"I hate to stay at home and not work," says Millie, a confirmed workaholic
John Abbey talks to Millie about her new album, and her forthcoming set with Isaac Hayes…
"I'M sick of ballads! My whole show is one big ballad and that's why there is only one and a half ballads on my new album!"
So spake Ms. Millie Jackson, one of the most outspoken (if not The most outspoken!), genuine and truly loveable people we come face to face with every few months... The comment was prompted when this innocent interviewer happened to mumble something about liking Millie on ballads and gently complaining that much of her "A Moment's Pleasure" album was uptempo and that there were no Millie J. Special-Rapps!
"Everybody's disco crazy and I can imagine people in the audience sitting there thinking to themselves — 'have I gotta sit through all this crap to get to the song I like'. So, if you can't beat 'em, join 'em.
"The single — "Never Change Lovers In The Middle Of The Night" — isn't really disco…though it was supposed to be! But you can do The Rock to it and that's what everyone is doing. That was the cut we did first and, to be really honest, one that I like the least myself!"
Being obstreperous (!), I interrupted to tell Millie that my favourite cut is "Seeing You Again", the album's only genuine ballad and a song that Millie wrote herself, too, I might add. Silence!
"Hmmm, so do I!" came the response finally. "And I like "Kiss You All Over'' and "We Got To Hit It Off" — but since that was written by Benny Latimore, I guess you'd know that. The track that I really hated at first was "What Went Wrong Last Night" but I have really come to like that one, too. I wrote it, too.
""Never Change Lovers" was originally a Boney M. song and "Kiss You All Over", of course, was by Exile and was a big pop hit. I always liked it. George Jackson wrote "A Moment's Pleasure" for me and "Rising Cost Of Living" was written by Grey & Hanks. I told you that Latimore wrote "We Got To Hit It Off", right? I think that I wrote the rest. That's three.
"I have really got back into writing with this album. On "Lovingly Yours", for example, I only had one of my own songs and that was one that I had written two years before. "Feeling Bitchy" didn't have any of my songs on it.
"I guess I write in spells but during that time I had become much more involved in production. I didn't feel like writing, it was that easy. I was producing myself and doing the Facts of Life and that was draining me. Now that the Facts of Life is over and they have split up and gone their own way, it has allowed me to really concentrate on Millie Jackson — though I may well do something with Jean (from the Facts) as a solo artist."
That new album would be enough excitement for most artists. But Millie is (as always) different and she generally fires from both barrels. This time, though, she has really come up with a winner because she is just completing a duet with none other than Isaac Hayes — set for summer release on either Polydor or Spring.
"It all started out last year," Millie settles down seriously. "I started cutting a song called "You Needed Me", it had been a No. 1 pop record for Anne Murray and I loved the song — but I just couldn't capture it. It was intended to be included on the "Moment's Pleasure" album. I tried it in the studio and ended up so frustrated that I threw the arrangement away and shelved the tracks in the can.
"Then, one day I was driving along and I heard the song and started singing the lines after Anne Murray. That was it! That was what I had to do — to sing off the beat and not on it. So, I tried it again in January and still couldn't get it right and just before I was about to throw it away again, I thought it would be perfect for a couple to sing.
"The funny thing, though, is that we cut two sides and everybody is now getting excited on the other one — a thing called "Do You Wanna Make Love". Anyway, we have been given a budget to complete the album and Isaac and I are writing some material together. And that has worked out so well because he is so good with melodies and I think I'm at my best on lyrics."
Meanwhile, just to confuse the issue even more, Millie is scoring in England with a remix of her old "My Man, A Sweet Man" hit. Now that was a disco hit before they had even invented the word 'disco'.
"I'm dying to hear what they did with it," she laughs. "I'm curious to know what would happen now if they were to re-release "Breakaway", it would do even better because it's right in that Rock bag."
So, that covers some of Millie's past and present. What of the future? "Well, my next album is going to be a 'live' one," she says. "It could be the beginning of my comedy career because I am not planning to tone down the show at all. I am hoping that it'll capture another side of me. We are planning to do it at the Roxy (in Los Angeles) during the spring months.
"It may end up having to be a double album because my shows can get long, as you know! Sure, I'll include some of my own hits but I do intend to include other people's hits so that there is a good cross-section of material."
Millie Jackson is a confirmed workaholic. "I hate to stay at home and not work," she beams. "I don't mean I'm not happy at home but it's just that I love to work. My whole approach is to work whenever I can. Sure, others may get more money but it balances itself out because I work a lot more.
"But because I am two months late with this album, I've been off the roads since the concert tour of last year. I've been going nuts waiting — we closed down that tour at Christmas at the Apollo. Sure, I could have worked and I got calls — but there was no product out to work behind and that hurts."
The Soul Opera (as we dubbed it ) was an imaginative idea — but one that was financially not viable for Millie. "The whole problem was that the set was supposed to be able to have been broken down small enough so that we could fly it everywhere," Millie reflects. "And the Moments — who were on the road with me — didn't have a record deal at the time…though they are now signed to Polydor in London, I believe.
"It was all a handicap and although I lost money on it, I'm glad I did it. You see, I was happy — it was new, it was a challenge and so to hell with the money. It would have ended up going to Uncle Sam anyway. This way, at least some of my friends got the benefit of it.
"That's why I have never had a manager — a good manager would have steered me away from that tour. I am a very spontaneous kind of person and nobody knows me like I know myself. Sure, a manager could get me more money and better deals but I don't do things for money alone. That concert tour may well pay off dividends in the future, anyway. Because, before it, people only knew Millie Jackson from records and clubs. Now, I have done a concert tour and played major venues that I may otherwise have never played, right? It gave them a chance to see me in a different setting."
One thing about our Millie — she is never afraid to take her life into her hands and try. The satisfying thing is that she continues to sell records, fill clubs and now concert halls. It all means that there is some kind of justice out there and I'm glad.