Martika’s back in town

Oct 2019 Martika’s back in town

By James Stewart

One of the brightest stars to emerge during the ’80s was MARTIKA, formerly a child actress with a TV series and a role in the movie ‘Annie’ to her credit, who released two million- selling albums and equally huge singles before completely disappearing from the scene.

I always thought the sixties was all about singles, while the album, which began to have an identity of its own during the later years of that decade, became the dominant musical force during the seventies.

However, the 80s was a very different era with new ways to listen, and even watch, making an impact with the single becoming huge again. With the advent of MTV and 12ins versions available as true remixes and not just an instrumental section stuck in the middle, and albums now in the new CD format it was a real boom time for the industry.

Martika re-emerged in 2017 in the UK for the ‘80s Invasion Tour’ with Paul Young and Toyah. Both the tour and Martika were hugely successful, and later this month, she returns for a similar, but bigger road trip with Jason Donovan, Sister Sledge, The Fizz, Five Star, Kenny Thomas and Hue & Cry.

Entitled ‘80s Invasion 2019’, with 12 dates opening in Nottingham on October 29, it visits London Hammersmith, Brighton Centre, Manchester, Liverpool, Birmingham and more, before the final date in Bournemouth on November 11.

Curious to find out more about Martika, her music and the hiatus, I gave her a call (to the US), and we began by talking about the upcoming tour.

“I love the UK: we toured there a couple of years ago and we went all over, getting to see a lot of it. But back in the eighties it was different. We only went to London then and didn’t have time to see much, but last time we did lots of different cities, and I’m really looking forward to seeing a lot more places on this year’s tour.’

This time, the tour is bigger with even more acts, have you worked with any of them before?

“No, but I did meet Jason back in the day, so I’m looking forward to seeing him again. He was so big (squeal!) and so nice when I came over around the time of my first album, I think it was a Smash Hits Awards Party or something like that, and he was just so warm and welcoming. We stayed in touch, and when he came to New York shortly afterwards for the opening of ‘Joseph And The Amazing Technicolor Dream Coat’, I went to meet him and see the show.

“I’m also a fan of Sister Sledge (starts singing ‘We Are Family’ excitedly) and can’t wait to see them.’

I told he I loved and bought her albums back in the day, and recently purchased the extended Cherry Pop reissues with the 12ins mixes.

“Toy Soldiers’ really caught my, and the country’s, attention and then to follow it with a dance version of ‘I Feel The Earth Move’ was so different.

“I guess that’s because my musical taste is so eclectic that when I came over the first time, I was amazed just how equally eclectic your radio stations were. Back here each station has its own specific genres, and being young I didn’t know you had to follow that genre, so I released what I felt I wanted to, and then I’d say to the promoters ‘Hey, I wanna go overseas’ because you guys were more open and acceptable to what the artist was doing, not just wanting more of what might be expected.”

You will also find that UK, and indeed, European fans remain loyal. They don’t just ditch you because of a song they didn’t like, or the very long gap of almost 30 years between album releases, I told her.

“That’s cool. I did two albums ‘Martika’ and then ‘Martika’s Kitchen’ and I was supposed to do more, but it didn’t work out that way. There was another project that was a completely different musical genre I did with my husband a few years ago. Then I did an internet club single to reintroduce myself to other people again.”

Is there a likelihood of another Martika album?

“I don’t know, I won’t say ‘never say never’, I’m always writing material but I’m not into looking for a major record label or anything like that again, and take the world on again. That was my teenage years.

“That was then, this is now! I don’t know how some artists do it, constant touring, always out there in the public eye. When I was a kid, that’s all I wanted, to sing and dance, but do I want to do it again at that level?

“I guess it’s like everything: when you actually start to do it every day for a living, it takes the fun out of it. I wasn’t prepared for the business side of it, the pace of it, then the travel – so many opportunities to travel – but when you’re part of the machine, it becomes so much pressure. When you’re young, you just go with it, but I don’t know how artists can keep doing it; it must be bad for your health, so I stepped away.”

You’re obviously finding your current way of life much better. “That’s right. I decide I want to go on the road for a couple of weeks, and the people are just happy. I turn up and sing my songs, which is all I ever really wanted to do.

“I don’t care about being relevant or influencing people. I just want to go out, sing and dance with my old songs for a few minutes, make people happy, enjoy the music and relive those years and feel good.

“And it’s not just the audience. I get to go out and re-live my years for a few minutes, for a few nights, travel your beautiful country and meet some nice people.”

‘Meet & Greet’ didn’t happen back in the day, and I noticed you didn’t take part in those on the last tour: is there a reason?

“It wasn’t part of the package contract then, but I will be doing them this time, and I’ve heard the extra monies will be going towards a charity, which is cool. They seem to be an in-built part of every tour now.

“I know, they didn’t have them before. I just wanted to sing, dance and connect with the people; now I’m reconnecting my music and myself with the fans and I guess that’s all part of how it’s done now.”

I guess you became quite disillusioned first time around.

“I just didn’t like all the politics: that is so important in the business, not speaking out of turn and keeping every person at every level at the record label and promotion on your side, I hadn’t expected that.”

Next month: How did Martika manage to record with Prince?