I was contacted recently by Gordon Roxburgh who runs a website called www.songs4europe.com which is all about the United Kingdom at the Eurovision Song Contest and the Song For Europe competition. Gordon has been commissioned to write a book on the same subject and conducted an online interview with me about my involvement with Eurovision (1983 and 87). The book will not see publication for a while yet so my interview is below (after the pic of my invite to the wine and caviar reception. It appears my answer to Q3 may be innacurate as I’ve found that my English version of the 83 Italian Entry “Per Luchia” did in fact get released. I shall seek it out but I’ve heard of it changing hands on ebay for large sums of money.
Q1: Your biography on your webpage, says you began your life as a Steelworker, before moving into the music industry. So, what got you interested in composing, and how did you make your transition from steelworker into the music industry, what was your big break?
I always wanted to be in music but everyone in my area just naturally went into the steelworks. I was never fully committed although I learned a lot from the adult world of work. I was serving an apprenticeship in the Steelworks during the day and a second apprenticeship during the nights playing in my band Bullfrog. We got a record deal with Cube records and I just quit the steelworks. Now 34 years later the record we made for Cube records is finally selling – http://stmedia.org/power-glam/ a while back I helped our old drummer make a website about this. You can find it here www.thebullfrogstory.co.uk click on “intro” for my story about the early years. During the band years I was always interested in writing as well as performing and I was a big fan of the Beach Boys and the Beatles in my younger days. When rock stardom didn’t quite happen I concentrated on songwriting and built a career in that. Our first producer was Roger Bain of Black Sabbath fame who was in cahoots with Gus Dudgeon doing things with Cube/Essex music (our label/publisher) Gus who was to play a part in the Eurovision story always claimed to have first met me at the Cube studios but I was only 21 and could never recall this.
Q2: How did you come to collaborate/meet with John Verity? (Can you give me a bit of background info about him?) As songwriters who writes the music, who does the lyrics? Or is it a joint effort on both?
John is a recording artist/producer. He replaced Russ Ballard in Argent. I can’t recall exactly how I came to be working with him, as a bunch of things were all happening at that time. Pete Waterman had signed me to MCA Music and he was managing a producer called Peter Collins who among other recordings produced one of my MCA songs with the Searchers. John also produced another of my MCA songs with the Searchers. I can’t recall if it was my publisher or Johns record company who introduced us. Anyway I did a couple of albums with John (or was it more) co-writing, playing bass and/or keyboards and some drum programming. All the other stuff was additional, I was there as a professional songwriter for the commercialism it was hoped I could inject. As a writer I work on both music and lyrics. When I co-write I may do one or the other but in this instance with John we both worked on music and lyrics
Q3: Was the Song For Europe competition something you had tried for before 1987? (If so any details….?) What was the motivation for entering?
I’ll have entered several times before. Most songwriters did back then when it was ran that way. The motivation is the huge careers that have been created out of it for a small number of people. I did actually have a stake in the 1983 contest in Germany as I wrote the English lyric for the Italian entry “Per Lucia”. Riccardo Fogli had actually recorded my version and it was poised for release should he win the contest. The English version would have come out in many territories so I cheered him on throughout the contest. Unfortunately Per Lucia did not do well enough to warrant an international release and my version is languishing in some studio vault in Italy.
Q4: For the song you entered in 1987, you kindly mentioned it started as Show Us Your T*its, so how did it evolve from that into I Want You At what stage was it decided to enter it into A Song For Europe?
John and I were working on his album and during a break in the pub we were discussing Muzak. He said once he’d heard Argent’s “Hold Your Head Up” played by brass band as background muzak in a pub. I think he may have been there with the actual band and mentioned watching their faces as it dawned upon them. “Is that …? – no …! it can’t be …..- you know I really think it is”. So we thought we record something really improbable ad give it to the Landlord. So we recorded a track with really smooth jazz chords and sang “Show Us Yer T*ts all the way through it but disguising our voices using a vocoder (sparkies magic piano). That evening we gave it to the pub landlord who unwittingly put it on the audio system. We then watched people with great mirth as the declared “are they singing …? – no …! it can’t be …..- you know I really think it is”. Crazily somehow the track became Bob Bartons Hit Pick in Kerang and my publishers were obliged to issue a song assignment in the name of “show us your t*ts”
Q5: Can you give me some more information about Mike Stacey? How you met, and did Mike do the demo version of I Want You ?
Mike was doing session vocals on the stuff I was recording with John Verity. We originally had Trevor Walters on the track and Mike Stacey (and Karen Sambrook) were on backing vocals. When we put the song up for Eurovision it was obligatory that year that you had to have a record ready for release etc and there was some issue about Trevor doing it so we put Mike on Lead Vocals.
Q6: What was your reaction to the song making it into the final ten songs? Had you been kept informed as to the progress it was making through the selection process? (ie It’s in the last 50, Its now in the last 20 etc?)
Obviously I was really pleased. I can’t completely recall the process and I don’t think there was much of a build-up – perhaps notification of last 20 and then a week later in the final10. Others may have a better recollection than me.
Q7: How much were you involved in the way the song would be presented, ie image, costumes etc?.
I charted out on manuscript most of the parts on the recording for the orchestrator. It was amazing to walk in on day one and hear your song played by a whole orchestra. The whole thing became a big expense and the outfits were purchased by taking an additional advance from my publisher. I was with Dick James Music at the time on a sub-publishing deal set up with Gus Dudgeon (of Elton John fame). I’d worked with Gus many times over the years and as a special favour he did the live mix in the control room the night it went out. By the time it came to choreography the money had run out so I worked out some moves for the guys in a London hotel room. You’ve got to know me to know how crazy this was – I have two left feet.
Q8: What were your expectations once you heard the other songs? Any favourites, songs you thought were better for example?
All I can remember is I liked some and not others. I cannot now recall one single one, even the one that won.
Q9: Memories of the occasion? reaction to voting and result? (Reactions of John Verity, Mike Stacey?) – Do you know what else Mike Stacey has done since A Song For Europe?
We were disappointed not to win but 5th out of ten isn’t bad. I think the week spent doing this was quite stressful. Mike is now the singer in Smokie.
Q10: Did you try and enter the contest again? (If so any details – ie any songs that didn’t get selected but went onto become hits elsewhere?)
Once and I came quite close but no big stories to tell here.
Q11: I note from your website that amongst the many artists you have written songs for is Celine Dion. Can you give me more details on which song? As Celine Dion herself won the Eurovision Song Contest in 1988, that is the sort of information that readers would be interested in?
In 1982 Sheena Easton released my song “Please Don’t Sympathise”. In 1983 Celine released her version of this song under the title Ne Me Plaignez Pas both as a single and an album track. This was in the days before she started to sing in English and it was a hit in Canada and France. For anyone charmed by the story of how Renea Angelil re-mortgaged his house to launch Celines career, well hid did so armed with one of my songs !
Q12: Did you find that entering a song in the contest either helped or hinder your career
It was a hectic period but it didn’t have much effect one way or the other