Wednesday, 20 February 2013

Ten Songs for every Red Lipstick Lady

It's 8pm and I'm in bed...

Not for any good reason unfortunately. Turns out being diagnosed with an Inflammatory Bowel Disease isn't fun. I'm very worn out, everything's a bit of an effort. I've had to miss Burlesque tonight for the second week running due to illness which is getting me very down.

Luckily I was still able to present my radio show today which cheered me up! I have some brilliant listeners who always make me smile, and I'm still putting on my lipstick.

My radio show today got me thinking about awesome songs which should be a go to for any red lipstick lady when she's feeling run down so I thought I'd share ten of them with you!

#10 “R-E-S-P-E-C-T”  Aretha Franklin

Aretha is, quite simply, a powerhouse. She was named the Queen of Soul early on in her career and has effortlessly maintained her crown over the 50 plus years she has been recording. Her own life was peppered with troubles including teenage pregnancy and an abusive marriage but she forged on. Respect is a song that has been used to empower women during the feminist movement and was also an anthem for the civil rights movement.

Whenever you feel like life’s getting too much I dare you to listen to this song and not feel strengthened.

#9 – "Fujiyama Mama" Wanda Jackson

Wanda Jackson is - quite simply - just a cool lady. If Aretha is the Queen of soul then Wanda is the Queen of Rockabilly.

I've talked before about the difficulties of being a girl in the rock n roll world as it is a very male world. Well Wanda was not only a girl in the rock n roll world she owned it. She was the first female recording artist to record rockabilly after receiving rock n roll lessons from Elvis (who she was dating at the time). Even though she was told "girls don't sell records" and was derided for wearing heels, earings and dresses she still carried on with a successful recording career that endures to this day.

My favourite of all her songs has to be Fujiyama Mama, it's brilliant for singing along to when you're fed up.


#8 – "Fallin’" Connie Francis

 I've spoken before about what an inspiration Connie Francis is to me. She has dealt with a lot of rough times in her life including almost suffocating during a horrific rape attack for which the culprit was never found and also losing her beloved brother in a mafia shoot out.

Despite everything she has endured and consistently used her bad experiences to help others. I love her song Fallin as it really shows her amazing vocals.


#7 –  "Dynamite" Brenda Lee

 Despite being only 4 ft 9 inches tall Brenda Lee earned the nickname Little Miss Dynamite after recording the song Dynamite in 1957 at the age of only 13. A very popular rockabilly performer Brenda Lee had 37 US chart hits during the 60's - only surpassed by Elvis, The Beatles, Ray Charles and Connie Francis. 

If you can listen to this song and not have it stuck in your head cheering you up for days then you're a stronger person than I am. 


#6  "Shout"  LuLu

I don't think this one needs much explanation... I opened my first ever Retro Radio Show with this song just because I think it sums up the red lipstick attitude perfectly. Because sometimes all we need to do is shout.


#5 – "Proud Mary" Tina Turner

Tina's experiences of domestic abuse at the hands of her husband Ike have been well documented. Despite her tough life she has continued to record and to put herself on a stage in front of thousands no matter what anyone thought of her. To me, that is an ultimate red lipstick lady.

And no-one does it quite as well as Tina.


# 4 – "Help Me Make it Through The Night" Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash


Sometimes it's easy, when looking at strong women, to start to think that all men are awful beasts who do nothing but make trouble. However, June Carter is proof that sometimesa great love is enough.

An extremely talented and versatile woman (June actually wrote "Ring of Fire" for John) June was, by her own admission, happiest as Mrs John Cash. Through their long marriage she would remain the voice of reason, tempering down John's destructive side and helping him to create a lasting legacy of country music.

This song for me sums up the pair of them. 

#3 "You've Got A Friend" Carole King

Carole King is an awesome lady and incredible songwriter. This song won her a grammy award for best songwriter - the first female artist ever to receive the award. Whenever you're feeling a little low this song is a great pick me up, because no matter what - you've always got a friend.


