With Rewind Festival South drawing ever closer, I am continuing my interviews with just some of the acts that are performing over the 20th and 21st August. Having already spoken to Annabella Lwin of Bow Wow Wow, I have now had the pleasure of speaking to the talented Hazell Dean.
Hazell first came to the attention of the music scene back in 1983 with her hit single ‘Searchin” – and I remember it well. She followed this with Stock Aitken and Waterman’s very first top 5 single in the form of ‘Whatever I do’. She then went on to seal her reputation as ‘Queen of Hi-NRG’ with a series of further songs including ‘Maybe’, ‘Turn it into Love’ and, my favourite, ‘Who’s Leaving Who’. She has achieved massive worldwide success having had hits across Europe, America, Australia, South Africa and the Far East. She continues to write and perform but now balances this with her family life.
Is this your first time at Rewind?
It is my first time at Rewind in the UK. Last year I played in South Africa with Rewind. I am hoping that the UK will be the same and just as much fun. Most people I have spoken to have said how great it is with the atmosphere and all the ’80s outfits and loads of people dressing up. It sounds like it, so I am really excited.
Which act are you looking forward to seeing?
I am looking forward to seeing everyone really but I can’t wait to see some old friends. I haven’t seen Toyah for a while and we bump into each other every so often. Rick Astley is another good friend, and I am so pleased for him and his recent success. I am also excited to see Andy Bell because I have never seen him perform live before. It is a bit like a reunion for me. I do quite a few ’80s festivals throughout the year and it is nice now because we always have a laugh. The nerves aren’t there like they were back in the day!
How did you get in to the music business?
I have always been involved in the music industry, even right back to my school days it has been what I have wanted to do. I started off by singing in local bands and I used to play guitar and a bit of piano as well in and around the Chelmsford area. Then I went to a singing school who helped me to get my first professional job. This was in Stoke-on-Trent in one of the Mecca halls. That’s how I got my foot in the door.
Do you still play your instruments now?
Not as much now. All the way through the ’70s I played the guitar and then I got more into the piano but these days it is very rare. We do still have a guitar in the house but I don’t really play it that much – it is there if I need it though!
Which memory from the ’80s would you like to re-live?
It was all so fantastic that I would like to do the whole thing again! I can’t say that there is any one particular thing, I loved every minute of it. From 1983 to 1991 I would go to the States every year for a month and when that died out I did miss it as it was great fun. I would have a little holiday at the end of it all in Key West and have very fond memories. I did go back to Key West once in 2001 and it wasn’t the same. I wished I hadn’t of done really, it kind of spoilt the memory in a way as in the ’80s it was quite hippyish and you used to be able to walk down to the square and watch the sunset. It was lovely and really laid back. Now there is a big Hilton hotel there and you can’t see the sunset anymore. I was so disappointed.
What would you have done differently in the ’80s?
That is a hard one. Maybe, I might have had a little more say in some of the songs I sang. Not the ones I had hits with but other things. I would have put some of the releases in a different order, especially ‘Who’s Leaving Who’ which was a massive hit and a fantastic song. I personally wouldn’t have gone with ‘Maybe’ as a follow-up, I would have chosen ‘Turn it into Love’ because I think that is the better song. I did say the other day that maybe I made some fashion mistakes – but didn’t we all?! But I wouldn’t really change much at all. It is easy to say things with hindsight. Life takes lots of twists and turns and you just have to go with your gut feeling at the time. Try not to have any regrets.
How did you get involved with Stock, Aitken and Waterman?
I was with a small label called Proto records which is what ‘Searchin’ came out on originally back in 1983. It was a huge club hit all over the world and then in 1984 the song had been deleted. Out of the blue, I got one of my songs in the last 8 for A Song for Europe. It was weird because I was on a small dance label getting selected for this and it was not even a dance track, it was a ballad. We needed someone to produce this and we went to Pete Waterman and his company at the time ‘Loose Ends’. He was the one who put me in touch with a producer. Then I bumped into him again at Proto records because he had got together with Mike and Matt and they did a track with a band called Agents Aren’t Aeroplanes. At that time ‘Searchin’ was at number 6 in the charts and he asked me what was happening. I told him I needed a follow up and he said that I should come and meet Mike Stock and Matt Aitken. I got to the Marquee studio and they were working on ‘I Think You’re a Man’ for Divine. I heard the backing track and I just said yes, this is perfect. So we recorded ‘Whatever I Do’ which was their first top 5 single in 1984. It was being in the right place, at the right time with the right people.
How was your experience with the Eurovision Song Contest?
The first time I got involved was in 1976 with a song written by Paul Curtis. It was in the days of the Albert Hall and Brotherhood of Man won it with ‘Save All Your Kisses for Me’. I have been involved with the backing vocals for a couple of acts including Samantha Janus and Sweet Dreams. Then I got my song in the last 8 in 1984. We decided that if I didn’t win that then I would we would re-release ‘Searchin’. Of course, we didn’t win and the rest is history.
What are you up to these days?
I am still out there. I do lots of shows and quite a few festivals, clubs and private parties. I have a family too so I balance my home life and career. My career is not number one anymore. I couldn’t possibly do as much as I used to anyway. I still record with a label called Energise Records and they know my market. We do quite well on the club charts and in Europe and so there is a great balance for me now. It has all worked out really nicely.
Do you have a song which you would class as a ‘hidden gem’?
I would have to say that if you look for my new album ‘Nightlife’ on Energise Records then you will find a track called ‘The Judgement Day’. Have a listen if you love lyrics – it is one I penned myself.
Hazell Dean plays “Rewind South” at Temple Island Meadows in Henley-on-Thames on Saturday August 20th 2016.
Ticket info: www.rewindfestival.com