Sunday March 27 is Mother’s Day in the U.K., taking us to a mother and daughter we began covering on Mother’s Day in 2018, Mary Hopkin and Jessica Lee Morgan, for the 50th anniversary of Mary Hopkin’s 1968 Apple single “Those Were the Days,” along with their new releases. In 2020, we covered more new releases from both artists in an Apple alumni article which also included Badfinger’s Joey Molland with his solo album Be True to Yourself. In addition to being the daughter of Mary Hopkin, Jessica’s father is Tony Visconti, known for his production work, especially with David Bowie and she is part of her father’s David Bowie supergroup Holy Holy, singing and playing saxophone. During the pandemic, Jessica, and her long-time partner Christian Thomas, a singer-songwriter and bassist, entertained us with their online Tuesday concert series, often with song themes. They, along with Jessica’s brother Morgan Visconti, partake on Mary Hopkin’s new album. We spoke with Jessica and Chris between Holy Holy shows.
GOLDMINE: Welcome back to Goldmine with your family’s new releases. Before we get to those, like we have done before, let’s talk about one of your mother’s classic singles. A few months before you were born, “If You Love Me” was released, with a 1970s sound in line with ABBA at the time and a melody reminding me of “There Are Worse Things I Could Do” from the musical Grease.
JESSICA LEE MORGAN: Good lord, that was the year I was born, ha ha. My mom was busy. That song was co-written by Edith Piaf, one of her classic songs “Hymne à L'amour,” recorded here with English lyrics, but still a French influence. This is one we did in our live shows last year. Singing an Edith Piaf classic is a challenge my mom loved.
Flip side: Tell Me Now
A side: If You Love Me
U.K. debut: February 27, 1976
Good Earth GD 2
GM: The flip side is the very beautiful “Tell Me Now.”
JLM: That is one of her originals with a nice chord progression. She sings it beautifully. Both of these songs are part of the archive albums we have put out. These are on the album Now and Then through Space Records. It is great hearing these songs with wonderful production from my dad. My mom is very proud of them, too.
GM: Now let’s talk about the new pair of albums where the album covers match the music content. Let’s start with your mom’s Pieces album, opening with the melodic 3/4 time “Free-Falling” with a great sound quality as well.
JLM: Oh, thank you. There is good energy to that song. She plays the keyboard and percussion in her studio. When she runs out of ideas, Chris comes in and helps to tidy it up. She is in command now, which is really great for her.
GM: “One for Me” is very pretty with your mom doing her own harmonies, right?
JLM: Yes. She is so creative with her own vocal arrangements. My dad used to contribute a lot in the old days, of course. She has some very strong ideas on how she wants to sound.
GM: “Face your Fears” is my favorite song, with the encouraging advice, “Choose your own destiny. It all works out eventually.”
JLM: Actually, those are my lyrics, so thank you. I wrote that years ago with something else in mind, but I gave her all my unused lyrics, saying that I wasn’t doing anything with them in case she had any ideas for their use. She picked that one and wrote a very different treatment and I’m really pleased. She turned it into something a lot more positive than I intended at the time. It is very uplifting, isn’t it?
GM: It definitely is. On her 2020 album Another Road, there was “Red, White and Blue,” which we featured on the radio here in the U.S. on Memorial Day. For this year’s Memorial Day, we will feature “Golden Hero” from her new album. It is powerful. I love the guitar and the message about being only seventeen.
JLM: Brilliant. She will be absolutely honored. That was written years ago, and she debuted that song when she was on tour with The Chieftans around the U.K. With The Chieftans backing it, it brought a whole Celtic feel to the song. We tried to replicate that here. I played on it and did backing vocals and Chris played guitar. It was from a dream my brother had about being in battles as a young soldier, fighting to the death.
GM: “Pieces of My Heart” has a great melody. After Jim Croce passed away, Melanie recorded his song “Lover’s Cross,” which I am reminded of here.
