Music Interview: Susie Vanner and Kipper Eldridge

Music Interview: Susie Vanner and Kipper Eldridge

Susie Vanner could hold the record for the longest gap between a debut single and her first album coming out. 

In 1968, under the name Sue Lynne, she released a 7in on RCA, called ‘Reach For The Moon’, and went on to record a handful of rare singles that became Northern Soul club floor-fillers. One of them, ‘You’ / ‘Don’t Pity Me’ is currently worth £750 on record collectors website Discogs. 

This year, more than 50 years after her music career began, the singer turned actress Vanner – she appeared alongside Roger Moore in the 1977 James Bond film The Spy Who Loved Me – has gone back to her roots and finally put out her debut album, In These Shoes. 

It’s a covers collection of pop songs and standards given a jazz makeover, and it came about after a chance meeting at a charity dinner with Grammy Award-winning producer Kipper Eldridge, who has worked with Sting and Gary Numan.

With Eldridge at the controls and featuring musicians including renowned English jazz trumpeter Guy Barker and the BBC Concert Orchestra, it’s a record that’s both classy and fun.

There’s a nod to her Bond girl past with a version of Carly Simon’s ‘Nobody Does It Better’ from The Spy Who Loved Me soundtrack, a groovy ‘60s lounge take on Lou Reed’s ‘Walk On The Wild Side’, an emotional reading of the ‘50s torch song ‘Cry Me A River’, a bold and brassy big band reworking of Gloria Jones’s ‘Tainted Love’, a moving ‘Make You Feel My Love’ – written by Bob Dylan, but made famous by Adele – Latin-flavoured covers of Kirsty MacColl’s ‘In These Shoes’ and The Police’s ‘Every Breath You Take’, and Noel Harrison’s ‘Windmills of Your Mind’ done in a late-night, soul bossa nova style.

To find out the story behind the project and their musical partnership, I spoke to Vanner and Eldridge – she was at home in London, and he was in his studio on the Indonesian island of Bali, where he’s temporarily relocated. 

SH [To Susie]: How did you first get into the music business?

SV: I was singing when I was 19 – I recorded some Northern Soul tracks. I answered an ad in a local paper to work with Chris Andrews [songwriter for Sandie Shaw]. He lived in Hornchurch, and I was born in Romford. I trotted along to see him, and I sang ‘My Guy.’ He asked me what I was doing tomorrow, and I said “nothing”, so he said, “I’m going to RCA Records, and I’d like to sign you up.”

And since then you’ve become a Northern Soul icon, whose singles change hands for a lot of money. Some have sold for £1,000 each.

SV: Absolutely – I’m shocked. At the time, I wasn’t that mad about the songs. Chris Andrews wrote them – he was looking for someone to take over from Sandie Shaw, as she’d had her day. He was still writing songs that were similar to the ones he’d written for her, so I was a bit worried that they were out of vogue. Little did I know that they’d come straight back into vogue 30 or 40 years later and would be selling for £1,000 a time.

Funnily enough, I came across a box of all my singles at home the other day, as I’m moving house. I should let my manager know.

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