#2 "I only want to be with you" Dusty Springfield

I sing this song quite regularly on gigs and I absolutely adore it. It always gets people up and dancing! Dusty is instantly recognisable as a Vintage goddess, with that blonde beehive and dark eye makeup you can't mistake her for an instant!

She also had a troubled personal life, struggling with her mental health and sexuality but through her music she became an icon. This is a perfect hairbrush tune.

#1 – Don't Rain on My Parade Barbra Streisand

Is there ever a song more suited to the red lipstick state of mind than this one? Barbra Streisand is a living legend, she's a true star of stage and screen, she's a singer, performer, philanthropist.... you name it. I could spend ages telling you about her but I won't.

Instead I say to you, go get your lipstick on, grab your hairbrush and try not to sing along to this one - it's physically impossible.

Because no matter what no-one is gonna rain on your parade!

Mrs P

x x x x x x x x x x x x

Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Red Lipstick: It's Not Just a Colour

It's a state of mind

February is not a good month for me

I don’t know why, February just seems to be a month when things go a bit wrong.

Today is the 5th anniversary of the death of my Step-Dad Dave. In some ways it feels like it happened only yesterday, in other ways it’s a lifetime ago. I think a lot of my red lipstick attitude comes from how my Mum and I handled the crushing grief from then as a family. We haven’t stopped and we’ve grabbed at life with both hands. I could talk to you about overcoming grief but there’s nothing I can really say that hasn’t been said a hundred times before. It never fully leaves you but it does improve as time moves on and 5 years down the line I’m able to reflect on the time we had with Dave, what I learnt from it, what I’d change and what I’ll cherish.

There are other reasons why February is not a good month for me.

Mr P and I are yet to spend a Valentine’s Day together outside of the hospital. I’ve had a lot of health problems over the past few years and for some reason my appointments always seem to fall on Valentine’s Day! Poor old Mr P...

Then there was last Valentine’s Day.

Last Christmas I fell pregnant. It was completely unplanned and unexpected, just one of those things that happens. The pregnancy ended on Valentine’s Day last year. It was painful and horrible and the hardest thing I’ve ever had to go through by far.

I’m not going to say anything else as this is still extremely hard for me to talk about and is not something I generally share.

The reason I’m sharing these deeply personal things is because I want to show you why I started this red lipstick project, and also that it’s possible to keep fighting no matter what happens to you. Even when things feel so bleak and so terrible you don’t think you’ll ever feel good again you can claw your way back to happiness.

After my last few February’s I was a bit of a mess. I was angry and irrational, I tried drinking to block out the pain (which didn’t work), I tried working to block out the pain (which worked quite well until I was fired...).  

Nothing truly worked until I started putting on my red lipstick.

It might sound strange or crazy but, for me, wearing my red lipstick triggered a complete change in my mental state. Suddenly the things I did were governed by what I was wearing. Bear with me here...

You put on red lipstick... but red lipstick looks strange without any other makeup so you put on some eye shadow and mascara... now you haven’t done your face just to sit about on the sofa all day and crying will smudge your mascara so you get out of your pyjamas for the first time in days... so now you’re looking pretty good you might as well smell the same so you put on a spritz of perfume.... also your hair might as well come out of the ponytail you’ve been keeping it in... by this time you’re feeling pretty damn good about yourself and you want to share it with the world so you head out the door. When your husband comes home from work he doesn’t find you scuffling about feeling miserable – he finds you with a huge smile on your face waiting for a big kiss.

Wearing red lipstick really does impact your life. It doesn’t matter where you wear it – wear it at home, wear it in the office, wear it round the supermarket if you feel like! It is the ultimate confidence and mood booster.

