Annie Lennox, angry? You bet she is. As she releases a new album, the singer tells Nigel Farndale what she’s railing against now – and why, for all her pacifism and fragility, she relishes a good scrap.

It is Annie Lennox weather outside – the bruised clouds, the chill, the darkness at noon – and we are contemplating it from under a long skylight, in the empty café of a north-west London art gallery. ‘I come from a place in Scotland that is very grey and flat,’ the singer says as she gazes upwards. ‘Bleak atmosphere, pretty much like today. Granite buildings. I think it informed my character. As an only child growing up in the tenements of Aberdeen, I had a lot of time with my own thoughts. All my reports said, “Ann could do better if she stopped daydreaming,” but I couldn’t help it. Growing up, I knew what I didn’t want. I didn’t want normality.’

Her skin is the colour of a mushroom; her short hair is equally pale, in contrast to the dark brown of her fake-fur coat. Scotland is still there in her breathy, rolling vowels. ‘Aye,’ she says when I ask if pessimism is her defining characteristic, ‘you’re not wrong. I’ve been a pessimist most of my life and it doesn’t always serve me well. The black dog. That cycle that takes you down.’

Has that pessimism been the price of her creativity, though? For being able to write such dark and potent lyrics? ‘It has. How perverse. Then again, I’m not a total nihilist because if I were I would have done myself in long ago. Killed myself. There is a part of me that is still quite like a kid. I meet some people my age and think they seem older, because they are stuck in convention.
My spirit sees things just as I did when I was a kid. I get enthusiastic about beautiful things, like berries in autumn. The colour of leaves in the spring. Colour and beauty. It’s in contrast to my dark side.’ She gives a rictus grin and shakes her head. ‘I’m a fairly intense person, as you have probably gathered. Everything affects me. I’m not detached. I have a lot of empathy. When I was little if I saw someone or something suffering I would cry.’

She finds mass suffering equally unbearable, hence her crusading work on behalf of HIV/Aids sufferers in Africa, for which she won a Red Cross Services to Humanity Award last year. She has various other charity commitments, but one that is especially close to her heart is Hear the World, a campaign to spread awareness about the deafness that afflicted her late father, a boilermaker in the Aberdeen shipyards. More recently she was seen leading the protest marches against the Israeli attacks on Gaza. As she talks about it I can see she is blinking back tears. ‘Yes, I find it hard to detach myself. It’s there on my surface. The Gaza protest was because a million and a half people were trapped in a relatively small space. When I saw the bombs dropping, I knew what was going to happen. The Israelis could say that they weren’t targeting civilians but there was nowhere for the civilians to go. They were trapped.’

I take it she rules out the possibility that Hamas was using them as human shields? ‘Aye, I do. There was nowhere for the civilians to hide. Even when they went to UN buildings they were attacked.’

She was limping on those protests, and she still has that limp today. But she is grateful to be walking at all, because last August she had surgery on her spine. Sounds scary, I say. ‘Didn’t have time to be scared because it happened so quickly. I had a bulged disc and I went to see a chiropractor who popped it out and damaged a nerve. I’ve never had so much pain. A thing called drop foot. My left leg was paralysed, basically. I couldn’t move my toes. I was in Mexico City attending the international HIV/Aids conference. Had to cancel everything and get home. Got an MRI scan and at the end of that week I had surgery. They had to scrape the bone to make more space. Some people were, like, “Don’t do the surgery. It’s too risky,” but I thought, “I don’t want to be disabled.” I was warned the surgery could go wrong and had to sign a liability waiver. I made a decision to just do it and not freak myself out.’

I imagine there was a psychological toll, though. ‘To be honest with you, it has taken a lot of my self-confidence away. My physicality, my limping has made me feel vulnerable. It’s shut me down a bit. My foot is numb all the time. Pins and needles. Like it’s in an icy bucket of water. I’m dragging my foot and… this is boring.’ She grins again, short and tight. ‘This is the sort of thing you talk about in your sixties. I looked at my toes and was saying, “Come on! Come on!” And then I thought, “Heigh-ho, I’ve had 53 years of very good service from these toes so I’ll have to accommodate them.” I’m hoping it will get better eventually. Maybe in a year’s time.’

