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Claire Hamill

Born Josephine Claire Hamill, 4 August 1954, Port Clarence, County Durham in England, the eldest of seven children, she started to write her own material from an early age, later winning a talent contest which in turn yielded her a record deal on Chris Blackwell’s Island Records. Initially a folky singer-songwriter, she released her debut album, ONE HOUSE LEFT STANDING (1971) {*7}, featuring JOHN MARTYN on guitar, TERRY REID and hard-rock icons FREE.
At the age of only sixteen, she was already described as “the British MELANIE”, a categorisation she shrugged off reasonably early in her career. Kicking the album off with the ragtime-like `Baseball Blues’, and presenting other kooky dirges like `Flowers For Grandma’, `The Man Who Cannot See Tomorrow’s Sunshine’ and the steely `Smile Your Blues Away’, the set offered up some deftly arranged folk-styled songs (many penned with her boyfriend at the time, Mike Coles); note too her 7-minute take of an uncut JONI MITCHELL piece, `Urge For Going’ which was just breathtaking; the CD reissue includes her version of LINDISFARNE’s `Meet Me On The Corner’.
Her follow-up a couple of years later, the Paul Samwell-Smith-produced OCTOBER (1973) {*7}, was significant in that it revealed `Speedbreaker’, a track about JOHN MARTYN, whom she had an affair. Missing out on a chart position again, a version of JIMMY REED’s `Baby What’s Wrong (With You)’ was overshadowed by her own `To The Stars’, `Warrior Of The Water’ and `Crying Under The Bedclothes’; her keyboard player provided the opening piece, `Island’.
HAMILL ventured into the rock circuit, supporting the likes of JETHRO TULL and PROCOL HARUM on tour. Around the same time in ‘74, after working on the West Coast, Claire signed with RAY DAVIES’ newly-formed Konk imprint. The KINKS icon produced her third set, STAGE DOOR JOHNNIES (1974) {*6}, which featured her re-workings of MICHAEL MARTIN MURPHEY’s `Geronimo’s Cadillac’, STEVE MILLER’s `Something To Believe In’ and other staples such as `We Gotta Get Out Of This Place’, `Go Now’ and `Oh Daddy (Blues) (You Don’t Have No Mamma At All)’; her own composition `You Take My Breath Away’ was later covered by EVA CASSIDY.
On her fourth album ABRACADABRA (1975) {*6}, she covered The KINKS’ `Celluloid Heroes’, IAN ANDERSON’s `Your Dear’, Paul Rodgers & Simon Kirke’s `I Love You So’ and the traditional `Jamaica’, although once again the buying public showed little interest. In 1976, she had a brief stint as the vocalist with Ric Grech’s S.D.M. (Square Dance Machine), but this proved to be unfruitful and she retired for a while.
HAMILL subsequently started writing for a few rock groups, even joining WISHBONE ASH for one 1982 album, `Two Barrels Burning’. She returned in her own right in 1984, with the multi-layered art-pop, TOUCHPAPER {*6}, followed by her first real venture into textural “new age”/ENYA-type music, VOICES (1986) {*6}. Another of that ilk surfaced in ‘88, LOVE IN THE AFTERNOON {*6}, while the long-awaited SUMMER (1998) {*6} – a collaboration with Andrew Warren – reunited her with folk music, at least on three traditional cues (`He Moved Through The Fair’, `Babylon’ and `The Sally Gardens’), plus a disco-pop version of JONI MITCHELL’s `Both Sides Now’.
Returning after another long hiatus with THE LOST & THE LOVERS (2005) {*5}, HAMILL’s renaissance with the music world was proving tough. Followed by an unflinching contingent of fans, she was in demand to persevere by way of releasing mp3 albums, THE MEETING OF THE WATERS (2013) {*6} and WHEN DAYLIGHT ARRIVES (2015) {*6}.
© MC Strong 1997-2010/GPD-GFD // rev-up MCS Aug2015

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