I’ve been through some hard stuff in the past few years but when I put on my lipstick I feel lucky. Lucky to have a husband who loves me and a relationship that’s been strengthened by the things that have befallen us. Lucky to have the strength of mind to withstand any storm. Lucky to know the difference between what’s important and what's not.

Continuing my February curse I have had a rubbish few days. Back around Christmas time I started experiencing some distressing digestive symptoms. I ignored it for a while thinking that maybe it was just the effect of the things I was eating and drinking all Christmas. Eventually I confided what was going on with Mr P and he convinced me to go to the doctor.  I was referred straight to the hospital for tests including an upper endoscopy and colonoscopy.

They were exactly as fun as they sound... yesterday I was not allowed to eat anything solid and I got to finish my day with two litres of something called Moviprep which cleanses your insides by.... well you can probably guess!

This morning I wasn’t allowed to drink at all which was very difficult. I then went to the hospital to be heavily sedated and have cameras stuck every which way – I’ve only just really woken up!

I’m still waiting on biopsy results but it sounds like I have something called ulcerative colitis (see an NHS description here

So... not much fun. And yet another thing to add to my (rather rubbish) bow! But this time I’m not going to let it phase me. If I’m ill then I’ll deal with it the same way I deal with everything else – by putting on my red lipstick and facing the world!

Tomorrow marks the three month anniversary of when I started this diary. It has changed my life.

And I owe it all to red lipstick.

Mrs P

X x x x x x x x x x x x x x 

P.S. I have finally managed to update my blog settings so that anyone can leave a comment - please feel free to share any comments you may have!

P.P.S Changes in bowel habit are rarely good, if you are ever worried about something like that then see a doctor immediately, there's no need to feel embarrassed or silly. Most of the time it's nothing but it's always better to be safe. 

Monday, 11 February 2013

Vintage Fairs and Burlesque Jems

Yesterday I got to go one of my favourite places to be on a Sunday...

A Vintage Fair!

This fair was run by Haddon events and Mr P and I were lucky enough to be able to go and provide some music for them. I’m not going to lie, after Saturday night we were both very bleary eyed and more than a little tired. I have never been more grateful for benefit foundation...

Vintage fairs are absolutely wonderful. There’s nothing better than spending your Sunday poking around an amazing array of stalls. You never know what you’re going to find: - Case in point? Remember the happy whales?


Yup, they were a vintage fair find from Cinnamon Bay Ltd – a great little shop that also makes bespoke vintage themed wedding gifts – find them on facebook here.

There’s also the chance to buy some amazing clothes. One of my favourite stalls of the day was Lucy Can’t Dance, a fantastic vintage shop that was set up in April 2012. Lucy Can’t Dance.

Not only has this lady got some amazing genuine vintage items available to buy but she also makes absolutely beautiful garments. You can also order custom made bespoke items. I am very excited about this and am planning on making a BIG order before the rest of the world discovers this beautiful clothing. Check out her website here

There was loads more, vintage tea sets a-plenty, jewellery – I bought this string of vintage glass beads which I love.

There are also stalls offering vintage hair and makeup transformations. One of Mr P and I’s favourite moments from yesterday was when a young girl bought her first 50’s style dress from one of the stalls then visited a makeover counter. By the time they finished she was completely transformed and looked stunning!

The cherry on top of the whole thing for me was the Burlesque Jems strutting their stuff.

They looked amazing; I was completely in awe of them. I hope I can join them up there one day. I think they’re incredible, they looked absolutely stunning and they performed their moves flawlessly.

And a little cheekily...

I’ve talked a bit before about the power of Burlesque and yesterday really brought it home to me. The ladies on stage were confident, fierce and absolutely stunning regardless of their shape or size. They completely owned the stage and the room. As I looked around the hall every face I saw was completely spellbound. They were tantalising without being smutty – as Jem puts it the brilliant thing about her burlesque classes is that you can still make your Nan proud – and really made the day.

