ELEANOR RIGBY: MOD ICON OR THE GIRL YOU LOVE TO HATE?
Time to put the record straight.
Although her debut single I Want To Sleep With You was controversial and Over and Over her most popular and she even had a number one with You Only Live Twice, it’s the track Think For Yourself which was her personal favourite. So she would be the first to tell people to have an opinion and don’t be a sheep. So if you truly know the Eleanor Rigby story and you have genuinely heard all her music with an open mind and thought, ‘Nah, that’s not for me I don’t like the music’ then fine, she would salute you and say everybody is entitled to an opinion.
Just because John & Paul Weller, Ray Davies, Blur, Oasis, Shirley Manson from Garbage, Sarah Cracknel from St Etienne, John Barry, Buster Bloodvessel and Cubby Broccoli all liked her and her music, doesn’t mean you have too. All that tells you is that the music probably isn’t crap and her singing must be half decent if such heavyweights like it that much, but as stated you can all make up your own mind and many of you did.
Many Mods do undoubtedly like Eleanor Rigby and like her music, as was evident by her record sales, the fact that she got the 5,000 maximum friends on Facebook in just a week, 100,000 hits on Myspace when a page went up a few years back and about the same amount of hits on her videos at YouTube. Yes she is genuinely very popular even years after she disappeared. It’s a sad fact that internet trolls & misogynists seem to have the loudest voices in general and not just on the Mod scene and it’s easy to think this small minority who slag her off at a moment’s notice are the majority. They are not and we are even going to give some the benefit of doubt and say it’s not their fault they have been misinformed.
The best-case examples are a number of people writing in when Eleanor’s music went up on Myspace. Most of the emails all said very similar things like ‘I can’t believe I missed out on your great mod music all these years, it’s excellent and I was told it was crap so never got it’. This was the overwhelming sentiment. Lots of people were also very appreciative when the videos went up saying that at last they could give an opinion of this artist and not rely on someone’s second hand opinion of a rumour etc etc.
Once again we point out that if someone had genuinely heard the music and not liked it fine, but what many did not know, although a few did, was that there was a big hidden agenda on the Mod scene in the mid 80’s so we think the time is right to put the record straight and to also put the case forward for Eleanor being a big positive for the Mod scene and give her some long overdue respect.
Eleanor was number one in the Mod chart for quite a while and sold out quite a lot of concert tours in Europe and also did well in concert in the UK but then along came a loud mouth yank that ran a weekly mod paper, The Phoenix List. He wanted to control the Mod scene and even worse he had a very dodgy hidden agenda. All we can say is ‘file under p and reverse it’ or maybe he moved to Rotherham. (If you read the news you will get the drift).
Eleanor & partner Russell thought his activities needed exposing and although his activities were common knowledge to many, nobody would speak out through fear or getting a bad review or not getting a lucrative concert date that he also had a big hand in.
Eleanor spoke out and the next thing you know his weekly paper was saying things like her music was terrible, her concerts were terrible and also saying that they were cancelled and that she was cashing in on the Mod scene and not even a Mod.
Sadly outside of London the only way people found out what was going on in the Mod scene was reading this weekly Mod List and they believed everything they read. So for many years this was the only opinion of Eleanor people had until as stated some finally heard her music and saw her videos via the internet and found that what had been written about her and her music was not correct.
Of course Eleanor still had quite a few fans but here are some facts to show what effect it had and why a small minority still hate her today.
The P list had no influence outside the UK and her records got fairly reviewed and sold extremely well and she was not only the best selling Mod act as far as concerts went, she even out-sold both James Brown & Joe Cocker at the one venue she played.
So with no hidden agenda Eleanor was judged fairly outside the UK and you will hear very few dissenting voices about her there outside the UK where The P list had little influence.
As for the charge of cashing in on the Mod scene. Luckily Derwent from Long Tall Shorty/The Rage was quick to her defence and pointed out he was at her first concert in London in 1983 and many of his mates had seen other concerts around that time. So far from just cashing in with a single in 1985 she was an established Mod act so The P List just totally lied. Fanzines usually took 3 months or longer to come out and it wasn’t until his interviewing in one mentioning this that things got a little more balanced but not everyone read that one zine.
As for the notion of her cashing in on the Mod scene. This in itself is ludicrous. It was 1985 and the height of the Mod revival was long gone, The Jam had split up and the Mod scene was very much in the doldrums although it still had quite a few people keeping the faith.
Eleanor had been offered the chance to sign with both Virgin and EMI but the caveats were that she dumped her Mod image and Mod following which they considered the kiss of death. Eleanor turned these down flat because like The Small Faces she was a Mod doing music as a career, not a musician looking to become a Mod for 5 minutes like some others did in the 60’s or around the time of the revival.
