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Lisa Stansfield - why I shed a tear for Rochdale

PUBLISHED: 00:00 04 March 2014

Lisa Stansfield

Lisa Stansfield

Not Archant

Lisa Stansfield tells Paul Taylor about her return to the pop fray and why she shed a tear for her home town

A trademark fruity chuckle escapes her as Lisa Stansfield explains how she went all around the world to make her new album. ‘Rochdale, New York, London, Ireland..oh, and LA as well. It’s a very multi-national product, isn’t it?’ muses Lisa about the album, Seven.

It began almost a decade ago with Lisa picking out ideas on the grand piano in the lounge of the home she and husband/musical partner Ian Devaney shared in the Dublin suburb of Dalkey. She carried on writing when they moved to Hampstead, London, and when they visited their base in New York, recording some of the vocals in a ‘damp and smelly’ walk-in wardrobe because there was no vocal booth to hand.

But after this mammoth gestation period, the bulk of the album - Lisa’s first for ten years - was recorded in Rochdale at the studio she and Ian set up at the end of the 1980s and christened Gracieland - a nod to Gracie Fields, that other Rochdale lass possessed of titanic tonsils.

‘We thought it was time to go back,’ says Lisa, who turns 48 in April. ‘We hadn’t recorded there for a while. It was lovely to go back and get in touch with everyone and realise that’s where you come from.’

Lisa’s two sisters Karen and Suzanne still live in Rochdale but her dad Keith now lives in Cleveleys. It was the death of Lisa’s mother Marion in 2007 which convinced the singer she no longer wanted the Irish Sea between her and her family.

She stepped away from the music business in the early Noughties, partly because she was ill at ease with a pop world dominated by reality TV acts, but also so she could do acting projects like Bury-born Elaine Constantine’s movie Northern Soul. But Stansfield’s success up to that point had been phenomenal: 20m album sales, and a global appeal such that she shared a bill with George Michael at the huge Maracana stadium for the 1991 Rock In Rio festival.

None of which has turned her head when it comes to affection for her roots in the north. She enjoys a drink at the cosy Cemetery Hotel in Bury Road, Rochdale when she’s in town. She and Ian stayed so often at the Malmaison Hotel in Manchester that they pop in to this second home whenever they are passing, and Mr Thomas’s Chop House in the city is, she says, ‘a place I really love’.

But, like many of Lancashire’s former mill towns, Rochdale has seen hard times, with recession and the familiar malaise of the high street. ‘I’d not been there for a long time, but the last time I walked down Drake Street I cried,’ says Lisa. ‘It was full of pound shops and phone shops. But hopefully things are going to get better. It looks like they might. There are loads of places in Rochdale that are really lovely, and I think the sense of culture in Rochdale is great. It’s lovely that two communities can live side by side and the way people interact with each other.’

The Stansfields moved to Rochdale from nearby Heywood when Lisa was 12, and she attended Oulder Hill High School.

‘It was just one town away from where I’d lived, but it was really different,’ she recalls. ‘I got bullied when I first went to school. I don’t know why, I was no threat to anyone.’

Lisa then tells a grisly tale of dealing with her worst tormentor at school by wrapping a chain from a dog lead around her hand and whacking the bully. It betrays a steely determination you suspect may have stood her in good stead at points in her career.

Lisa, who went through long but ultimately unsuccessful IVF treatment, had been the star turn at family parties from a young age, belting out Lena Zavaroni songs. At just 14, she won the Manchester Evening News Search for a Star talent context, and was co-hosting a children’s pop show Razzmatazz while she was still at school.

‘I was embarrassed because I didn’t particularly enjoy what I was doing.’ she recalls. ‘I was singing songs I didn’t want to sing and wearing clothes I didn’t want to wear. Everyone at school thought it was really cool, but I thought they were laughing at me.’

The rest is pop history: her 1989 album Affection sold over five million copies and won a sheaf of awards. Now Lisa has begun the second chapter to her pop career with another album made in Rochdale. Her diary is already looking very full. ‘This is what I do. I asked for it, didn’t I?’ she says in mock-complaint.

Lisa Stansfield’s album Seven is out now. For more information visit www.lisa-stansfield.com

Lisa’s milestones

1966: Lisa born in Manchester on April 11.

1977: Stansfield family move to Rochdale from Heywood.

1980: Lisa wins Search for a Star contest and soon after releases her first single.

1984: She and former schoolmates Ian Devaney and Andy Morris form a band called Blue Zone.

1987: Lisa marries Italian Augusto Grassi and moves to Italy, but the marriage lasts only a few months.

1989: People Hold On, a song created with Coldcut, gives Lisa a hit in the UK and USA. Later that year, the album Affection makes Lisa one of the UK’s best-known stars.

1993: Lisa and Ian move to Dublin, returning to the UK 20 years later.

1998: Setting the seal on a long personal and creative partnership, Lisa and Ian marry.

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