Sylvie Simmons: The Rock Chick
Nick Barraclough to talks to Islington-born rock journalist Sylvie Simmon, who met stars like Michael Jackson while working in LA. From 2011.
Sylvie Simmons left Islington as a teenager in the seventies to freelance as a rock correspondent for the likes of NME, Sounds and Melody Maker. Music journalists were rare on the West Coast back then, female ones even rarer.
Sylvie talks to Nick Barraclough about how it was her dislike of English traditional folk music that drove her from her London home to California, where she encountered a burgeoning music scene. They received her, initially, with scepticism. Her love of the music, though, and her thorough understanding and encyclopaedic knowledge of the scene soon won her respect and affection from musicians and editors alike.
Sylvie recalls the trickier encounters she has had over the years; the blues player who expected more than just a review from her, a shy Michael Jackson who needed an interpreter, an ailing Johnny Cash, awkward but ultimately chummy Donald Fagen and Walter Becker of Steely Dan and a ticking off from Fleetwood Mac's Stevie Nicks.
She reflects on the pros and cons of being a female in what is predominately a male world; the relief of some female stars that they can talk to one who understands, and the fact that of all the genres, heavy rock has the most courteous interviewees, sensitive singer-songwriters not so good, new romantics the worst.
Sylvie also shows Nick her new passion; her impressive ukulele collection and we're treated to an impromptu duet.
Producer: Nick Barraclough
A Smooth Operations production for BBC Radio 4 first broadcast in April 2011.