Bridget St John
Bridget St John
Bridget St John, 2003
|Birth name||Bridget Anne Hobbs|
|Born||4 October 1946|
|Occupation(s)||Singer, guitarist, songwriter|
|Years active||1968–1976; 1999–present|
Bridget St John (born Bridget Anne Hobbs; 4 October 1946 in Surrey, England) is an English singer-songwriter and guitarist, best known for the three albums she recorded between 1969 and 1972 for John Peel's Dandelion record label. Peel produced her debut album Ask Me No Questions. She also recorded a large number of BBC Radio and Peel sessions and toured regularly on the British college and festival circuit. St John appeared at leading folk venues in the UK, along with other folk and pop luminaries of the time such as Nick Drake, Paul Simon, and David Bowie, among others. In 1974 she was voted fifth most popular female singer in that year's Melody Maker readers poll. Blessed with a "rich cello-like" vocal style, she is also an accomplished guitar player who credits John Martyn and Michael Chapman as her "musical brothers".
St John grew up in a musical household where her mother and sisters were all accomplished pianists. She took piano lessons at her mother's behest, but she didn't get along with her teacher and quit when she was 11. After studying the viola for two years and then the trumpet for two years, St John bought a guitar with 20 pounds her grandmother gave her shortly before she finished high school. Her first performances were at Sheffield University in 1964-5, and her very first "proper gig" was at a pub in Rotherham. In 1967 St John spent 3 months in Aix-en-Provence as part of her French studies. During this period she met American singer-songwriter Robin Frederick.
Solo career, 1968–1974
When it was time to return to England, St John travelled back to London with Robin Frederick. It was through Frederick that St John met John Martyn when he was living in Richmond. He was instrumental in getting St John's music out to a larger audience. In 1968 a mutual poet friend of theirs, Pete Roche, put St John in touch with John Peel for his "Nightride" radio show. St John's first recording sessions for Peel were recorded by Al Stewart in 1968 on Stewart's ReVox. The four songs she recorded were released on John Peel Presents Top Gear, Peel's 1969 compilation of BBC demos. The four songs were: "The River" (written by Martyn), "Song To Keep You Company" (written by St John), "Night In The City" (written by Joni Mitchell), and "Lazarus" (traditional).
Peel and Clive Selwood formed Dandelion initially to release St John's music. St John's 1969 debut album for Dandelion, Ask Me No Questions, was produced by Peel and recorded in nine to ten hours. "Curl Your Toes" and "Ask Me No Questions" featured Martyn on second guitar. Richie Unterberger reviewing for Allmusic called the album "music for wandering through meadows on overcast days", while admitting that the songs are not as good as those of the musically similar Nick Drake.
In 1970, St John recorded a vocal duet with Kevin Ayers on "The Oyster and the Flying Fish" for his Shooting at the Moon release. Her second album, Songs for the Gentle Man, was produced by Ron Geesin and released in 1971. This album was a significant step up from her debut, and contained string arrangements mostly by Geesin himself, particularly striking on the opening track "A Day A Way" and "Seagull- Sunday." Her third album Thank You For..., released in 1972, was even more ambitious and used more musicians with a folk-rock sound. The album was her last album for John Peel's Dandelion label, however, which folded due to its artists' lack of commercial success. St John's adventurous fourth album Jumble Queen, released through Chrysalis Records in 1974, garnered critical praise in Spare Rib.
Later years, 1975–present
St John emigrated to Greenwich Village in 1976 and virtually disappeared from the public eye for over 20 years. She took part in the Strawbs 25th Anniversary festival held in 1993. St John released a 'come-back' album in 1996, Take The Fifth and appeared at a Nick Drake tribute concert in New York City in 1999. She toured Japan in 2006 with the minimalist French musician Colleen, and appeared with the Electric Strawbs in the B.B. King Blues Club and Grill (NYC) on 27 June 2007.
Aside from work under her own name, Bridget St John has also recorded with Mike Oldfield on his albums Ommadawn (1975) and Amarok (1990), as well as Kevin Ayers and Robin Frederick. In 2007 she reunited with Ayers to record "Baby Come Home" on his album The Unfairground.
- Ask Me No Questions (Dandelion) 1969
- Songs for the Gentle Man (Dandelion) 1971
- Thank You For... (Dandelion) 1972 [reissued in 1995 on See For Miles with eight bonus tracks, recorded live at Montreux, Switzerland, 28 April 1972. Released in 2005 on Cherry Red with 10 bonus tracks, eight of which are the live Montreux recordings]
- Jumblequeen (Chrysalis) 1974 [reissued in 1995 on BGO with four bonus tracks. Reissued in 2006 on Hux with three bonus tracks]
Compilation and live albums
- John Peel Presents Top Gear (BBC) 1969 includes four tracks by Bridget St John
- Take the 5ifth (The Road Goes On Forever) 1996
- BBC Radio 1968 - 1976 (Hux) 2010 - 2 CDs
- A Pocketful of Starlight: Best Of Bridget St John (Cherry Red) 2013
- Dandelion Albums & BBC Recordings (Cherry Red) 2015 - four CDs (first three albums plus BBC Recordings 1968 - 1972)
- Fly High: A Collection Of Album Highlights, Singles And B-Sides, Demos, Live Recordings, Sessions And Interviews (Cherry Red) 2016 - Double CD
- Profile Archived 6 March 2013 at the Wayback Machine, ascap.com. Retrieved 29 September 2015.
- Brumbaugh, Sam. "Bridget St John, Interview". Chickfactor No. 12, 1999.
- Richardson, Anna, unidentified article, Cumberland News, 2007; reproduced within the"interview". Archived from the original on 8 July 2011. Retrieved 25 February 2014. of St John's previous website.
- "Nick Drake's Pink Moon". John Peel Archive. Retrieved 21 November 2018.
- Davies, Gill. "Celtic Connections Festival 2012-Bridget St John", BBC. Retrieved 29 May 2013.
- Greenhorn, Meg. "Bridget St John – Interview". Cherry Red Records, 19 April 2009.
- Adams, Owen. "Label of love: Dandelion Records". The Guardian 7 October 2009.
- Unterberger, Richie. "Ask Me No Questions". Allmusic. Retrieved 21 May 2020.
- Conboy, Martin & Steel, John, eds. The Routledge Companion to British Media History, 2015; ISBN 9780415537186
- Pullella, Philip. "Bridget St John happy with move to the Village". St. Petersburg Times, 12 April 1978, p. 3D. Retrieved 29 May 2013.
- Various sources, reproduced within the"Interview". Archived from the original on 8 July 2011. Retrieved 25 February 2014. of St John's previous website.
- McCarthy, Jerry. "Bridget St John. dryden29.net, 27 June 2007.
- McCarthy, Jerry. "Songs We Love: Michael Chapman, 'That Time Of Night'. NPR, 12 October 2016.
- "Mojo Presents". Rate Your Music. 2018. Retrieved 23 July 2018.