Meanwhile, Lennox has a new collection of her solo work out called… ‘The Annie Lennox Collection’. After dropping out of a degree course at the Royal Academy of Music, she spent the 1980s as one (androgynous-looking) half of Eurythmics. Her solo career, which began with the album ‘Diva’ in 1992, has been even more successful, to her surprise. She has sold 80 million records, all told. ‘I look back on “Diva” and think that was when I was expecting a baby. My whole adult life seems to be measured in albums, and album covers – all those images of me down the years.’

I tell her that I have fond memories of ‘Diva’ because it came out the year I got married. We listened to it again and again on our honeymoon and, to this day, I find its gorgeous melodies and Lennox’s velvety, contralto singing voice intoxicating. It was only when I was listening to some of those tracks in the new collection that I heard, almost for the first time, how haunting and melancholy her lyrics are. Walking on Broken Glass is a good example: an upbeat tune overlaid with dark lyrics, such as ‘I’m living in an empty room/With all the windows smashed’.

Her high-boned face lights up. ‘Albums can mean different things at different times in your life,’ she says, nodding earnestly. ‘All my lyrics are dark, and the darkness is concealed behind the beauty of the music and the production. I am very aware of that irony. My lyrics have always expressed my melancholy, actually. While the music has always expressed my deliverance from the melancholy. I see it like that. Life is about the balance of the two. Positive and negative.’

Her first marriage, to a Hare Krishna monk, was short-lived. Her second, to the Israeli film and record producer Uri Fruchtmann, ended in divorce in 2000 after 12 years. Her two daughters from that marriage are in their late teens now. She took a break from recording and touring when they were young. Had they left her feeling fulfilled creatively? ‘It is quite challenging to do both, and I have done both. I sort of stepped back, but I found I had that schism – when I was with my kids I missed being in the studio and when I was in the studio I missed being with my kids. You are never quite 100 per cent focused on one or the other.’

One thing she didn’t miss when she stepped back from her career was the attention that comes with fame. ‘Some celebrities like to stoke the fire and like to be in the papers all the time because that is their currency, but I have no interest in that kind of attention. What would I want that kind of attention for? People sometimes forget that I am an ordinary person and I want to walk the streets and sit in cafés and mingle with the crowds.’

In person, partly because of her fragile appearance and her whispery voice, there’s a vulnerability to Annie Lennox. She doesn’t do glib or frivolous. And when she smiles, which she does quite often, it can look more like baring teeth. I ask about the chemistry between her and Dave Stewart, her partner for many years and the other half of Eurythmics. Was she drawn to him because he was an extrovert? ‘And I was an introvert? It kind of works like that with people. We had different qualities certainly and it worked for a decade. I was drawn to him because he was a sweet, funny, eccentric person that I got. Completely out of the box. When it works it’s a great thing because you get strength from a relationship, but after a while you want to do different things and it starts to feel restrictive. I needed to stretch myself on my own terms, to find out where I was without Dave. I was very surprised to sell any solo records at all. I didn’t even go on tour with “Diva” because I was having babies.’

Three more solo albums followed, but only three. She likes to write songs at her own pace, ignoring commercial pressures. And she finds the touring that comes with a new album mentally and physically exhausting. ‘When I come off I am always exhausted. I need to rest. I’m full of adrenalin and fear, because it’s not normal to face a crowd of people. When I walk on stage I feel that flight-or-fight instinct, this nervy energy. I want to run off. I used to feel that a lot and I had to fight it. The night before a gig I would be quaking and would sleep badly. Things going round my head.’

Does she have anxiety dreams? ‘Oh, yes. Had one a couple of nights ago. Forgetting my lyrics. The whole thing about performance is rehearsal, though. I know I can do it on demand. My voice is like a secret I carry around with me. If I suddenly burst into song now I’d be embarrassed and you’d be embarrassed, because there is a time and a place. That’s why it is so ritualised. It’s a very physical state and very disciplined. I’m not with you when I’m performing. I’m somewhere else. You can’t walk up to me and start chatting. I get transported and want my audience to be transported, too.’

She tries to avoid reading about herself in the press because, she says, she finds it painful. Quite what she has in mind I cannot imagine – most of her press seems to be pretty much reverential. Perhaps she is thinking of her activism, for which she does get teased a little. I guess she is sensitive. That vulnerability again. Her alabaster skin is not thick. ‘You feel you want to retaliate. If you are attacked you want to fight back. If I had been a man I know I would have got in fist fights all the time. I have that anger in me. I love the idea of peacefulness but I don’t trust people. I can find myself fighting back, losing my temper.’

