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- copyright © 2003 "A New Day" / David Rees. All rights
Webmaster's note: Legendary former Tull orchestral
leader and keyboardist David
Palmer is now a woman.
David Rees, who publishes the famous independent Tull fan magazine "A
New Day," has kindly given us permission to post this article
from his magazine. Dee provides a very frank, open discussion of her decision
with David Rees and Martin Webb. Please note the entire interview is copyright © 2003
New Day." Permission is granted only to read this article online and/or
print one copy to read offline (well, it is a long interview). No copying
or redistribution in any other form is permitted.
Early in July David Palmer called me. Well, apparently so; I was away
at the Guildford Festival, and didn’t get the message until a week
or so later. I called back as soon as I could and was delighted to hear
that David was playing a gig in Brighton the following Monday. Having
checked the diary and the availability of the A New Day Motley Crew I
called him again a couple of days later to confirm that we’d be
there. We chatted for a while, during which time David said I would notice
a few changes. ‘Interesting’ I thought, but did not press
the matter because I would be seeing him soon anyway. However David started
to elaborate, leading to the statement that he was no longer David but
Dee, and eventually to the frankly surprising revelation that he was
now, in fact, she. To be honest I was momentarily lost for words, surmising,
probably correctly, that my instinctive working class exclamation of “Blimey!” would
not be best suited to the situation.
Apparently David / Dee thought I might have known already, but not so.
Thinking about it afterwards though things did start to fall into place;
the shock blonde hair last time I saw him play, the gender swap of a
character in his rendition of “Taxi Grab” at the Italian
Convention, the extraordinary story related by Ian Anderson of News Of
The World reporters quizzing him about a rumoured sex change….
Yes, it all made sense now.
So, we went to the gig, and it was a great evening, as reviewed elsewhere.
Dee wasn’t sure that now would necessarily be the right time to
make an issue out of it in A New Day, but as I explained it would be
rather odd to review the gig with just a throw away remark to the effect
that he was now a female. And besides, it would be nice to know what
musical projects we could look forward to from her. And so a meeting
was arranged for the following week for another classic A.N.D. exclusive
Dee’s new abode in sunny Brighton – well, Hove if we’re
being pedantic about it – is at first glance substantially different
to his almost palatial dwelling in Godalming where we first met him many
years ago. Instead of the leafy winding country road leading to Busbridge
Hall we drove into a back street in a residential area to find a ‘small’ terraced
house. Upon entering however we discovered it to be something resembling
the TARDIS, with an open air court yard surrounded by music rooms, and
a studio upstairs bedecked with an array of gold and silver discs and
complete with a grand piano. Dee showed us the local newspaper story
relating the arrival of said piano via a huge crane which was used to
haul it over the rooftops into her house!
With reference to last issue’s interview with Martin Barre and
the quest for the most unlikely opening question possible it might have
been the ideal time to go for broke and open with THE question to end
them all…. “So tell me, how long have you been a female?”,
but as Dee would not be familiar with our inane quest it might have been
construed as trivialising a serious topic. In fact how could we even
start with questions? We were here to introduce to you the new personage
of someone you all know from the past as David Palmer; a huge and important
part of the music of Jethro Tull right from year one, initially as musical
arranger and orchestrator and eventually of course as a keyboard (and
sax) player. A gender change is the most drastic and most personal step
a person can take, so best just to let Dee talk as freely as she wanted
Oddly perhaps, the first topic of conversation was seagulls! As we sat
in the garden on a warm summer evening the birds were making a deafening
din, and there was more than a hint of Hitchcock about the place. Dee
even felt the need to apologise for the blighters, because I guess having
become accustomed to them herself they only become noticeable when guests
notice them. No matter, the tape recorder was rolling and Dee was talking….
Well as you have seen, there have been a few changes since we last met!
I had a feeling that you might have known before; I’m sure you
have noticed certain ongoing changes in my appearance over the last couple
of years, and of course it has all been leading up to this. Since the
death of Maggie (David’s wife of many years who sadly passed away
a few years ago. DR) it has become increasingly important to me to deal
with something that has always been there, since I was born in fact.
And it isn’t for wimps by the way, absolutely not. And it isn’t
for people who want to wear a frock and prance around masquerading as
a female. It’s nothing to do with that, it’s a light year
away from that. That kind of thing is fired by the pursuit of some kind
of sexual frissant with someone, somewhere, at which point at it’s
conclusion the identity that has been assumed is quickly removed and
whatever clothes have been employed to create that identity are packed
away again swiftly. That re-emerges some time later when the next need
and opportunity for a sexual frissant occurs. That is distinct from knowing
from the age of three in my case that something was fundamentally wrong,
but the comparisons that you have are so few. I had brothers but no sisters,
but as soon as I was able to…not discuss things, but ‘show
me yours I’ll show you mine’ with Sylvia Wallen at the back
of her coal shed (laughs) then everything fell into place.
One of the interesting things that you pay no more than lip service to
is that when I went into therapy, after I’d come to terms with
my situation… well no, not come to terms with… it was finally
dealing something that I’d dealt with when I was three, four, five,
six… right up until my late teens when I went into the army. When
I went into therapy I was with the two leading psychiatrists in the country.