I hope one day I’m good enough and confident enough to join these ladies in my basque and frilly knickers. They are still so much braver than me – I will sing on stage for hours but strutting my stuff is still beyond me!

There are many more vintage fairs and events coming up and I really recommend them. You don’t have to be into the vintage life to enjoy yourself – the atmosphere is fun, warm and friendly. Entrance isn’t expensive and it’s a chance to have a look for items that you have no chance of finding on the high street. You also have a chance of seeing Mr P and I doing our thing – occasionally we may even make sense! (The tiredness did not help my speech yesterday).

Keep up to date with upcoming Essex vintage fairs here

For other vintage fairs across the UK you can look here

Mrs P

X x x x x x x x

Sunday, 10 February 2013

C'mon Everybody

First Night Nerves

So last night it was finally time... 

After two months of rehearsing, learning words and worrying about whether or not my outfits would fit it was time to raise the curtain on my first night starring as Connie Francis in the hit show C’mon Everybody.

I’ve kept this one fairly close to my chest – a couple of years experience of  working in the rock n roll world has been enough to teach me that until something is actually happening you can’t trust that it will go ahead. 

It has been over two years since my first ever paid gig as a musician – backing my then-boyfriend on the keyboards as he performed as Buddy Holly. Shortly afterwards he started touring as Buddy Holly in Rock n Roll Paradise and I was content as his staunch supporter. Mr P, however, had other ideas. He’d seen me play and heard me sing many times and had more belief in me than I could have imagined. When my plans for further education started looking less and less likely he started pushing me to become involved in his music world.

A few months later I received a call and was given my first show playing keyboards and saxophone for Rock n Roll Paradise. I was terrified – I had one month to prepare and I can vividly remember the sleepless nights and panic attacks that preceded it. I will never know how I got through but I do know that without Mr P’s unwavering and sometimes overwhelming belief I would never have got up on that stage.

That show did not turn into the regular gig I’d hoped for but soon other offers started coming in. It was a very unsure and nerve-racking time. I had no experience of the rock n roll musical world and at the time I had no clue how to act or what to do. I would go to theatres ready to join a show only to be met with derision and even out and out hostility. I will never forget the experience of walking onstage to meet the band I was going to be playing with only for the guitarist to throw down his guitar in disgust and storm off shouting.

When I look back at this earlier time I do sometimes feel that I was being set up to fail. I had no idea what was expected of me. I am a decent musician but was in no way prepared for the tribute theatre scene. I had never performed in such a big space before and even though I could play every piece perfectly at home I had no idea just how much performing in a theatre full of people would affect how well I could play. I made mistake after mistake, each time my confidence dipping a little lower. I would break out into a sweat before a performance and sit there trembling – every wrong note pricking me like a needle.

It didn’t help that I had no one to guide me through this whole process,  Mr P had been working on the scene for so many years that he didn’t understand how I was feeling or how angry I felt. I felt cheated that nobody was explaining to me what I should do while at the same time foisting more and more work onto me. I would turn up to a gig just in time for sound check only to find out everyone else had been there for hours, I didn’t know what to ask the sound tech for or how to set everything right. There were no such things as rehearsals – nothing gets rid of a professional musician faster than the words “unpaid work”.

I couldn’t understand why people kept booking me. It’s only now with a little distance that I can appreciate how alone and scared I felt. I was trying to make it in a world that would flirt with me constantly then ditch me after the first taste of success. It was like playing the most complicated game in the world only someone had written the rules in chinese and left half of them out. I’d recently been diagnosed with menieres disease and it felt like the final straw. I quit. The stress and fear and sheer exhaustion was making me ill and I couldn’t take any more.

That would have been it had I not received a phone call about 5 months later offering me a part in a brand new show. I was very reluctant to say the least but – I was told – there was going to be musical direction, printed music and above all else a 6 week rehearsal period.

After a little persuasion I signed up.