Do her daughters share her temperament? ‘Not in that respect. They are both articulate and big-hearted. Thankfully, I don’t think either of them has my melancholy.’

Has she ever tried therapy? ‘I dabbled but, to be honest, I’m not convinced it worked for me. It can be a crutch for some people.’

Actually, it is her political campaigning that she finds most therapeutic. ‘I want to engage with the world at a deeper level. I can’t bear cocktail parties and lunches and superficial conversations. Can’t stand that. Cannot. Stand. That. Cannot stand being in a room full of strangers with a glass of wine in my hand trying to make light conversation. That never was who I was. I’m never going to be that person. I feel more comfortable when I am politically engaged. More dignified. I don’t have to feel guilty about the frothiness and the privileges of my life – not so much my wealth, but Western wealth in general, our whole Western society. I want to use my fame to facilitate others.’ That quick and tight smile again. ‘As banal as that might sound, that’s a good feeling. I can grow old well with that.’


James Blunt

It could be the homes around the world; his military bearing; or that he’s our biggest musical export since Elton. For whatever reason, being called annoying, a philanderer or – worse – middle class doesn’t exactly keep James Hillier Blount awake at night. Nigel Farndale met him

It’s not the sight of the groupies that haunts me, but the sound, or rather the absence of sound, as they ghost past us on their way up the stairs to the dressing-room. It takes me a moment to figure out that the reason they aren’t talking to each other is that they don’t know each other. One of the band members, the keyboard player, I think, has picked them from the audience on the basis of their looks. Half-a-dozen of them, all in their late teens and early twenties, and all, surprisingly, in pretty frocks, as if they were going to a Sunday school meeting. They have been separated from their friends like lambs weaned from their mothers. The silence of the lambs.

The ‘us’ they are filing past is James Blunt and me. He has a bottle of beer in one hand, a cigarette in the other, and not a hair in place – tousled just so, like a Renaissance painting of John the Baptist – but they don’t realise it’s him because he has changed out of the suit he was wearing on stage and is now in jeans, T-shirt and leather jacket, as well as a pink feather boa and star-shaped novelty sunglasses. But I’m getting ahead of myself. This is the end of the day; we need to go back to the start, well, to the middle, when the seats are empty and the Texan sun is at its most unforgiving.

A barefoot and unshaven Blunt is wearing normal sunglasses and shorts as he plays his piano, strums his guitar and sings his plaintive songs into the microphone for the sound check, all the while looking out with his soulful eyes over an empty, open-air arena in Houston. At 5ft 7in, he’s not a tall man, but he has presence and an unaffected manner – a certain maturity, too, one that you wouldn’t normally associate with a pop star in the ascendant.

But then he is 34 and this is his second career, his first being as an officer in the Household Cavalry. He joined after graduating from Bristol University with a degree in sociology. He became a champion skier for the Army and not only saw active service in Kosovo, but also guarded the Queen Mother’s coffin when she was lying in state.

Tonight he will be supporting Sheryl Crow, though, since his second album ‘All the Lost Souls’ and the single from it, ‘1973’, went straight to number one in America, he is arguably the bigger act these days. Indeed, not since Elton John has there been a more successful British singer-songwriter in the States.

His first album, ‘Back to Bedlam’, also went to number one over here, as it did in 18 other countries, making it the biggest-selling album of the millennium. It even entered the Guinness Book of Records as the fastest-selling album in one year. But it was his first single that really put him on the map. You’re Beautiful became the sound of that summer. It was everywhere, and still is – having become a favourite at weddings, funerals and bar mitzvahs. I even heard a brass band playing it at an agricultural show in the Yorkshire Dales this summer.

As well as millions of sales, James Blunt has won Brit awards, Ivor Novello awards, MTV awards and various Grammy nominations. In terms of credibility, he’s headlined at Glastonbury and won the respect of the world-weary music press. Yet not everyone loves him, as he points out when we get something to eat in the canteen area back stage.

‘After Back to Bedlam really started selling,’ he says, ‘there was this sudden aggression towards me in the UK, for whatever reason, and that focused my mind, made it clear to me what I was doing and why I wanted to do it. I write songs for myself. I don’t write them for you, or for anyone else, I write them because I have experiences that I need to process. I don’t have the answers all the time, but I do have lots of questions, and I express them in the songs I write.’

