Logan’s Running Back On Track

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While the media is bursting at the seams with coverage of the imminent local and general elections, it is important we do not forget about a much more entertaining evening of voting which takes place in under two weeks’ time. I am, of course, referring to the Eurovision Song Contest which will take place later this month on 13th May.  Who better to comment on the forthcoming popfest than Mr Eurovision himself, Johnny Logan? Having twice won the contest for Ireland during the Eighties with ‘What’s Another Year’ in 1980 and the self-penned ‘Hold Me Now’ in 1987, the singer/songwriter went on to write the 1992 winning entry ‘Why Me’, sung by Linda Martin. It is no wonder he jokingly told me “Someone once asked me what it was like to win the Eurovision. I said ‘I don’t know, I’ve never lost one!’”

Johnny Logan (11 von 120)

Photo: Manfred Baumann

My memories of Eurovision are predominantly of the Eighties, when what seemed like a golden age of songs and fun dominated. It feels like a far cry from today’s predictably political scoring and uninspiring entries.

“It’s still great fun to watch if people can look at it for the fun of it,” answers Johnny “and just vote for the countries you like, but even the songs that are written are no longer written by people from their own countries. I think the Irish entry this year is written by a Swedish guy. It’s just a group of songwriters who get together and write songs for all over Europe. There was a time when you had to have a song written from your own country, and couldn’t release it before the contest. It wouldn’t really be heard before the contest, it wouldn’t be played before the contest. Now, all that’s gone.”

I suggest that it is part of a bigger picture in which we are very much part of a ‘fast food’ culture, where no one is prepared to wait for anything.

“That’s just where we are,” he replies. “That’s just the world we live in now. There are lots of things about the old way I miss, but there are lots of things about the new way I like. I think I’m a bit like an á la carte human being. I like to look at the menu and be able to choose what I want.”

Choosing what he wanted was something Johnny was able to do when putting together ‘It Is What It Is’, his forthcoming album, which is out on 5th May.

“I think, what I’ve had the chance to do with this album is, what I’ve discovered over the years, is the music I really enjoy playing for my audience. The stuff that’s fun to play and I can have fun with the audience, and I can actually express myself.”

That expression is not limited to his choice of tracks but also how the album will be made available, reflecting Johnny’s opinion of the current state of the music business, an industry which has strangled artists’ ability to make a living through recording music.  It “really needs people like me and people with a career in the industry to fight and try to get some of the music industry back for the artist,” he says. “When I did this album, I funded it myself and I’m releasing it now through Universal. They will distribute it but I will have my own record label [Shake It Easy] and it will not be streamed. You will have to buy the album in its entirety from Amazon or my website johnnylogan.com. There will be a web shop open on the 5th [May].  I’m going to make a limited edition of vinyl, but just need to discuss with the pressing plant the best way of doing this. First of all, I wanted to set my record label up and make sure it was ready on the 5th for all the fans in Scandinavia and Germany, and all over Europe. I want the same option to be available in England and Ireland as well because it’s been so long since I had music out there. It would be nice to have it out and if anyone wants to buy it, that’s great.”JL Ireland Flag

I am sure those of us who remember his Eurovision successes will be only too eager to purchase Johnny Logan’s latest tracks. As the man says: “It’s probably the best thing I’ve ever done, to be honest, and I’m really very, very proud of it. It is what it is.”

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Read more on Johnny’s thoughts and memories of Eurovision and the Eighties in The 80’s Annual, vol. II, to be released later this year.

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Added To Favourites

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I can’t remember the last time I played an album ‘to death’, but that is exactly what I have been doing with Cutting Crew’s latest offering ‘Add To Favourites‘. My first play of said album was travelling home from interviewing the band’s lead singer and songwriter, Nick van Eede, a couple of weeks ago. Driving along in tAdd To Favouriteshe spring sunshine, I lost myself in a roller coaster of emotions, listening to the wonderful sounds coming from the car’s speakers.

From the ridiculously catchy ‘Till The Money Run$ Out’ (I guarantee you’ll be singing ‘doo ra lan, doo ra lan’ in no time at all) to the skillfully crafted power ballad ‘As Far As I Can See’, to ‘Berlin In Winter’, a song that not only has an Eighties’ Cutting Crew sound, but has story-telling lyrics evocative of the decade, every track is finely honed to perfection. Each time I play the album, I choose a different favourite, although the pure elegance of ‘(She Just Happened To Be) Beautiful’ is always near the top of the list. But then, there is ‘Already Gone’, which has a style and vocal tenderness reminiscent of Roy Orbison, and not forgetting ‘Kept On Lovin’ You’, a jazz-infused track that takes me back to the early Nineties, when Curtis Stigers was riding high in the charts. It is impossible to choose a favourite from ‘Add To Favourites’, but then what else would you expect from the man whose talents brought us ‘(I Just) Died In Your Arms Tonight’?

