Stacey Q Biography
Stacey Swain was born on November 30, 1958 in Fullerton, California. She is the youngest of three children. Her mother, Joyce Swain, was a dog breeder whose Cardigan Welsh Corgis have appeared in various Hollywood films and television series. Swain once stated in a 1989 interview that she had asked for dance lessons as early as age three, but her mother "made me wait until I was five". By 1963, Swain was studying classical ballet and aspired to become a ballerina. In 1969, at age ten, Swain became the youngest member of the Dance Theater of Orange County, a local company that performed at benefit shows in Anaheim. She spent a total of eleven years studying ballet and flamenco dancing.
In 1970 Swain became an entertainer at Disneyland while completing dance training at the Wilshire Theater of Arts in Los Angeles. For three years, Swain participated in the Fantasy on Parade, an annual event scheduled every Christmas at the theme park. She performed in costume as the "Dutch Puppet", a name she used as a publishing alias during her early recording career. After graduating from Anaheim High School in 1976, Swain auditioned for and won a position in the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus, where she performed her first year as a showgirl and her second year as an elephant rider. Her first singing project began on Los Angeles radio, where she would introduce and announce programs impersonating members of The Go-Go's.
Main article: Q (band)
Swain was introduced to the recording industry by her then-boyfriend, a local musician. Her recording career began in 1981, when she met producer, future manager and longtime collaborator Jon St. James. St. James had also been a "sound-alike" announcer for Los Angeles radio and was proprietor of Fullerton's Casbah Recording Studio, which had hosted Berlin and Social Distortion.
“ Jon was a big fan of synth bands like Kraftwerk and M; when he met Stacey Swain in 1981, he knew right away that this impossibly stylish former Ringling Bros. elephant girl and veteran of the Disney Main Street parade possessed star qualities perfectly compatible with electronic music, a genre Stacey also adored. She was enamored with the obscure Japanese band The Plastics and The B-52's, and simply could not get over David Bowie. As a student of style, Swain could literally turn rags into a fashion statement. On one occasion she went to the renaissance fair in Agoura dressed simply in two large pieces of soft leather she bought from a shop in Anaheim. ”
In 1981 Swain and St. James formed the synthpop outfit Q composed of St. James on guitars, Dan Van Patten and John Van Tongeren on vocoder and synthesizer, and Swain as assistant producer. When the band was recording basic tracks for The Q EP, St. James realized someone was needed to provide vocals for the first track, "Sushi." Swain, who had previously recorded demos at St. James's studio, was asked to sing the lyrics, and her vocals were featured on the final record. Swain became the band's lead singer based on that performance, even though she still considers herself a dancer rather than a singer.
Main article: SSQ (band)
Although The Q EP received virtually no airplay outside of college radio, that was successful enough for St. James and Swain to continue on other projects. In 1982, Q reformed with two additional members, drummer Karl Moet and synth player Rich West. After the reformation, they were forced to change the name of Q because of copyright problems (famed producer Quincy Jones reportedly had "established use of the 'Q' moniker"). Swain explained many years later in a 2006 radio interview that the band was renamed SSQ after Jon St. James "was fishing in a lake 'no bigger than a bathtub' and made a joke that the boat was the 'S.S. Q,'" referring to the current band Q. St. James had another reason for the name: "SS" stood for "Stacey Swain", who had become the most recognized member of the band's limited success.
SSQ first released their debut album Playback in 1983 under Enigma Records. The video for the "Synthicide" single received some small airplay and brought some greater notice for the five-member band. Skip Hahn officially replaced John Van Tongeren just before the release of Playback.
In 1985 Swain signed a recording contract with On the Spot Records, an independent label. Her first solo single, "Shy Girl", was released the same year, while her first solo album, Stacey Q, was distributed in cassette format to limited release (the album contained an early version of "Two of Hearts", which originated with another artist, Sue Gatlin). As a solo artist, Swain adopted the name "Stacey Q" in reference to the original Q project.
