Thursday, 23 November 2006
08:55:56 AM (GMT)
Alexandria "Sandi" Thom (born August 11, 1981) is a Scottish singer-songwriter from
Banff in Aberdeenshire. She released her first single in 2005 and received a great
deal of publicity for webcasting gigs from her Tooting basement in 2006.
For three of her teenage years, she was in a covers band, The Residents, where she
sang and played keyboards. She attended the school Robert Gordon's College in
At the age of 18, she attended the Liverpool Institute of Performing Arts. While at
Liverpool Institute, she sang in the gospel choir Love and Joy, and also joined an
unnamed 7-member band. The band entered a BBC Talent urban music competition, which
was produced in association with BBC Radio 1, and made it to the semi-finals. After
leaving the Institute in 2003, she returned to Scotland, recording demos and working
as a session singer (she voiced an advert for the Impulse body-spray).
Thom's career was launched when she was spotted in Glasgow by an Orkney-based
"multi-millionaire who had recently sold his fishing business and was looking to set
up a label". This was to be Viking Legacy. He reportedly signed her on the spot.
She also signed on with Windswept Pacific Music, an independent music publishing
company with artists on its roster such as Alice Cooper, The Futureheads and Nick
Cave. Thom signed with UK arm, P&P Songs, whose stable of songwriters includes Craig
David and hit-maker John McLaughlin, a collaborator with Thom. Thom writes that she
had been "been given the chance to work with a host of musicians and famous writers,
in many places I didn't know existed".
"I Wish I Was A Punk Rocker" (songwriting credited to Thom/Tom Gilbert), was released
as a CD single on Viking Legacy records on October 3, 2005. EMI Music Publishing
identifies Tom Gilbert as Ian Brown, Thom's manager. The song saw airplay during this
time, including on BBC Radio 2, which was described as "championing" her. The single,
released as two different CD versions (catalog numbers VIKINGS03 and VIKINGS04)
charted at #55, and dropped in subsequent weeks. CD1 featured "I Wish I Was A Punk
Rocker" backed with "Little Remedy", and CD2 offered the song backed with "Something
In The Air", "No More Heroes", and the video.
An article in ''The Times'' in October 2005 noted that Johnny Walker had played her
song on Radio 2 in July 2005, and that "hundreds e-mailed in to demand that it be
played again". Viking Legacy Records released the single ahead of schedule, and an
album ''Rockabyeberry'' was reportedly planned for release in late October.
Re-release and success
"I Wish I Was A Punk Rocker" was re-released on May 22, 2006. The song had been
gaining in airplay exposure (see "21 Nights From Tooting" for additional details),
and based on download sales from the previous week, and it achieved #15 on this basis
in the general charts (and #7 in the download-only chart). The physical release had
three formats: two CD versions (one featuring the radio mix and "A Light As Bright As
Ours", another featuring the radio mix, the album mix, a further remix, "May You
Never" and the video), and also as a 7" vinyl record backed with "No More Heroes".
The song has been playlisted on BBC Radio 2, and Virgin Radio, Capital Radio.
In the week of May 22, the song reached #2 in both charts, kept off the top slots by
continued strong sales of Gnarls Barkley's Crazy.
She performed on Top of the Pops on May 28. On June 4, the song overtook Gnarls
Barkley to reach #1 in the singles chart. In the Republic of Ireland, "I Wish I Was A
Punk Rocker" entered the singles chart at #10 (week ending May 25, 2006), and rising
to #2 in the following week (ending June 1), and then to #1 the week after. It
remained for a week, but was knocked off the top spot by Nelly Furtado's smash hit
Her album was released in the United Kingdom on Monday June 5, 2006. It went to
straight to number one, in the chart dated June 11.
21 Nights from Tooting
21 Nights from Tooting was a "tour" consisting of 21 performances from the basement
of her Tooting flat, from February 24 to March 16. These were recorded and then
webcast by professional hosting company Streaming Tank. Tickets were sold, but the
venue had a capacity of "six people" ("10 including the band").
The My Space post announcing the gigs was posted in the early hours of February 22.
Thom's website states that "the idea [...] popped into her head" after her car broke
down travelling from a gig in York (on the 22nd) to one in Wales (on the 23rd).
Thom states that she was familiar with webcasting, having had a show at the Edinburgh
Left Bank webcasted in October.
Prompted by a contact from Thom's manager, news services noted Thom's promotion
efforts. In a story first published on March 5, 2006, the Sunday Times ran a piece,
This was quickly reported on by other news sources. The audience for the first day
was reportedly around 60 or 70, increasing to 70,000 (later quoted as 48,000) by the
middle of the run, with viewers from Russia, the United States and Pakistan.
The March 7 Reuters story mentioned that "I Wish I Was A Punk Rocker" was being
rereleased the following week, with the album following in April. However, the
publicity surrounding the tour led to major label interest, with music label
representatives attending the gigs in question.
Thom subsequently accepted an offer by Sony. This led to the single re-release being
delayed until May, when it was released on Sony's RCA label. The news of this broke
on April 3, 2006, the official signing itself being webcast. The single was placed on
Music Week Daily's playlist that day. She was the first artist signed the RCA label
since its reorganisation.
Some observers have questioned how she was able to sustain production of the
webcasts; critics suggest that she "could not have supported such a large audience on
her webcast if she really was a starving artist". There are also questions as to the
level of involvement of PR agency Quite Great. Her manager, Ian Brown, in an
interview with the Guardian, asserted that the idea did indeed come from her, whilst
her management and publicists conducted a large publicity campaign, including a
million "virtual flyers".
In an interview with the Sun, Thom revealed that Streaming Tank were "friends of my
managers and did it for free", agreeing that she could not have afforded commercial
rates for this. Some critics have even accused Sony of orchestrating the entire thing
from start to finish. Craig Logan, the managing director of RCA, denied these
accusations, claiming that the label was "drawn to" Thom after hearing of the
The Guardian's review noted that it was "ironic" that she had "harnessed new
technology to draw attention to the kind of pop made by her foremothers" - the single
being a lament to the spirits of '69 and '77.
Additional live performances
Thom made an appearance at the Free at the Dee festival in Aberdeen on September 4,
2005. The ''Daily Record'' stated that she "impressed with [her] powerful vocals".
She headlined a charity gig in Edinburgh later in September 2005, and was described
as "hotly-tipped" by the ''Record''.
Thom also supported The Proclaimers on their UK tour in December 2005. She and her
band continued to tour, playing the Pocklington Arts Centre near York on February 22,
2006, supported by Edwina Hayes, and the Queen's Hall in Narberth in Wales on
February 23, 2006.
*''Smile... It Confuses People'' #1 UK, #3 IRE (released 5 June 2006)
!Release date Song UK Singles Chart UK Download Chart Album
2005, October 3 "I Wish I Was a Punk Rocker (With Flowers in My Hair)" 55 -
2006, May 22 "I Wish I Was a Punk Rocker (With Flowers in My Hair)" (re-release) 1 1
Smile... It Confuses People
2006, August "What If I'm Right?" - - Smile... It Confuses People