He is, I think, alluding to a poll last year of ‘the most annoying things in life’, which put him at number four, just behind cold-callers and queue-jumpers. ‘I haven’t met anyone who voted in the poll, have you?’ he says when I mention this. ‘That poll probably came from a website that was after some publicity. You and I could do the same poll very quickly right now and it would count as a poll. We could do one about annoying newspapers, for example. I promise the Sunday Telegraph wouldn’t be in my list. My parents take it.’

His father, a retired colonel in the Army Air Corps, manages his son’s finances. His mother arranged the purchase of his six-bedroom villa in Ibiza (he also has a chalet in Verbier and recently bought a place in Chelsea). ‘I’m not married,’ he says, ‘and so the support structure in my life is my parents. I’m closer to them now than I have ever been.’

He certainly isn’t married, as the photographs of him emerging from nightclubs with various high-profile women on his arm attest. Tara Palmer-Tomkinson was probably the best known socialite, Jessica Sutta, of the Pussycat Dolls, the most glamorous. He also seems to be photographed regularly cavorting on beaches with bikini-clad models such as Petra Nemcova, whom he dated and then dumped – unceremonious dumping being his way of ending relationships, according to the tabloids. He once said he found himself in a swimming pool in LA with nine naked women. ‘I was the only bloke. It was the only time I wished my mates were there, purely to spectate. I had arrived. It was a moment.’

Now he says of the tabloid interest in his peripatetic love life: ‘Last week I went to my home in Ibiza and was photographed by the paparazzi in my swimming trunks with girls. What is the point of that? I’m not that bothered, but maybe the media should be concentrating more on global warming or the Russian invasion of Georgia.

‘Looking at me in my swimming trunks is not a great sight. It’s a waste of time. There generally is a long lens pointing at me wherever I go, these days. I’m comfortable with it. I appreciate how things work. But my record label said something about my always being photographed coming out of nightclubs and I thought, “But this is what I do. I was doing it before the second album came out, so what is different now? You didn’t tell me to stop then.” I’m not going to change my life because of these people. I don’t see why I should.’

His label also gets him to dye his grey hairs and be enigmatic about his love life, which is an old tactic dating back to the Beatles – they had to pretend they didn’t have wives and girlfriends so that fans could fantasise they were in with a chance.

Actually, at the time of going to press, Blunt seems to be going out again with one of his old flames, Verity Evetts, an Oxford-educated barrister. He has also stayed friendly with some of his other exes, the socialites at least. He told one – an ex who got married not long ago – that he doesn’t feel ‘centred’ at the moment and would like to get married as well. Then again, he also said that he never tires of singing You’re Beautiful night after night because it gets him laid night after night.

Either way, he tells me he has grown used to the idea that his mother will probably find out from the papers what he has been up to, and with whom, before he has had a chance to tell her. ‘And my [two] sisters are quick to email me about things in the papers, laughing their heads off. I get healthy, ritual abuse from them, and give it back myself.’

As we are talking, I can’t decide whether the way Blunt smiles all the time is disarming or disturbing. He’s like a victim of a religious cult, smiling at the beginning of the sentence and at the end. I guess he has a lot to smile about, but also I sense a great deal of insecurity to disguise.

Then, I’m distracted by the sight of Sheryl Crow playing table tennis across the room. She has been holding her adopted son in one arm as she bats with the other, and now, even more distractingly, she is heading straight for us. ‘Are we going to have one of our little conversations on stage again tonight, James?’ she says. ‘That flirting thing. I think it worked well last night.’

They discuss the duet they will sing – a cover of Cat Stevens’s The First Cut is the Deepest – then we both watch her shimmy away, her blonde curls bobbing. ‘She’s very down to earth,’ he says. ‘I’d met her a couple of times, which was why she asked me on this tour. We do end up playing a lot of table tennis on the road. We’ve done 117 shows so far this year, in 117 cities, and there are a lot of hours to fill in the day.’

As he sleeps on his tour bus with his band, one city tends to blur into another. When I joke that he is in Cincinnati now, he looks genuinely confused. ‘No, this is?… Oh, right. Actually, I always get the tour manager to say where we are just as I’m going on stage. I still managed to get it wrong the other night, saying “Hello Dallas” when I meant Austin. I’m surprised I got out alive.’