I’ve mentioned this story before and I’ll try not to go into too much detail but the short version is:

I sailed through rehearsals, my shattered confidence rebuilding with each session. I started to realise that I wasn’t as awful as I’d previously suspected, I was just new. With a little coaching and a lot of practise I began to see what I was capable of and even achieved it from time to time. I started to realise my strengths and was heartened to realise that some of my natural talents such as an excellent ear, accurate pitch and the ability to improvise – matched or even outstripped those who had been doing this for a long time, even though their playing was far superior.

By the time the show hit the theatres I was vastly improved. For the first four shows I was living on a knife edge – expecting to be fired at any moment. After the first shows went down a storm I slowly began to relax. The show’s creator assured me that the job was fully mine without a doubt, that I would never be fired as they adored me and loved my playing. Once again I left my day job and revelled in my newly repaired psyche.

If you haven’t heard this before you can probably guess what happened next.

I was fired from the show, just over a month after getting married and barely 6 weeks after leaving my day job. Two of us lost our main source of income for reasons that have still not been fully explained to me although I was assured that my playing was most definitely not the reason for my sudden exit.

I can’t describe to you how awful the next few months were. But I was not destroyed the way I had been the previous year. This time I’d found a core resilience which would help me to survive. I was married with the full unflinching support of my husband and although losing the show had severely damaged my trust in people I still had a little confidence in myself. I vowed then and there that I would always strive to do everything on my own terms – I was never going to hand my fate to someone else again.

With that in mind I pulled out my red lipstick, and I started writing this blog.

I’m not going to lie there have still been some hard times. Money’s been very tight and being out of work has not been much fun. But there have also been some amazing positives. My relationship with Mr P is stronger than ever; we’ve started working together privately as well as doing just about everything else together and we know we can depend on each other 100%. Through the online world I’ve got back in contact with people I haven’t seen for years and made new friends.

If I hadn’t lost everything I wouldn’t have needed to boost my confidence back up so I never would have started wearing my lipstick and I wouldn’t have started writing. If I hadn’t started writing I wouldn’t have had the confidence to start gigging privately with Mr P so I wouldn’t have been at the vintage fair in Brentwood and wouldn’t have seen the demonstration that inspired me to take up Burlesque. I also wouldn’t have done the gig that led to me being offered my own radio show. It just goes to show you that with a bit of strength and resilience and a hell of a lot of courage you can pull yourself through anything.

I also would never had joined this show.

I first heard that C’mon Everybody had a vacancy through a good friend who had found it out through Facebook. I phoned the show’s creator on the same day and found him to be really interested. I sent him some recordings and within weeks I found myself in rehearsals.

 Luckily for me it was mostly all songs and music I had done before and so I didn’t have too much to learn. It was nice as I could just sit back and enjoy the process. Finally – for the first time – I feel like a fully fledged cast member. And last night was my first show.

Words can’t describe how good I felt about being on stage last night. It felt like a validation of everything that has happened over the past few years. I felt strong, confident and ready for it.

And I Loved It

Even the stupid hats.


After everything that has happened, all the heartbreak I’ve endured nothing was going to stop me last night. My inner diva has been straining at the bit for weeks and last night I unleashed her on the unsuspecting people of Milton Keynes – and I’m not done yet!

Check out a video here: by this point I'm really enjoying myself and dancing round like a loon!
I’m going to go out on a limb and announce that I will be touring with C’mon Everybody for the foreseeable future, because no matter what I haven’t fully lost my ability to be optimistic. You can check out tour dates here

If there are any nearby to you I’d love to see you. It’s a great show with a great cast; in particular I loved working with Johnny Gunner and Linda-Ann Moylan – two incredible talents. Both of them were also starting last night and looked so nervous backstage but brought so much to the songs. 

With Linda
With Linda and Johnny

So there you go, here I am. Happy, resilient and hopeful.

Mrs P
X x x x x x x x x x x x

Follow Mrs P on Twitter - @Mrs_K_Player