Despite topping the UK charts in 1965 with Where are you now (my love), British singer Jackie Trent’s duties as lyricist for tunesmith boyfriend (and later, husband) Tony Hatch often left her having to choose between her own recording career and providing material for Petula Clark and others.
She was born Yvonne Burgess on 6 September 1940 in Newcastle-under-Lyme, in England’s West Midlands.
She showed a natural talent for music from an early age – she gave up piano lessons after three lessons, for example, because she could play the songs she heard without reading the music.
Her first stage appearance was in a production of Babes in the woods in nearby Stoke-on-Trent while she was still at junior school. Aged 11, she went semi-professional, performing in social clubs in the area. She adopted the stage name Jackie Tremayne for a while (arguing that nobody could pronounce Yvonne), but by the age of 14 she had changed it to Jackie Trent, after the local river.
She headed for London in 1955 and her powerful voice earned her work singing for British servicemen stationed throughout Europe.
The experience she gained paid off, and in 1962 she was offered a recording contract with the Oriole label, where she issued two singles, Pick up the pieces and The one who really loves you.
Neither was a hit and Jackie switched to Piccadilly, an offshoot of Pye, in 1963. Melancholy me was issued as her debut release for the label, in May that year. Though she is dismissive of the song and certainly the chirpiness of the tune is at odds with its lyrics, it retains a certain charm.
The coupling of the Phil Spector sound and an Edith Piaf song (Hymne à l’amour) was an unlikely choice for Jackie’s follow up single, issued in early 1964, but a great one. Indeed, her If you love me has gone on to became a favourite with fans. The B-side, Only one such as you, penned by Chris Andrews – the man behind most of Sandie Shaw’s successes – is also well thought of.
France was again the source of two further releases that year, Autumn leaves and I heard somebody say (the latter was also recorded by yé-yé girl Sylvie Vartan). Both singles were issued on the main Pye label, where Jackie remained for the rest of the decade and into the 1970s.
By this time, she was keen to prove herself as more than a singer. She had been writing poetry from an early age and over the years this progressed into penning song lyrics. Her final release of 1964, Don’t stand in my way, was her first A-side on which she had collaborated with Pye producer/A&R man Tony Hatch.
The pair would go on to write numerous hits together – and also become romantically involved. This didn’t sit well with Petula Clark, whose career Hatch was by then masterminding. Hatch was married at the time and Petula was friendly with his wife. Jackie’s brasher personality also jarred with that of the more established star and particularly with that of her husband. Jackie and Petula eventually struck up a friendship, which endures today.
Hatch was commissioned to write a song to be featured in the 1965 Granada TV series It’s dark outside, and he asked Jackie to supply lyrics for the tune. Her recording of it, Where are you now (my love), topped the UK charts in May that year. However, the 45 was not one aimed at teenage record buyers, and it earned Jackie a reputation as a middle-of-the-road singer.
The soundalike follow up, When summertime is over (a top 40 hit – just – in July that year) and an album, The magic of Jackie Trent, which included standards such as Fly me to the moon and Rodgers and Hart’s Little girl blue, confirmed this view.
However, if It’s all in the way you look at life, issued in October 1965, marked the beginnings of a musical departure, things cranked up several gears with her January 1966 cover of The Ronettes’ You baby. The song has found lasting popularity on the northern soul dance scene but bombed at the time. The B-side, Send her away, is almost as popular and was also recorded as Alles okay for the German market, where it became the B-side of Jackie’s only German-language release, Bye bye my love (Auf wiedersehn).
Another dance floor filler, Love is me, love is you, was issued as the follow up in March that year. The song was a Trent-Hatch composition that should have been a huge hit. Sadly, it marked the end of Jackie’s flirtation with a beat sound. (Truly Smith also recorded a version of the song.)
If you ever leave me, a song she and Hatch had originally written for Jack Jones, was issued a single in the summer of 1966. The B-side was a powerhouse performance of There goes my love, there goes my life, a French song that Petula Clark had helped to write. It is ironic that Jackie should issue a version of a Petula song, when her own chart career was foundering precisely because she was giving much of her best material to the bigger star. Indeed, I couldn’t live without your love had originally been intended as a single for Jackie but was recorded instead by Petula and became a big international success.
With Cilla Black and Dusty Springfield enjoying massive hits with songs of Italian origin, Jackie and Hatch penned the big Italian-esque ballad Open your heart, which was issued in January 1967 (she also cut the song in Italian, as Il mondo degli altri). The original was included on the Once more with feeling LP, which is notable for the catchy Take me away and the dramatic Van McCoy-penned Either way I lose (originally recorded by Gladys Knight and the Pips).
In March 1967 she issued a credible version of Cat Stevens’ Humming bird, while at the end of the year, That’s you, another Chris Andrews composition, was released as a single. A further album, Stop me and buy one, also hit the shops.
Jackie and Hatch married in Kensington, London, in August 1967. Earning themselves the moniker Mr and Mrs Music, they hosted a Yorkshire TV special the following year and later began recording duets, including the Australian chart topper The two of us.
On the solo front, Jackie’s march into MOR continued throughout 1968 with the singles With every little tear and Hollywood (though the B-side of the latter, 7.10 to suburbia, has become a fan favourite).
I’ll be there, taken from the album The look of love, gave Jackie her third and final top 40 hit in April 1969.
She then began touring in a production of Nell, in which she played the lead role of Nell Gwynn. Further stage projects followed, with Jackie and Hatch writing the scores for The card in 1973 and Rock nativity the following year. Jackie’s recording career became more intermittent during this period.
In 1978, she and Hatch moved to Ireland for four years, where they hosted a couple of television series, before heading to Australia. They remained down under for 13 years, and during this period they penned one of their best-known songs, the theme tune to the soap opera Neighbours.
In 1992, the pair were honoured with the award for services to British music by the British Society of Songwriters, Composers and Authors.
The couple separated in 1995, and Jackie returned to the UK stage, touring in a production of High society.
Their divorce was granted in 2001, and four years later Jackie married Colin Gregory.
Sadly, Jackie died in March 2015.