I had to go privately of course because if you go on the national health
you have to wait a year before you can even talk to someone, before they’ll
even take your name and address. Anyway, the female psychiatrist told
me that she’d looked on the internet to find me because “we
thought you might be someone because of your presence”! Of course
that was very flattering. So she said we know who you are and what you
do, and whilst it’s probably very early to say this, once you’ve
turned over every pebble on your beach, and you’ve considered all
of this, what you will find is although you probably don’t think
you have and may well not have any deeply ingrained psychological barriers
to climb over in life, because of what you’ve achieved, you will
still nevertheless on the balance of probabilities find that once you
are on your way and past the point of no return – and it is very
much that sort of thing; it is like jumping from a parachute. At first
it’s very easy, but then suddenly the ground is coming up at you
and you can’t stop until you’ve reached the end; it’s
very much that kind of experience - your writing and performance will
take on new dimensions. You will be freed of those things holding you
back, though you may not even know they are there but there will be something
clinging on to your psyche. And she was right, absolutely 100% completely
right, because I’m writing like a demon and playing… well,
you were there the other night! It’s not so much fearless and reckless,
it’s all carefully orchestrated piano playing and I spend hours
practising to maintain and improve my technique. As for the presentation,
well I’ve always been like that, I’ve always been able to
turn a phrase. I didn’t learn that in a book I bought last week.
note: bold text denotes David's questions.
That came across really well the other night. The way you held
the audience, it was like a jazz gig. Nobody went to the bar during
songs, if anybody went to the loo they waited for the end of a song
before coming back in. It’s rare to find that kind of respect
for a performer at a pub gig.
Yes. I think I have to be careful, or rather selective. I have a manager
now, and that’s a good thing. At one time I didn’t think
it was at all, but it is now. Not because I need shielding, far from
that, but two heads are better than one in deciding the direction in
which one goes. I suppose what I have to decide is the difference between
cabaret and intimate singer-songwriter gigs. They are very close, but
it’s within the ambit of those two clearly proscribed areas that
I think I’ll probably best function. And yet I had a rehearsal
here this afternoon with three other musicians. It’s a kind of
hard-edged chamber group. What we are in pursuit of, other than making
music, because we all….survive. None of us are on the dole, put
it that way. And that ain’t such a good thing either, you’re
better off hungry when you’re trying to get things together.
In some ways….
Yes, in some ways. (laughs). It’s like fat people wanting to be
anorexic for just one month so they can shed a couple of stone. Of course
it doesn’t work like that.
So we are having a meeting at the end of this week, time permitting.
We might have to put it off because I am cooking for someone’s
wedding on Saturday, 120 people. I’m a really keen cook to say
the least. I‘ve done lots of things like this, and I often have
dinner parties here for 20 people. It’s not playing games, trying
to be a ‘celebrity chef’ or something like that, it’s
just so nice entertaining, I love to do it. It has become part of my
lifestyle since Maggie went. It isn’t an escape or a time filler,
it’s an enjoyment. It’s something I could do when she was
alive but now I’ve slipped into doing it more and more and I find
it to be most agreeable and very rewarding, because I’m giving
things away to people and they really enjoy it. Two weeks ago I had all
of my kids here and my six grandchildren; we sat down at 12 and they
started to leave at 8. Now that’s redolent of happiness and good
times, a five course meal that was spread out over seven hours. I do
enjoy that very much.
But the gig thing…. there are lots and lots of places I can go
and play. I can go and play because I’m ready to, I can just take
my equipment and play. I do need a couple of roadies because I have no
strength nowadays. I mean, I never was hurly-burly. I remember once sitting
in a restaurant with Ian and Shona. I had a t-shirt on and Ian stroked
my arms and said “Look at DP’s arms. Aren’t they girlie?” And
of course look at my tiny wrists. They’ve always been like that,
and I never was very strong. But I went to wash my car a month or two
ago, took a bucket and a hose and so on, and filled the bucket with water
for the final rinse. I tried to lift the bucket but I couldn’t
move it, it was impossibly heavy. I thought the men from the garage had
glued it to the ground as a joke!
But these little things are no price to pay to be happy. Not that I was
ever ill at ease with myself, but now life is so good. I am just so happy.
I’ve got so many things that are going on in my life, not all that
I’ve created for myself, they have come to me. And as I’ve
said, the writing is coming on so well. I sit here all hours of the night,
particularly in wonderful weather like this, with a pen and some manuscript
paper, a bottle of wine or a pot of tea, and write to my heart’s
content feeling that all is right with the world. I don’t know….
I don’t have to pinch myself, but sometimes I ask myself if I really
deserve this, do I deserve to be so content and really so happy and with
new horizons to go to, which will move if ever I get there.
There’s no way in this world that I’ll ever achieve half
of what I would really like to do. That’s just learning music,
never mind going to China or travelling the world or whatever people
do. Sure those things are attractive but not if you can sit down here
and really get into the meanings of Beethoven and Brahms quartets and
really get to know them. I should have known them when I was at the Royal
Academy, but I didn’t have time because I was looking at somebody
else’s bloody quartets (laughs).
So does that mean conversely that for 30-40 years you were unhappy?
Oh no. That’s an interesting point, but no, absolutely not. When
I met Maggie I was 19 and she was 18, and she was the first girl I ever
went out with. I was introduced to her formerly, and the second time
we went out, but a few days after the first time, I felt it incumbent
upon me to say to her that I’d had difficulty getting this far
in my life without changing. I did think I would change between the ages
of 3 and 10, I naively thought things would occur. There were medical
complications at my birth and that was addressed surgically a couple
of times in my teenage years and one further time when I was 26. So the
manifestation of gender dysphoria and the trans-sexual state was there.
I didn’t know what it was, I thought I was the only person in the
world that felt like that. So Maggie and I started out with her knowing
all about me, and she said I probably wasn’t alone with those feelings.
