Jewish Telegraph, September 2005
ROWETTA Satchel will always be remembered for her role in the Madchester scene of the late 1980s.
But the former Happy Mondays singer is going for success in her own right with the release of her debut solo album next month.
Manchester-born Rowetta, the daughter of a Jewish mother Marcia (nee Cohen) and a Nigerian father, wowed television viewers with her powerful voice to reach the final four in last year’s X Factor.
But because all finalists had to sign a legal agreement, she wasn’t allowed to negotiate a record contract until March this year.
Since signing a deal with Gut Records, it has been all go for 39-year-old Rowetta.
“Going into the studio as a front woman didn’t feel different from when I was a backing singer,” she said. “It just meant so much more to me because it was going to be my solo album.”
X Factor winner Steve Brookstein was dropped by his record label last week.
He slammed: “The show gives you a platform but then pulls the rug from under your feet by making you sign to a certain record label and having no say in what happens next. X Factor is all one big theatre. It’s about killing music to make light entertainment.”
But Rowetta answered back: “All my street cred could have gone out of the window but I made sure it didn’t. I made sure I wasn’t cheesy.
“(X Factor judge) Simon Cowell is not involved in my career now, but if he was I don’t think I would have had any problem with him.
“I had control over my album. Anything I hated wasn’t going on it. I took on board everyone’s suggestions and I’m proud that three of my original songs are included.”
She added: “I originally recorded 40 songs. The record company wanted 12 songs, I wanted 18 but we have ended up with 16.”
Rowetta entered X Factor after seeing an advert saying the show could change her life.
“I was looking after a sick relative at the time,” she said. “It came at a time when I was doing nothing. It turned out to be a brilliant experience.
“I would like a lot of people to hear my album and like it. I don’t want a short career. I want longevity. In and out with a few number ones doesn’t do it for me. I’ve chosen a difficult week for the album to be released, there’s a lot of competition.
“I’ve signed a six album deal, but you never know what the future holds. The last year, though, was amazing.”
It’s hard avoid the subject of Madchester and the Happy Mondays — but, as with everything, Rowetta is more than happy to talk about it all.
“It was an amazing time,” she said. “There weren’t many girls involved in it. It was difficult for me because I had children. I’d had a rubbish childhood so it was good to meet people.”
Rowetta’s career started in 1989 when she started to write and record with artists including Andy Rourke, Mick Jones, Youth, KLF and Stereo MCs. Later that year Rowetta saw the Happy Mondays perform on the television show The Other Side Of Midnight. She was hooked and went to see them play in Widnes.
“At that moment I knew I’d end up singing with them,” she said.
Rowetta pestered the Mondays’ manager Nathan McGough, who was not convinced until he saw her performing with another band.
Suitably impressed McGough asked Rowetta to sing on the next Mondays’ single Step On. Within a matter of weeks Rowetta was performing on Top of the Pops, playing Wembley Arena and G-Mex and enjoying a UK Top five single.
Following the band’s split she took a break from music to spend some much needed time with her children and write songs.
In the film 24 Hour Party People, director Michael Winterbottom realised that no one else could play Rowetta, so she starred as herself.
Rowetta, who was educated at Bury Grammar School, said that because of Mondays’ singer Shaun Ryder’s well-documented drug addiction, she had a much more important role in the band.
“I could never be called a backing singer,” she said. “I was always at the front and you never knew in what state Shaun would turn up.”
She dismisses the chances of rejoining the Happy Mondays as she claims that Ryder — “a karaoke singer” — punched her.
“Bez (Happy Mondays dancer) stood up for me. We are like brother and sister. He’s in my video,” she said.
“I hope people will always remember me from the Happy Mondays but I would also like to be known as much for my solo material. Step On and Kinky Afro are played all the time. I’m equally proud of both my careers.
“On the X Factor I had to go for one of three spots on Simon’s team out of 50,000 people. It was a great achievement.”
She said the worst thing about being voted off the programme was seeing her mum, grandmother Minnie Clifton, and her daughter in the audience.
“I could see the hurt in their eyes,” she said.
Rowetta has stayed in touch with a number of finalists including Irish singer Tabby and female group Voices with Soul.
“I was glad Steve won because he was on my team,” Rowetta said. “The housewives loved him. I discovered I had a real mixture of fans voting for me. There were lots of young girls, boys, gay guys, mums and dads who were into me.
“It’s amazing when I do Party in the Park concerts with groups like Girls Aloud. There are all these young girls screaming my name.”
Despite her mixed background, Rowetta has never encountered any racism — except when Shaun Ryder used a derogatory term against her.
When she attended the first audition for X Factor, she announced that she was Jewish.
“I don’t hide anything,” she said. “I received emails after that praising me for admitting to being Jewish.”
She said she is not religious except at “barmitzvahs and when people die. I never had Judaism rammed down my throat. But we used to travel for miles to get proper bagels on a Sunday, not the rubbish ones you get in a supermarket.
“I believe in the Jewish religion more than any other. I also attend Jewish events whenever I can. It’s lovely that Jewish organisations have embraced me. I love to be part of it.
“I recently performed at Manchester’s Nicky Alliance Day Centre where my grandma went for years.”
During X Factor, the media portrayed Rowetta as wacky. But she says that while she was always being herself, she can’t be like that all the time.
“I was on quiz show The Weakest Link and I was quietish because I was concentrating,” she said. “Afterwards I received emails from people asking why I wasn’t being loud. They have to realise I am just a normal person.
“I love people and I love meeting fans. I’m a very friendly person. I do what I can for the fans but they have to know where to draw the line.”
The self-titled album, recorded with renowned producer Ian Levine, will be released on October 3, preceded the week before by the double A-sided single Fly/And I’m Telling You I’m Not Going.
Other tracks on the album include Hello Detroit, originally recorded by Sammy Davis Junior, Oasis’ Stop Crying Your Heart Out and Stevie Wonder’s Higher Ground.