11:35 AM 10th November 2020
Interview With Shakin’ Stevens
He was the most successful singles artist of the 1980’s, a regular on Top of the Pops - now Shaky (as he is known to his fans) is to release Fire In The Blood, the definitive collection bookpack along with Singled Out a 3 CD or double vinyl retrospective of his career to date.
I spoke to Shaky about his remarkable chart feat, his career to date along with a northern connection.
It is true that your dad was born in Bradford?
He was indeed. I have played concerts many times in Bradford at St George’s Hall, it is a great venue as the acoustics there are fantastic. It sounds exciting about the old Bradford Odeon being renovated - wow! what a venue that will be to play.
The Fire in the Blood bookpack sounds exciting, what is actually in there?
There are 19 CD’s in there containing 266 tracks, the first ever live album which I have done was recorded on the 2019 tour, a live recording from 1980 at the Paris Theatre in London for Radio 1, posters, a tour programme and an autograph book which I have personally signed.
Is it true that Dave Edmunds produced the very first Shakin’ Stevens and the Sunsets album?
He did, we recorded it at the famous Rockfield studios in Wales, Queen recorded there, also Coldplay as have so many artists. When I left school I was in several groups, in fact my first group was called The Denims! The actual name Shakin’ Stevens came from a friend of mine. With the Sunsets we did 5 or 6 albums together starting in 1969 but by around 1975/1976 it was time to call it a day.
After that you went on to star as Elvis in the West End Musical, what was that like?
They had 3 people playing Elvis, Tim Whitnall played the young Elvis, I played Elvis in the middle in his army and movie days whilst PJ Proby played Elvis in his Vegas years. We did it for 19 months and I really enjoyed it as it was a good experience. Jack Good directed the show before that he had done the TV shows such as Oh Boy and one time managed acts such as Tommy Steele, Marty Wilde and Cliff Richard.
Your solo career really took off when Freya Miller started to manage you
A lot of people don’t know that my solo record deal with Sony was actually signed before Freya came along. Record producer Mike Hurst was managing me at the time and got me the record deal with Epic Records who were part of Sony Music, he produced my first hit on the label, Hot Dog.
You were a regular on Top of the Pops, how many times were you on the show?
I became the biggest selling singles artist of the 1980’s. Yes, I did 60 appearances on Top of the Pops, those were the days! You had to be inside the Top 40 to be invited to go on the show. Hot Dog had got to Number 38 or 37 and that got me in the show. It was the first time of wearing denim which stuck with me in the 80’s.
It was a good time for music but you had all these new romantic bands like Duran Duran, Spandau Ballet and Culture Club on the show, but I stood out as I was different to all these acts. As well as Top of the Pops I did the Saturday morning TV shows that the kids used to watch with their parents. The parents could relate to the songs I was singing as they remembered the first time around. Those kids are now grown up but they still come to the concerts with their children now.
With hits such as This Ole House and Green Door, how did you decide to record these songs?
My producer at the time was Stuart Colman. Over the years Stuart had worked with everyone from Billy Fury to Little Richard and then me. He played me these tracks and said that they would be good to record again, we didn’t want to do them exactly as the original version. This was the days of when doing a video for the song was so important. We didn’t have one for Hot Dog but did one for the next hit Marie Marie which gave me my first Number 19 hit in Germany and the track really opened up the doors for me in Germany, then of course after that This Ole House and Green Door went to Number 1.
Your last album Echos of Our Time was more country based was that intentional?
Yes it was. I had family in Cornwall who worked down the Coppermines, my grandma played harmonica in the Salvation Army, in fact the track Fire In The Blood is about my grandma. I was very proud of the album, perhaps not in the way it was marketed but the broadsheets loved it and gave it great reviews. It was not released on Sony Music as by 1992 all the people who were there at the height of my success had left, things change and I felt it was time to move on.
Is it right that you perform the old hits now in a new light?
We do. Green Door is now sung as a New Orleans shuffle. I did that on the tour in 2019. I talked to the fans after the show and they said that they love the way it is done now, it’s good to do the songs slightly different as it can pull in a different audience. People do not get offended by it, it’s not like doing a rap version of the song.
Have you missed touring?
I love being on the road. I have done it for decades - there is nothing like it. It is good for the public, good for the fans, good for the band, it can take you away from your everyday troubles and in times like this music is something we need more than ever. As I said, like venues with good acoustics, good tiered seating and not ones where people are walking in front of the stage to go to the toilet all the time.
Do you watch any of the old Top of the Pops programmes showing on BBC4?
I do occasionally, I will have a glance. They are what they are, you couldn’t take a band on with me if I had wanted to, most of it was miming to the track.
Have you been busy in the lockdown?
It's been full on with the bookpack, we actually started in January with it. I know a lot of people might say “what!” when they hear this, we had most of the tracks ready then the pandemic came. It has taken a long time to get the photos just right that I’m happy with, there is no point in doing it if you are not happy with it. There is a piece in there by Paul Sexton which details all my career which tells a story too, so that had to be done. I haven’t stopped really - I hope the fans really like it, I am really excited about it.
The Fire In The Blood Bookpack and Singled Out Collection is out on Friday 27 November 2020