The day before I met Nick, h20170316_155832e had been presented with a BMI (Broadcast Music, Inc.) award for selling over 4 million copies of the 1986 UK Number 4 hit single. He had been due to collect the award four months earlier, but his attendance was thwarted by some home maintenance: “November last year was the official ceremony they had at The Dorchester [hotel],” explains Nick. “My all-time idol, ever since I was eleven or twelve, Sting, was being given the lifetime award or something. It wasn’t in the main ballroom but sort of a half ballroom, so it would have been like from here to that fridge away [a distance of about 30 feet]. Sting would have been on my table because I’m published by Sony, and I fell off a f**king ladder! Living here in the country and doing all the stuff … and I’m very proud about doing most of the stuff … I was up a ladder cleaning out the gutter, when I fell and smashed my knee to pieces, so I couldn’t go.” Not meeting his musical hero has not dulled Nick’s delight at receiving such an award,  as is clear from the above photograph. Well deserved recognition of a great song and songwriter.

Read how Nick has evolved his songwriting skills since Cutting Crew’s heyday, his early days in the music business, his thoughts on the Eighties and much more in The 80’s Annual Vol. II, due for publication this autumn.

 

A Heavenly Exclusive!

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Last Thursday, I had the pleasure of interviewing Martyn Ware. With an extensive and impressive career in music, from his early work in The Human League to creating soundscapes via Illustrious, a company he formed with Vince Clarke in 2001, Martyn knows a thing or two about what makes good music. Now, while you will have to wait until April, when More Eighties is published, to discover what it was like for him working with Tina Turner and why he is now warming to Stock, Aitken and Waterman’s output in the Eighties (yep, you really did just read that!), I can reveal a little ‘exclusive’ which came up during our chat.

I had asked the BEF founder member about his inspiration for pushing musical boundaries and continuing to innovate. He told me “We’ve created a new track with Heaven 17, which nobody’s heard yet, which will be coming out soon, called ‘Clouds Or Mountains’. Where we’ve been experimenting with Heaven 17, it sounds amazing. With Glenn Gregory’s voice, it sounds like Scott Walker. That’s an exclusive.” h17

I ask if that have a release date yet.

“No, we’ve got to discuss it. We’ve got a special deal going with Bowers & Wilkins. They’ve got this thing called Society of Sound, where they release high definition audio. They’ve got this subscription thing where you subscribe and every month they send you an album digitally, in the highest possible format. It’s downloadable for a month and then that’s it, it’s gone. This is going to be their February one. It’s like a work in progress version of the new album, so it includes all the existing singles. It’ll be on their service for a month and then it’s gone, until we release the album.”

The concept of providing a limited availability teaser for fans is one which appeals to Martyn, as a remedy to the constant influx of music which now prevails.

“There’s no wait nowadays. You can stream everything everywhere. I read today that Prince’s entire output is going to be available on all the streaming services from February 16th. That’s like about a hundred hours of stuff. It’s just ridiculous.”

However, there’s nothing ridiculous about wanting to hear the latest Heaven 17 material. Society of Sound, here I come!

 

The Vinyl Word In Fashion

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My love of vinyl means I have sometimes held onto to records out of sentimentality, simply because I cannot bear to be parted from the shiny, black discs, even though they are far beyond ever being able to produce a coherent tune again. Scratched copies of Steve Walsh’s ‘I Found Lovin” and ‘Now Those Days Are Gone’ by Bucks Fizz nestle beside albums such as Ultravox’s ‘Quartet’, an LP I played so much in my early teens that the grooves wore down to almost nothing. Yet these prized possessions remain in their rightful place in the collection I have built up over the last 35 years.IMG_20151225_184213.jpg

Some have mustered up more strength than I have been able to, and put their old vinyl to good use. Artists, like those exhibiting at the Vinyl Resting Place on 16th September, use the records as a support for their artwork. This piece I have by the late Terry Sue-Patt beautifully illustrates how music can be come art in more than one way. For your chance to purchase some similarly fantastic vinyl art, head on down to Monty’s in London’s Brick Lane, from 6pm.

There are also a number of people creating clocks from their redundant vinyl collections, and then there is always the option of going completely retro, warming and shaping them into dishes and bowls. However, I recently came across a wonderfully innovative use for these precious pieces of plastic which I think is amazing.

Wendy Norris of Forever Vinyl uses albums (handbags), 7″singles  (purses and bags) and 12″ singles (clutch bags) to create an eye-catching range of original fashion accessories.Vinyl 1

The sumptuously padded interiors are lined with various fun and patterned fabrics, and some of the bags incorporate the record sleeve into the design.

Based on the Isle of Wight, Wendy had a stall at this year’s Jack Up The 80s festival on the island. Her bespoke creations were first brought to my attention by Kim Bailey, whose partner Russell Hastings was performing there with From The Jam. Kim had purchased a beautiful shoulder bag, fashioned from an Ella Fitzgerald album. Unfortunately, by the time I made my way to the stall the following day, those designs had sold out, but I shall be first in the queue next year!

Wendy regularly updates her stock and produces new styles. To find out more, take a look at the Forever Vinyl Facebook page.