Well I didn’t know anybody else like that at all. The only person
I was close to, not emotionally but really close to, was Richard Rodney
Bennett, my composition teacher. He was as gay as a daffodil but I never
knew it. Once I came back from playing at an American Airforce base in
East Anglia and I was dropped off in Tottenham, which was not where I
was supposed to be. I trudged through appalling conditions very early
on a Sunday morning, thumbing a lift. I was so cold I could quite happily
have rolled up in the gutter and died, but a little car eventually pulled
up and a man offered me a lift. I still remember being enveloped by the
warmth in the car. I was so grateful and started waffling on to this
chap, telling him the story of how I’d ended up stuck in the wrong
part of London. He didn’t say anything, just nodded his head. After
we’d driven for a while he suddenly said “Hi. I’m Butch”,
so I said (laughing) “Hi. I’m David”. And when we got
to the next lights he leaned across and opened the door and said “You’ll
be getting out here”. I had no idea what I’d said or what
had gone on until someone told me much later on that it was part of a
language, that Butch meant butch. I know what it means now of course,
but I didn’t then. So all of my time with Maggie was blissfully
happy, absolutely blissfully happy. I can’t remember one moment
of either unrest, discontent, anger, or frustration. They were strangers
to our household, with the six of us, the kids and Maggie and I.
And so once she died I sat in the kitchen looking down the garden for
a year, then gradually from the outermost part of my body and soul where
I had consigned what I was to learn was gender dysphoria started to reassert
itself as something that I had to deal with again. So I went to my GP
and talked to him at length about it. He knew nothing at all, so I was
referred to the Charing Cross Gender Identity clinic to talk to the psychiatrist
there. I had five consultations with him, but after the first consultation
I had concluded that, not that I thought I had a problem, but I knew
he’d got more problems than I’d got! (laughs). I thought ‘this
is bizarre, because whilst I need educating about just what this thing
is, you’re not going to be able to be very helpful because you
seem to be carrying a sack-load of problems’.
This was the psychiatrist heading up the department! And after five appointments
at £250 a throw, at the 6th he got out this huge pile of notes
he’d made and said “now then, where did we get to last week?”.
I said “well, that’s irrelevant, because now it’s my
turn to receive and it’s your turn to transmit”. And he stood
up and said “If it’s hormones that you want you’re
in the wrong place”. I said “no, I did not say that. I said
it’s your turn to transmit, and me to receive. I don’t want
to appear to be rude but I’ve explained to you what my thinking
is, that over twelve hours, and I could be here for another twelve hours,
I could go back over everything and point out almost everything that’s
gone on here that is totally irrelevant”. And I could, because
I have total recall. I can recall everything. Sometimes it’s beautiful
to have, and sometimes it’s a curse.
So he said very brusquely “Well I can tell you two things. You
are very lucky that you discovered music at the age of 15 and went into
the army, and even luckier that you met Margaret when you were 19 and
got on with life”. I said “Other than that I would probably
have been dragged into the Royal Hospital in Wolverhampton in front of
five incompetent psychiatrists, strapped to a stretcher?”. He said
yes. So after a couple more minutes I said “I think we have now
achieved what I wanted to achieve in the first instance. It’s now
for me to go away and think on my own. So I went back to my GP and he
pointed me towards the two psychiatrists who eventually helped me.
In this country there aren’t more than 2 or 3,000 people such as
I. Oddly enough my friends, the other trans-sexuals that I know, are
all in the professions. Barristers, accountants, logistics, government
officers etc. They are people that I know because we’ve travelled
the same journey. There are people I suppose that are sitting in Accrington
in impoverished circumstances, living on the dole, having had National
Health treatment over a protracted period. Perhaps they only go out at
night, cover their faces and shy away from people because they are not
socially equipped to deal with their new situation? But when I leave
this house, and for a long time now, I don’t have to pick up an
identity from the hall stand.
When I get up in the morning I’m the same person who went to sleep,
and when I go out I am addressed and accepted, sometimes deferentially,
as a middle-aged female, which is what I am. And I’m very happy.
But it isn’t for everyone, but then again I’m not interested
in anyone else. I’m interested in their views on many things, but
not on my lifestyle. Because as I said half an hour ago, it isn’t
for wimps. When you actually come face to face with what’s in front
of you I can imagine it could be daunting for those people who have any
grain of doubt at all about where they fit into the scheme of things.
I have no doubt.
Do you think it’s more difficult for someone like you?
You are a famous person, you were a member of one of the biggest rock
bands in the world; do you have any worries about going out to perform
as a female, in front of thousands of fans who remember you as a man?
No, none at all. Although whereas at one time when I lived in Godalming
I would gladly go out for a walk at any time of the day or night, I won’t
now go out walking along the seafront late at night, because I’m
mindful of the homophobic attitude that resides in certain sections of
society. You can not insulate yourself from society, and there’s
no way in this world that I’d want to. It would be impossible for
me to function because I’m a writing and performing musician, I
have to be with people. I could function in an office environment but
I don’t have to, I never have. I function as a music writer, performer
and player. But were I to be faced with any adverse comment or demonstrable
behaviour then I would deal with that in the delicate way it would need
to be dealt with. I would hope as everyone does regardless of the position
you have in society, gender aside, that such problems won’t occur,
but there will always be people who will cross the road to pick a fight.
In Italy for instance they have a reputation of being a macho kind of
chap. I suppose they are, I don’t know, I don’t know them.
I don’t know what they are like in America. I did go to play in
Canada last year, and I felt perfectly at ease over there.
I walked into the rehearsal room with the Quebec Symphony orchestra with
whom I’ve worked many times, though not for a couple of years when
the changes were becoming really apparent. The orchestra were waiting,
the managing director walked in, and I said to them “Good morning.
It’s very nice to see you all again. As you can see there have
been some changes but it hasn’t affected my hearing, so shall we
start?”. And you heard my introduction at the gig the other night, “and
to those, like me, who fall between the cracks”. These things just
fall out of my mouth, I don’t have to rehearse them or polish them
up, it just comes naturally. So I would hope that if I do some dates
in Germany for instance, some selected venues….I’m not talking
about going over there and doing 30 dates, I’m thinking of 5 or
6, and 5 or 6 in the UK, and then going to America and Canada. And then
six months later with some new songs I might do that same circuit again,
and perhaps broaden the horizons. But I do not intend to lay myself open
to play in an environment where the material that I was offering for
their entertainment may fall first for some serious criticism because ‘you
can’t dance to it’, you know.