He is funny on the subjects of things that go wrong. ‘People are normally surprised by my show, which is more energetic than you might think. Jumping on the piano. Jumping out into the audience and running up and down the aisle high-fiving them. But going off the stage can be quite dangerous. I broke my finger once. My legs carried on when I jumped off, and I smacked down on the ground. The spotlight was on me, and when I got back to the piano I hit the wrong note and thought, “Why did I do that?” And I looked down and saw it was because my finger was broken, sticking out an angle. Look,’ he says holding it up. ‘It’s still crooked.’

On another occasion, in Chicago, he jumped 8ft off the stage. ‘When I began running to the audience, a security guard stuck his arm out and I thought, “Does he want a hug?” Then next thing I know he’s rugby-tackled me. He wouldn’t release me and I was screaming in his ear, “I’m the f—ing singer.” I had to wait for the other guards to pull him off.’

I would have thought Blunt’s training in unarmed combat would have helped. I presume he still works out. ‘No, never. Couldn’t handle it. Too boring. I am a hyperactive person though.’ He likes an adrenaline rush, as well, having recently bought an 1100cc Moto Guzzi V11 Sport motorbike. There’s also the skiing, which he still does, and the riding. Actually, he tells me, he never really liked horses before joining the Life Guards. So why did he join that particular regiment?

‘Well, it is a reconnaissance regiment.’ But they are all so tall in the Life Guards, did that not make him self-conscious? ‘Some are. The Foot Guards tend to be taller regiments, though. The Life Guards take a few shrimps, as well. Besides, they are on horses, so height isn’t so important. Also being in that regiment had the benefit of being in Knightsbridge. I got a chance to be in London and meet people in the music scene.’ And groupies, as it happens.

As he paraded up and down the Mall in plumed helmet and shiny breastplate, girls would stick their phone numbers down his knee-length boots. But it was his time in Kosovo that really made girls swoon. He used to strap his guitar to the outside of his tank, because there wasn’t room for it inside. He had learnt to play the violin at five, the piano at seven and the guitar at 14, while a pupil at Harrow.

He writes his songs on piano and guitar. ‘But mainly guitar because it is easier to carry around. It’s like a child messing around with a toy. If a tune comes to me I don’t record it instantly. I think if I remember it, then it must be worth remembering, and if I forget it, then it was forgettable.’

Does he have any anxiety dreams about forgetting lines or chords? ‘Not yet. Perhaps I will tonight. Perhaps you’ve jinxed me. But audiences aren’t judgmental, and if things go wrong and you can look them in the eye, that is fine. The only people who are judgmental are the journalists. I will be conscious of you being there in the audience judging me.’

Blimey. Sorry about that. Is it true he signs breasts? ‘Not that I remember. Not that I’m fussy what I sign. A lot of men started coming to the shows after I appeared on Top Gear last year. That was such fun. I spun the car five times. I thought I might as well make the most of it. I am competitive.’

He recorded one of the fastest laps, but I’m surprised blokes didn’t think him manly before that, given his tour of duty in Kosovo. ‘It’s because I sing songs that are heart-on-your-sleeve and therefore I must be overly emotional. Nothing I can do about it. I could pose more, but I am comfortable with my masculinity.’

He has said that his lyrics are autobiographical, in which case, are we to assume that the lyric on his new album, ‘I killed a man in a far away land’, means he killed a man in a far away land? I only ask because in the past he has said that he would never try to exploit what he went through, what he saw. ‘You should ask any soldier how many lives he has saved. How they do it is no one else’s business. What I took from my experience in Kosovo is that you are told from one day to the next who your enemy is and it keeps changing. That’s what is happening in Iraq, too. I believe in looking people in the eye, looking for the common humanity.’

He is a great believer in looking people in the eye. He will use the phrase again later and it seems to reveal a Christ complex, or a John the Baptist one. That direct and challenging stare of his. It would also explain the hair.

It is time for him do some photographs before he goes on stage and, endearingly, he says he is ‘not fussed’ about the grooming he is offered before they are taken.

On stage his features contort with passion when he sings. The big video screen goes in tight on his face. His voice is by turns soft and tremulous and forceful, but always high. Having seen him in concert once before, a couple of years ago, I notice the tone of his banter has changed.

‘Wow it’s hot tonight,’ he says now. ‘I’m surprised any of you are wearing any clothes. We could all take them off and get friendly.’ It is suggestive, designed to get the teenage girls in the audience screaming. Before he used to joke about his ‘girlie voice’ and taking helium to get it that way, and being ‘a bit wet’ and the ‘housewives’ favourite’. I think now he has realised that, actually, he is a proper musician, a popular one, too, and that he doesn’t need to apologise for it.

