Up All Night With Amy
Over beer, tea and banana sandwiches, the singer opens up about her jailed husband, her next record and her unravelling life
At 17, Winehouse got a record contract with Island, and in 2003 she released her first album, Frank. It was dedicated entirely to an ex-boyfriend, and choice tracks did well, including the saucy ”˜Fuck Me Pumps,’ which took a critical look at British tarts. The album was nominated for a 2004 Mercury Music Prize. But Winehouse was building a reputation as a wild thing, showing up for concerts trashed. In 2003, she met Blake Fielder-Civil at a local bar. A handsome hanger-on from rural Lincolnshire, Fielder-Civil worked part time on music-video sets. Winehouse fell hard; his name was quickly tattooed on her chest. But the romance was rocky, and during one breakup, when Fielder-Civil left her for another woman, she wrote the bulk of Back to Black, her second album. Following incidents of public intoxication, her management tried to pack Winehouse off to rehab. Famously, she refused. By the time Back to Black hit the US last year, Winehouse was hailed as the future of soul music. The album sold 2Â million copies in America and eventually earned her five Grammys.
But things got weird not long after Winehouse married Fielder-Civil in Miami in May 2007. In November, he was arrested for the assault of an East End bar owner in June 2006. (Fielder-Civil pleaded guilty.) With her husband gone, Winehouse slid into a despondent place. She cancelled her tour at the end of 2007, saying, “I can’t give it my all onstage without my Blake.” And in January, after a clip of her smoking crack was released to the tabloid The Sun, she was sent to rehab by her record label again. She didn’t stay long, and she happily tells me she did drugs the whole time.
This spring brought story after story in the tabloids, parading images of Winehouse wrecked and wretched, usually high and half-naked. There were rumours of extramarital affairs, and she was arrested (and later released) on drug charges and cautioned by police for assaulting a man. Her smacked-out haze of an existence went viral in May, when Babyshambles singer Pete Doherty posted videos on YouTube of the two of them in a dark room playing with just-born mice, their fingernails encrusted in black resin, using the animals as puppets to beg Winehouse’s husband not to divorce her. Also in May, Mark Ronson, the DJ and producer who worked with her on her hits, cancelled her recording sessions for the title song of the upcoming James Bond film. “I’m not sure Amy is ready to work on music yet,” he said at the time. It is now rumoured that the wholesome and beautiful young British singer Leona Lewis will replace Winehouse on the Bond song.
Winehouse says all of this is the product of heartbreak from being separated from her true love, whose name appears in a little heart pin she often wears in her hair. “To be honest, my husband’s away, I’m bored, I’m young,” Winehouse tells me. “I felt like there was nothing to live for. It’s just been a low ebb.”