Elkie Brooks began singing professionally in 1960. Born Elaine Bookbinder to a Jewish baker in Manchester, at 15 she won a talent contest at the Palace Theatre, Manchester judged by the infamous Don Arden (manager of Jerry Lee Lewis, Little Richard and The Small Faces, and father of Sharon Osbourne).
The next few years were an education. She sang in cabaret clubs up and down the country, and found herself supporting the Beatles at their 1964 Christmas shows at Hammersmith Odeon. Her first hit, in 1964, was a version of Etta James’ ‘Something’s Got A Hold On Me’, on which a pre-Led Zeppelin Jimmy Page played guitar; she toured with The Small Faces, The Animals. By the end of the 60s, she was singing jazz with Humphrey Lyttelton’s band and a few short years later had channelled her inner rock chick, and was now co-fronting the band Vinegar Joe alongside Robert Palmer.
At Vinegar Joe’s dissolution, she found herself joining southern American boogie band Wet Willie. But this was a temporary diversion, because shortly after she was back on home turf, a newly minted, grownup solo singer. Her solo debut album ‘Rich Man’s Woman’ was banned in some quarters because of its raunchy sleeve but it was her 1977 album ‘Two Days Away’ that saw the blue touch paper truly ignite on Elkie’s career. The album featured her monster hit and signature song ‘Pearl’s A Singer’, which was co-written and produced by Elvis stalwarts Leiber & Stoller. The song lit up the charts and gave her her first timeless classic. It wouldn’t be her last.
The hits kept coming: ‘Fool If You Think It’s Over’, ‘Lilac Wine’, ‘Sunshine After The Rain’, ‘Warm And Tender Love’, ‘Don’t Cry Out Loud’ and her highest charting hit ‘No More The Fool’.
Her 1981 album ‘Pearls’ was in the charts for 79 continuous weeks and went on to sell over a million, making Elkie Brooks the biggest selling female album artist in the history of the British pop charts at the time. And the work rate didn’t let up: over the course of the next 25 years, she has released some 20 albums.
By 2012, she had more chart albums under her belt than any other British female artist.
Not only has she been prolific in the studio she has also continued to tour, performing live in almost every major UK theatre with sell out runs at such prestigious venues as the Palladium, the Royal Albert Hall, Wembley Arena, Ronnie Scotts and she even shared the bill with the Beach Boys and Santana at Knebworth in 1980.
‘Pearls: The Very Best Of Elkie Brooks’, is out now. It features all of the hits that made her name, including ‘Lilac Wine’, ‘Fool If You Think It’s Over’, ‘Sunshine After The Rain’, ‘No More The Fool’ and her signature hit ‘Pearl’s A Singer’.
Elkie Brooks plays London Palladium on September 19th. Tickets available here.
Describe a typical day for you?
When I am not on the road: Up about 7.am, cup of herbal tea, a coffee, get the news, exercise – Aikido training for about 45 mins, shower, breakfast, sort emails, prep dinner. Shop some days. Practice Piano and sing for an hour, glass of wine or Guinness, dinner, film, Bed.
What do you feel are your biggest achievements?
Having my 2 children.
What’s in your handbag/ satchel?
Hand wipes, emery board, purse with change, keys, pen and paper, lip balm, powder compact and mirror.
What are your ambitions in life?
To keep well and sing even better than I do now.
What do you wish you’d known at the start of your career you now know?
That this is a serious business not just a jolly, the hardest game other than boxing.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years time?
Living on our Fruit Farm once we get planning permission to build our house and maybe not doing quite so many shows.
What advice would you give a budding artist?
Do lots of preparation, do much practice and have lots of perseverance.
What’s the best advice you’ve received on motherhood you’d like to share?
My mother once told me, ‘Learn to share’. My mother-in-law was fantastic with my 2 boys when they were growing up unfortunately my Mum died when the boys were quite young.
Finally, happiness is..
Inner well being.
You can catch Elkie and her band live in the coming months at the following shows:
29 – LONDON Cadogan Hall
12 – SOUTHAMPTON Concorde Club
19 – FARNHAM The Maltings
10 – SOUTHEND Cliffs Pavilion
16 – BASINGSTOKE The Anvil
18 – SALFORD The Lowry
02 – BRIGHTON Theatre Royal
08 – LLANDUDNO Venue Cymru
15 – ST ANDREWS Byre In The Botanics
20 – YORK Grand Opera House
22 – GUILDFORD G-Live
24 – CHELTENHAM Town Hall
05 – FOLKESTONE Leas Cliff Hall
14 – COVENTRY Albany Theatre
09 – SCUNTHORPE Baths Hall
11 – PRESTON Charter Theatre
24 – WIMBORNE Tivoli Theatre
Listen to Elsie cover Bob Dylan’s Make You Feel My Love for Radio 2’s Piano Room.