Logan’s Running Back On Track

Standard

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.”

**********************

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.

Advertisements

A Heavenly Exclusive!

Standard

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 Year After You

Standard

Writing extensively about the Eighties means I sometimes have to be more analytical than reflective. Holding up a mirror is not enough. You have to examine things in microscopic detail. However, irrespective of whether I’m writing about an historic event, a backstage anecdote or a fond recollection, there is an underlying fundamental thread that often defies methodical analysis. The people involved in these events.

I could write reams on the political significance and worldwide implications of the fall of the Berlin Wall, but just one image of the revellers celebrating its demise atop the landmark, shortly before its collapse, says so much more than I ever could. The revelation, during my interview with Ranking Roger, of David Bowie turning delivery boy ahead of his Milton Keynes gig in 1983, to ensure Saxa had his cans of White Stripe, only serves to emphasise the star quality of the man behind the legend. Even something as simple as recalling the first single we bought can evoke strong emotions, not only because of the music but the people associated with it too: the artist, the person who was with us when we bought the record, who we sang, danced or cried with to that track. Memories may be made of the sights, sounds and even smells of our past but the truth is, without people they are nothing. That is why it hurts so much to lose someone who has been an integral part of those memories.

Last April, after a cruel battle with a particularly aggressive form of lung cancer, Lee, my best friend and soulmate of 25 years lost his fight with the disease, at the age of 51. The months that followed are really just a blur, in which I honoured existing obligations on autopilot but have no clear memory. Photos from that time are the only tangible proof I have of my existence then. In most, I have a familiar big smile, but when I look at my eyes I see someone who truly did not know what day of the week it was. It wasn’t until the end of July when, thanks to the help of some wonderfully supportive friends, I began to write again. Although prior to that, I had begun to write poetry for the first time since my late teens.

A couple of months ago, I shared one of those poems, ‘The Year After You’, with Peter Coyle, who later told me “I only read the first two verses and I had to stop. It made me cry and so I had to walk away and come back to it later. It was very emotional and that is why I wanted to try and put it into a song. Even then it was difficult. It hurts just listening to it for me, because the words are so raw and sincere. There is a real beauty and strength to them. They have a direct link to the heart.”

That song was waiting for me when I arrived home one Saturday afternoon last November. I had been to London for a radio interview to promote The 80’s Annual, and had then gone on to interview Soft Cell’s David Ball for my next book. Coming home to discover one of The Lotus Eaters had turned one of my poems into a song perfectly topped off the kind of day my teenage self could have barely dared to dream about. ‘The Year After You’ is a deeply personal poem I wrote about losing Lee, so it will come as no surprise to know I was in tears when the track finished playing. Peter admits that in writing the song “I was very scared because the words to ‘The Year After You’ were so real and intimate, but it just gripped me and wouldn’t let go. It is so special to open up and allow someone else’s personal feelings and emotions to be expressed in the music, even when they are difficult emotions, but it is harder singing someone’s words because you have to assimilate them as though they come from your heart. You just hope that the writer sees that you are trying to reflect her honesty.”

I had only to hear the emotion in Peter’s voice, as he sang the words I had written, to know that. However, I was still uncertain when he suggested the possibility of releasing the song. It had taken a lot of deliberation before sharing the poem with him, so the thought of it being in the public eye was quite overwhelming. Understanding my reticence, Peter left the decision with me. The song was a gift to me, so it was up to me who should hear it.

Eventually, I decided there could be no better tribute to the man who had been by my side for most of my adult life, and whose loss had changed it forever. Besides, who was I to stop anyone from hearing this gorgeous creation, which may have arisen from sadness but has finished as a beautifully crafted message of hope?four.jpg

So, early December saw Peter in the studio, mixing the song which I am pleased to announce will be released on 3rd February. Currently, the track can be pre-ordered from iTunes and will also be available from various outlets such as Amazon and Spotify.

To find out more about Peter Coyle and his music, visit his website: www.petercoyle.com.