The week after next, on Wednesday 24 October the team at the Royal Vauxhall Tavern will be welcoming legendary American vocal group The Three Degrees to the Vauxhall venue. The group have been performing since the 60s with hits such as Giving Up Giving In, Woman In Love, Year of Decision, The Runner, Take Good Care of Yourself, Dirty Ol’ Man, My Simple Heart and the classic number one When Will I See You Again. Dave Cross spoke to Helen Scott (pictured centre) who has been in the line up for more than 40 years.
Hi Helen, it’s lovely to speak to you, are you looking forward to being at the Royal Vauxhall Tavern?
Most definitely and I can’t believe we haven’t been there before.
The band has been going since the early 60s, is it true you are the longest running female group in the world?
Well, apparently there’s no category for that in the Guinness Book of Records, but yes we are, through various line ups.
Tell us your story with the group: you started, then left, and then came back?
I started singing with the group when I was in high school for a while and then I left, and then I came back in 1976 and I’m still here.
The group had a number of hits in the early 70s that have really stood the test of time, like Year of Decision, Take Good Care of Yourself, and When Will I See You Again. What is it about those songs that has made them last?
All of those songs were part of the Philadelphia sound, a blend of soul and pop, which came along in the 70s, following on from Motown in the 60s. It covered a wide range of artists but the most important thing is, and I want to say this, it’s down to the songwriting and production of Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff.
With a song like When Will I See you Again, you must have sung that thousands of time, do you still enjoy performing it?
There’s not that many artists that get to have a song like When Will I See You Again. A song that has extended its life across the decades and become your signature song. You have songs that become hits, but that song has become something more than that; it’s part of people’s lives and you’d be amazed the stories people tell us. It’s stood the test of time and I love singing it every time and I love the reaction of the crowd.
All of your records have a very distinctive sound, with amazing vocal harmonies, so much more than ‘just backing vocals’. On a track like Dirty Ol’ Man they sound like a wall of sound…
Well thank you. Yes that’s definitely our signature sound and we’ve worked hard to perfect it.
I love Dirty Ol’ Man, which now sounds like an anthem for the Me Too movement…
I guess it could be, yes. That song is funny because there have been times when we’ve not sung it because we didn’t think it was appropriate, like at a charity event or something similar, but it’s fun to perform.
You had another run of hits with the two disco albums produced by Georgio Moroder, who was the biggest producer in the world at that time. What can you tell me about recording those albums?
Working on those albums was one of the best experiences I think we’ve ever had in the studio. Georgio would tell us what he wanted and leave us to work out the harmonies and it was so much fun.
Giving Up Giving In is a fantastic song, a disco classic from that time and still sounds amazing…
Thank you again, and it’s such a great song to perform.
And after all this time you seem to be as busy as ever with gigs?
I’m proud and grateful to say that we are still working quite a bit, yes. We just love getting out there and meeting people and new audiences, and we are very excited to see you and all your readers at The RVT.