I won’t be playing to those sort of people, so hopefully I won’t
have to cope with ignorance and prejudice. But of course, you never know.
The most awful things happen to people. Look at those poor people in
Manchester last week who were killed in an accident as they were going
on holiday. They were just going on holiday, they weren’t tempting
providence by sitting behind a piano in front of a non-partisan audience.
Well I would think that any promoter that was approached by my manager
would want to know what the set was about, they would want a tape and
some photos from the concerts and some basic information. You know, “Speaks
French fluently, can function in Germany, and won’t upset the Spaniards” (laughs).
But with Italy I don’t know how it would go. I did a tour in Italy
with Beggars Farm, and I had the most awful cold, and they released an
album from it. I didn’t even know they wanted to do an album, it
was just a live rehearsal, but I’m such a pussycat I couldn’t
say to Aldo ‘oh, no way’. But that was then and this is now,
it was two and a half years ago. I remember that you wrote about my performance
at the convention, when I sang Locomotive Breath, and you said it was
the campest performance you had ever witnessed.
At that point in time I was kind of binding myself up and, you know,
dumbing down. It’s like the chrysalis – not that I consider
myself to be some kind of butterfly. (laughs) More a moth! A merth. (affecting
the Clouseau pronunciation). And when the chrysalis is breaking open
you really do want no-one paying attention during that time. Although,
I called you to say I was playing in Brighton because I genuinely felt
you would be interested. I mean I was there at the beginning of Tull,
although I wasn’t a band member as you know. I was writing with
Ian and wrote on every album except Benefit. It goes back a long long
way. And I shall ever be grateful for the day that I went to the Sunbury
Blues Festival and the day Terry Ellis called me and I met he and Ian.
We became friends immediately and I don’t think at any turning
on those winding roads that we took did I ever fall short on what I was
engaged to do. Which was to provide music, and then to perform it. When
I joined the group all the others had been playing in bands since they
were at school. I’d been playing in bands too but in my case there
was a conductor standing in front of me wearing a tail suit – a
whole lot different. But I shall forever be grateful for those times.
It was so enjoyable.
There were some nights we’d be playing and I’d wonder if
I was still alive! The band would be slotting in, almost like a Rolls
Royce engine, the components all working in perfect pitch and rhythm.
We were always in pursuit of that, and those times we achieved it it
was so good. At one time I think Ian became the slave to the tape recorder,
and would treat the nuance and the aberration as insults. I think he
felt that way about it, that it was an insult for anyone to play a wrong
note or to be out of time. Well it’s human I’m afraid, it
happens. I mean we weren’t a bunch of clowns and we weren’t
there to make jokes with the audience, but there needs to be some reaction,
they need to see that you’re not automata being wound up (laughs)
on a Sunday. Far from it.
He seems to have lightened up a lot in recent years. Things
go wrong and he can laugh with the audience, he doesn’t get upset
When his father died I went along to his hotel room. He opened the door
and asked me to come in. I said “I’m terribly sorry Ian” and
I started to cry. He said “look, it’s ok”. So I stayed
for a few moments, perhaps a bit longer than I should have done. In normal
circumstances I would have given him a hug, but Ian is not and was never
tactile. He is a highly sensitive person and he may that afternoon have
thought “Well DP’s come along, I thought he would, and I’ve
dealt with that”, and that was that. And that night on-stage, on
the Stormwatch tour, he had a little tent backstage where he would disappear
to for four or five minutes whilst the rest of the band played some instrumental
pieces. When John and I had finished our little duet I nipped offstage
to find Ian in his little tent, genuinely to ask of his welfare. And
he looked at me…not to say “Piss off!”, not that, but
plainly he was at ease with himself, he was in charge of his emotions.
And nowadays if you’ve remarked that he can treat lightly something
that 15 years ago he would have closed the place down and gone on to
the next gig, then that is a good sign, a very good sign. I’m hoping
that Ian will, before he gives up…no, Ian will never give up, I
mean before he takes a much lower profile in the music business as a
performer… I do hope that he will find a path through some of the
by roads he has been into. I’m hoping that a very clearly defined
motorway will open up for him, and at the end there will be a kind of “Aqualung” of
developed Ian Anderson, so that he will come to a point where once again
he’s enjoying celebrity.
Well he enjoys that anyway of course, he’s known world-wide, but
celebrity relating to new material. He’s definitely in pursuit
of it, and I’m sure that he’s focussed, but whether or not
there are some miles still to go I don’t know. It would be rash
of me to make any kind of presumption because I don’t know what
it is that he’s after. But the musical discipline that he’s
always had is now becoming very sophisticated, but the most important
thing in music other than the tune is the form, the design of music.
The design of a motor car, a pair of scissors, whatever it is, everything
comes back to the form, the design. I think Ian would be well served
by listening to the late quartets of Beethoven and Shostakovich, really
digging into those things. I’m sure he’s vitally aware of
all the pioneering jazz-rock groups that have turned up with some pretty
stunningly good music, but you can not encompass everything in life and
certainly not everything in music, which is a tiny part of life.
I can remember when Ian first started listening to Beethoven, he was
really picking up on the hooks, and Beethoven does have hooks. He really
was into that. But the proof of it will come. And Andy Giddings is an
excellent musician. I’m delighted that someone such as Andy, and
the drummer Doane, are part of the band. I only met them a couple of
years ago, but they really are such nice chaps.