JLM: Oh lovely. She will be very pleased at that comparison, too. This song has been kicking around for many years and she eventually settled on an arrangement that worked.
GM: “Heartache to Happiness” could almost be a country song with its Dolly Parton-like tenderness.
JLM: Oh good. It does have a nice country feel to it, doesn’t it? She has done a few country cover songs. Morgan is on electric guitar, I’m on backing vocals and Chris is on bass. He is actually on bass on all of the songs.
GM: Both Pieces and your new album Change the Record have beautiful piano finales. In your mom’s case, “Meditation” ends the album beautifully.
JLM: Yes. Absolutely. We all love that one. Chris says that my mom sings inside the microphone, loving that up close intimacy to her vocals. Here it works so well as she gets inside your head, doesn’t she? It is lovely.
GM: Your new album Change the Record has a different sound from your prior albums, with this being electropop. The change suits you well. As soon as I saw the opening title “Gotta Get Thru This,” I was reminded of The Beach Boys’ chorus on their song “It’s O.K.” Then, sure enough, you end the album with a song called “It’s OK.” Is this song pandemic inspired?
JLM: There are other songs that are inspired by the pandemic, but this one is actually tour inspired, from the longest U.S. tour that any of us had been on. There was this feeling of trying to hold it together like a proper rock star in the evening. By day you are scrapping around, trying to wind yourself up for the big evening performance. Most of the songs on my new album are just me programming the music on the software. I may have been inspired by Chris with the style and sound that I have selected.
CHRISTIAN THOMAS: It does have that filthy bass sound.
GM: Your vocal harmonies also double the sound nicely.
JLM: Thank you. I get that from my parents.
GM: “Play for Me” has that wonderful Eurobeat, a great chorus, and is melodic.
JLM: I wrote the lyrics years ago about being in a club listening to a DJ.
CT: Then I put it to music recently for Jessica and added my green Warwick 5-string bass to it.
GM: “Comfort in Pain” is a great title. It is atmospheric, with a piano about changing the world yet, “Nothing has changed.”
JLM: It is frustrating, isn’t it? We read social media too much, about a desire for change that doesn’t happen. We all want to change the world, but it is very difficult. We all want to change ourselves, but it is quite frustrating sometimes. I hope that my lyrics will bring comfort to some people. We are doing this one acoustically on the current tour along with “Raining Rocks.”
GM: “Raining Rocks” is my favorite from your new album. There is a guitar pattern on it which reminds me of the arrangement on a pair of Al Martino songs recorded years apart, 1967’s “Mary in the Morning” and 1974’s “To the Door of the Sun.”
JLM: Thank you. We created the acoustic guitar sample like the hip hop era where they used to sample acoustic guitars, and there’s a taste of Madonna’s “Don’t Tell Me” along with Janet Jackson’s version of Joni Mitchell’s “Big Yellow Taxi.” I do love mixing the acoustic sound with an electric sound as well.
GM: “Ego Go-Go” has a fun back and forth sound with a steady beat, “I’m AC/DC…flaky phony.”
JLM: It is fun, inspired by a particular person who we work with. It is great therapy to take someone who has annoyed you and write a song about them, making it fun and danceable.
GM: The title song “Change the Record” is catchy.
JLM: It seems to sum up the album with a double meaning of me changing my style, I guess. These songs do feel quite therapeutic to me.
GM: Then we calm down at the end with “It’s OK” where, “It’s OK to feel tired. It’s OK to feel down.” The piano chords at first remind me of “Let It Be” until it shifts from major to minor. This is a great finale which stays with me.
JLM: Thank you. That means a lot. Thank you also for popping in on our pandemic series on my website. We have done a few recently again, trying out some new songs and we will probably do some more, and thank you very much for your coverage of our music again at Goldmine.
CT: Thank you.
Goldmine Fabulous Flip Sides now in its seventh year