HIT LIST

Poster girl of ’80s pop Tay­lor Dayne cel­e­brates 30 years in mu­sic ahead of an Aus­tralian tour.

Sunday Herald Sun - Stellar - - Contents - Words by NI­CHOLAS FONSECA

Don’t feel sorry for Tay­lor Dayne, even if you pre­sume you should. This Novem­ber, the singer will visit Aus­tralia as part of a na­tion­wide retro con­cert tour called 80s Ma­nia. For many, see­ing her name along­side the likes of Wang Chung, Go West and Cut­ting Crew con­jures fond mem­o­ries of youth­ful nights out – all hair mousse and acid-washed jeans.

It may also con­jure up con­cern. Is this re­ally what Dayne wants to be do­ing with her nights at age 55? Hasn’t she tired of belt­ing out the same old tracks? Is it not a bit… de­mor­al­is­ing? Not one bit, Dayne says. “Peo­ple want to hear the hits,” she tells Stel­lar. “As a con­sumer, I’d be do­ing the same thing. You have to pack­age and pro­mote th­ese things in a way that lets the pub­lic know they’re get­ting the most for their buck.”

TAY­LOR DAYNE BROKE onto the mu­sic scene in late 1987 with ‘Tell It To My Heart’, a fran­tic dance track that caught fire in Euro­pean night­clubs quicker than an­tic­i­pated. “It was overnight stardom,” Dayne says. “Ev­ery­thing was catch-up. We had to make a video. We didn’t even have a record [ready]. I was just a wo­man in my early 20s, work­ing in a Rus­sian night­club and go­ing to the stu­dio at two or three in the morn­ing to lay down tracks. I was so sick of be­ing in bands by then; I wanted to go solo.

“We bor­rowed money from my fa­ther and we made ‘Tell It To My Heart’. I got that track off a guy I went to high school with who was work­ing at [a mu­sic la­bel]. We were hus­tlin’.”

In­stead of doom­ing her into cre­ative paral­y­sis, the huge suc­cess of ‘Tell It To My Heart’ kick-started a tri­umphant run for Dayne, whose first seven sin­gles hit the Top 10 in her na­tive USA. “‘Tell It To My Heart’ is just one of those songs,” she says. She qui­etly sings a few lines of Katy Perry’s ‘I Kissed A Girl’ and ex­plains:

“A smash is a smash. What’s not to like? Plus, I had the per­son­al­ity to back it up.”

She also had the voice. In her youth, Dayne un­der­took op­er­atic train­ing to hone her tech­nique, and calls those classes “the best thing I ever did”. Her pipes re­main her great­est as­set – she’s been la­belled the “white Tina Turner” and at her peak was con­sid­ered a ri­val to Whit­ney Hous­ton and Cé­line Dion.

“I’m vo­cal­is­ing ev­ery day as I’m on tour so of­ten,” Dayne says. “You don’t have the lux­ury of putting your voice in a case when you’re a singer. [A band mem­ber] might get to put their gui­tar away and have din­ner. But I’m al­ways us­ing that mus­cle. Be­cause I love to talk… and have a cock­tail… and shoot the sh*t.”

Aside from her Aus­tralian trek and a multi-date tour that spans Amer­ica’s north­ern sum­mer, the singer’s 2017 sched­ule is a hec­tic mix of cruise and casino gigs, gay pride par­ties, a state fair, an Os­car event, and a “Mother’s Day Mega 80’s Fes­ti­val” in Hawaii.

There is good money to be made from em­bark­ing on th­ese nos­tal­gia trips, which keep Dayne in con­tact with fans. She says she “took it per­son­ally” when her tracks sud­denly stopped chart­ing in the mid ’90s, but finds that kind of ac­com­plish­ment prac­ti­cally ir­rel­e­vant in the stream­ing era. “What is ra­dio any­more? What is Top 40? I make my own ra­dio sta­tion hap­pen now.”

