Clare Grogan

The Altered Images star, actor, presenter and all-round fine human, Clare Grogan reveals a few of her formative influences


“My mum was an absolute film nut and we lived in the centre of Glasgow, next to the big ABC cinema. I used to go to quite a lot of matinees with my mum as a teeny tot and watch movies. I have a memory of sitting on my mum’s knee watching lots of great women like Doris Day, Shirley MacLaine, a really young Goldie Hawn, Audrey Hepburn of course, so I’ve grown up feeling really passionate about lots of different films. My dad was more of the music fan, so we were split right down the middle. My dad’s still around, he’s 90, and he went to see acts like Bill Haley & His Comets and Frank Sinatra. Just amazingly iconic people.”


“The biggest influence in my life has been my mother in so many ways. She brought me up to think anything was possible for a girl and I value that more than anything. In terms of music, when I was too young to go to gigs my big sister Margaret would come home and re-enact them for me. We were huge Roxy Music fans and obviously we loved Bowie, she still does amazing Bowie and Bryan Ferry impressions. She also took me to my first-ever gig, the Bay City Rollers at the Apollo in Glasgow. I talk a lot about Siouxsie Sioux being a big influence, but there was also Poly Styrene, The Slits, the Mo-Dettes, Debbie Harry obviously, all those women who just seemed… they were just themselves. They made me think it was possible that girls like me could become lead singers. I’m hugely grateful to all the amazing women who were around at that time.”


“Acting came first,and I was fortunate to go to an all-girls’ school with a big music and drama department. I think I always wanted to stand out. We had a beauty contest in school and I went as Miss Alternative wearing a bin bag. Debbie Harry used to wear bin bags so I thought, ‘Right, that’s going to be my look’. And I won! When I was 14, I was at the Scottish Youth Theatre doing Chekhov, so it was a happy accident that I became the singer of Altered Images. They were all schoolboys and Johnny [McElhone], who went on to be phenomenally successful with Hipsway and Texas, his big brother Jerry was going out with my big sister Kathleen and they asked her if she wanted to be in their band. She said no because they were younger than her, but she said, ‘Maybe Clare will do it’. So I did!”


“There’s three of us and we were always either the best of friends… or not. We used to fight a lot when were younger. The nature of being close means that you’re gong to fall out now and again, it’s whether you can get over those moments. We still have an amazing relationship, both my sisters are a very big part of my life. It’s always been the way. My eldest sister Margaret worked for British Airways when we were younger. She got amazing travel deals for the three of us, so we’d be flying around going to really nice places, south of France, Rome, all around Europe…”


“I don’t get the chance as much as I used to, but I do love to read. When I first started with the band, I’d signed up going, ‘Yeah, I can be the singer, that’s fine’, but I was also expected to write songs! I was like, ‘No, I don’t do that, I don’t think that’s going to work’. But Johnny was insistent, he said, ‘If you want to be in the band, you have to write songs’, and he bought me a book of poetry, which I still have, called ‘Les Fleurs Du Mal’ by Charles Baudelaire. That was a great way to start to thinking about writing songs.”


“It’s where I went to record my solo album, that never came out, but it’s where I fell in love with my husband Stephen Lironi. He was in Altered Images and came to work with me on my solo album. We’d been really good friends since the band broke up and I realised that, even though I wasn’t going to be in a band with him anymore, he was still going to be part of my life. I had no idea how big a part of my life that was going to be. I don’t think he’d realised it either! So we went to New York for a month to write and record with various people and I guess we just grew closer together. Not everyone can work with their partner. We will fall out over just about everything in life, but not when we’re writing songs together.”


“There are times in my life that have been like a soap opera. I’ve had to deal with some really big things so much so that sometimes I’ve had to detach myself and view the situation as a fictional thing, as if I was reading it as a story. I’d decide who I want to be in that story, and what that outcome for that person should be. Of course, there are situations in life where you can’t do that, but I do go, ‘Right, who do I want to be in this? What’s the outcome for this character?’. I think I’m generally predisposed to being a happy person, but quite a lot of shit has got in the way of that over the years. Quite often I think, ‘You know what? Let’s put on some Sister Sledge’.”

Altered Images’ ‘The Epic Years’ CD boxset is out on Cherry Red

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