Hazel O’Connor talks about becoming a singer and cutting David Bowie’s locks.

Hazel performing in 2019 (Image: Lorne Thomson/Getty)

The 80s icon of pop-punk tells me that she looked up to see Israeli jets. I started rowing to the shore fast. If you have ever rowed a boat dingy fast, then you will know it folds like a concertina. Everyone could only see a little dingy circling across the ocean …”

Lebanese civil warfare had started, and jets were aiming for the port. Hazel raced towards the underground change room as she reached the beach. The first bomb went off and I ran towards the underground changing room in my bikini. This is something you would not normally wear in a Muslim country .

Hazel (66), is a talkaholic and cannot give bad interviews. Star behind Top Ten hit songs like Eighth Day, Will You? There are enough stories for a whole week’s worth of chat shows.

She was the woman who cut David Bowie’s hair and was also romantically connected to George Michael. Louis Walsh, a “nutter”/obscure agent at that time, drove her around Ireland. Hazel’s highs are offset by some unexpected lows. She was raped and had a late miscarriage.

After becoming famous as the rebellious Kate, she never made a dime from her chart success.

Four years ago, she broke her back trying to repair the septic tank in her French holiday home. Hazel is a matter-of-fact woman with a stoic attitude.

Hazel (second from right) starred in Breaking Glass (Image: Getty)

She was born in Coventry, to an Irish mother and an English father. Her older brother Neil is a member of the punk group The Flys.

Galway-born, her father joined the British Army when she was 17 and fought in World War II. She then moved to Coventry where she met her mother, worked as a mechanic, and eventually became a Colonel.

Dad was in a large working-class male choir. He and his mum loved to dance ballroom so they would either go on a gig, or come back to the house and do it again. People would sing, laugh and dance ….”.

Her parents and her uncle crashed into a lamppost one night. Dad nearly lost his life when he smashed through the windshield. Although his throat was almost cut, he wasn’t so drunk that they could give him anaesthetic. I used to pass by the lamppost. It had a tremendous impact. Drink-driving and the dangers it presents.

Their marriage did not survive, but her parents survived. She says, “I don’t know if it pushed her away.” Neil was 10 years old when she split with me, while I was 8.

They shared a bed with their mother, and the children lived together. Neil was only irritated when Hazel began singing. He had severe asthma, and could not stop his wheezing. “If you won’t stop wheezing, I will sing,” I replied. He replied, “Haze, !’.”

She was first drawn to The Kinks and Small Faces. Then she saw I Got Life performed at Locarno by Nina Simone. I thought, “I want that one”, just like Little Britain’s fella. I was too Minnie Mouse at the time. Now I have it. “I’ve found my voice.”

She quit her art college at 16 and fled “because I was selfish, and I wanted to experience adventure.” After learning Arabic and French, she went to Morocco and was then raped by knifepoint.

“Back in England I was in love with a guy, but he didn’t love me. So, I got a job as a go-go dancer in Japan. He drove me to the airport, not like I had expected.

“It was my worst experience, but it helped that I had big legs.”

She suggested that her boyfriend travel to Africa. He wrote, “We were returning across the Sahara when I contracted malaria. We left him to take me back to Ghana.” It was over, I realized.

She joined Lady Luck’s three-girl band Lady Luck and toured GI bases in Europe with a Dormobile – “us”, three musicians, and the manager together. I drove us home once our costumes were nicked.”

Hazel convinced Neil to show her how to create songs. Although I had never been trained musically, I was able to see patterns and learn how they work quickly.

“The Buzzcocks were supported by the Flys, and I was eager to join that enthusiasm. The 70s were stale music, and women were left out. That was before Punk.

Breaking Glass was her biggest break but she almost walked out on the audition. “I was shocked to see Toyah at the audition. I thought I had no chance.”

She was convinced by a self-help book that “if it’s something in your heart, you can achieve it.” And she got the role. They were looking for someone with an interesting story. They wanted to know if I had written songs. They asked me if I had written any songs. “I had written three!”

Hazel wrote the scenes and was paid Equity minimum wage for acting. However, her label, which is now dead, took the star’s royalties from her hit songs. “I did not care about money. I wanted my records to be out.”

Hazel in 1986 (Image: Getty)

Tony Visconti (who produced Hazel’s album) introduced Hazel to Bowie around this time. I was so in awe of him! “He was my first idol and he was just so kind and normal.

He asked him if the movie title was inspired from his song. The film title was not inspired by his song. It wasn’t. He offered to compose songs, although I already had all the lyrics. He asked me to trim his hair. “I panicked, because I didn’t have the proper scissors. I just used my office scissors.

Bowie wanted her to live. We were there to support Iggy Pop at Camden for 2 nights. It was awful the first night. They were hostile and shouted at me, “Get off my silly bitch!” I then dropped Will You? because I believed they would want quicker songs.

“The following night Bowie wasn’t there and the crowd was just as hostile so I decided, okay I’ll do it Will You?” Just so that I could say, “Well it was once before I quit forever …’.”

I learned that people can change quickly if you are true to yourself by singing that song in front of a hostile crowd. It was a hit with them. The sax solo was a great success. I looked in the wings and saw David Bowie. That night forever changed my life. “I gave myself permission.

Hazel was with actor John Finch and Midge Ure, as well as Stranglers star Hugh Cornwell for “about a week” before his arrest (for drug possession).

Clash guitarist Mick Jones was a famous friend. He also met her in Marquee, but she wasn’t her kind, Elton John who she taught how to balance a spoon in Tunisia on his nose, and George Michael who is “such a wonderful friend” that we would walk our dogs together.

They claimed to have had a brief affair, according to the tabloids. She giggles. She laughs.

Hazel recalled going with Kurt Bippert, her then-husband to George’s party in LA.

We were both skint, and the fruit was delicious. Kurt was instructed by me to make knots on his sleeves so that he could fill the pockets with pineapples.

They moved to Rathdrum in Ireland. However, Hazel, who was overworked, miscarried after just five months. The marriage fell apart.

It is still her home and she has been renovating the house since then – it was not an easy task. I was working on the roof when a storm struck. It was so dangerous that I had to remain there until the storm passed. I didn’t dare move!”

Hazel had to postpone her tour (Image: Lorne Thomson/Getty)

Lockdown gave her new methods to reach an audience. “I gigged all the time, because I didn’t get any royalties. When everything was set up, I wasn’t quite sure what to do. It worked so I decided to start a Facebook page every month.

Next month, Hazel will be in Coventry and her delayed tours last year start in March.

She now relaxes with dog-walkings, gardening and hill-walking. It’s a good thing that humans can make mistakes. People will forgive you if you admit to your mistakes.”

Hazel is the Queen of Flanders Spiegeltent Assembly Gardens, Coventry, on September 19th. See hazeloconnor.com for tour dates

Publited Sat, 21 August 2021 at 23:01:00 +0000

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