Express & Star

Paul Young: Sharing the stories behind the hits

When evergreen rock star Paul Young hit the road last year to start his first ever ‘Evening With tour…’ there was one element he forgot to factor in – how much he’d enjoy it.

Paul Young

The star who went to number one with his classic album No Parlez then enjoyed iconic hits like Wherever I Lay My Hat (That’s My Home) had decided to reflect on his remarkable career.

That included more success with the number one album The Secret Of Association and the worldwide hit Every Time You Go Away, not forgetting an appearance at Live Aid.

And so armed with his acoustic guitars and fellow guitarist and host, Jamie Moses, he began to travel around the UK’s regional theatres, to play five songs, talk about his career, and answer audience questions – as well as meeting fans before the shows.

“I didn’t realise how much fun it would be,” he says. “I had the best time. It was great last year to meet so many people, talk about my career, and play stripped down versions of some of the hits.”

Now Paul’s heading out for the third and final leg. It will reach Stafford Gatehouse on April 4, giving local fans one last chance to see the show: Behind The Lens.

His career has been truly remarkable. From number one in the charts to Live Aid and Band Aid, from touring America to sustaining his career in a brilliant Tex Mex band, Los Pacaminos, Paul has never stopped.

He’s rubbed shoulders with the biggest stars in the world, too, like David Bowie, Bryan Adams, Phil Collins and more.

“I met David Bowie and Bryan Adams a few times – I met David at Live Aid, that incredible occasion at Wembley in 1985, when the atmosphere had to be experienced to be believed. I was already a fan and loved the Ziggy Stardust album; there was a real aura about the man.

“It’s amazing to meet people like that who have a certain stature – he was a real icon, and yet was always such a lovely man. Anyone who met him always said the same . . . what a good guy.

“As Live Aid was such a special occasion, we were all sharing dressing rooms together. Sadly I wasn’t in the same one as David, but we were all mingling together which was an incredible experience.

“Someone once said about us: Paul Young, David Bowie and Bryan Adams – three great musicians, one haircut between them.

“It was at Live Aid that I met Phil for the first time too, and then a few years later I did a world tour with Genesis.

“In that year there was a Prince’s Trust concert and Phil had just had his big hit with You Can’t Hurry Love, so he had an idea and we arranged a medley of Four Tops hits and performed it as a one-off which was great fun.

“It’s always interesting when you sing with different people because I’m quite receptive to the way other people sing, so I try to fit in around them.”

Little Richard was another icon, who he bumped into, along the way: “Every so often you get asked to take part in these three-hour specials on TV. I was on one in Europe when I met the legendary Little Richard who was larger than life and just the most amazing guy. In fact, I met him and Percy Sledge on the same day – how’s that for a double bill?

“When you listen to Little Richard’s voice, it’s so unchained and free, and it just came straight out. He was a ray of sunlight – a real one-off. I mean look at how many people he’s influenced over the years, everyone from Sir Paul McCartney downwards.

“Percy was a very gentle guy, a really really nice fella. He was actually originally a hospital intern who used to sing to the people that were in the hospital beds. Some scout went to Muscle Shoal Sound Studios in Alabama and told them they needed to hear this guy – that’s how they found him. Amazing.”

His encounters with successful entertainers hasn’t just been restricted to rock’n’roll stars – though he’s worked with or hung out with plenty of those. There were also meetings with A-List movie stars, like Kim Basinger and Kathleen Turner.

“I always wanted to record in LA and there’s a couple of very famous places there – Ocean Way Studios was one of them. It’s so famous that there are famous faces passing through all the time.

“One of them was Bond girl Kim Basinger – Don was producing the Was (Not Was) song Shake Your head featuring a duet with Kim and Ozzy Osbourne, and she just popped in to say hi. Roy Orbison’s wife was there too because they were doing a Roy Orbison collection in the next room.

“Was (Not Was) were crazy – Don Was from the band wrote a song that was like a murder mystery and so I had a go at doing it, but in the end, I opened up to Drew Barfield who is a very good writer and part of the Tex-Mex band Los Pacaminos.

“We came up with a song called Down in China Town and I told Drew I was going to do it with Kathleen Turner. She’d made an incredible film about a love triangle so he wrote the song for her, and she and I were playing lovers in the song.