The crowds ex­pect Dayne to per­form the same 10 or so hits at ev­ery stop – they want to hear bal­lad ‘Love Will Lead You Back’ and the mid-tempo ‘I’ll Be Your Shel­ter’. Dayne knows this, draw­ing on her own ex­pe­ri­ence as a punter to keep her­self in check. “When I go see Tom Petty, do you think I want to hear a new record, start to fin­ish? No! I want to hear his stuff with the Heart­break­ers.”

Be­sides, she adds, “au­di­ences change ev­ery night”. She re­calls a stint on Broad­way in the early 2000s, when she head­lined El­ton John’s mu­si­cal Aida. “Noth­ing is more gru­elling than live the­atre,” Dayne says. “You’re say­ing the same words, the same way, ev­ery sin­gle night.” At con­certs, “I get to be me. I get to sing my mu­sic based on the en­ergy the au­di­ence is giv­ing back to me. I can change notes, I can do what­ever I want. Good things can hap­pen.”

DAYNE’S SUR­VIVAL IN­STINCT – along with her pas­sion for mu­sic – are in her DNA. Raised in Long Is­land by way of the Bronx and Man­hat­tan as the daugh­ter of Jack and Laura Wun­der­man (her birth name is Les­lie Wun­der­man), Dayne speaks with the force and brag­gado­cio of a na­tive New Yorker as she talks about her par­ents, “typ­i­cal Jewish pa­trons of the arts” who dragged her to ob­scure the­atre shows in Man­hat­tan. “We didn’t see Peter Pan. We would see Wait­ing For Godot. And I was like, ‘Why am I here?’” At 15, Dayne saw the Tony-win­ning mu­si­cal Ain’t Mis­be­havin’ in its orig­i­nal cabaret form. “I’m in the au­di­ence with 20 other peo­ple, cafe-style, Mum lets me have a wine… that was earth-shat­ter­ing.”

Dayne says that her par­ents were “ab­so­lutely sup­port­ive” of her de­ci­sion to be­come a singer and “the ra­dio was my best friend grow­ing up. I slept next to it.” How­ever, her child­hood mem­o­ries are tinged with more than the usual melan­choly. Look­ing back, she re­calls, “Sun­day was the only day when there might have been some peace in our house – no scream­ing or yelling, as long as Dad was in a good mood.”

Pressed to ex­plain, she says, “My house­hold was on the ag­gres­sive, rag­ing side. And I would say that was be­ing chil­dren of first-gen­er­a­tion Holo­caust-sur­viv­ing par­ents. There was a lot of stuff go­ing on there. We will never un­der­stand that pain and strug­gle. My mother and fa­ther held on to each other tightly – and then not so tightly.”

Dayne has never mar­ried, but in 2001 she be­came a mother when a sur­ro­gate gave birth to twins As­taria and Levi. Now 15, they join their mother far less than they used to when she em­barks on tours. And it sounds as if she has made the same sort of peace with their break­away as she has with the nu­mer­ous shifts in her ca­reer.

“If I see them in the au­di­ence, it’s rare. They would re­ally rather be at camp, or in the city, or with their friends. I un­der­stand that. I wouldn’t wish it on any­body to be on a tour bus with me!” The 80s Ma­nia tour starts in Can­berra on Novem­ber 2; ab­stracten­ter­tain­ment.net.

THE WAY SHE WAS (clock­wise from far left) Af­ter 30 years in mu­sic, Tay­lor Dayne will be back in Aus­tralia to tour this year; her 1988 break­through al­bum Tell It To My Heart went dou­ble-plat­inum; rocking big hair circa 1985; hit­ting a high note in LA this year; her twins As­taria and Levi; in the clip for 1990 power bal­lad ‘Love Will Lead You Back’; her ‘Tell It To My Heart’ video; the 1988 smash sin­gle ‘Prove Your Love’.

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