Maggie Bell iTunes Tracks

Maggie Bell

+ {Midnight Flyer} + {The British Blues Quintet}

Former STONE THE CROWS belter MAGGIE BELL (born 12 January 1945, Maryhill, Glasgow) was known as “Scotland’s answer to JANIS JOPLIN”, but as times had shifted gear into 70s glam and prog-rock, BELL’s blues, soul and gospel had been usurped.
Legend has it that a brash young Margaret Bell upstaged singer ALEX HARVEY (elder brother of guitarist, Les Harvey), when he invited her to match his vocal chords at various venues such as the Locarno; she would join local mid-60s act, The Kinning Park Ramblers, while she was soon to guest on ROD STEWART’s rasping LP title track, `Every Picture Tells A Story’.
Affected by the death in May ’72 of long-time conspirator and STONE THE CROWS legend, Les Harvey, and now aimed at the American MOR-meets-country-blues market by producer Jerry Wexler, BELL’s solo album QUEEN OF THE NIGHT (1974) {*6} was basically a covers set in all but a couple of tracks. The fact that it sold reasonably well in the States and bubbled just outside the Top 100, spurred on by her minor hit re-vamp of J.J. CALE’s `After Midnight’, proved this beyond doubt. Pitted against new-JOPLIN-on-the-block, BETTE MIDLER, there were limits to Maggie’s overseas ambitions, and while others (MERRY CLAYTON, ETTA JAMES, Ruby Starr, Genya Raven, et al) had already stamped their authority in the business, room at the musical inn was just about fully booked. Still, resounding attempts at Spooner Oldham & Dan Penn’s `A Woman Left Lonely’, Vini Poncia’s `Oh My My’ (covered successfully by RINGO STARR), JOHN PRINE’s `Souvenirs’ and Clayton Thomas’s `Yesterday’s Music’, were spot on.
Despite the visceral power of Maggie’s voice and the generally high standard of her songwriting on follow-up, SUICIDE SAL (1975) {*7}, major commercial recognition continued to elude her and kept her on the fringes. Boasting an array of talent, including guitarist JIMMY PAGE and keyboardist Pete Wingfield, her blues-rock connections set this album apart from its nostalgic predecessor. Capturing the essence of her passion and gritty grace, BELL belted out the blues on FREE’s `Wishing Well’, the connective KOSSOFF-KIRKE-TETSU-RABBIT dirge `Hold On’, PRETTY THINGS man Phil May’s `It’s Been So Long’ and The BEATLES’ `I Saw Him Standing There’.
On the verge of bigger and better things (a book was in the pipeline), Maggie took a back seat from the hustle and bustle of the music biz, only to sporadically return when the right invitation came along. She did score a minor Top 40 hit with `Hazell’, the theme tune from the British detective drama TV series of the same name, while a one-off collaboration with fellow Scot, B.A. ROBERTSON (for PJ PROBY’s `Hold Me’), almost made the Top 10 in 1981. The same year also saw the initiation of her one-album MIDNIGHT FLYER {*4} project, although this met with little success; the band comprised: John Cook (keyboards), Anthony Glynne (guitar), Tone Stevens (bass) and David Dowle (drums). A further series of flop singles left her out in the cold, and despite a German-only set in 1989 (CRIMES OF THE HEART {*4}), BELL remained out of the limelight for the bulk of the next two decades. Her TV Taggart connections (she sang `No Mean City’ as its theme tune) led her to play a small role as fortune teller Effie Lambie in one of the episodes.
In 2006, Maggie featured (alongside ZOOT MONEY, MILLER ANDERSON, Colin Hodgkinson and Colin Allen) in The British Blues Quintet, recording and releasing the LIVE IN GLASGOW (2007) {*7}. If one thought it was “Absolutely Fabulous” actress Joanna Lumley who sang her heart out as rock singer Esme Ford in a 2009 episode of spinoff detective series, Lewis, you’d be wrong, it was indeed Maggie.
Of late (2011), she appeared with the JON LORD Blues Project Live, guesting on their one-and-only set before the former DEEP PURPLE man passed away.
© MC Strong 1994-2002/GRD-GSM // rev-up MCS Feb2013

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