JENNY MASON – Top of the Pops Session Singer

Jenny Mason Hallmark Pickwick Top of the Pops Session Singer

JENNY MASON – Top of the Pops Session Singer

English session singer Jenny Mason appeared on six Top of the Pops LP’s in total, contributing one track to each issue.
Jenny grew up in Radlett, Hertfordshire and happened to know Bruce Baxter who lived in the same area.
During her stint as a Top of the Pops singer she became acquainted with record producer, Peter Sames who became Jenny’s manager.
Peter Sames was producer on the 1977 Polydor release of Evita (Polydor 2384 096) on which Jenny was chosen for the principal role of Eva Perón.

Q & A session with Jenny Mason – April 2011

Pickwick Pops : What was the first record you ever bought?

Jenny Mason : The first album that I bought was Stevie Wonder’s ‘Up-Tight Everything’s Alright’.
I was into black soul music and Tamla Motown big time.
The first single, I can’t remember exactly, but I do know that it was a Beatles record. Probably their first one out I suspect (Love Me Do). I was and still am a big Big fan.
John, being the genius that he is, was my favourite.

Pickwick Pops : How did you become a session singer?

Jenny Mason : I never really was a session singer as such. Jenny Mason Hallmark Pickwick Top of the Pops Session SingerI knew Bruce Baxter, who as I recall lived in Radlett, and Alan Crawford who lived in London. I was asked if I would like to sing on the TOTP albums, so I said yes. My daytime job was as a production secretary at ATV studios.
I was later introduced to Peter Sames, around the same time as doing the TOTP albums, and he took me under his ‘protective’ wing. Peter signed me up and became my manager.
I was asked to join Brotherhood of Man whilst recording Jesus Christ Superstar, but because I was signed to Peter, I couldn’t take up the opportunity.
After ‘I Don’t Know How To Love Him’ was released, and played on the radio, I was asked to do Opportunity Knocks. Royston Mayoh, the show’s producer, desperately wanted me on the show to sing ‘I Don’t Know How To Love Him’ and I was even auditioned privately. But for one reason or another that never came to fruition either.

Pickwick Pops : What was your first Top of the Pops session?

Jenny Mason : My first one was during the summer of 1970. I recorded the Poppy Family track ‘Which Way You Goin’ Billy&#063′
I didn’t sing it too well as I remember. The studio was just churning out the songs, and doing take after take was not allowed. You had to do as good a job as possible during the short time permitted.

Pickwick Pops : How old were you then?

Jenny Mason : I was 18 at the time.

Pickwick Pops : How much were you paid for it?

Jenny Mason : I honestly can’t remember the exact amount, but I do remember that it was good money at the time.

Pickwick Pops : I’ve noticed on the early Top of the Pops LPs that some of the songs’ keys were occasionally transposed to suit the range of the individual session singers. Did you ever get to choose which key to sing in on any of your sessions?

Jenny Mason : No, I never had any of the keys changed for me. I sang all the songs in their original keys.

Pickwick Pops : How many Top of the Pops sessions did you do in total?

Jenny Mason : I did six in total. The six were…

  1. Which Way You Goin’ Billy? on Volume 13
  2. I’d Like To Teach The World To Sing on Volume 22
  3. You Won’t Find Another Fool Like Me on Volume 35
  4. I Get a Little Sentimental Over You on Volume 37
  5. Let Me Try Again on Volume 45
  6. And finally, Lost In France on Volume 56

Pickwick Pops : There are some nice tight harmony parts on some of your Top of the Pops recordings. Did you overdub the harmonies yourself, or were they performed by another singer?

Jenny Mason : I sang the harmony parts myself on one track only – ‘Which Way You Going Billy?’. I have no idea who sang backing vocals on any of the other tracks. I didn’t get an opportunity to meet any of the other musicians. I just went in, did my vocal and then out again.

Pickwick Pops : Roughly, how much studio time were you given for each Top of the Pops session?

Jenny Mason : Very little studio time was allocated as I recall. I know that I did ‘Let Me Try Again’ in one take. The other songs were not much more.

Pickwick Pops : How well did you familiarise yourself with the songs that you were asked to cover?

Jenny Mason : I think I must have bought the records to learn them. I can remember copying all the words down so that I could go into the studio knowing them.