Our conversation was briefly interrupted by a ‘phone call,
prompting us thereafter to discuss at length the merits or otherwise
of mobile phones, cordless phones, digital phones and the new generation
of video phones. Tedious stuff in print, but it finally led us back to
new technology in music….
I can remember analogue synthesis. I enjoyed that. Learning that, and
the Tallis stuff is a triumph of analogue synthesis. But when digital
came out, with all those algo-rhythms and things I thought… no,
I did a music degree, not physics. It’s far better to say to someone “You’re
a physicist. You understand sound waves. Keep turning those knobs and
sliding those things until you sound like this. I’ll have a cup
of tea and do the crossword and you call me when it’s ready.” Otherwise
you could spend hours and hours in pursuit of something, and there just
isn’t enough time to waste it doing that. You can’t do everything.
I started painting a couple of years ago, and I did a painting for one
of my daughters birthdays. I really enjoyed that, then I did a couple
more, and I did my Christmas card. I suddenly found myself thinking about
going to the shop, getting some brushes and oils and so on, and I had
to stop myself. No, don’t do it, just get back upstairs to the
piano. Get stuck into the Haydn piano sonatas or something, don’t
mess around with paintings. So I tend to treat as recreational most pursuits
that some people find to be so arresting. I’m not interested in
those things, and I don’t deride people that are, but it isn’t
for me. I’d rather try just to write a better song.
Mention of Tallis brings us back to that old question; I don’t
suppose you’ve got any nearer to getting those tapes mastered
for a release?
Umm… I don’t know who has got them now.
I think you gave them to Robin Black a few years ago.
Yes, I think you’re right. I asked him to do whatever they do
to preserve them before they disintegrate. But I’ve got this new
chamber group which is really interesting. At present the line-up, which
I don’t think will change, is me playing the keyboards and flute,
a girl named Jill Streeter playing oboe, cor anglais and saxophone. Do
you know Jan Garbarek? (Indeed we do. DR). I’m transcribing some
of his stuff with the Hilliard Ensemble for her. A bass player who plays
stand up, electric and beautiful fretless bass. A drummer, Kevin Campbell.
And a fifth person who plays viola, clarinet and guitar. So we have this
array of tonal potential, and I wrote three pieces of music for the first
rehearsal, just so that we didn’t go over the top. But we could
find very quickly whether we could actually play well together and create
something worthwhile. And it was really, really rewarding. And so what
I was hoping may well take place, and that is when I do dates in this
country in the Autumn I’ll do dates just me playing the piano,
but I’ll weave in to my show our quintet until the group is strong
enough and established enough with material for us then to start doing
dates without me warbling and telling banal stories (laughs).
When did you last see Ian Anderson?
I had an Indian meal with Ian last November. It was a very enjoyable
evening and we ended up talking for hours. Long enough in fact for me
to get a parking ticket, which I subsequently forgot to pay and it ended
up costing me £500! But we were talking and talking…and Ian
and I can talk, believe me! But I don’t think I’ve spoken
to him since. I must call him soon, if I can catch him when he’s
not away on tour.
He’s obviously been supportive during the last couple
Oh yes. I think both Ian and Shona were aware that there were some mighty
changes going on in my life. Three years ago we were in Venezuala, because
Ian had come over for a couple of gigs. There was a bit of the old Ian
there, because everything in ‘manana manana’ in those countries,
but the gigs went well. Shona said “are you staying over for a
few days” and I said “yes, I’m going to the seaside”.
And she said “make sure you’ve got sun blocker because you’re
skin will burn readily now. So she obviously knew back then, even in
the time scale when I was perhaps still in the position where if I’d
found whatever it was I was dealing with was something that I could continue
to suppress I could have gone backwards from where I was. But I would
say both Ian and Shona have been tacitly extremely supportive. They’ve
got style, both of them. They have social skills and style about life.
Discretion. Do you know I can’t ever recall hearing Ian bad mouthing
anyone. In anger yes, with a promoter at the back of the stage twenty
years ago when somebody has just asked him to sign a load of bootleg
albums. Then he would just go bananas. But both of them are social people,
they are socially aware. Don’t forget I’ve known them both
for many years. I was there on their first date, I was best man at the
wedding. I can’t rationally claim that I would expect or have expected
unqualified support from Ian and Shona, but it came. It came and I wouldn’t
expect that to change.
One of the reasons for asking is a story that Ian put on the
website about reporters from the News Of The World approaching him
with rumours that he was undergoing a sex change.
That’s right. I don’t know how much you guys know – you’ll
have to be honest with me.
That’s about all we do know. At the time we were baffled,
but clearly it seems they went to Ian instead of you.
Well what actually happened was that someone somewhere had got some
bits of information, just as innuendo and rumour will in an insidious
way make their way into people’s minds and therefore understanding
and therefore acceptance, someone may possibly have called the News Of
The World hoping to pick up 500 quid for a couple of column inches about
the exposure of someone that was not so much in the public domain but
was once a member of one of the biggest rock ‘n’ roll bands
in the world and had an ongoing career. It wasn’t Ian it was me
but they clearly got their wires crossed. Where they got their facts
wrong was that they perhaps didn’t make contact directly with an
editor or sub editor who would have wanted to talk to them first to check
them out. I don’t think for one moment that could have taken place.
So they, two or three people I think from the News Of The World, appeared
at Ian’s house when Ian was away in America.
Ian returned a day or so later and they were still there at the gate,
so he drove down to the gate and confronted them. They said “we
have it on good authority that you in the process of pursuing a sex change”.
