Songwriting pioneer Joan Armatrading was shocked when she saw stars including Whitney Houston and George Benson perform in the US, because the audience was banned from looking at them.

The lesbian singer thought the strange request was hilarious, and although the ban was an attempt to create a god-like aura around the celebrity, the British-raised singer happily disobeyed it.

She says, "Don't look at Miss Houston while she's on stage. What's that about?

"I was in America with George Benson and the same system was in place - 'Don't look at Mr Benson while he's on stage.'

"I looked at him."