Charlie’s angels The Three Degrees come to The Apex in Bury St Edmunds, Valerie Holiday interviewed
- Credit: Archant
The Three Degrees’ Valerie Holiday talks mountain tops, Prince Charles and fame during a turbulent time in American history with entertainment writer Wayne Savage
Wondering when you’ll see The Three Degrees again? Wonder no more, with the longest running female vocal group in history heading back on the road for their first UK headline tour in four years.
“When Will I See You Again will always be my favourite because of the lyrics... It’s something you’re constantly saying to people and your loved ones when you go on tour. I leave my family behind and life is so fragile, one doesn’t have a guarantee from one minute to the next so it makes you very sensitive to that line,” says Holiday.
More than 50 years have passed since then manager Richard Barrett brought three young teenagers together in Philadelphia. They were tough days for the threesome, who were all still at school. They’d catch the bus to rehearsals which ran until 8pm or 9pm every night and play local record hops whenever they could.
After a couple of years of rehearsals, low-key gigs and some line-up changes, the group made its first mark on the recording scene by way of the Philly-based Swan Records. Their biggest strides forward came during the early-1970s with Dirty Ol’ Man, When Will I See You Again and Take Good Care Of Yourself. Later that decade they teamed up with Giorgio Moroder, of Donna Summer fame, for another string of hits including Giving Up, Giving In, My Simple Heart and Woman In Love.
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Ever since they’ve continued to tour and occasionally record. Today, the line-up consists of original members Valerie Holiday and Helen Scott with Freddie Pool joining in 2010.
“Because we were all working towards the same goal it didn’t make it (rehearsing) seem like it was such a gruelling thing,” says Holiday, who joined the group in 1967.
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“We all wanted to perfect the harmonies, the choreography. The sound was developed by sitting in a room harmonising, being able to sing in unison, for it to be almost seamless, that only came through rehearsal.”
Things are a lot easier these days thanks to technology says Holiday, agreeing it’s sometimes at the cost of the human element.
The group made their mark during a turbulent time in America’s history.
“We didn’t have any racial issues. Our music had positive, uplifting messages. We always geared our show to be palatable for anyone - no matter the skin colour.
“The type of material we did I guess set us apart, made us more sellable. It was interesting to have lived and still be able to move (during those times). Because you were an artist, an entertainer, it gave you that other edge, a leg up I guess.”
She doesn’t really think about how long she’s been in the business.
“I just enjoy the fact that it happened. I’ve so many memories but time seems like it’s gone by so fast,” says Holiday, who plans to turn them and years of notes into an autiobiography one of these days.
These include being dropped by helicopter on to one of the highest mountain peaks in Dubai to record a show for the BBC, fun and frightening at the same time she laughs; performing at the Royal Albert Hall with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and receiving their first gold record from Princess Anne.
Then there was being invited to play at super fan Prince Charles’ 30th birthday and later guest at his and Diana’s wedding reception; with the media dubbing The Three Degrees Charlie’s Angels.
“It was a great feeling... A feeling of awe,” she remembers. “Going to Buckingham Palace was... I’m lost for words. But the British people also took to us very quickly and very warmly and that warmth has always remained.”
The threesome are looking forward to catching up with their fans, who are more like friends now.
“It’s a chance to see everybody. To find out at the end of the show the person singing the song from the audience back to you, this was the first time they had seen you perform... To get that reaction is very gratifying. We’re looking forward to seeing everyone and we want them to bring their party shoes because we want them to have a fun time.
The Three Degrees play The Apex, Bury St Edmunds, February 3.