Well I’m tall and I’m slim, but Ian is not short but he’s
stocky. He used to be really quite slim but he’s quite stocky now,
he’s got arms like muttons, big strong thighs, red face, beard,
balding, pig-tail at the back, ruddy. And Ian said to them “I’m
Ian Anderson. Do you really think that I have had, am having or even
contemplating changing my gender?” And this lady journalist said “Well,
no”. (laughing). And Ian said “why don’t you just take
down your tent and bugger off? But before you do hear this. If you are
supposed to be in pursuit of investigative journalism why don’t
you go and do something that will benefit the welfare of mankind as a
whole, and not try to expose the lives of people that are getting on
with their lives quietly, purposefully and not in any way causing any
waves in anyone’s seas?” And of course it was me they were
after. And the fact of the matter is that when you asked me last week
if we can have a talk, and having spoken to you on the phone and told
you that my name was now Dee… I mean it’s all official, all
my documents, my driving licence, my passport etc., David Palmer has
gone, I am now Dee Palmer, female.
So this day, you and I talking, was going to happen at some time or other.
It wasn’t accelerated, it’s just that the gig came up. I
was asked to play there. I was in there one night in May asking for a
gig list, having heard a great American guitarist there. He played the
guitar like a piano, it was just amazing. So I asked for a gig list and
they said no problem, just give us your email address and we’ll
send it to you…but when are you going to play here? I said “oh,
can anybody play here then?” and the guy said “no, but you
can!” A couple of the bar staff had told him who I was and he wanted
me to play. So we met later and I told him the type of show I wanted
to do. I said I didn’t want to play an evening of Jethro Tull material.
I play a few of them, but I wouldn’t want to do a whole show of
Tull music, and he said “play what you like. According to my bar
staff you could play Three Blind Mice all night and make it sound interesting”.
So that was it, and so here we are now talking. And I know you and I
know that whatever you put in A New Day will be an accurate and faithful
recounting of what I’ve actually said rather than something you’ve
On the balance of probabilities someone might be surprised by what they
read. Again. I’m perfectly ready, more than ready not to insult
and rebuff with molten lead and boiling oil from my upstairs bedroom
windows, but to accept and talk sensibly to the press. And if anyone
wants my story then they can have it, but they’ll have to pay an
awful lot of money to Lupus. They can have the whole nine yards, authorised
and authenticated, they can even photograph me in my bath, but they’re
going to have to put in a big cheque to Lupus. And it isn’t just
because of that that I feel confident about it. I mean I’m certainly
unlikely, with my gift of the gab, on a one to one not to talk one of
the journalists into feeling terribly sorry for himself and wishing he’d
never been born. So if that happens, and it might, though perhaps I flatter
myself in thinking they might be interested, providing I can get a big
cheque into the research unit at St Thomas’ then I’ve got
nothing to hide.
Well that was very much why we wanted to speak to you. Rather than just
review the gig with the revelation that you are now a female it seemed
rather important to give you the opportunity to talk about it.
Sure. As I said when I wake up, when I go to bed, I’m me. I always
was me, it’s just that now I’m me. And I’ve had no
problem in my transition at all. I’ve been very sensible, very
discreet, and if the News Of The World or The Mirror or the Kashmir Sporting
Life came round asking for some time, providing they pay up for Lupus
it’s fine. The only thing that I have to declare are my gifts,
of which I’m proud. In fact as I said earlier they’ve probably
been honed up. I recommend Oestrogen David! (laughs).
And it’s right that you refer to me now, as I do myself, as a female
rather than a woman. I can never be a woman, legally. The UK still does
not recognise the trans-sexual female, although a recent ruling by the
European Court of Human Rights means that it will eventually go into
the statute books, but of course it’s not going to be a high priority
with the UK government at a time when there are so many other really
important things to deal with.
Sorting out the birth certificates of what is essentially only a handful
of trans-sexuals will not and can not be seen as more important than
the everyday problems that have to be dealt with. It’s taken a
lot of hard work and perseverance by many dedicated trans-sexuals to
finally win legal acceptance, but I have to say it’s not that important
The biological construct that we’re presented with as we crawl
out of our mother’s womb is what goes on to our birth certificate.
The way they arrive at that is ‘with spout’ or ‘without
spout’, it’s as simple as that. But things have changed now,
not because of people like me because I’m too recent, but people
who have trodden this path 25 years and more ago. Some of them have died
now. And it’s been established without equivocation that at the
moment of conception all of us cling in this foetal thing to the side
of our mother’s womb and there are two tiny little specks in what
is going to be the abdomen. After six weeks the mother involuntarily
sends a hormonal flush to those little specks to determine whether they
will become testes or ovaries. On very very rare occasions the hormonal
flush leaves the foetus in a state of equivocation, it has doubt itself,
and so when the child is born it’s not a clear cut case of ‘spout
or no spout’. Years ago, in the patriarchal society that I was
born into then “it’s a boy! Make a boy!”. Nowadays
there is a far more liberal and understanding view taken, and with the
child that appears in this world with indeterminate genitalia they wait.
They talk to the parents, and when a child starts to have a mind of it’s
own they talk to the child.
And if a biological girl is presenting as a boy, or vice versa, they
can stay the onset of puberty, and when the child has decided for itself
it can pursue the gender that it feels and is compelled to belong to.
But a child that’s born as a girl and becomes a male is not a man,
and a child born as a boy and becomes a female is not a woman. A woman
has a womb and the whole reproduction process, and a man doesn’t,
he has all the other bits. Gender always says M or F, Male or Female,
not Man or Woman. But sure I’m a female. I’ve always had
female ways, female characteristics. There were complications when I
was a baby, and only my mother and Maggie were ever aware of this. And
so now it is with pride that I can say yes, I am a female, but I can
never be a woman. I’m not sitting here thinking if I was 30 years
younger I could consider having a baby, of course I couldn’t. But
I can live the rest of my life, and I want now to live for a hundred
thousand years, in the manner and style that perhaps I might have had
I been born all those years later; there would have been people attendant
at my birth that would have said “Get the gender specialist in
here”, you know. And it happens now, it won’t stop. Now and
again, in that hormonal flush, God doesn’t put things right. The
body physical, Mum, sends the message down, out comes the child and they
don’t know what they are. It has nothing to do with homosexuality.
