Paul Young is enjoying music more

RACHEL BANHAM Best known for his 1980s album No Parlez, Paul Young has much more in his back catalogue. He told Rachel Banham about his forthcoming visit to Norfolk and why he’s making music that pleases him.

RACHEL BANHAM

More than 20 years have passed since a spiky-haired young singer brought us the hit single Wherever I Lay My Hat. It topped the pop charts for weeks in the summer of 1983, and secured Paul Young a place among some of the most successful acts of the decade, such as Duran Duran and Wham!

He may not be in the 'pop' charts so much any more, but it seems the singer has never been happier. He's performing the music he wants to, and his forthcoming show at Potters Leisure Resort, Hopton, near Yarmouth, will team him up with The Manfreds in the Red Hot Rhythm and Blues tour at the end of this month.

The show will feature three singers, with the two original Manfred Mann vocalists Paul Jones and Mike D'Abo singing alongside Paul, and he can't wait. “The idea is to play a lot of R 'n' B-type songs. Mike was quite inspired by the Ray Charles movie that's out this year so we've picked up a couple of Ray Charles tunes,” Paul says. “We'll be doing my tunes as well, but I've chosen the ones that will work with an R 'n' B band. When I was in the Q-Tips I was doing the soul stuff that's not that far away from rhythm and blues music.”


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The Q-Tips was the band that introduced Paul's vocals to the British public in the late 1970s. They played more than 700 shows over three years in the UK and Europe but, after struggling to find a record deal, they went their separate ways at the end of 1982. Paul went on to become a household name. Yet his connections with Manfred Mann go way back.

“About 25 years ago someone called up and asked me if I wanted to be the singer in Manfred Mann's Earth Band, but I had just started my soul band I had just before I went solo so I turned them down. But now I'm with The Manfreds” he says. “I recorded No Parlez at Manfred Mann's studio, The Workhouse on the Old Kent Road. He eventually sold it to Pete Waterman, and he recorded all his hits there.”

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Paul prefers touring to recording. He remembers touring solidly for 15 months in his heyday, breaking for only 10 days to move house.

Today he admits it's still live gigs that excite him, although he's happier recording on his own terms. “Before, I wasn't interested in the studio at all. But when I made No Parlez I thought it was the time for me to get interested in studio techniques, as opposed to just walking in with the band and playing,” he says. “I needed to think about what constitutes a good record. I really enjoyed making it.”

Paul is now a multi-Brit Award winner. Yet his interest in music dates back to when he was a child in Luton, when he learned to play piano and then guitar. On leaving school he worked with his father for Vauxhall Motors and played in various bands at night. He sung in some local bands before forming the Q-Tips, who got back together for some special gigs in 1993.

“When we said 'let's call it a day' because we couldn't get a record deal, even though we loved touring, we said 'let's all meet up in 10 years time and see what we look like'.

“It was great fun. Because we hadn't really lost touch with each other, it wasn't that difficult. We were all looking forward to it.

“As soon as we got together in a room all the chemistry was just the same as it was – all the laughing and joking – and so we said 'let's go out on the road and do some celebratory shows'. We sold out most places we played, it went down really well.”

His Potters show this month will give him the chance to blend together all his favourite types of music, and he admits he holds his pop and soul career in equal regard. “Obviously people that bought the hit records don't – they see them as very special,” he says. “But to me it was a period like any other period –- that I earned a lot more money is the only difference!

“I had fun doing the Paul Young shows but it was a different kind. It was the fun of being famous and thinking 'I always wanted to be successful and now I am', so I really enjoyed every moment of it. The Q-Tips was just about being with people you love being with, and playing the music that you love.”

He admits he gets that same buzz when he goes out on stage with his tex mex band – Los Pacaminos. They recorded a four-track CD-EP in 1999 and an album three years later. He enjoys their live shows just as much.

“I'm with a bunch of guys where the smile never leaves us from when we first meet.

“It's just music that makes you feel happy when you play it, the same as soul music is, which is why I enjoy doing those so much.

