All Over The Road
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Friday, August 15, 2008

Rachel Fuller on A Week in Kew and her musical Ash - Times Online

NEW YORK - SEPTEMBER 14:  (L-R) Musicians Pete...Image by Getty Images via Daylife

Rachel Fuller on A Week in Kew and her musical Ash - Times Online

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Rachel Fuller on A Week in Kew and her musical Ash
The singer/songwriter Rachel Fuller set herself a week to make an album of songs inspired by her London village
Ken Russell

Last month Rachel Fuller, a singer/songwriter and artist, set out to spend a week writing an album of ten songs, A Week in Kew, drawing her inspiration from the shops, people and village life in Kew. Having just finished a song cycle of my own, Boudica Bites Back, about the queen of the Iceni tribe who gave the Roman invaders a bloody nose back in AD 61, I thought it would be fun to see how a fellow artist would handle a musical picture of the Kew tribe of AD 2008.

But who exactly is Rachel Fuller? On her website I found biographical details and a few revealing quotes. Fuller, 35, is a classically trained British musician. She is a successful independent pop music artist, a website host and an occasional collaborator with the rock musician and her partner Pete Townshend.

Well, that was a turn-up for the books: Pete Townshend is an old friend I worked with years ago on bringing his superb rock opera Tommy to the silver screen. Now that was promising as I know that Pete is a man of impeccable taste. I turned to her website for confirmation. Well Miss Fuller is very forthcoming about herself, admitting that, “I'm f***ing fabulous.”

So when I rang the doorbell I was somewhat apprehensive. I did not know whether to expect an arrogant tigress or a hard-nosed intellectual. But the door was opened by a radiant English rose. I followed her up a narrow flight of stairs. She was tall and elegant with shapely bare legs in her knee-length Victorian bloomers.
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I took in the attractive bijou flat whose stark white walls were partially covered in scribble both in pen and pencil. “I hate writing on paper,” she confided, “because I always end up with reams and reams of rejected versions scattered all over the floor and very mixed-up - very wasteful, very confusing. Whereas if you write on the wall it's permanent so you have to think very carefully before committing yourself. And when I finish this project I think I'll whitewash the walls and make a fresh start with my very next opus. And so on and so on, over the years, layer upon layer, until at the very end there is a complete record of all my works. By which time, there may be a method of deciphering them all one layer at a time.”

And have you any idea what might start the very next layer, I asked. “It will be the final version of my new musical, Ash, to a book by Jack Shepherd,” she said without hesitation.

When I learnt that it was partly autobiographical I urged her to tell me all about it.

Apparently in her late teens, she became an organist in a chapel attached to a crematorium. Ever conscious of the grief of the mourners, she eventually learnt to take death as a matter of course, especially with the elderly; although the demise of children caused her to constantly lament a young life cut so cruelly short.

But having witnessed through a peephole more than once the sight of a cadaver igniting into a roaring ball of fire, she grew to feel a strange sense of elation as the soul took leave of the body which she remembers as a truly majestic moment. With all this deeply personal experience to draw upon, Ash, which is to have its premiere on August 11 at the Arcola Theatre in East London, promises to be a moving event.

Later in her career, she went to Hollywood in the hope of writing music for the movies. “I love composing big orchestral stuff,” she said. “But in the event I was offered a contract as a singer/songwriter which resulted in an album called Cigarettes & Housework, two of my growing obsessions. And so to my current obsession, A Week in Kew.”

Which brings us back to the writing on the wall to be recorded the following day under the creative eye of Pete Townshend in his studio.The first song she talks about concerns the local ironmongers: a veritable Aladdin's cave of priceless junk. As for the old couple behind the counter, they were the inspiration for a song about lost love and love rekindled, in the style of a simple old folk song. The fashionable hairdressing salon up the road ended up as being a saga about Rachel's love affair with her own hair.

Then we came to the Café Saga:

“I'm going down to Starbucks

Gonna get myself some drugs

But the yummy mummys are out in force

Drinking de café soy of course

They've taken over all the tables

With their vomit baby fables

But by ten they're on their way

There's such a lot to do today

And so I'm free to drink alone

I wish I were more sociable

I observe from where I hide

The snow globe goes on inside

It never settles and nor do I,

For now my heart beats way too high.

Are we just in deep denial

With our cheery cardboard cup

When all we are really buying

Is a drug to pick us up?”

And so this musical tour of Kew went on from one delight to another until after the seventh song she stopped abruptly. “I thought you were writing ten,” I said. “I was,” she replied, kicking off her sandals and sitting down, “but it was my birthday on Thursday...” And then she fell silent. “And you had a big party I guess?” “Far from it,” she said. “Birthday me and artist me had a big argument that lasted all day...”

Here I thought it best not to pry and reluctantly bade her farewell.

And as I drove away, I thought that her website had somehow let her down, though she was definitely right about one thing - she really is “f***ing fabulous”.

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