Twenty years ago: Songbird number one!

In November 2000 Blix Street Records sent record plugger Tony Bramwell the videotape that Bryan McCulley had made of the band’s live recording for Live At Blues Alley. Eva’s performance of ‘Over The Rainbow’ that night was far from perfect, with problems in image and sound quality, but it was genuine and utterly endearing. Tony believed the footage could make Songbird an even bigger hit album, and sent the tape to Top Of The Pops. Not being in the market for unknown singers with a cold and five-year-old black and white homemade films, producer Mark Hagen thought it too much of a risk to broadcast. But this was the best footage of Eva singing live and Tony believed in it. He suggested they use the clip at the end of the Top Of The Pops on December 13, 12 days before Christmas. That way, if people turned off they’d be doing so at the end of the programme.

Tony Bramwell

Tony Bramwell

But viewers didn’t turn off; in fact quite the opposite. The audience loved the clip and in the coming weeks it was requested again and again. Tony Bramwell stated in several interviews that the audience had made the connection between the old song they had enjoyed so much on Wogan’s radio show more than a year before and the Blues Alley clip. They were as moved by seeing Eva for the first time as they were by her beautiful voice and tragic story. They appreciated the purity of Eva’s music, free of theatrics and heavy production.

Eva in Blues Alley

Eva in Blues Alley

From that moment on the press became fascinated by Eva’s life story. Martin Jennings received phone calls from the BBC, ITN, all the top newspapers, GMTV and Time Magazine. A report on Tonight With Trevor McDonald was aired in March 2001 and that same week Eva Cassidy’s Songbird outsold Dido’s massive hit record No Angel, becoming the UK’s number one album.

Eva’s success was soon repeated in other countries, including Denmark, Sweden, Germany, The Netherlands, Romania and Australia.

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