ANGIE PEPPER

Angie was once praised by Arif Mardin, Aretha Franklin's producer, as having a most special voice. After the breakup of her band, The Passengers, she was asked by producer and Trafalgar Studios owner Charles Fisher, to record an album. Deniz agreed to write the material for the project. A band would be assembled to road test the songs and get them ready to record, allowing the project to evolve naturally rather than by formula. The idea was to do tough, hard edged material that most female singers of the time wouldn't attempt.

 

Eventually the line-up would include Steve Harris on keyboards, Ivor Hay on drums and Clyde Bramley on bass. They rehearsed the new material, which was fairly difficult, and played a series of club gigs around Sydney in early 1981. The shows were enthusiastically received by fans of The Passengers as well as a new audience brought in by the other players and word of mouth.

 

In addition to the new material, which included titles such as Beyond The Urals, Psychovision, Frozen World, Why Tell Me, Destination Void, and Last Chance, there were cover versions of James Brown, Captain Beefheart's Long Necked Bottles, the Visitors' Miss You Too Much and some of The Passenger's original material.

The recording sessions started well, with a small personnel change as Michael Charles from the Lipstick Killers replaced Ivor Hay. Approximately half the album was finished when Fisher pulled the plug on the project. It would have been a great, even a classic album. There was never an official explanation, only speculation.

 

With no album, Angie finally chose family over music and went to America to join Deniz, whom she had quietly married earlier that year.

The Citadel single "Frozen World / Why Tell Me?" was for many years to be the only sign of the band's existence.

Some Angie Pepper Band songs were redone as demos in Houston, Texas, a year later, and a few of these surfaced on the French compilation of discarded Deniz material, Orphan Tracks. Finally the Trafalgar tracks were remixed and released in late 2000 as part of the Citadel Passengers/Angie Pepper Band compilation "It's Just That I Miss You".

 

Angie recorded another album with Deniz titled "Res Ipsa Loquitor" which was released in 2003.

Angie is a singer whose legend will live on.

 

Of Interest: Passenger's Review 1979

 

Why is it good things never stay? Last night saw the end of one of the few bands that managed to keep the Sydney music scene from complete decomposition. It was a premature death. The Passengers was the tale of a band destined to be great some day. They had it all – great songs, great players and a great singer who had the amazing ability of turning your guts into a quivering mass of jelly at the drop of a note. They also had great troubles, always closely linked with the not-so-great venues they often played. The Passengers rarely had a night where Angie Pepper's vocals weren't strangled in a mesh of guitar strings, or the guitars weren't drowned by an overwhelming organ. It was almost always due to bad-acoustic venues, combined with inadequate sound mixes.

 

They played their last gig at the Brighton Hotel, a place that looked more like a 1930's nightclub than a converted subway. Fans and friends and locals filled it comfortably, and their anxiety turned to excitement as Passengers Jim Dickson (bass), Jeff Sullivan (guitar), Steve Harris (keys), Jerry Jones (drums) and Angie took their place on stage to belt out the old Ronnettes hit Do I Love You - a song only the Passengers could do justice. Angie Pepper held up by her portable wall of sound as she laid her heart on the line in front of you, as you stood transfixed to the floor, slowly turning into a mould of human ooze with nerves of molten putty. After such an adrenaline-stimulating introduction you can't fail to inspire your audience to a great time and they screamed into the next number with a fury that lasted exactly 4 four bars before the energy got too high for the fuse box.

 

Everything, besides the drums and Angie, was thrust into abrupt silence. After that, it's kind of hard to keep your momentum going, and it took another couple of songs before fever level was reached again – which also coincided with the same old power trip … silence, and expressions from the band ranging from disappointment to anger and frustration. But this was the last time they were going to appear and no pisspot system was going to blow the whole night! The temptation to storm off was resisted and the rest is proverbial history.

 

If not always technically perfect, the songs were made fantastic by sheer energy and spirit. Among the members of the Passengers there were no great pretensions; no guitar heroism, extra musical garble, or calculated moves. Angie had the most poignant stage presence I have ever witnessed – she doesn't just sing songs, she places herself in a position, and drags you in with her. In songs like It's Just That I Miss You, you see her ready to break in two - she cuts you up as she pulls you into the same agonies. Even though their originals are all classic, Angie's theme will always be the Shangri-La's (Remember) Walking In The Sand. It was never done better than that last night as she gazed, shattered, into space, her voice reverberating through the audience who stood, clicking their fingers in time to the chorus, waiting for her tears to start spilling as she collapsed on stage.

 

They wouldn't have been able to walk away without an encore, the last two songs The Passengers would ever play. With the knowledge the end of an era had come, everyone did the frenzy on the dance floor, Angie introducing the finale with "We're not ready to break up yet." No one else was ready either. Angie Pepper exits to America next week, possibly for all time. If she never does a great thing again, at least she won't ever have to worry about never having left an impression. There aren't many people around who could ever dig inside and rip out the raw emotion of a total stranger like she could.  

 

David Gregory