That is a much more complicated set of physiological and psychiatric
issues than transsexualism is.
Gender dysphoria is comparatively easy to put right because once you’ve
gone past the question and answer stage with the psychiatrists and you
start on hormone therapy, everything changes. Well anyone that’s
tripping… it wouldn’t take a regular guy who wanted to wear
a frock and a bra and go trolling around very long to realise it’s
not for them! It would last weeks, less than that. They’d think “Christ,
what am I doing? I’ll become a transvestite, I’ll keep these
clothes in the garage and dig them out when the need overtakes me. (laughs)
I’m just popping down to the shed darling!”, you know. That
soon sorts out, and I’ll use this phrase advisedly, (laughing)
the men from the boys! It really does, because once the pain starts,
the physical pain, then you have every opportunity for a while to say “no,
this is not for me”. And I think that’s probably why there
are so few people that actually go through with it. It isn’t that
you need a load of courage, but you need to know in yourself that it
is what you have to do, and that you do belong there. And of course it
is irreversible, there’s no going back whence you came.
And so when the act is passed, to get back to the original point, all
it is really is to alter the given gender at birth on the birth certificate,
which of course would allow certain things to come transsexuals that
otherwise they might not have. It isn’t that important, but it
is a matter of principle. I can’t say that it doesn’t interest
me but…. no, ok, it doesn’t interest me. It’s not something
that I would have pursued on my own behalf or on behalf of anyone else.
I’m still in pursuit of a better song. I’ve always known
who I am and what I am, and now who I am and what I am are the same person.
It’s very hard trying to explain how it feels to somebody, because
try as anyone might you can’t relate to something of which you
have no experience. If you saw someone crying because their mother had
just died you would say, of course, “Oh I’m so terribly sorry”.
And you would be, terribly sorry, but if your mother is alive and well
you could not possibly understand the pain and sorrow that person is
feeling. Just as there are new parents now, somewhere, who will have
a baby of indeterminate gender. But they will eventually come to terms
with it, they won’t be thinking “Oh God, why did this happen
to us?”, they will realise that these things happen. Rarely, but
they happen. It’s exactly the same as perfect pitch you know, it’s
as rare as that. My doctor said to me once “What you have to be
grateful for is that when you came into this world having been dealt
the transsexual card, you were carrying all of these other cards with
plusses on them. You had a handful of aces and amongst them was the transsexual
card – now play that card the same way that you played the others”.
Success and failure are both impostors – Kipling You know, get
on with it, get on with your life. We all get chances in life, and we
need to be able to recognise them when they come along. Patterns start
to emerge and hopefully we can make the most of whatever opportunities
present themselves. Of course chance can not be negated, we can’t
control that. We could all be killed tomorrow in a horrible accident
but then again we could win the lottery on Saturday. But we must learn
to accept perhaps more willingly what we don’t have in order to
appreciate what we do have. Look at poor Dudley Moore, he could play
the piano like a star but the poor bugger could hardly walk. And he ended
up with a disease that was obviously congenital. It was there all along
and suddenly decided to strike him down when he should have had years
to go. So it’s not that life isn’t fair, it’s that
we are given cards to play and we usually have some good ones.
You know, when I told my brothers how I felt they weren’t at all
shocked. At the age of eleven I was a criminal; I mean, a real criminal,
thieving. It was rebellion, because there was no way I was going to accept
being a bloke. I never was a ‘blokey’ bloke. If anyone ever
wanted to call me the wild man of rock’n’roll, fine, carry
on. I’ll be that if you like, as long as you don’t start
poking around and finding what’s actually there. But when what’s
actually there has to be dealt with, my brothers dealt with it admirably.
When my mum died a couple of years before Maggie I ended up in hospital.
I thought I was going to die myself, I couldn’t breath. I’d
lost one of the two best friends I would ever have – my mum, and
Maggie. And my brothers came down and found me lying in hospital on a
ventilator, and they said (laughing) “We were talking in the car
on the way down and we’re not a bit surprised you ended up in hospital!”.
Because I was the only one who’d had a really loving relationship
with mum. And of course you are somebody when you’ve got a mum,
whatever you’ve done she’ll be there for you, and when she
goes…. it’s shattering.
How have your children reacted?
I haven’t seen my son Gideon; I will, but I haven’t. My
girls I see all the while and they have been truly supportive, by standing
on the side of the ropes and not getting into the ring. They were all
here two weeks ago. When they come I can’t run upstairs and put
a mask on, you know. I live and dress as a female. If I’m going
to see my accountant or lawyer or whatever I’ll wear a discreet
knee length skirt…not power dressing, but I actually look like… (laughs)
I mean I don’t look like a dinner lady, I really don’t. And
when the girls are here the conversation is light, it’s supportive,
and other people will call me Dee but they still call me Dad, which is
fine. I was a good dad to them, and I still am. Just as I wouldn’t
want to divest all of my years with Tull and my years of writing music
for others. I mean I’ve written music for nearly everybody that
appeared on TV in the 70’s, 80’s, 90’s. That’s
part of me, the intrinsic me, that’s how I functioned, and the
legacy of my work is contained not only in Jethro Tull but in many record
catalogues. I heard something the other day I’d not heard from
years, Gerry Rafferty and Billy Connolly, The Humblebums as they were
known. I did the orchestrations for that album. So there’s no way
in this world that the ‘metamorphosis’ is anything other
than the emergent soul that always was there anyway. Everything else,
I’m carrying in front of me, I don’t want to leave it behind.
I’m proud of it.
Your pride certainly shines through in your show. You are almost
bursting with pride whenever you talk about Jethro Tull.