WHAT ELEANOR DID FOR THE MOD SCENCEIt’s also true that the Mod scene for some reason got a bad press and was not considered cool in the mid to late 80’s by the outside world but Eleanor changed that to some degree and represented the cool face of Mod. Top style magazine ID did a special on her (one of the photos is at the top of page). The Victoria and Albert museum wanted to do a Mod exhibition and she was chosen as one of the main faces along with Paolo Hewitt & her songwriter producer Russell. This spun off into positive articles in NME & Melody Maker and Eleanor also championed the Mod life style in The Daily Mirror.
Eleanor was also the first person to be asked to do the Mod Aid single and it was said that Steve Marriott was very impressed with her singing.
Whilst the record struggled at first it was only because of Eleanor’s involvement in the record that hip TV show of the time The Tube would show any of the video and invited her to be on the show and also perform her own material.
Also how many Mod acts put out songs like Mod Girls and Mad Xmas about being a Mod that were unlikely to get mainstream airplay?
As many will testify Eleanor Rigby went out of her way to speak with fans and answer letters and at one Mod event in Peterborough she singed 1,000 autographs in one night.
If Eleanor had wanted fame and fortune as a singer, the easy way would have been to just sign with a big label and let herself be styled, get a big budget behind her and have lots of hits and retire. She did the opposite and turned down a £100,000 deal with Warner Brothers just before she disappeared.
So what did this girl do so wrong? Was it her fault she was very good looking and could sing very well? No, but unfortunately those credentials breed jealousy, as they do in all walks of life not just in the Mod scene so that no doubt accounts for some uncalled for hostility.
Some may criticise the way she dressed (see above). Many people who saw her off stage will testify to the fact that she always wore Mod gear. Also The Cavern Mod shop wanted a genuine Mod to model their clothes not just a model and chose her. (See below) She was also chosen for her Mod credentials for Shellys Shoes catalogue but she turned down non-mod modelling assignment which she got offered a lot in favour of Mod only things to be true to her ideals.
What people need to remember is that as a singer you need to stand out from the crowd and not to just get up and wear what you do every day. So she designed her own clothes, which were not high street, but very sixties looking that to her was in keeping with Mods love of the 60’s.
After all, if you are a Policemen or in the Army and a Mod when you do that job you don’t wear your Mod gear when working and so in Eleanor’s case she only really wore her outfits as a singer and not other days.
ELEANOR v OTHER MOD ACTS
Some people started to try and stir up rivalry between the bands and tried to get fans to choose one or another and an obvious one was Eleanor v Fay Hallam of Makin’ Time.
But it was Eleanor who was lead vocalist on the Mod Aid record All or Nothing with Fay Hallam nowhere to be seen. It was Eleanor that had the best selling Mod single from 85-87 despite some great records put out by Makin’ Time around the same period.
They had mutual respect for each other and were quite friendly and went to each other’s gigs, so there was no real rivalry, but I will leave you with one thought on this subject in a pure Mod sense. Eleanor and Makin’ Time were asked to be double headliners at a Mod charity gig in Birmingham, which was Makin’ Time’s home turf. Eleanor came up from London and did the gig but Makin’ Time failed to show up.
There was also a camp in the Mod scene where people liked what they called the harder edge bands like The Purple Hearts and The Chords, who could sometimes almost sound punk and thought Eleanor and Squire to be too poppy. (Squire also get a lot of stick and people often forget they were one of the original Mod’s Mayday bands).
If you know Eleanor’s music you will know that quite a few of her tracks have a harder edge but the poppy stuff was more reminiscent of The Kinks or Motown so since Mods like that music what’s the big deal?
There were a lot of good Mod acts around and many better than what the charts were offering at the time. Yet despite a semi major label, Stiff, backing Makin’ Time’s releases and The Gents going all out for chart domination, with the exception of a one- off hit by U.S Mod outfit The Untouchables, Eleanor Rigby was probably the most successful Mod act of that period. Her debut single got to number one in Ireland and charted in the UK before being thrown out of the chart because it came with a free gift.
She was one of the lead vocalists on the Mod Aid single All or Nothing, which charted. Her album Censorship hit the top ten indie charts all around Europe and she had a number one hit in the Italian chart with You Only Live Twice. She is the only act of that time excluding The Jam to be on a Number One’s hits compilation album and she was definitely the best selling Mod act on the live circuit in Europe and headlined a Greenpeace concert in the UK to 10,000 people.
So she managed to achieve a lot despite being a Mod when she could have taken a far easier route, so again this reflects well on her Mod credentials of not selling out.
So we think she deserves a bit more respect.
So if you haven’t checked out her music for one reason or another give it a listen and make up your own mind. More info about her plus music and videos can be found at Future Legend Records website.
A new limited edition ‘The Best of Eleanor Rigby Vol.1’ containing all her singles is out now more info at this link. http://www.futurelegendrecords.com/#/press-release/4551721992