Pickwick Pops : Did you ever make a considered attempt to impersonate any of the singers you were copying?

Jenny Mason : I don’t think I tried to impersonate any of the original artists.
No, I just sang them to the best of my ability.
Although, I was still very young and the finished results were not always the best I could have done.
Had I been given more time in the studio I feel I could have produced better results.

Pickwick Pops : Did you find any of the songs particularly difficult to nail?

Jenny Mason : No, the songs were not difficult to nail – except ‘Which Way You Going Billy&#063’
I was definitely not happy with the finished result on that one. The key was too low for me. But because the backing track had already been laid down, there was no way it could be changed.
I wasn’t too happy with ‘I Get A Little Sentimental Over You’ either.
At the start of the song I felt I sang slightly off key. I wasn’t able to re-take it though due to the limited time allocated for each track.
Overall, I think I was least happy with ‘Which Way You Goin’ Billy?’

Pickwick Pops : Did you record any cover versions for any of TOTP’s rivals, such as ‘Hot Hits’?

Jenny Mason : No, I never did any covers for any of the other labels. For me, it was about the people I knew who asked me to sing.
I wasn’t with an agency who ‘booked me out’. I was always a solo artist.
Peter was always looking for a song for me to release as a single. We did a cover of Abba’s ‘Thank You For The Music’ but someone else covered and released it before we could. I think our version was much better though.

Pickwick Pops : Are you still in touch with anyone from your Top of the Pops days?

Jenny Mason : I’m still in contact with Peter Sames. He’s a lifelong friend.

Pickwick Pops : What’s your most memorable experience as a session singer?

Jenny Mason : The most memorable experience of my short recording career was definitely playing the lead vocal on Evita for Polydor.
Life in London was amazing at that time. I remember going home after a session, rolling in at 4am with the birds up and singing their little heads off, and me falling into bed with the sound of ‘What’s the Buzz’ and ‘Don’t Cry for Me Argentina’ resonating around my head like a siren, preventing me from getting to sleep.
Ah! those were the days. Evita took about two months for me to lay the tracks down and the experience was simply amazing.
I remember going into Panasonic Studios in London on the day that I was going to lay down the vocal for Don’t Cry for Me. The musicians were still in the studio recording the backing track. Well there must have been about 100 professional (best musicians you could get) session musicians in the studio when I got there, and I went into the control room to listen to them play.
It was awesome! There was little old me, so young, and I was going to be singing to their backing track.
It was a truly amazing experience for me.

Pickwick Pops : Are you still in the music business?

Jenny Mason Hallmark Pickwick Top of the Pops Session Singer

Jenny Mason : I am not singing professionally at the moment, but have done a few ‘guest’ appearances when the occasion has arisen.
I’m always willing to jump up on stage, when invited to, to do a bit of backing singing or even do a number or two.
I still get excited when I go and see a live band play. Music was and still is a great love of mine.
My boyfriend is a terrific drummer in a band so I get to see him play which is a real privilege. Live music always did and always will ‘rock my boat’ so whether I’m listening or performing, there is absolutely nothing like it.
I’ve been so lucky to have made records, sang in bands, and met a great many wonderful musicians through the years and wouldn’t change a thing.

Pickwick Pops : What’s the greatest concert you’ve ever attended?

Jenny Mason : Well I went to see Stevie Wonder who was pretty awesome. I also saw Liza Minnelli.
When I was 13, my music teacher at school took me and a few other students to see Handel’s Messiah at the Royal Albert Hall and that was amazing.
I didn’t go to many concerts when I was older as I was always singing in my bands; that usually meant three nights a week including weekends. Or, I’d be recording for friends like Alan Hawkshaw. I went into the studio from time to time to record demos, and also did a jingle for American Radio (the jingle was for an advert for Fabergé).

Pickwick Pops : What was the last album you bought?

Jenny Mason : Science and Faith by The Script.

Pickwick Pops : Thank you very much for your time Jenny. It’s been a real pleasure.

JENNY MASON – MP3 Downloads

You can purchase MP3 downloads of any or all of Jenny’s six Top of the Pops performances from Amazon.
To hear short samples of any of the songs, click on the relevant links below.

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