Yes, of course. I am mightily proud of my time with Jethro Tull, and
the music we made.
Have you seen the review of your gig in The Argus today? It’s
Yes, I’ve just seen it. What a wonderful review. Do you know,
my mother could not have written a nicer review! I’m so pleased,
I should really call him and thank him. It was a bit nerve wracking when
I started the gig with “Thick As A Brick” and when I looked
into the audience the first two people I saw were you and Rob Beattie
from “Q” magazine; now there is an expert Jethro Tull audience!
So I’m so pleased that it went really well.
You were selling a CD at the gig in aid of Lupus. Will you be
releasing it properly?
No, I just ran off a few CD-Rs to sell at the gig to raise a few pounds
for the charity. I can’t release it because of all the copyright
complications. There are tracks from my various orchestral albums, and
different record companies own the rights to different tracks. The Tallis
tracks are mine of course, and I control some others, but the album as
it is would be problematic. I shall return to the series though. I want
to do more, and I will certainly go back to the music of Jethro Tull
for another album. I will speak to Ian of course, but I will certainly
revisit Tull for another album.
Have you seen any of the other Tull guys lately?
I saw Dave Pegg recently. I was performing in Canada, and Fairport Convention
were playing in the area at the time. I called Dave and invited him over,
and he came to what was actually a tremendous concert, really lively.
Of course the first thing he did was run his fingers down my back, checking
for my bra probably! But we had a good time, and a good drink of course.
Well, you know Dave Pegg! I introduced him to the audience and he got
up and played a couple of things with us, much to the delight of the
Tull fans present. And he said I must play at his Cropredy festival some
time, which is wonderful. This year would have been too soon, but hopefully
next year I’ll be there.
I haven’t seen Martin Barre for a while, or John (Evans) or Jeffrey.
I should do, I should call them soon.
I did meet Don Airey, who played with the band for a while of course.
He was a delightful chap and a great player; I thought he suited Jethro
Tull very well. He once told me – and please don’t put this
in A New Day, it’s too embarrassing – that he thought the
part I’d written for “Songs From The Wood” was a work
of genius, which is so flattering.
That’s already been in A New Day actually. He told us
that the very first time we met him, just after he’d joined the
band. He had thought Jethro Tull was “some kind of a folk gig” and
was over confident of being able to play the music. He didn’t
play the tape that Ian had sent him to learn for rehearsals until a
couple of days before joining up with Tull, and he was totally overawed
when he eventually played it. “A work of genius” was the
exact phrase he used talking to us, so he certainly meant it.
Well that is very nice of him, very flattering. I don’t know why
he left the band; I can’t say I was overly impressed when Maartin
Allcock replaced him. I didn’t think he was right for the band
at all, although I don’t really know him personally.
The strange thing is he wasn’t a keyboard player when he
joined! He is a very talented musician, he can play anything, but not
keyboards back then. We were surprised when Ian invited him to join,
but not as surprised as Maart was.
Have you been to any of Ian’s orchestral shows?
Yes, I have. I saw him with the orchestra at Croydon. I made the mistake
of going to the bar before the concert, which with hindsight was probably
not a good idea. I could see people nudging each other, wondering if
it was me or something of a look-alike. It’s a strange situation
to be in. Not that it’s not nice to meet people, it’s always
nice to meet somebody who will tell you they’ve enjoyed your work
and how much pleasure they have derived from listening to music that
one has played a part in creating, but it can be daunting when surrounded
But I thought the concert was very good, very enjoyable. The rock group
was slightly obtrusive in certain areas, but overall the balance was
very good. It’s a strange sensation though to be in the audience
listening to the music that has been such an important part of my life.
Whenever they play “Locomotive Breath” I feel the urge to
jump up onstage and start playing!
We spoke to Martin Barre recently and he expressed similar feelings.
In fact he hasn’t felt able to go to any of Ian’s other
musical outings because he doesn’t want to see or hear anybody
else playing “Aqualung” for example.
Yes, I can understand that. It is hard to watch other people playing
the music that you feel such a part of, although at the end of the day
it is largely Ian’s music. It’s good that he should explore
other avenues for his music.
Will you be at the Italian Tull convention this year?
Is there one? No, I don’t think I’ll be there unfortunately.
Do say hello to Aldo for me if you go. I played there a couple of years
ago…of course, you were there weren’t you? It was a very
enjoyable event, and a wonderful venue, a lovely little theatre. In fact
that’s where I met Andy and Doane, and we had a great time. They
have a great, irreverent sense of humour.
I might find myself in Italy in due course when I start playing gigs
in earnest. I have three orchestral concerts lined up in Canada next
year, and as I said earlier I would like to do a few shows in the UK,
Germany, America and so on. And I do intend at some point soon to spend
six months in Paris, in order to improve my French. I am fluent in the
language but the best, the only way to improve is to actually spend time
there and speak the language as a matter of course. I would like to spend
some months there, playing in bars and clubs whilst perfecting the language.
But that’s just one of many, many things I would like to do. I
look forwards to every day of the rest of my life with relish, I have
so many things going on in my life that are interesting and rewarding.
Life is good!
One final question before we go; when somebody asks you to autograph
a Tull album that you played on will you sign it David or Dee?
Dee. Most definitely Dee.
Having by now taken up more than two and a half hours of her valuable
time, and with the screeching of seagulls still ringing in our ears,
we finally bade farewell to Dee Palmer. It had been two and a half hours
spent in charming company, with a person so obviously content and at
ease with the world that she positively radiates happiness. It was a
positively uplifting experience, and Dee’s gushing enthusiasm for
new and divergent musical projects bodes well for the future. We’ll
keep you posted of course
copyright © 2003 "A New Day" /
David Rees. All rights reserved.