Scott engineered by Robin Cable executive producers Andrew Miller and Phil Gillin. recorded at Trident Studios, London, in February 1971. Sleeve photographs by Terry Ibbott at Kenwood House London
1985 HAR 844 Various Sounds of Yorkshire (Includes two Catherine Howe titles)
Recording Session Credits (Guest Vocalist)
2002 Voiceprint VP 264 CD Progress. (Guesting for Michael Giles)
1975 CBS 69231 Un Genio, Due Compari, Un Pollo. (Guesting for Ennio Morricone)
1974 CBS 2775 Firestar Express.(Guesting for Piero Piccioni)
1981 BI 0113 Almost Love. (Breeze Label)
1980 ARO 0232 Going Back.
1980 ARO 0223 When the Night Comes.
1979 ARO 0174 Quietly Softly.
1979 AR0 0152 Turn The Corner Singing.
1978 ARO 0143 Too Far Gone.
1978 ARO 0111 Sit Down & Think Again.
1978 ARO 174 Quietly Softly.
1978 ARO 0143 Move On Over.
1977 RCA PE 5004 Truth Of The Matter (Extended Play Four Track Single) 1. Truth 2. Until The Morning Comes 3.Harry 4.Silent Mother Nature.
1976 RCA 2693 Freedom Enough.
1976 RCA 2652 What Are Friends For Anyway?
1976 RCA 2735 Until The Morning Comes.
1975 RCA 2508 Harry.
Some notes on Catherine’s life & work whilst she was away from the music business.
Her book on George Jacob Holyoake is at the editing stage.
When studying for a degree with the Open University (Humanities – History with Religious Studies) I became very interested in the relationship between Church, government and the socially deprived. I wanted to understand the how, what, why. How was social deprivation viewed by the churches? What was done about it? Why did a social mission take so long to grow? I am now a perpetual student of the subject, an enthusiastic amateur researcher with a particular interest in George Jacob Holyoake whose experiences in the 1830s and 1840s encapsulates what was happening then – radical demands for free speech, for regeneration of the independent workman, for a religion-free society and for political reform. My own views on religion are stated in the lyrics to ‘All I Can Say’: “Buildings arise to the glory of God/Whatever that light might be/And each one’s revealing a meaning behind it all/All I can say is I can love you, if you can love me”.
Catherine Howe - George Jacob Holyoake - The Book
The years 1838-42 in the life of George Jacob Holyoake (b. 1817 d. 1906) constitute the focus of my research. I am writing in narrative form and aiming at a general readership. The narrative revolves on Holyoake’s walk from Birmingham to Bristol in the spring of 1842. Holyoake is recently resigned from his post as social missionary to the Sheffield Branch of Robert Owen’s Society of Rational Religionists; he is outraged at the function of an established church and its persecution of his friend and colleague, Charles Southwell, who presently is imprisoned at Bristol for an act of blasphemy. On his way to Bristol, Holyoake gives a lecture on Home Colonization (Owenite policy) at Cheltenham where he publicly declares himself hostile to the notion of a God. He is prosecuted for blasphemy and is imprisoned at Gloucester for six months during which time his infant daughter dies in Birmingham of fever exacerbated by malnutrition. Holyoake later forms the Secularist Society in London. I do not claim to give an academic analysis of early nineteenth century social radicalism. The purpose of my research is to attempt to illustrate the events surrounding George Jacob Holyoake’s arrest and imprisonment in 1842 through observation of the actions of significant people involved in this event and who contributed to the prevailing social conditions during these difficult, and interesting, years.
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