“ In 1981, Q (the original project) was Jon, Dan and myself hence Jon Q, Dan Q and Stacey Q. Q, the original name of the project, references James Bond and the scientist responsible for all his high-tech gadgets. ”
"Shy Girl" and other singles collectively sold several thousands of copies, not staggering but enough to attract the attention of major record labels. Major label Atlantic Records offered Stacey Q a record deal in 1986 as a solo artist and she signed, with Jon St. James as manager, and the other members of SSQ as backup musicians. Better Than Heaven, her debut record for Atlantic, was recorded in three weeks, with tracks co-written by Berlin ("Better Than Heaven"), Jon Anderson of Yes ("He Doesn't Understand") and Willie Wilcox of Utopia ("We Connect").
"Two of Hearts" and Better Than Heaven
Swain's most successful stint as a recording was with this Atlantic Records debut album, which would spawn one top five hit and another modest top 40 hit. "Two of Hearts", the first single off the album, became a success, reaching No. 3 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. The song also hit the top 10 or top 20 in several other countries. The follow-up single, "We Connect", similar in sound to "Two of Hearts", was released in 1987, and reached the US top 40.
"Two of Hearts" received heavy radio airplay during the later half of 1986, and the music video for the single received hefty airplay on MTV. By the end of the year, Stacey Q had performed on several talk shows and appeared as a panel member on The Gong Show and The New Hollywood Squares. The album Better Than Heaven hit No. 59 on the US album chart and eventually obtained gold status. At the height of the success of "Two of Hearts", she was approached by "Weird Al" Yankovic for permission to record a parody single, "Two Pop-Tarts". The parody, however, was never released.
“ Royalties at the record company level were held up because of the 'Two of Hearts' songwriters, so we nicely advised our friend Al, 'Don't bother'. ”
Following the success of the single, Stacey Q embarked on a US and European club tour.
The Facts of Life
Later that same year, Stacey Q auditioned and won an acting role on the NBC sitcom The Facts of Life. Her first appearance on the sitcom was in an eighth season, fifth episode entitled "Off-Broadway Baby" premiered on Saturday November 1, 1986, where she performed "Two of Hearts" in character. In the episode, her character Cinnamon was an aspiring singer competing for the same role as Tootie in a Broadway musical. Stacey Q's second and final appearance on the show was in an eighth season, fifteenth episode entitled "A Star Is Torn" premiered on Saturday January 31, 1987, where she performed "We Connect", again as Cinnamon. That episode also featured George Burnett, a recurring character played by a young and then-unknown George Clooney. By this second of two episodes, Cinnamon and George start dating, and George announces his decision to become a roadie for Cinnamon's concert tour. The ending was written to explain Clooney's departure from the series.
Stacey Q released her second album, Hard Machine, in 1988. The artist changed her image for Hard Machine, dying her hair from blond to red (she is a natural brunette) and adopting a punk rock-influenced manner of dress. Hard Machine also employed other producers besides Jon St. James, resulting in a different musical direction. Hard Machine, however, was not nearly as successful as its predecessor, spawing no top 40 hits. The single "Don't Make A Fool Of Yourself" became a minor hit, peaking at No. 66 on the US Hot 100 (a remixed version by Shep Pettibone was a top five hit on the Hot Dance Chart). "Don't Make A Fool Of Yourself" was featured in an episode of Full House where Stacey Q briefly appeared as herself ("D.J. Tanner's Day Off"). "The River" and "Another Chance" were featured in the cult action film One Man Force, which Stacey Q had a special appearance in.
Nights Like This
Nights Like This, Stacey Q's third and final album by Atlantic Records, was released in 1989. The artist returned to dying her hair blond. Nights Like This was recorded with backing vocals by The Weather Girls, and the album's second single, "Heartbeat", featured backing vocals by Timothy B. Schmit of The Eagles. Nights Like This experimented instrumentally, including songs using Kawai keyboards. The members of SSQ had largely stopped working with Swain after the release of Hard Machine.
