Sunday, February 28, 2016

Rachel.

How does a person imprint so comprehensively on someone that they almost haunt you, even when you have never met them? 

Back when I first started my website Dean from Australia, one of the first pieces I wrote was a love letter to the seemingly lost Pink Floyd backing vocalist Rachel Fury. That first post and its subsequent iteration "Oh Beautiful Fury" - which I reposted with additional information (and have since added more as new information comes to hand) - have become the most viewed posts at my site, racking up some 30,000 page views since I published them back in 2010 and 2011 respectively. In reality, it's probably not that impressive a number - but it is to me. It seems that I tapped into a world wide community of Rachel Fury devotees who were just as captivated by her as I am. Dozens of commentors to that original piece shared anecdotes, memories of seeing her live with Pink Floyd and asking the same questions that I was. 

What happened to Rachel Fury?

For the uninitiated readers here who are slightly creeped out right about now, let me recap.



Rachel Fury (image credit: Pink Floyd Music, copyright © 1987).

Rachel Fury was a backing vocalist on Pink Floyd's "Delicate Sound of Thunder" world tour which traversed the globe between 1987 and 1989. A U.S. segment of the tour was captured over five nights in August 1988 and became the double live album and film "Delicate Sound of Thunder" and it became a best seller. I first saw this concert video in 1990, as I recounted in my original piece, when my father purchased a copy and brought it home. We played it on our home stereo system one weekend night. Dad was something of a home theater aficionado - back in the days before decent systems and we got to see the concert in crisp stereo sound that lifted the roof off the house.

Rachel Fury began her career roughly 16 years earlier in 1971 as Rachel Brennock (her birth name), appearing in various British TV shows and films such as Mr Horatio Knibbles (1971) and Robin Hood Junior (1975). During this period, Brennock was building a career as a serious singer and In 1972, under the name "Weeny Bopper", Brennock recorded the single "David, Donny and Michael", a Pye Records release intended to capitalise on weenybopper enthusiasm for David Cassidy, Donny Osmond, and Michael Jackson. 



By 1978, having worked diligently within the British industry, Rachel Brennock was an established London session singer, known for a "sassy 'Ronettes' sound." Perhaps her most notable performance from that period was (allegedly) on the Buggles classic "Video Killed The Radio Star". In a 2009 interview with now defunct website Pop Junkie TV, former Typically Tropical (remember the one hit wonder "Barbados" anyone?) band member Geraint Hughes, Hughes describes Brennock as a superior vocalist who impressed everyone she met with her talent. It is also during this time that another Pink Floyd alum, Sam Brown and Rachel Brennock crossed paths though whether they performed together is impossible to know.



Rachel Fury (date unknown/courtesy Col Hancock).


Rachel Fury (date unknown/courtesy Col Hancock).


 Rachel Fury, Alan St. Clair, Howard Devoto circa 1983. (image credit Alan St. Clair).

I covered Rachel's - now Rachel Fury - early 80's period with Alan St. Clair and Howard Devoto of The Lover Speaks in my original 2011 post which, admittedly, was pretty sparse. Her movements through the New Wave era saw her travel widely in the U.S. and she continued to garner significant plaudits for her vocal talent. There was a collaboration with noted British singer/songwriter Phil Saatchi on an 1987 album called Wheel Of Fortune in which Rachel co-wrote a track called When We Dream. Around this time, she had come to the notice of Pink Floyd's personnel and this led to her signing with the band for the Momentary Lapse of Reason album and the Delicate Sound of Thunder tour. 

From the moment I saw her on screen in that concert, I was struck dumb - not in the least because, as a 15 year old, I saw her as something of a goddess! But perhaps more significantly it was because of her vocal performance - most notably on the Richard Wright penned track "Great Gig In The Sky". This song, which came from Pink Floyd's 1973 Dark Side Of The Moon, is particularly awe inspiring because it features no words. Rather, it is characterized by three verses of insanely powerful vocals in the form of ethereal wails and cries.



Rachel Fury (image credit: Pink Floyd Music, copyright © 1987).

The live performance required a powerful interpretation of the original composition. In the hands of the three backing singers Rachel Fury, Durga McBroom and Margaret Taylor, it was elevated to something of a religious experience. It was Fury whose stewardship of the first 'verse' of the song struck something deep in me when I first witnessed it. Of the three vocalists, hers was the most powerful, the most passionate, requiring an insane amount of discipline to traverse the wide vocal range. It was an utterly captivating performance. Her duet with David Gilmour on "Comfortably Numb" is equally so and I said in my original piece that there is an undeniable chemistry between the two and perhaps a flirtatious one, as evidenced in their interaction on the track "Money" which is performed with such a playfulness by the whole band. 




