Interesting that this single has turned up again, after Drew Morrison talking about it at the Country Soul Sessions a month ago.
Next year it's 50 years after the Velvets released this song, originally sung by Nico, on their The Velvet Underground and Nico album, and tomorrow I'm recording a new version of it for The Charlie Tipper Conspiracy's Christmas single (cold virus permitting) and heading to Bristol to do a video with them on Saturday. I've nicked the photo from Richard Cundill's Facebook page, who asked me a bit about it so here goes:
Half of the members of The Chefs were fed up with the name and decided that we should change it. I wasn't in that half, but the mood was that if we didn't, the band was at an end. Even my dad thought it was a bad idea and he wasn't even in the music industry. You know that thing about building a brand... well you shouldn't desert it, should you? But I went along with it, because we'd also built a band and well as a brand and it seemed like such a waste to abandon it. But I think advice from external people swung the name change in the end, and that was not a good feeling. We chose the name 'Skat' almost at random, although it was the name of a Russian card game (but also animal poo, as we found out too late). Our sound had developed too, but that could have quite easily existed under the original name. The Beatles is a bit of a stupid name too, isn't it? However, regardless of differences, which were sometimes musical as well as personal, we did all love the Velvet Underground and Femme Fatale was always in our set; it was probably the slowest song we played too but it gave me a break from whacking the strings and singing at the same time.
We recorded it at Alvic studios in West London with the lovely Mike Robinson, who had produced our first John Peel session and who we all really got on with. He was a rock music guy and we liked the way he toughened up our sound. The assistant engineer was Richard Preston, son of Dennis Preston, Joe Meek's business partner.
On the vinyl, we thank John (Peel) and Claudine (Martinet-Riley, our press agent, who was a sweetheart and absolutely the best PR person you could have back then).
The cover design is adapted from a children's book I had as a little girl. The drawings almost look Japanese and I thought that the siamese cat really represented the song well. I loved Nico's voice and the mood of the original song and knew that we'd never get anywhere near that ourselves, but for my generation of punks, the Velvet Underground were almost in our bloodstream and making this record really meant a lot to us.
Soon afterwards the band split. I was ill, and everyone was looking in other directions for somewhere to go. A record label told me I should take the name The Chefs and just start my own band up coasting on the reputation of the name but I wasn't into that. I went to bed for six months and when I got up, I had a new band, Helen and the Horns, which could not have been more different.
End of story x