Britain’s Got Talent rocker Jenny Darren is certainly a dark horse.
Not only did the 68-year-old singer shock the judges and audience in her audition when she whipped off her dowdy clothes to sing Highway to Hell in a rock chick outfit, but it turns out that the Cotswold-based star once toured with actual AC/DC – and narrowly missed out on becoming a massive star and making millions in the 1970s.
Speaking to RadioTimes.com, Jenny explained that she was the first to record Heartbreaker – a song that was eventually released by Pat Benatar in 1979, reaching number 23 on the Billboard Hot 100 and spending four and a half months in the US charts.
“Heartbreaker was released on my album,” said Jenny of her 1978 record Queen of Fools. “But nobody thought to bring it out as a single. And because the record company was also a publishing house, Pat heard the recording and loved it and she went and took it. Then of course it was in the top 30 – and my record company released my version afterwards but it was too late.
“I wasn’t that upset about it at the time, but I’ve been more upset about it since when reality dawns on you. When you’re young, you’re doing lots of gigs and things. But of course it’d have made a big difference if I had recorded that as a single, without a doubt.”
You can listen to both versions below. Here’s Jenny’s:
And then Pat Benatar’s:
In an interview with Good Morning Britain, Jenny said she thinks missing out on releasing the song has probably cost her “a few million”.
She also revealed that she performed with Australian rock band AC/DC in 1977 – and credits them for giving her a rock sound.
“It was brilliant,” reminisced Jenny, who explained that before performing with the burgeoning band over 40 years ago, all of her material was funk.
“I was with AC/DC in the afternoon for the sound check and I just looked at my band and I said ‘we have to change the style of the music, guys, to fit in with this band,'” she explained. “So at the end of it we were sounding a bit more like AC/DC. I loved them. And that’s why actually fundamentally I became a rock singer – having to fit in to their style. That’s how it happened.”
Despite her fantastic audition, Jenny revealed that until last year, she hadn’t actually sung rock since 1981. “That’s a long time,” she said.
And she explained that she came to Britain’s Got Talent this year, at the age of 68, because she couldn’t afford to keep her band Jenny Darren and the Ladykillers running any longer.
“We do a few pubby gigs and things like that, and I don’t get paid,” said Jenny. “The fact is I thought after this I can’t afford to do this any longer.
“I wasn’t running into debt but I couldn’t afford anything – I’m just paying out of my own pocket all the time and it’s got to come to a halt at some point. So this was the reason I did this, to get some exposure to try and get back on the treadmill again.”
Although she wouldn’t give anything away about her next performance, Jenny said that she would love to do “lots of really good gigs” after Britain’s Got Talent.
“It’d be lovely to be a professional again, because that’s what I used to be” she said. “I want to get out there and do it properly.”
Britain’s Got Talent continues Saturdays on ITV