Dateline: August 1980
Teena was in London to help us celebrate Motown’s 20th anniversary and to promote her forthcoming album “Irons In The Fire” due for October release. She was also riding on the UK hits “I’m A Sucker For Your Love” and the top six smash “Behind The Groove”. However, let’s backtrack a while.
I was Motown UK’s publicist at this time and we first heard about Teena Marie in a monthly release schedule which arrived, among the usual deluge of promotional blurb, from the Los Angeles offices. The US pr lady was extremely excited about the company’s new signing – albeit in 1976 – and enthused over the fact she had worked with Rick James, another artist they held in great esteem. An explosive combination we were told. Indeed it was. And almost instantly, we fell under the spell of Teena’s first single “I’m A Sucker For Your Love” – a young, happy, almost ‘up’ adolescent sound with undertones of soul, but more astonishingly, sung by a white woman! “Don’t Look Back” and “Can It Be Love” followed, taken from the “Wild And Peaceful” album. A more mature “Behind The Groove” stopped us in our tracks, and as this took off up the UK charts, we put in a request for the singer to visit London to promote this and her future work. She arrived on 6 August to work one of the toughest itineraries drawn up by our office.
As far as I can remember Teena Marie and her manager, Winnie Martin, preferred to stay in a private apartment in Camden and travelled to The Churchill Hotel for interviews. However, on the Monday – 11th – Blues & Soul, and other magazines of that genre dined with us in a south London restaurant. Questions and answers were exchanged over an extremely satisfying and highly expensive meal! The evening started at 9:30pm for chrissakes, and we had a bursting day of interviews on the Tuesday, and more of the same over the next two days, with a couple of photo shoots squeezed in between! I’ll give her credit, never once did she criticise the working schedule, even though, like her, I could have spent longer in bed. Teena went on to speak long and hard with journalists from all publications with a professional and interested ease, none more so than with The Sun newspaper’s Nina Myskow. To be honest, I was a bit wired about this but booked an exclusive table at Mr Kai in Mayfair, and allowed two hours. Such was the success of the lunch, we were still there four hours later. It was great fun – journalist and artist hit it off right away. The evenings were taken up too with nightclub visits, ranging from Gullivers in London’s Mayfair, Dartford’s Flicks, and Lazers in North London. It was a 24/7 job for us all! Who said the music business was fun!! Anyway, in between times, Teena and I could natter; and we did regularly. She was passionate about her work and spoke long about her plans to revolutionise soul music. However, first she had to be accepted as a serious composer/artist, and singing dance music wasn’t the way, she said, but planned to use this vehicle as the stepping stone to her dream. Which, of course, is what she later did. The written classics also interested her, and we spoke about Shakespeare, English authors, this country’s history, and so on. To celebrate this and our successful working relationship, I recall I gave her a battered, much aged copy of Charlotte Bronte’s “Jane Eyre” which I’d been saving for a special occasion, and believed this to be it.
Yes, Teena was prone to moodiness, and sometimes she didn’t invite conversation, but I put this down to her lack of personal time, being hauled from one place to another, meeting people she didn’t know, caught up in the crazy world of disco, which wasn’t her first love. Being on show at all times is something some artists find hard to handle. Yet, irrespective of how she felt, the media and public always saw and spoke to – Teena Marie, the star! And that’s how I remember her. Young, ambitious and full of dreams because her musical journey had just begun.
About the Writer
Sharon Davis ran the Four Tops fan club before spearheading Motown Ad Astra, catering for all the Motown acts, where she edited the in-house magazine TCB. Was publicist for Fantasy, Stax and Salsoul before joining Motown Records in London. Formed her own press/promotion company Eyes & Ears, worked for Blues & Soul magazine and website, and became a full time author and researcher. To date Sharon has written eleven books (her last A Girl Called Dusty published by Carlton Books) and she’s working on her next - Divas Of Motown. As a researcher, Sharon assisted Diana Ross with her autobiography Secrets Of A Sparrow, and is now in constant demand for her knowledge about Motown and its artists.