Roughing it in a van might not be everyone’s idea of rock glamour, but it’s something former Transvision Vamp star Wendy James is more than prepared to put up with.
She had just completed her fourth solo album Queen High Straight when the pandemic hit.
After numerous false dawns she’s at last able to tour the 20-track opus, which she describes as her “legacy work”.
And if that means piling into a people carrier with her six-piece band and packing in 28 gigs all over the UK in little over a month she’s more than up for it – whether it be by day or by night.
Speaking halfway through her first headline tour in five years, the one-time face of a million bedroom posters chuckles:
“None of us like getting up early but we really like going to the motorway service stations.
“It’s all really exciting. I’ve just had to throw away all our rotten food and look for a lost remote control. Night travelling is quite fun too, isn’t it? More than being stuck in traffic jams. But we’re not in reclining seats, unfortunately.”
Escape from New York
Putting on her serious hat to reflect on plague times, Wendy, 55, says she was fortunate to be able to escape her New York home and decamp to southern France.
“That first big lockdown was very challenging for a lot of people, not so much for me,” she reveals.
“I was in New York as it was starting to surge and that’s when I made the decision.
“I went to an isolated house and musicians tend to have a life that is solitary anyway.
“If they’re not on the road they’re writing music and having creative thoughts or whatever, and you tend to do that by yourself if you’re a songwriter.
The French handled it, the Americans screamed
“I’m very proud of the way President Macron has been tough when he’s needed to be tough, and for the most part the French have absolutely gone along with that.
“In America, it seems it’s impossible to have a mandate to do anything because they all start screaming about their freedoms.
“To be a leader, whether it’s of a band or a country, you have to take tough decisions even it they’re instantly deemed unpopular or distasteful.”
Talking Heads buddies
James counts Connecticut-based Talking Heads pair Chris Frantz and Tina Weymouth among her closest friends and keeps a close eye on USA events.
She describes recent Covid death rates in Florida and Texas as “shocking”, ditto the latter’s demonising of face coverings and moves to ban abortion.
Back in Blighty, thankfully her tour has been a source of joy amid the lingering gloom.
“The audiences have been incredible, as were the rehearsals,” declares Wendy, whose big breakthrough was Transvision’s No 5 single I Want Your Love in July 1988.
“After waiting 18 months, when we all finally plugged in our amps and microphones we all just felt exceptionally happy to be back together again and to be making live music. It was thrilling.”
Wendy’s retained the outfit she led at shows supporting the Psychedelic Furs in October 2019 and quips: “Everyone who talks to me after a show just says how amazing they are – so now I think maybe the band’s better than me and I’m a tiny bit jealous.
“No, not really, it’s certainly the line-up to see. It’s a long process for any musician to end up with all the people they should be with.
You have to go through a few bands and a few line-ups to get to the one you want and that’s where we’re at now.”
‘A nice swoony little number’
Along with her recent release bangers, the Londoner currently performs the TransVamp gem Bad Valentine – “it’s a nice little swoony number, and all the audience know all the words” – plus her biggest hits.
“You can’t really choose,” she adds. “The audience goes nuts for Baby I Don’t Care so we respond.”
New album in 2023?
Beyond the tour, Wendy’s recorded a handful of demos ahead of an album slated for 2023, but won’t divulge any more while the project’s “in the process”.
Throughout her career she’s been quite expert at giving the media pack just enough, so nothing in that regard has changed.
What the glamour puss wants to keep private generally stays private.
- Tickets and VIP offers for next week’s gigs in Glasgow, Paisley and Edinburgh are at thewendyjames.com