Rachel Fury  with David Gilmour (image credit: Pink Floyd Music, copyright © 1987).

Of all the backing vocalists who toured with Pink Floyd, Rachel Fury is undoubtedly the most mysterious. And this is simply because at the conclusion of the DSOT tour in 1989 she, quite literally, disappeared. Pink Floyd returned to the studio to record a follow up album "The Division Bell" and when they announced their subsequent "Pulse" world tour in the mid 90's, I specifically looked for Rachel's name in the line-up. She wasn't there. In fact the only returning backing vocalist for that tour was Durga McBroom and accompanying her was noted singer songwriter Sam Brown, whose single "You Better Stop" did great business in the early 90's and noted British session singer Claudia Fontaine. 

Where was Rachel? What had happened to her?

The question kicked around in my consciousness for a while but it eventually faded. In those pre-internet days, any hope of finding any useful information was impossible and even with the advent of the web, accurate information was still impossible to come by. For years, I treasured my double cassette edition of the Delicate Sound of Thunder tour recording and remained enamored by Rachel's voice. When I came to write the original 2010/11 pieces, information was still sparse though a few sources of information - that checked out - allowed me to sketch a tribute of sorts to this magnificent singer. 


 




Rachel Fury  (image credit: Pink Floyd Music, copyright © 1987).

Post 1990, there is precious little about Rachel Fury as a singer. I received some unconfirmed information back in 2010 suggesting that she had dropped out of the music business altogether, was living in London and was active in the animal rights community.  

It seems striking to me that a singer whose talent was undeniable, who had diligently built a respected profile throughout the late 70's and early 80's, collaborating with some serious talent and contributing to some important music - culminating in the Pink Floyd tour, could simply 'drop out'. What happened to her? Was it simply a case of having had enough after, essentially, 20 years of performing or was it something else. Her disappearance, from my vantage point seems so sudden - so final. It is a view shared by many who have visited my original post over the past 6 years. 


Rachel Fury  (image credit: Pink Floyd Music, copyright © 1987).

I wax and wane with my musical predilections and I haven't listened to the DSOT for several years. However, it was my 6 year old daughter, who accidentally tapped onto a YouTube clip of the DSOT "Great Gig" performance last week. And it has stirred up my fascination with Rachel Fury all over again. I'm pondering the same questions. I'm captivated by her beauty and her voice and hence I am revisiting her here. 

Where for art thou Rachel...

DFA.

9 comments:

  1. Nice piece, Dean. I wasn't a Pink Floyd fan, so I never heard of her. This was definitely a learning experience. Take care.

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  2. Likewise. My eldest brother used to play Dark Side of the Moon at home on our half (b&w) TV/half stereo unit. My Dad (a devotee of Blues/Soul & Gospel music) loved that particular track. Sorry I can't help you re. the singer in question but just wanted to share my memories of that haunting original track

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  3. Beatiful Pictures ! Can you share info about this photographer? Thank you again!

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    1. The concert images are screen captures from my DVD copy. The other images were supplied to me but I don't know the name of the photographers.

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    2. Thank you Dean! I meant those picture where you reported "courtesy col hancock". Who is him? a Photographer. I have never seen the second one...

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    3. Hi
      I'm Col . I'm not a photographer , just someone in England lucky enough to get the original photos for a price , I had a hard job securing them ... took months and a lot of bitten nails .

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    4. Thank you CJH. Are these photos taken from a movie? Can you give us some info? Are there any other pictures?

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  4. Hi Matteo
    Sorry for the late response!
    No I think they are private photos taken by a friend on a day out , she gave up acting before her teens and then turned to music by the name Weeny Bopper . I have a promotional copy disk of her first song "Donny David an Michael ... released 1972 . Cheers Col .

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  5. I'm from Brazil and I'm hopelessly in love with Rachel.
    The first time I heard Rachel sing was in 1973 on the album The Dark Side of The Moon. My older brother got a k-7 tape and we listened several times. I'm a collector of Pink Floyd albums. Eventually I hear some of Pink Floyd's albums in my garage.

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