Stacey Q's second and third album Hard Machine and Nights Like This, respectively, did not outperform or even match the one major hit single that her debut album produced. As such, Atlantic did not renew her contract. After the release of Nights Like This, Stacey Q began another national tour performing at clubs across the United States. She continued to do some acting, appearing in an episode of the television series Mama's Family where she played a member of an all-girl band called "The Bonecrushers".
Post-1980s solo career
One-hit wonder status
By 1990, Stacey Q and Atlantic Records had parted ways, two years following the departure of her SSQ bandmates. In 1993, her first single of the new decade, "Too Hot For Love", was released by independent label Thump Records. The single was structured toward an early-1990s dance sound and featured sexually suggestive lyrics, representing another change in direction for the artist.
Thump Records gathered material from Stacey Q's debut Atlantic Records album, as well as material from her previous groups, and in 1995 released the album Stacey Q's Greatest Hits. The album is as close as a definitive collection from Swain's career as one can get since it also contained tracks from the groups Q and SSQ that had never been released on compact disc (including "The Model", which was recorded for the soundtrack of the 1986 film Crystal Heart). Most of the tracks were either slightly remixed or re-edited entirely from their original versions in an attempt to modernize them, and there are no songs included from her other two solo albums Hard Machine and Nights Like This.
Conversion to Buddhism
After deciding on a different direction for her future releases, Swain traveled to Tibet, where she was introduced to the monastic dance and song of the Far East. For a time she lived in Nepal, where she studied at monasteries with Buddhist lamas and was trained in the ancient art of cham dance. Swain's experience abroad resulted in the 1997 album Boomerang, a reflection of her conversion to Buddhism and her first new album in almost a decade. Though Boomerang didn't prove to be the comeback album some fans had hoped for, the follow-up single "Tenderness", a Janis Ian cover, hit No. 5 on the Jamaican charts.
Career to present
In the years following the release of Boomerang, Swain became a vocalist on records by various house musicians in the United States and Europe. She returned to acting with an appearance in the gay-themed art film Citizens of Perpetual Indulgence and a "special non-sexual appearance" in the gay porn film Playing the Odds. She later appeared with director Geoffrey Karen Dior on the compilation album Porn to Rock and Dior's 2001 album S E X, and also recorded an unreleased remix album including new versions of "Two of Hearts" and songs from Boomerang. In 2000 she returned to theater in "The Life of Padmasambhava", a musical dramatization of one of the most revered characters in Buddhism, produced by the San Francisco-based Namsay Dorje Theater Company. Swain played the lead female character, Yeshe Tsogyal, in a multicultural cast of actors and musicians.
In 2002 Swain appeared on the short-lived VH1 version of Never Mind the Buzzcocks as a guest star on the show's "Identity Parade" round. Her vocals were featured on "Hear The Feeling", a 2003 single by DJ Simply Jeff (credited as "Divine Frequency featuring Stacey Q") used for the soundtrack of a documentary on raves. In 2004 Swain became a voice actor by providing the voice of "Karin Kikuhara" on the English-language version of Stratos 4, a Japanese anime series. Later she appeared as one of the female singers on the debut album of the Echo Junkies, a duo formed in 2004 by Jon St. James and Skip Hahn.
"Two of Hearts" has been featured on the soundtracks of three recent motion pictures: Little Nicky, Party Monster and the Andy Samberg comedy Hot Rod.
In 2008 Swain provided guest vocals on Liquid, the debut album of the Australian-American rock duo Hydra Productions. The album featured appearances by other dance-pop artists of the 1980s, including Tiffany and Gioia Bruno of Exposé. In November of that year she performed "Two of Hearts" on CBS's The Early Show as part of the show's 1980s flashback segment.
Stacey Q's "Two of Hearts" appeared as the "Lipsynch for Your Life" elimination, between Morgan McMichaels and Sonique, challenge on the February 22, 2010 episode of RuPaul's Drag Race. She appeared as a student on the second season finale of RuPaul's Drag U on August 29, 2011.