Clare Grogan – The Classic Pop Interview
Three albums with pop-punk playthings Altered Images, the de rigeur-but-doomed solo career, and a life on screen, from Red Dwarf to Skins… oh, and a children’s book about a little girl that grows up to be a pop star, and a movie still very close to our hearts, Gregory’s Girl.There’s no doubt that Clare Grogan has worked tirelessly over the past 30 years to achieve Godmother status…
Which of the three Altered Images albums is your favourite?
All of them represent very different phases in the band’s history and different phases in terms of me growing up. I feel quite nostalgic about all of them and really quite proud of all of them, because we were very young. I almost can’t take it too seriously, because all I was trying to do was experiment.
I had no idea how to write a song, and I have to say it was very much Johnny McElhone – who was in the original line-up, and went on to do Texas and Hipsway – who pushed me. He always kind of forced me to work a bit harder at it. There’s so much distance between the band and where I am now, but I look back and I feel quite chuffed.
Have you recorded any new music recently?
I got to write some songs for Skins. They asked me to write a song for one of the episodes and for the show’s soundtrack blog, which is quite a big thing attached to the show. So they asked me to contribute a song to that. It was called Don’t Give Up Girl.
Why do you think Gregory’s Girl is remembered so fondly?
I think that people simply love the film. You can analyse it and look at it every which way, but as a young person 30-plus years ago when we got together and did it, none of us had any idea that it was going to have this effect and impact on our lives. So I really don’t know… other than the fact that everybody thinks it’s a great movie. Just about everyone.
It’s quite rare to fi nd anybody who makes a point of saying “I really didn’t like that fi lm!” When it was originally released at the cinema it was as a B-movie – as the support act to Chariots Of Fire – and I think cinema managers were noticing the mass appeal and enjoyment that people were getting out of Gregory’s Girl and it just built and built from there.
From Gregory’s Girl to, more recently, Skins is quite a jump…
Yeah, I do joke quite often about playing the schoolgirls to the teachers to the kids to the mums. I think Skins is one of those shows that sets out to talk about and have a debate about young people’s issues, and they are all quite extreme issues. That’s one aspect of teenage life, but I think the reason why Gregory’s Girl still resonates is that when it comes to teenage love and simply fancying someone who doesn’t fancy you back, that really hasn’t changed.
What are your acting plans?
Well, I like to work. I’m a Scottish girl who was brought up with a very serious work ethic. Someone once showed me a list of the top 10 cult TV programmes in the UK, and I had been in three: Father Ted, Red Dwarf and Skins. If somebody had told me that when I was setting out, I’d have felt rather chuffed. But there was no master plan. It’s a joy that I’ve been able to keep it going. I know what works for me and I’ve never been too precious about any of it, I just get on with it.
You wrote a children’s book, Tallulah And The Teenstars. Was it autobiographical?
I did use aspects of me being young and wanting to be in a band. When I became a mum I went through a phase of watching quite a lot of Hannah Montana, which I really enjoyed, but I kept thinking “Where’s the cool indie Brit chick?” I wanted to create a story for my daughter that could maybe explain who I was, and why I was, when I was young. People do love the book and I have written a follow-up which I’m sure will see the light of day at some point.
If I’m being honest, without going into too much detail, I was going through a diffi cult time in my private life and there was something quite therapeutic about creating this happy ending. And also, what was lovely was that all the songs mentioned in the book actually exist. I wrote them with my husband Steven, and when we recorded them we got lots of little girls we know to get involved.
So there’s a book soundtrack?
Well, it’s unreleased, but there is a bit of a soundtrack, yeah. It was a nice, painless, very indulgent project to do. And it got to No. 2 in the Waterstones children’s book chart!