Afterwards, back in the dressing-room, he strips to the waist as he talks because he wants to take a shower before going back on to do his duet with Sheryl Crow. ‘Things got a bit hairy out there when I jumped into the crowd,’ he says. ‘Did you see that? Some thought it was some kind of sport to grab me.’

I watch his duet from the side of the stage and notice he whispers something in Sheryl Crow’s ear and then she starts running her hands over his trousers suggestively, patting them. Afterwards, I ask what he said. ‘”Is now a good time to ask for your phone number?” She was checking my pockets, pretending to look for a pen.’

He shows me round the gold-coloured tour bus where he will be sleeping tonight as they drive to their next gig in Dallas. It is full of hi-tech equipment and is nicely air-conditioned but there isn’t much space in the bunks. ‘We do live in close proximity,’ he says. ‘Some of us stay up late. This is the crew end, they have to get up early.’

Where do the groupies go? ‘Never have groupies on here. Never. They’d only get in if we invited them in. But we’d only ever invite friends in.’

Does he sleep OK? I heard he has to take sleeping pills. ‘It is a bit of a rough sleep, but better than a hotel and taking planes all the time because you have to get to the airport two hours early, which is miserable. Then your flight gets delayed.’

He is drinking champagne from a plastic cup. ‘This is for your benefit,’ he says. ‘The tour management went out and bought a bottle of champagne because he thought I should be seen drinking it. Better for my image. Isn’t that sweet? Normally, we drink vodka and beer. In fact, I think I’d rather have a beer, now. Want one?’ He opens a well-stocked fridge then takes me to the back of the bus where there is some seating space. He has one small case which he pulls out from a cupboard. It continues a few pairs of socks, T-shirts and a spare pair of jeans. No photographs or mementos. ‘This is all I have for 14 months on the road,’ he says. ‘I’m not known for style.’

Does he know how much he is worth? ‘No I don’t, not very interested in it to be honest. I travel with hand luggage only. That is why I always seem to be wearing the same clothes in photographs. If a tabloid says my clothes aren’t fashionable or my hair looks stupid, I really don’t worry about it. Don’t have any hair gel.’

In London, he takes the Tube or the bus. He prefers pubs to restaurants. When he goes to Ibiza, he flies easyJet. Still, that’s at home. Presumably on the road he can afford to be more self-indulgent.

Another lyric that we can only assume is autobiographical is ‘I’ve taken a s—load of drugs’. It is. Though his only comment on the subject is that he has ‘a comfortable relationship with drugs’. His relationship with fame is less comfortable. Oscar Wilde said there were two forms of tragedy: not getting what you want, and getting it. Is that how it felt for him when he went to number one? ‘Actually, I don’t think I had been dreaming about it. Certainly, I hadn’t anticipated being so recognisable so quickly.

‘I do remember getting a phone call from the record company, who said both the single and the album have gone to number one, and thinking, “S—, this is not what I expected.” I hadn’t prepared myself for it. Number two is great. Number two is nice. I sensed then it would mean having to change from being a musician to being a celebrity and that that would be a change for the worse. Fame doesn’t affect me, but it does affect everyone else around me. As for celebrity, it is the worst invention of the modern world. Gossip columns treat your life as if it were a cartoon. Relationships reduced to cartoons.’

Although there are other public-school bands around at the moment – Radiohead, Coldplay – Blunt seems to have suffered more than most from a perception that he is too posh to be credible. His family name is Blount (and his middle name Hillier), but he changed it to Blunt to sound, well, blunter and more proletarian.

When he tells me he would nevertheless still send a son of his to Harrow – ‘I think I would. I think I would. Public schools make individuals rather than sheep’ – I ask what he makes of the mood change now that the old Etonian David Cameron has made it OK to be posh. ‘Is it? I must come back to Britain immediately. Is it really safe to come back?

‘It’s not a dirty word to be posh, people come up to me and no one gives a damn if I’m posh. It’s about having a normal conversation and looking people in the eye.’

We head back to the dressing-room where he puts on his feather boa and novelty sunglasses then we wander back downstairs to have a word with Sheryl Crow, who is signing autographs. This is the moment at which the keyboard player says: ‘This way to the good-time room girls’ and the silent groupies dutifully appear.