PUNK princess Hazel O’Connor was catapulted to worldwide fame after starring in the hit 80s film Breaking Glass, with her self-penned soundtrack, including Will You and Eight Day, going platinum and reaching number five in the British album charts.
The movie – co-produced by Princess Diana’s boyfriend Dodi Fayed – depicted the rise and fall of Kate, played by Hazel, an angry and creative young singer, and such was the power of Hazel’s performance that many found it hard to separate fact and fiction.
Now 37 years later, Hazel, 59, is back on the road still happy to sing those iconic songs and accept the fact they can play a major part in people’s memories.
“What usually happens, unless it is a stone cold audience, is that there’s a lot of crying,” she says, ahead of her gig in Wrexham next month.
“I don’t mean it in a negative way, but people get quite emotional listening to those songs – maybe because one person’s story at a certain age is the same as anothers.
“Sometimes wives who don’t particularly like me come with their husbands and by the time they leave they’ve become a huge fan. It’s very flattering and lovely.”
Joined by Clare Hirst on sax and Sarah Fisher on keyboards, the all female trio have done their time in the trenches of the music business with ex-Bellestar Clare going on to play with David Bowie and Sarah recording with The Eurhythmics.
“I’m back on the road with the girls,” laughs Hazel. “But it’s not deliberate – it’s just how it’s developed.
“You could ask any female in this business and they’ll have a similar story – we all came across a certain level of sexism and not from the audience, but behind the scenes.
“In my day you were all over at 25 or 26 and today anyone who gets discovered has to be 19.”
Like Kate, Hazel has battled with the music industry’s attempts to pigeonhole her ever since despite punk and new wave’s reputation for creating powerful female role models
“I remember headlining a festival and the technician was there working on the monitors,” she remembers.
“I went over to him so I could listen to my voice and check the levels and he just made a shooing gesture.
“It’s like we don’t exist sometimes especially if you’re over a certain age so doing what I’m doing with these amazing women feels important. “We’ve all earned our stripes in the musical business so we can laugh about it, write a song and move on.
“I’m lucky that when I started there were people like Siouxsie, Pauline Murray of The Selector and Polystyrene of X-Ray Spex, but before that my heroines were singers like Nico, Edith Piaf and Billie Holliday so I’ve always liked it when a female singer has something to say.”
2016 was a tough year for the singer who felt keenly the losses of Prince and George Michael and another female she admired, Victoria Wood.
“Last year seems to have taken many of our favourite artists from us,” she says. “So many people that have touched our lives are now gone.
“When Bowie died Claire and I spoke to each other. She felt she was always going to play with him again and I felt I was always going to see him again.
“I first met David when I was filming Breaking Glass. Tony Visconti, who was producing the album, knew that I was a big fan and invited me down to his Good Earth studios in Soho to meet him.
“While we were chatting, David turned to me and asked, ‘I hear you cut Tony’s hair, could you give me a haircut?’
“How could I refuse the chance of cutting my hero’s hair? So, with the office shears and a dirty tea cloth draped over his shoulders, I shakily obliged him.
“I bumped into him, literally, some weeks later when he came to a private screening of Breaking Glass. I came into screening room a tad late and in the total darkness I stumbled over someone’s feet.
“When I looked up it was David. After the screening we all went to the pub together and he said he would come see a gig of mine a few weeks later when I was supporting Iggy Pop.
“So, a few weeks later, he came to see me at the Camden Palace. I felt so proud and I was bursting with happiness that Bowie, the king, had bothered to come to see me play.
“Soon after, I became crazy famous and found it hard to deal with.
“We met up again at a charity function and he gave me pearls of wisdom.
“He said: ‘Look Hazel, you can bet that all these people know more about you than you do about them. So even the playing field and find out about them. Simple stuff like, what’s your name? Your job? Your hopes?’
“I have done that ever since, and fanlike behaviour never frightened me again.”
Now living in Ireland, Hazel still regularly travels back to her native Coventry and due to a fear of flying she has become a big fan of the A483.
“I come through Wrexham all the time because I won’t fly so I spend a lot of time on the A483,” she adds. “It’s a dual carriageway and can get me to Coventry in three hours. I love that road.”
An Evening with Hazel O’Connor with Clare Hirst and Sarah Fisher is at the Catrin Finch Centre, Wrexham on Thursday, March 16. Doors: 7.30pm. Tickets cost £20-£22 are available from 0844 888 9991or www.glyndwr.ac.uk
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