From pop hits to Father Ted and movie roles – and now a new album

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Clare Grogan grew up in a household of music lovers: among three generations, including her grandmother, who spun vinyl – playing everything from David Bowie and Simple Minds to Doris Day and Herb Alpert.

The singer and actress admits there was a quiet response from her family when the then-teen started having her own post-punk and new wave-inspired pop hits, including ‘Happy Birthday’ and “I Could Be Happy” shortly after his departure. school: “I thought they were kinda selfless in the nicest way possible.”

It wasn’t until both of her parents passed away that she found a collection of long-forgotten items: “I had no idea, it was after my mum died and we were cleaning up. I found out she was saving all that stuff.”

Part of the keepsake box Clare Grogan’s mother kept for herself

Grogan is moved as we chat on Zoom about the discovery. “It was a box of absolute treasures and I was like ‘Oh mum’…that was awesome. My mum had three daughters and treated us all the same, I never felt any favoritism, c was that rooting thing, Glasgow people keep you rooted in this crazy world of showbiz! I had no idea how proud my parents were and that they kept that thing going. There was all those random postcards from when i was on tour in the states they had all the newspaper clippings and a suitcase full of my old clothes i never imagined they would keep these things i didn’t have one great love for them but now I do and I’m so glad they did.

It’s been almost 40 years since Grogan released an album under the name Altered Images. She describes the current group as “a small cooperative of people that I work with”, and her next long-player, Streakz Mascara, evokes the jingle-jangle guitar and electronic pop essence of his early work with an impressive array of musicians. Among them is fellow London neighbor and former Suede guitarist Bernard Butler, who co-wrote the recent single “Glitter Ball.” “Bernard is my neighbor and we used to see him at the local supermarket and pub, I said to him ‘let’s write a song’.”

She admits there was ‘no big plan’, with songwriting falling naturally with her husband, record producer and restaurant owner, Stephen Lironi – previously the drummer for Altered Images. When the pandemic hit, an early song quickly turned into an album. “I started writing again, it was a moment of pause. I have this loyal fan base and I thought the best way to thank people was to write new music and I wrote this song with Stephen – ‘The Color of My Dreams’.

Clare Grogan arrives on the red carpet ahead of the Scotland BAFTA Awards 2005. Photo: Danny Lawson/PA.
Clare Grogan arrives on the red carpet ahead of the Scotland BAFTA Awards 2005. Photo: Danny Lawson/PA.

Although this is Altered Images’ first album since 1983 Bite, Grogan has been performing under this name for 20 years. “I was asked to tour with Kim Wilde and The Human League, originally I couldn’t see myself doing that in my 40s, but Phil Oakey and Kim Wilde are like family and it grew from the.”

Bite (which delivered the Irish and UK hit “Don’t Talk To Me About Love”) was co-produced by longtime Bowie associate Tony Visconti. “Honestly, I can’t believe sometimes that we could record an album with two such amazing producers. We were a little impressed with Tony Visconti and Mike Chapman.

Mascara Streakz was a much more familiar gathering which found Clare inviting some of her oldest friends to the sessions, including original Altered Images bassist Johnny McElhone (Texas) as well as Bobby Bluebell (Robert Hodgens of The Bluebells) .

“All we do is talk Celtic,” says Clare of Glasgow Musicians. “We just have such a laugh, we’re hopeless together. I wrote a song about Celtic (“Her Hooped Dream”) and it was before the women’s team. I was asked to sing it on the pitch which was hilarious and terrifying at the same time. It’s part of who I am, there are two ways to look at it, but it’s always been a positive thing in my life.

Grogan started life on Hill Street in Glasgow where Celtic FC was already a way of life. “My aunts and uncle went to Lisbon [in 1967], I remember looking for my aunts on television. I was very young, Celtic winning the European Cup was like watching the first man on the moon, there’s that speck of memory for me trying to spot my aunts and uncle in the crowd. My Uncle Robert drove to Portugal and flew back but totally forgot his car!

Born in 1962, Grogan celebrated her 60th birthday earlier this year on St. Patrick’s Day. The daughter of a Dublin-born mother, her Irish roots have remained close. “My mum was so proud of her Irish identity, that feeling of love where you’re from isn’t something everyone has. It’s a big part of me too, I’d spend a lot of holidays there. been with cousins ​​in Dublin. I used to joke that wherever I am in the world there will always be a party on my birthday.

Both parents were practicing Catholics at a time when sectarianism was rampant in Glasgow. “Catholicism is a funny thing. My Catholic upbringing means a lot to me. It’s such a complicated conversation now; I’m such a big believer in equality. I believe the Church needs modernizing, I really do because there is so much good in it and it has just been trashed by endless scandal. There is this reluctance to become more 21st century. For me, having now lost my parents who were both devout Catholics, the least I can do for them now is still go to Mass, not every Sunday but once in a while.

Clare Grogan in Father Ted Rock a Hula Ted episode
Clare Grogan in Father Ted Rock a Hula Ted episode

It was this context that led her to seek a memorable role in a Father Ted episode (Rock a Hula Ted) as Niamh Connolly. “I saw the first series and it spoke to me. It was my childhood with all these eccentric priests who came to the house. There was something glorious about it. I heard that they wanted someone to play a rock star on Craggy Island that was based on Sinéad O’Connor and I thought, ‘I gotta get that job.

“Apparently when Sinéad saw it she said, ‘I don’t know why they just didn’t ask me?’ I’m so glad they didn’t. I’m just pissed I couldn’t do Derry Girls.” Grogan recently provided the voice of a cartoon recreation in the documentary film My old schoolwith Alan Cumming and Lulu about Brian MacKinnon, who at the age of 30 posed as a teenager to attend Bearsden Academy, a secondary school in Glasgow.

It was, of course, another high school story that helped make Grogan’s name when he was released in 1981. Gregory’s daughterdirected by Bill Forsyth, was her screen breakthrough, what she describes as the “double whammy” with the early success of Altered Images.

She admits not having watched the film for 35 years. It wasn’t until an opportunity arose to watch it with her daughter and her co-stars that she finally saw herself on the big screen. “I hadn’t seen the film in its entirety until a screening organized by the BFI in London. They approached John Gordon Sinclair, Dee Hepburn and myself to do a Q&A. I feel attached to Gregory’s daughter for all sorts of reasons its a gift to have it in my life but i had never watched it.

“My daughter was about to find it funny and get it. It was probably my last chance to see it on the big screen with a lot of people laughing out loud, I realized people really relate to this movie.” Grogan hopes to make a similar connection with his new album.

  • Streakz Mascara releases Friday, August 26
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