“R 'n' B has got a similar thing to it. Even though it's got blues in it, it's got rhythm so there's something to really get into and enjoy – it's not too sad.”

Paul has long been known for more than just his solo material, and is equally popular for his various collaborations and covers.

His appearance at The Nelson Mandela Tribute Concert singing Crowded House's Don't Dream It's Over led to fans pushing him to record it for his 1991 'Best Of' album, From Time To Time. The same year he recorded a duet with Zucchero – Sensa Una Donna. He toured the world afterwards, which culminated in his appearance at the Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert singing Radio Ga Ga.

His 1993 album, The Crossing, spawned the single Otis Blue, his last hit single with the Sony record label, and the following year he released a compilation of soul songs for Christmas, called Reflections, and toured the UK again too.

Various festivals in Europe and a summer tour in France followed. He also spent time preparing new material with singer-songwriter Drew Barfield and songwriters in Nashville. A single, I Wish You Love, and an album called Paul Young was released in 1997.

The forthcoming Potters show is not Paul's first visit to East Anglia. He played in Norwich in 1998 and still has friends in the area that he looks up each time he comes here. In 2003 he played the Marina Theatre in Lowestoft and Norwich UEA with Los Pacaminos.

Now a new solo album could be in the offing, and Paul confirms he has been talking to an American label. But even though much music of the 1980s is enjoying renewed popularity, he won't be rehashing his old material.

“I don't feel that I have to do that anymore. I'd rather make an album to please me again, which is what I did in the beginning. Then you start to get pressure from the record company and you find after a little bit that you're trying to tailor what you want to do into something commercial. I think the best thing I ever did when I made No Parlez was that it pleased me.”

It was a wise decision – the album sold seven million copies. It also spawned Wherever I Lay My Hat, the song that made Paul a household name and pushed him and his backing band, The Royal Family, to the top of the charts. A later single, Come Back and Stay, endeared him to a global audience and he met his wife, model Stacey Smith, while making the video.

His second album The Secret Of Association confirmed his popularity and the single Every Time You Go Away is still his biggest worldwide hit.

He and Stacey have three children – daughters Levi and Layla, and son Grady-Cole.

Now 49, Paul took 'time out' while they were growing up, and it's clear they remain close. He recalls proudly how it's Levi's 18th birthday this month, and says he's speaking today from the studio in the grounds of his home.

While family life is still important, he's keeping busy touring as well. Already this year he's done a couple of shows in Tenerife, and he says he's looking into doing some new shows in Spain with Tony Hadley and Peter Cox, maybe going to South America too. A visit to Scandinavia is planned for December and then he may travel solo to Spain next January. “As well as that I want to make a new Paul Young album, but we're also ready to do another Los Pacaminos album... so there's going to be a lot of recording and touring.”

Still, one of his performances in 2003 brought criticism in the press. While he admits the show “wasn't the greatest show I've done”, he explains he goes out to create a “rock” atmosphere with audience participation.

“The best shows I do are when I go out and see the audience and they're into it and we feed off each other and it gets better and better.

“It's very strange. I think it's because I've had primarily ballad hits, people that only half know me will have a notion to come and see me thinking I'll walk on in a suit and croon all night long. But always the best ones are when everyone's up for a party and so am I – and so I want everybody to feel the same way. And then the shows are brilliant.”

He adds: “My show isn't rehearsed. I don't go through the motions. I'm looking to get a buzz off the audience and see where the show goes. That's just the kind of performer I am. It's not the same every night – and I don't get bored.”

Despite his most famous hit, and with such varied live and studio plans for the future, Paul Young doesn't look set to hang up that hat for quite a while yet. t

t Paul Young and The Manfreds will be at Potters Leisure Resort, Hopton, near Yarmouth, on Monday, March 28. Please note admission to the concert is only through booking a four-night bank holiday midweek break from March 28 to Friday, April 1. Prices from £205 per adult. Call 01502 730345.

t Paul's official website: www.paul-young.com

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