Ella Fitzgerald

At the same time as Joni, I got into Debussy at my grandparents’ house, especially his dramatic little piano pieces, and I got into jazz. I love the way Ella and Louis work together : they were opposites in how they sung, but were still completely functional together, and respectful of each other.

My favourite bit of Ella is from the Jazz At The Hollywood Bowl album, the one where she forgets the lyrics. She goes, ’I forgot the lyrics to this song, be bop be bop, I forgot the lyrics to this song, be bop be bop’, which I thought was great.

I’ve always liked Ella because she’s really happy. I’ve never been into all these suffering artists, I think it’s a bit pathetic. You have your problems, but you have to go one step further, and see the funny side of it. Everybody has problems, not only Morrissey. That’s why I’ve always preferred Ella to Billie, even though Billie is the singer of the century and all that shit, but I think it’s much braver to be happy than to be suffering, taking heroin and all that. Ella was strong enough not to bore the audience with her own difficult life.

I saw her sing at the Montreux Jazz Festival when I was 15 : she was 60, with white hair, but exactly the same greatest sense of humour. She’s always teasing people. I guess her singing was an influence on me but not in a direct sense, more in the sense that you shouldn’t take melodies too literally. It’s a bit irrelevant what a melody is like in a song : the point is more the mood, and the emotions, and it doesn’t matter if you forget the lyrics. You can still sing the song. You can do whatever you want to.

Q magazine, october 1993