Thank you so much for your music. Each of your songs conjures a memory; each album is a chapter of my twenty-one years on this earth, so I’d like to share with you some of these moments in my life.
When ‘Don’t Ask’ was released I was just five years old. My mum had been a fan of yours since you were in ‘Young Talent Time’, being just a few years older than yourself, so she bought the album not quite realising that it would be stolen by her eldest. I knew every song by heart and at family gatherings would perform songs I didn’t really understand like ‘That’s The Way A Woman Feels’. This confidence came from your music and my mothers appreciation.
When I was six ‘In Deep’ was released and mum bought me my own copy on cassette, as I had my own tape player. I would go off to my room and sing in my room for hours until I was interrupted by a younger sibling or mum saying, “Sharree please turn that down, its time for tea”. I loved the music so much that when mum decided to purchase tickets for the ‘In Deep Tour’ I had my own ticket. I don’t remember much of the time in between being given the ticket and getting ready to go, but I imagine that I was in my room practising religiously so I would be word perfect for the concert. Together Auntie Kath, Mum and I went to the concert, I put my prettiest dress on for my first adult concert, and off we went. We were miles back, but at the time I didn’t really notice. I watched this little woman in an orange suit dance and sing before me and was in absolute heaven. Sharing adoring glances at my mother and thanking her with my loud and practised singing. People began to dance up close to the stage, and mum said I could go. So I ran through the giant people that surrounded me, a small seven year old. I got right up to the front, when one of the giants stepped back onto my foot. The lady instantly mortified by my scream thinking that she hurt me seriously, put me on her shoulders so that I could see. You were right there in front of me. People were reaching out with their hands and so I copied. You walked right over, bent down to be eye-level, smiled while singing and shook my hand. The lady put me down and I ran back to my Mum and Aunt. Excited to share the news, I didn’t know that they had news to share with me at the time, I ran as quickly as I could and when I got there jumped into my mothers arms and yelled, “SHE SHOOK MY HAND MUM! SHE SHOOK MY HAND!”.
Mum replied “I know, I took a picture of it.”
Well we enjoyed the rest of the night and in that picture had a reminder of that night, which has lasted these fourteen years later.
Unfortunately, it was not long after this concert that we had moved from Mount Barker to Ingle Farm, in order to be closer to family, and my family fell apart. My mother was introduced by me to my best friends father, unbeknownst to us they started an affair, which resulted in both marriages ending in divorce. I was devastated, it was the worst pain I have ever felt and not something that I have completely recovered from. My time was split between my mother and father, and because of my fathers depression and undiagnosed bipolar I was his helper and could not deal with my pain. My mother was living with Gary and together they had seven children in that household, so once again not much time to deal with one child’s pain. However, I had your music. All of a sudden the songs I sang happily took on new meanings. ‘If I Didn’t Love You’, ‘Sixteen Years’, ‘I Want To Live With You’, ‘Stay’ and ‘I Want To Know What Love Is’ seemed to express what I was feeling and could not articulate at nine years of age.
I would repeat the lines,
“A man is beaten and he’s leaving now in the pouring rain.
A broken-hearted child is watching him through the window pane.
Every time a woman leaves her man, it makes me feel so old.”
Every night I sang these songs until the pain subsided or I fell asleep. Needless to say, I have bought ‘In Deep’ more than once and if I see it in a shop I find it hard to walk past it.
‘Just Me’ came out a few years later and I bought two copies one as a mother’s day gift and the other for my self. I loved this just as much as I’d loved the others. With songs like ‘But I lied’, ‘You Made Me Find Myself’ And ‘Woman’ among the others stood out and gave me the drive to sing at my high school. I quickly became the school’s female lead and often solo singer, constantly trying to convince my musical coach John Duncan to let me perform one of your songs. I performed a few; ‘Symphony of Life’, ‘Burn’, ‘I Want To Know What Love Is’ (Your version), ‘Wasn’t it Good’ and ‘Greatest Gift’. I couldn’t perform them as well as you, but I knew that the intention was right. I manipulated them to suite my vocal or emotional needs and did my best. It helped me out a lot in high school, people were nicer once they heard me sing, I guess they identified with me or worse could see I had pain.
