Music Express
August, 1991
Transvision Vamp
Legend In The Making
by Alastair Sutherland
[submitted by Justin Whyte]

She's blonde, she's provocative, she's ambitious and no, she's not Madonna. She's Wendy James, 25 , lead singer of Transvision Vamp, a band that for 8 years and 3 albums has been the terror of West London.

Wendy James is going to be famous, very soon - a lot of people think so. First there is her record company, which is giving her heavy support for her new record, Little Magnets Versus The Bubble Of Babble. Then there is the respected English magazine "The Face" which said that by the end of the year Wendy could be, " the biggest pop star Britians got".

And, of course, there's Wendy James herself, who has told various members of the British Press that:

A) She always knew she would be famous.
B) Soon she will not be just famous but " legendary."
C) She will, without a doubt, win Oscars.

Which, with Wendy on the phone from Paris, her voice coarse from singing, coffee and Silk Cuts, seems like a good place to start. To wit, Wendy, do you think that it's teasable to be thinking about Academy Awards at this stage of the game?

"Well, I'll tell you why I said that", says James, who did at least study drama as a teenager. "It was because this one particular journalist was trying to goad me into admitting that it was all very well for girls to be a little bit in the music business, but won't there soon come a time where I settle down and have children? So I said, " Fuck you, I'm going to win Oscars! You are not going to get rid of me that easily. So it wasn't a serious attempt to break into the film business. It's just that why should I, because of my sex, wrap up all my passion, which is music, and become a fucking baby making machine?"

In other words "don't believe the hype". Which also happens to be the title of a song on the new album, a song that is about, "The tabloid propaganda that goes down in England.," says James. " But you can generalize it into anyone who is a liar."

The crusade for journalistic honesty aside, Wendy James is the first to admit that she and Nick Sayer, the guitarist/songwriter and co-founder of Transvision Vamp, are themselves somewhat well versed in media manipulation. There have been countless photo shoots ( with Wendy in various stages of undress ) sexy videos, risque double entrendre lyrics, the works.

But the argument goes, the difference between a page 3 girl, is that, like Madonna, Wendy is very cognizant of what she is doing with her image. It's intentional self-exploitation. Furthermore it's all about upsetting the squares.

"The punk ethic will be with me till the day I die," says James, who says her influence range from Iggy and Joe Strummer to Brigitte Bardot Sophia Loren. " I'd hate to see the day where I have mellowed out into some middle-of-the-road conservative wanker. But to get one thing straight. I don't enjoy shocking people - I feel personally insulted that people are shocked by what I do. We're living in the 20th century; it's time some of those religious nutters died and made way for some young people to express themselves."

The first two Transvision Vamp albums were big hits in England, but sold negligibly in North America. The Bubble Of Babble, led by the singles ( I Just Wanna ) B with U and If Looks Could Kill is earmarked to do better. As Wendy says, "It's more rocky and mature than the first two, which perhaps were a bit poppy. Besides," she adds semi-jokingly, "It has the 100% backing of the entire MCA Corporation.

Not that everything goes according to plan, though. James says that while the second video for "If Looks Could Kill", made by Tony Vanden-Ende, is an enjoyable piece of live Transvision Vamp, the first, for "B With U,"directed by Claudia Castel did not turn out as expected.

"It's a bit of titillation, but I'm not that proud of it," she says. "I don't think it sums up the music very well. When the guitar's crashing about you want to see guitars crashing about, not somebody pouting at the camera. And that's where the video goes wrong."

But with a dose of self assurance that would make Madonna proud ( I think she is a fantastic role model for young girls, Wendy says of the big M. ) she stresses that Transvision Vamp isn't likely to make that same mistake twice.

"We're all a bit stitched over that video," she says, adding with gritted teeth, "but I shall never ever let it happen again."

So finally what is the message she would like to receive from the music of Transvision Vamp? "Strength - the importance of inner personal strength," she says, " the conviction and courage to know yourself and the world you live in, and to respect both"

Think about that next time you are listening to "Back On My Knees Again."


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