18 Songs, 1 Hour, 16 Minutes


About Hermine

Sounding a bit like a Gallic version of Nico with a strong undercurrent of tongue-in-cheek self-parody, actress, writer, and performance artist Hermine enjoyed a career as a singer in the late '70s through the mid-'80s. Born Hermine Demoriane in Paris in 1942, she traveled to London in 1964 and soon settled in the U.K. after meeting poet Hugo Williams, who would become her husband. Hermine began writing articles for British magazines, and in 1969 published her first book, Lifestar, about her experiences while pregnant with her first child. In 1971, Hermine was inspired to take up tightrope walking, which she approached as an expressive performance medium rather than simple acrobatics; her performances included appearances with the pioneering performance art group COUM (who would in time evolve into Throbbing Gristle), and her work would bring her to the attention of filmmaker Derek Jarman, who cast her in his idiosyncratic look at the U.K. punk explosion, Jubilee. (Hermine would later write a memoir about her experiences as an aerial artist, simply titled The Tightrope Walker.) Hermine began working with music in 1976 as a member of a short-lived proto-punk group, the Subterraneans (the other musicians included noted rock writer Nick Kent and future members of the Damned), but her career began in earnest after a series of experimental plays she wrote brought her to the attention of David Cunningham. Cunningham was the leader of the Flying Lizards, the avant-garde pop group that enjoyed a surprise hit in 1979 with an outré cover of Barrett Strong's "Money." Cunningham asked Hermine to sing on an upcoming project, and he produced a single in which she performed a seriously bent interpretation of "Torture" by the Everly Brothers. Virgin Records were to release the single, but when Cunningham suddenly jumped ship to Arista, Virgin offered to sell the masters back to Hermine for less than 60 pounds. She took them up on the offer, pressed the disc herself, and released it on her own independent Salome Disc imprint. The single earned enthusiastic reviews, and after the first pressing sold out, Human Records licensed it and expanded the 7" into a four-song EP.

As the pop world began taking notice of Hermine, she became a regular performer at the London comedy club The Comic Strip, where the cast included Rik Mayall and Ade Edmondson (who would later star in the television series The Young Ones) and Dawn French and Jennifer Saunders (creators of the international hit show Absolutely Fabulous). More and more club appearances followed, and in 1982 Hermine began work on her next record, a collection of warped covers and equally unusual original pieces created in collaboration with Ian Kane. Appearing on the Belgian Crammed Disc label, The World on My Plates (featuring a cover photo of Hermine in retro designer clothes loading 7" singles into a dishwasher) became a hit in the U.K., making a strong impression on NME's independent charts, and now that she was an official pop star, Hermine found herself sharing stages with everyone from experimental noisemakers Einstürzende Neubauten to female metal heroines Girlschool.

Hermine's flirtation with fame proved short-lived, and when she completed her first full-length album, 1984's Lonely at the Top, Crammed Disc opted not to release it, and after dozen of labels turned it down, Hermine issued it herself via Salome Disc. The album sold out its first pressing, but when sessions stalled on her second album, Hermine closed the curtain on her career in pop. Hermine occasionally lends her vocal talents to television sketches by French and Saunders, and continues to stage performance pieces while operating an art center out of her family's estate in France. ~ Mark Deming

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