Printer Friendly

I miss my Japanese Boy but it was fun while it lasted; GRAN TURNS BACK TIME TO REMEMBER HER DAYS AS A GLOBAL POPSTAR.

Byline: Peter Robertson

AS she greets tourists sharing a detailed knowledge of one of Scotland's oldest cities, few holidaymakers would realise their grey-haired guide used to be one of the country's most famous pop singers.

Exactly 30 years ago, Mary Sandeman was No.1 in Britain and nine other countries with the song Japanese Boy.

Known as Aneka and dressed as a geisha girl, she would go on to sell five million copies of the song, jet around the world and even get a kiss from Paul McCartney.

Today, Mary, 64, is a grandmother and helps out as a guide for a friend in Stirling, taking tourists around the city's old town and castle.

She said: "I find it strange that anybody is interested. It's such a long time ago. It's incredible that 30 years have passed since then - I can hardly believe it.

'I even managed a "Last week I introduced myself to a group of Americans and I said I used to be a singer, which prompted lots of questions. Japanese Boy came up in the conversation and they asked me to sing, but I very coyly explained that I have retired."

Mary was a well-known folk singer when a Scottish songwriter Bob Heatlie, who would go on to write several hits for Shakin' Stevens, gave her the song but asked her to change her name to make her more exotic.

Mary explained: "They said there was no way I could use my own name. So, in front of me, they got the Edinburgh phone book and, not far down the As, they found Aneka and asked 'How do you like the sound of this?' "I said 'It sounds fine', but it was rather surreal.

"I felt a bit like a soap product.

"Aneka was somebody's surname, and he got some publicity at the time."

Mary remembers that things moved quickly once the record received radio airplay.

She said: "I did several concerts as Aneka but I continued with my normal singing. The night Japanese Boy went to No.1, I was doing a show at the Edinburgh Festival.

toget kiss from Paul McCartney' "Afterwards, I was due to go out and celebrate with Bob Heatlie and a couple of other guys who were involved. But we found that Bob's car wouldn't start and we had to push it along an Edinburgh street while laughing our heads off and saying 'It's tough at the top, isn't it?'" Japanese Boy also topped the charts in Canada, France, Germany, Norway, Sweden, Spain, Portugal and Austria, while it got to No.15 in America.

Mary, who had two young sons and was married to a GP, had her parents babysit while she went on international tours.

She said: "In places like France, Germany and Holland, people were surprised that this tall Scottish SMOOCH J McCartney'otherof-two got off a plane instead of a small Japanese woman that they expected.

"I once found myself, as a Scot, making a television appearance in Belgium being made-up to look Japanese by a Spaniard and then doing an interview in French. After w 'There's no point going beyond performing Japanese Boy, I took off the wig, sang a Gaelic song, and later wondered 'What is going on?'" Ironically, Japanese Boy never took off in Japan so Mary never visited there.

sell-date' J n J vi "that Chine Suc addre "A comment came back that apparently it sounded too Chinese," she recalls.

Success was such that a fan-letter addressed to "Aneka, Scotland" actually reached Mary. Though she wasn't pleased with all her mail.

She said: "I got a peculiar letter from somebody wanting me to walk off into the sunset with him. That was strange."

Being a married mum meant Mary didn't get too involved in the trappings of stardom or the music industry.

She said: "That world is a shark's pool and people are out to make money and to use you.

"I had a fantastic agent at the time and we had a lot of fun and laughs even in trying situations. He kept my feet firmly on the ground."

Did she not make a fortune then? "I didn't particularly, no. But I don't feel it's to do with physical wealth - it's to do with mental wealth. Anyway, at that time I was married to a doctor so things were okay."

Mary's spell as a pop star meant she met quite a lot of well-known names.

"I felt rather like a fly-on-the-wall and not me as a real person," she explains before dropping names such as Soft Cell, Shakin Stevens and Kirsty MacColl.

"I even got a kiss from Paul McCartney," she added. "That was about 20 years ago at a No.1s party at Abbey Road studios. Sting, Cliff Richard, Russ Conway and goodness knows how many others were there.

"I was introduced to Paul, he said something complimentary, leant forward and gave me a kiss. I think I laughed and giggled mightily, and so did (his then wife) Linda!" These days Mary is chairperson of the Gaelic Language Promotion Trust and lives alone. At 38, she was divorced from husband Angus.

The couple have two sons - Duncan, now 41, a fulltime piper, and Iain, now 39, who works as a rope access technician on oil rigs. She reveals that a on your by tragedy and sense of family may have stopped her from becoming your typical pop star. "I worry about my family all of the time," admits Mary, partly because she lost her only sibling when she was 28 and he was 25.

Mary went on: "My brother David was a civil engineer who played bagpipes on the ceilidh circuit. He was a great guy. He died as a result of a flying accident in 1975, piloting a plane. It didn't get enough lift and it went straight into the loch."

As Aneka, Mary released two subsequent singles - Little Lady and Ooh Shooby Doo Doo Lang. Neither sold well here, nor did her album.

She added: "Some of the follow-ups did okay in France and Germany but not in the UK, which was more of a fickle market. So I've got the 'one-hit wonder' tag here."

In the Nineties, Mary decided to stop singing for good. She said: "There's just no point in going on beyond your sell-by date. I don't even sing around the house any more."


SMOOCH J McCartney DAY JOB J Tour guide Mary Sandeman at the Stirling Highland Hotel, left, and in Japanese dress, main TRAGICJ Mary's brother David Sandeman TURNING ZJAPANESE Mary sings as alter ego Aneka at the height of her fame in the Eighties
COPYRIGHT 2011 Scottish Daily Record & Sunday
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2011 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Aug 18, 2011
Previous Article:'Crazy' Salmond loses his cool at school.
Next Article:CARLOS IN GERS EURO DASH; Bocanegra jets in to face Maribor after signing late-night Ibrox deal BEDOYA IN.

Terms of use | Privacy policy | Copyright © 2018 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters