Susie Vanner: The Romford Bond Girl on returning to her singing roots
PUBLISHED: 11:42 03 November 2020 | UPDATED: 12:07 03 November 2020
Bond Girl Susie Vanner talks to Essex Life about her Romford roots and a chance meeting that rejuvenated her singing career after five decades
Whether you are a Bond fan or frequently hit the Northern Soul dance floor during the 1960s, the name Susie Vanner will most likely ring a bell.
The actress is famous for sharing a sexy and iconic cinematic moment with Sir Roger Moore when he was playing James Bond and she was in the role of a beautiful Russian agent (known affectionately as Log Cabin Girl) in the 1977 movie The Spy Who Loved Me.
‘It’s pretty mad to be honest,’ explains Susie, who still finds her success hard to believe. It’s definitely a world away from being a young girl growing up in Rise Park, an area of Romford.
‘My mum was a single parent from a working class background who raised my brother and I single-handedly because my dad left when I was a baby.’
Going to school at Rise Park primary school and Romford Technological High School, Susie looks back with fondness on this happy time of her life.
‘I lived on a bike and used to cycle everywhere; it was just a beautiful time. I definitely didn’t expect all of this to happen to me. I do believe in fate and I did feel different to all of my friends that were at school because they wanted to get married and have children, that was their dream. It was never my dream though.
‘Back in those days it was very hard work. I was taught to work hard from an early age and never take things for granted. I was determined to be independent and make my own money so I could buy my mum a bungalow by the sea in Thorpe Bay, and move her out of Romford. She was so happy there.’
Susie’s first passion has always been music and she affirms it will always be her first love. She signed a record deal with RCA at the age of 19 (under the name Sue Lynne), recording a handful of singles that became Northern Soul standards, including the hit Don’t Pity Me.
‘My career started in Essex,’ she explains. ‘There was an article in the local paper written by singer and songwriter Chris Andrews and he was looking for a new girl who was young, fresh and could sing some of his newly-written songs.
‘He had just previously finished recording with Sandy Shaw. I went to see him where he lived in Hornchurch and I sang to him while he played the piano. I chose to sing My Guy and he signed me up there and then.’
Now, five decades after she released three singles in the late 60s, Susie is making a dramatic return with her debut album, In These Shoes, a collaboration with Grammy Award-winning producer Kipper Eldridge.
Susie feels a sense of destiny after a chance meeting with Kipper at a charity dinner. Her then-husband, who had always been a fan of her voice, placed the winning bid in the auction for a producing session with Kipper, who has worked with the likes of Sting and Gary Numan.
‘Two or three years later I contacted him and his response was to make an album. He is an amazing, talented man, and I believe it is down to fate that I am working with him,’ says Susie.
In These Shoes charts the stories of Susie Vanner’s life through the songs that have affected her most. Once the decision was made to pour her soul into her music, it became a powerful partnership with the producer.
‘The lyrics of Cry Me A River were relevant because I was in pain. The lyrics reflect the way I felt. I was crying a river, so that was my first song,’ says Susie.
This encounter then led to what would become the formation of the album project – all recorded at Mark Knopfler’s studio, with the tracks all featuring the BBC Concert Orchestra recorded at Abbey Road Studios.
Even though the mother-of-one did secure a number of other film roles before being a Bond girl, including Return to Waterloo and Count Dracula, she has always considered herself a singer first and foremost.
‘With my album I don’t want people to just think I’m singing out of the blue; I was actually a singer before I was an actress.’
It’s a rare album that can express the real ups and downs of a life lived, and you could say that this album has been a lifetime in the making.
‘It was incredibly emotional, but so therapeutic. I feel so lucky to have met Kipper. We are going to write more songs to feature on a second album,’ she says. ‘This is a dream come true. I didn’t realise just how much music meant to me until I met Kipper.’
Despite moving to London, Susie still considers herself a true Essex girl and is very proud of her roots.
‘Growing up in Romford has made me very strong and I’m grateful for everything that has happened to me. I wouldn’t change it for the world. I love where I am from and I will never deny that.’
Susie Vanner’s debut album, In These Shoes, is out now