‘Souvenirs’ I got afterwards as a gift from Auntie Kath and did I put it to good use. I would play all the songs, but when I played the Diana Ross song, ‘Enough is Enough’, I learnt both parts and when listening to the recording I would sing Miss Ross’s part, so that we were singing together. I also learnt the French songs on the album by heart and I don’t speak a second language. There was ‘Tu EsToujours La’, ‘Si je T’aimais Pas’ and ‘Je te Retrouve Un Peu’. In fact I knew them so well that John Duncan had me sing ‘Aller Plus Haut’ at an event in the city. Afterwards people came up and spoke to me in French, all I said was ‘We’, then they pointed out that I had an accent when I sang, so they should’ve known.
The ‘Greatest Hits’ album came out when I was turning fifteen years old and once again I was lucky enough that I could afford to go to the concert. My mother, Step-father and I went to the concert together. The concert was at the small Thebarton Theatre, and although I thought you could’ve sold out the Entertainment Centre, I liked that it was there because it was more intimate and I was three or four rows from the front. I was singing quietly away the whole time watching you. And a couple of times my step-father leant over and said,
“She looked right at you then, she can recognise her real fans or she was checking me out and you got in the way.”
I replied, “She might be looking ‘cause I know all the words or she could be looking at me thinking ‘Poor girl has to sit next to that creepy man’.”
Anyway moving on, half way through the performance you said,
“You can get up and dance”. Well with that I bolted to the front thinking everyone else would, but when I got there I was the only one up. You must have seen my embarrassment because you said,
“You’re the only one up here, do you still want to dance?”
How could I say no, I danced repeatedly looking at my parents. I think I cried I was so happy and overwhelmed. In fact I remember not sleeping at all that night. The song was ‘Now I Can Dance’, so whenever I hear that song I’m instantly reminded of that moment and uplifted by the memory.
The albums ‘Songs of Love and Loss V1’ and ‘Songs of Love and Loss V2’ I associate with moving out because I bought one when I left and the other for our house warming party. Repeating ‘Call Me’, ‘Both Sides Now’,
‘Only Women Bleed’, ‘Until/Ta Vie’ ,‘To Sir With Love’ and ‘The Man With The Child In His Eyes’. I also associate it with my Nan because she borrowed my staff discount card so that she could afford to buy both that week. It is also when you performed at ‘Barossa Under the Stars’ . I having just moved out at twenty and could not afford to get the ticket, so I begged everyone to lend me the money and everyone said no, not because they couldn’t or wouldn’t but because my step-father had already bought it for me. I swapped my shift, thanked my dad, packed my bag and went off to the concert. My mum, her friend Tiff and I went to the concert. We were situated at the front outside the barrier. I went and bought the Tina Arena Love and Loss top, when a woman came up to me and offered me one ticket to go inside the barrier to the seated area, which was closer. I offered it first to Mum and Tiff, but thank goodness they let me go in. This time I stood on my feet dancing, just listening. Then a young girl round my age waved me over to go up and dance, which I attempted, but I was being hunted down by a guard by you waved him off and I was allowed to dance. It was the happiest day I had ever had, but Mum’s single memory of the concert was watching you on the big screen to the right of the stage and seeing my head bopping from frame to frame.
‘7 Vies’ and ‘Strong as Steel’ were albums that I recently ordered and now obtain. Favourites on Strong as Steel ‘I Need Your Body’, ‘Strong as Steel’ and ‘Be a Man’. However, on ‘7 Vies’ every song is beautiful and strong. ‘7 Vies’ is definitely my favourite album so far. I love ‘Entends-tu Le Monde’, ‘Tu Porras Dire’, ‘Ta Vie’, ‘S’il M’est Donne’, ‘Ailleurs’ and ‘Hollywood Boulevard’ , although I have no idea what they are about, maybe I should learn French.
Most recently though I watched ‘An Audience With Tina Arena’ with my Nan at her house on Foxtel and I have to agree with Molly, “Better and Better.” Now I’m just waiting for my order of ‘The Best of Tina Arena’ DVD and album (Les Mellieur?). Throughout my life there has been one constant, I wish I could say it was a loved one, well I guess in a way it is, it has been your music, your voice. So I imagine that when I leave South Australia, a place that holds everyone and everything I have ever known, I wont be going alone and I wont be scared because your music once again your music will be with me.
So, if you’re ever in a lonely place, know that I’m with you, and I’m behind you all the way. Your music inspires and heals, you’ll never have to argue that because I’m proof of it.
Sharree Nicolle Spence