It started, she always said, with a smile. A young man's cocky, powerful, strangely sweet smile. Rosalie Cochran has seen many things in her eventful life, and it all comes back to that one smile.
"Walking in the Shadowlands", Clare Worley
*I know exactly when I fell in love with music: a woman sang a song on TV.
It was 1986, I was five. She danced around the Top of the Pops studio, her bright red hair flying and electric blue mini-dress shimmering. I saw the adoring audiences and wanted that for myself. She’d even been in a real rock band, my dad told me. She only had a first name! Who wouldn’t want to be Rosalie?
I competed to write the first authorised Shadowlands biography on a whim, hardly believing an obscure blogger would be chosen.
Yet I was, and now I’m to meet Rosalie herself in a park-view suite at the Dorchester Hotel on a sunny spring day in 2005.
Meeting the other Shadowlands alumni was nerve-wracking. This is terrifying. I’m shaky with sleep deprivation as I’m shown into a sitting room where Rosalie lounges on a plush cream sofa, an elegant crystal glass loose in her well-manicured hand.
She has the same sheen of casual magnificence I’ve experienced in almost every star I’ve met, but not quite as I’d expected. If she’s had work done on her smooth face it was sparing and expert, her poised figure is trim and her hair thick and dark, but she’s just not the girl who reigned at Knebworth.
I could slap myself: “Knebworth” was almost thirty years ago. Disappointment at meeting a straight-backed empress in exquisitely tailored silks instead of a leather-clad rock princess is unreasonable.
Always more captivating than outright gorgeous, Rosalie has aged well by any realistic standard for someone in her mid-fifties.
My vision swims and my left knee trembles as I strain to keep my body from displaying my nervousness.
‘Don’t be nervous,’ Rosalie demands, her familiar voice throaty. She summarily dismisses the fussing assistant who introduced me. ‘Anything you’ve heard about me is probably exaggerated.’
‘I interviewed JD Twain last month.’
‘Oh, in that case… It’s all thoroughly exaggerated. I’m your last interviewee, I believe?’
‘Yes, but I want your story in your own voice.’ I hope I sound professional as I sit down opposite her.
‘So.’ She leans in, expensive perfume in the air, blue eyes clear. My heart thunks, skips a beat or two and pounds. ‘Ask me about my life.’
I have three crucial questions in need of answers: How did she go from barmaid to backing singer to legend? Why did she leave one of rock music’s great bands so suddenly? Finally, who is the mysterious hermit who’s been writing fantastic songs for her all these years?
Starting with those would probably be a mistake.
‘Uh… where were you born?’ Inanity. I hate myself.
‘London N1, but that’s not your real question.’ Rosalie’s crimson smirk is mischievous, knowing. ‘You want to know about my life. My life began with a smile.’
‘Must’ve been an amazing smile.’ I pray my smart mouth hasn’t already got me fired.
Crimson curls up. ‘It certainly was.’