RIP Genevieve Waite
When it appeared in 1974, Genevieve Waite’s Romance is on the Rise was part of a reaction to the hippie hegemony, taking its place in a movement that included Roxy Music’s first album and Bette Midler, Studio 54 and Big Biba, Andy Warhol’s Interview and its UK counterpart, Ritz. Out went denim and bucksin fringes, in came satin and tat. The irony was that Romance is on the Rise, with its nostalgic evocations of a gilded age, was produced and mostly written by John Phillips, the composer of “San Francisco (Be Sure to Wear Flowers in Your Hair)” and “California Dreamin'”.
This antidote to the prevailing counter-culture was bracing and fun, even though nobody bought it. “They say that love is coming back / They say romance is on the rise,” Waite announced in the album’s opening lines, before offering advice on how to cope with a volte-face in sexual manners: “Open that door, light her cigarette / Say she looks nice and see what you get.” In “White Cadillac” she deployed her little-girl voice to serenade a wealthy admirer with an amusing cynicism: “You were born rich but not so smart / I was born poor but with a great big wonderful heart…” In “Girls”, a song that might have become a standard, she crooned: “Girls’ll run around in your head / Till you wish you liked boys instead / Girls’ll make you feel so bad / That you’ll wish you’d never been had.” It was not a record you’d want to listen to every day, but the strength of Phillips’s songwriting and the very sparing use of period pastiche in the arrangements add durability to its air of throwaway sophistication.
Two years later Waite and Phillips were living in London, where Phillips was working on the soundtrack for Nicolas Roeg’s The Man Who Fell to Earth. They came to see me at Island Records, looking for a contract. Genevieve had recorded the title song, but her version wasn’t included in the film, although John’s demo turned up a few years ago in an expanded reissue of the soundtrack. (There’s an excellent piece on the background to the story by Chris Campion, Phillips’ authorised biographer, here.)
They were married, not uneventfully, from 1972 to 1988. John died in 2001, aged 65, of a heart attack. Genevieve died this week, aged 71, of undisclosed causes; here’s an LA Times obituary, describing her life in the celebrity zoo. Apart from a couple of film appearances (Joanna in 1968 and Move in 1970), Romance is on the Rise is what she leaves behind.
* Originally released on the Paramour label, Romance is on the Rise was reissued on CD in an expanded version by Chrome Records in 2004. The cover of Interview featuring Phillips and Waite is from the issue of September 1974.