“Don suggested that we do a ‘talking bit’ in the middle. Kathleen was worried because she’d never sung in a studio – at the same time though, I had to act which scared the hell out of me even more.”

Two other favourites were Annie Lennox and George Michael.

“The Eurythmics were doing a gig in Germany and I was on tour there at the same time, so we went along to see the show. We were both on the same label when I was in Streetband and she was in a band called The Tourists. I went to see them live, at The Lyceum, and always thought she had a great voice. They’d had one hit at that point, and it was quite nice to catch up with Annie. We’d both had success and had been through a lot, so could relate to each other’s journeys.

“Quite famously, I got up at the first Prince’s Trust show to duet with George Michael. He’d really wanted to do the show but had got another engagement that same day – but said he’d try to get there to support the cause. He did managed to get there, and we had a conversation. The only thing he knew the words to was Every Time You Go Away, because he really liked that song. I’d already done it once in my set, but we decided to do it again as a duet. He got up and sang it like an absolute pro.”He was phrasing it in his own way, and if you watch the recording you can hear me saying ‘you next’. What I didn’t remember until some fans reminded me was that a short time after, I was doing Wembley on my tour and he got up to do that again. We didn’t socialise but I loved George as a person. I bumped into him in The Ivy restaurant, in London, and when the lunch was over the restaurant let us stay and hang out. Great memories.”

Paul’s career, however, has been about much more than meeting other famous artists.

While the music press described Paul as an overnight success, he was, in fact, a guy who’d worked hard to get his shot. He was signed by a music industry legend, Muff Winwood, and it wasn’t until his third single, Wherever I Lay My Hat (That’s My Home), that he broke into the charts. It went to number one in the UK and Ireland.

“We eventually released Wherever I Lay My Hat (That’s My Home) in May 1983. I was apprehensive for a while because it seemed that it wasn’t gonna set the world on fire. It moved at a snail’s pace up the charts, literally shifting by two or three places a week. But gradually it made it into the Top 30, then the Top 20. It was agonising. Each Sunday, we’d listen to the charts to see where we were – and we never knew when our progress was going to end. The last few weeks we were certain it would falter and stop short of the top spot.

“But then – when it happened – I had to pinch myself on a regular basis. The three of us, myself, Ged and Ian were in shock. This is something we realised we’d worked towards all our lives but weren’t sure it would ever happen. And at that moment, when it did, it was all hands on deck, back into the studio to finish the album.”

That was the start of an incredible career. He went to number one in America with Every Time You Go Away as he became the face – and voice – of the 1980s.

“Getting to number one is the thing every kid dreams of. You want to be a musician, you want to make a living at it, you want to be in the charts. It wasn’t really until that point that I realised I could do it – I could be a singer for a living. When it happened, everything started going crazy. There was press, there were interviews, it went mad.”

Paul was hugely in demand. Though he always focused on the thing he loved most – the music. And great music underpinned the success of No Parlez.

“For me, being at number one was vindication. It was affirmation that my ideas were sound and my gut feelings about music were good. The same could be said of Ian, my musical director, of course – that his musical education was reaping rewards, as were his arrangementsSame goes for my manager, Ged, who’d known all along that we could do it. I realised that he’d marked me the minute he saw me in earlier band, Streetband, as someone to watch and followed it through to this point. There was a real sense of adventure.

“We released the No Parlez album a few months after the single had got to number one and everything went crazy. It was everywhere – and still is. I think it’s the most seen record in second-hand stores. It even had it’s own Twitter page, for that reason! Not just the vinyl, but the CD too. But as a DJ pointed out on the radio, it was a massive seller at the time so there’s gonna be a lot of them around. It was quite an achievement, though. I realised later it was tough to have a first album that was so big because that was going to set the challenge for the second album.

“The sheer scale of the success took us all by surprise, to be honest. It was bigger than anything any of us had every hoped for. First it did well in the UK but then it started to happen all across Europe. I had dreams, of course, but my dreams weren’t this big. I just wanted to have a hit record in the UK. The minute it took off in Europe, everything surpassed my expectations. That’s when it started to get a little bit unbelievable.

“None of us could really get our heads round what was happening.”

Happily, 40 years on, Paul Young has very much got his head around what happened – and he’ll share those stories when he reaches Stafford Gatehouse.

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