ARTS / Show People: This Boo is made for talking: 37. Betty Boo

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THE NEW Betty Boo single is called 'Let Me Take You There' and it's about a trip to the seaside. Boo does the verse as a rap: 'We'll take a hamper with some cashews and champers / Now and then we need a good pamper'. That's followed by a little vocal hook, sampled from an old Four Tops record. And then the song breaks into the kind of chorus pop radio plays non-stop during the summer holidays. 'Come on let me take you there / Ooo woo yeah.' It's her first new song for three years, so how long did she spend on it? There's a pause. 'A day?'

Betty Boo is 22. She's half-Malaysian, half-Scottish, and chiefly Cockney when she speaks. Before she became a High Street pop icon by putting on bright clothes and a Looby Loo voice, she was in a school rap band (the She Rockers) and sang on the Beatmasters' hit, 'Hey DJ (I Can't Dance to that Music You're Playing)'. Her solo career thus far amounts to three big singles, a platinum album and a period of writer's block. 'I couldn't write for about a year. So I went to South- east Asia for five weeks.' In Bali, she started up again, singing into her dictaphone - 'I carry it with me all the time. When I remember it.' The song was 'I'm on My Way', which is the second single from her forthcoming album.

Her real name is Alison Clarkson, but her friends nicknamed her Betty Boop and she lopped off the 'p' shortly after getting serious about becoming a pop star. Her first solo single was called 'Doin' the Do', which is Afro-American slang for performing cunnilingus, although she claims she only found that out later. More innocent minds had fun with the lavatorial implications, as did Simon Mayo on the Radio 1 Breakfast Show. The song went speedily into the Top 10.

The title of her first album, Boomania, was a self-fulfilling prophesy. Suddenly her fans were dressing like her. 'The Boo-ettes with their hair in a bob and the headband and the catsuits . . . It was quite creepy at first. But there was a time when I used to get my mum's make-up out and try to look like Debbie Harry.' She says she's no record company's pop puppet because she chose the clothes herself. 'When you're a girl and you make pop music, it's assumed you haven't got a mind of your own. But it was me who wanted the Emma Peel look.'

And she chose her musical style, too, that blend of rap and frothy pop. 'I like the Beatles, the Monkees. I like dinky sounds. I'd like to sound like the young Michael Jackson - sweet.' She did a course at the Holloway School of Audio Engineering and co-produces her recordings. She says it sometimes irks her how little credit she gets for that, but she offsets her frustration with the thought that 'the people who buy my records like the sound of my voice and the tune; they're not interested in credits'.

She concedes she hasn't 'got to the stage where I'm mega yet'. She didn't have big hits in Europe last time, largely because Rough Trade, the company responsible for distributing her records, folded mid-campaign. She remembers going abroad to mime on a large number of television shows, though she can't remember their names, and she recalls that she felt ill most of the time. 'I'll never let myself get to that point again.'

But along the way, she picked up a promising American deal with the head of Sire Records, Seymour Stein, the man who - as she rapidly got tired of people telling her - signed Madonna. Stein knows how to win an artist round. In New York, he took her to a restaurant where she could sit and stare at Richard Gere on another table. And at a family dinner, he charmed her grandmother by singing Scottish ballads, albeit in a Bronx accent.

Early on in her career, Boo gave feisty interviews in which she slagged off her peers - people like Sonja and Kylie. Now she's more diplomatic and quietly drops names. Names of pop stars: 'I've met Rick Astley a few times. He sat on our table at the Brits'. Names of fashion designers: 'I had these shoes made by a girl who makes stuff for Vivienne Westwood. They're my favourite actually. Katharine Hamnett makes me things.' And names of lawyers: 'I've got the top lawyers in the country - Russell's, George Michael's lawyers'.

On the assumption that the new single will charge into the charts, she's already booked in for Top of the Pops this week. But since she's been away, the programme has banned miming, and she's going to have to sing for real. 'I saw Jason Donovan on there last week. He was good. Sang in tune and everything. He looked a bit nervous though.' And the prospect unsettles her a little, too, but it's a chance to squash the rumour put about last year by an unscrupulous Australian concert promoter that Betty Boo was just a mime artist. 'It was like the Milli Vanilli scenario. Let me get this straight: I sing on my records.'

And after Top of the Pops, she'll go back to planning the album launch. 'The first single has a pretty straight picture of me on, which is cool, but for the album I want something stronger which will blow everybody's minds. Bright colours and patterns. It'll make you pick it up and say, yes, I'll buy that.'

'Let Me Take You There' is released tomorrow (WEA YZ 677).

(Photograph omitted)

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