Wendy James

by John-Paul Pryor

The legendary rocker wants to know whether you have the price of the ticket, punk?
The name Wendy James is synonymous with one of the most successful punk-pop acts of the late-80s. Transvision Vamp sold millions of records worldwide and James became the pin-up of for an entire generation. Nearly thirty years later and she is one of New York’s favorite adopted daughters, and is the inimitable talent at the beating heart of a supergroup of legendary rock’n’rollers gleaned from The Stooges, The Sex Pistols and The Bad Seeds.

Here, she talks to Flaunt about her new solo album The Price of the Ticket, her definition of beauty and why it’s important to never stop giving it your all.

How would you say have you evolved since the heady days of Transvision Vamp?

Transvision Vamp were informed by Marc Bolan, The Velvet Underground, 50s rock’n’roll, 70s power pop, perfect three-minute pop-songs and the attitude of The Shangri-Las, The Ronettes and Martha Reeves and The Vandellas to name but three. My job was to present, to deliver… and did I ever! It’s natural for me to sing and dance; it’s a natural state of being for me. The passion and technique and never-ending fascination with song writing came later, and only then do I think I became the full-deal.

How did you manage to pull a supergroup together consisting of a Sex Pistol, a Bad Seed and a member of The Stooges?

Glen Matlock I’ve known all my adult life. He’s a lovely, loyal friend, so I asked him to play my album. James Sclavunos, I met in the bar of the Bowery Hotel in NYC! I messaged him on Facebook him when I got home directly that night – we felt we would be friends and we began to talk about working together. James Williamson was also directly through FB! I saw a comment on a friend’s page from a ‘James Williamson’ and I thought – ‘Can that be THE James Williamson?’ and sure enough, it was! We messaged (after a year!) and decided we wanted to work together. We needed a drummer so, Eureka! I messaged James Sclavunos. Then I needed a guitarist for the whole album, alongside Glen and James, and someone I was talking to in NYC said, ‘Why don’t you ask Lenny Kaye?’ I have loved Lenny Kaye since the very first time I heard ‘Piss Factory’ and ‘Rock’n’Roll Nigger!’

As someone who was a pin-up for a generation, what is your definition of beauty?

A good and generous and open and strong and faithful heart is surely beauty – a quiet and constant character that shines through the eyes and is everlasting kindness. Love is Beauty. Love requires an acceptance that one cannot impose one’s choices on another person - a tall order in the face of the cruelties humans bring upon each other. I see little gain from being a martyr or a sacrifice, still Mahatma Ghandi and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. are two icons of pacifism and beauty, I would say.

What made you relocate to New York?

The first time I went to NYC and walked down 5th Avenue and 57th street, on to Madison, on to Lexington, down to Union Square, down to The Bowery, down to Chinatown, down to Wall Street, I knew I’d be back to live. I wanted the wide avenues, I wanted the tall skyscrapers, I wanted the neon signs, I wanted Times Square, I wanted the Brooklyn Bridge and the Williamsburg Bridge and the Mid-Town Tunnel, I wanted the Gramercy Park Hotel, I wanted the Chelsea Hotel, I wanted CBGB, I wanted Hells Kitchen, I wanted Chinatown, I wanted it all!

What do you get from performance that you don’t get from anything else?

Agility, impulse, instinct, adrenalin, the survival of the fittest, reaching for yet more, pushing oneself beyond anything one thinks possible of oneself, pushing like an athlete to go faster, harder, deeper, more gentle, more whispering, more rasping, more begging, more aching, more, more, more, more rhythm, more melody, more… To give it all. To give it all.

Wendy James' The Price of the Ticket is available now.