'80s - Paul Young (2010)
'Ladies & Gentlemen: A Toast to Paul Young’
Paul Young was born in Luton, Bedfordshire, England. As a youth, in his spare time he played in several bands as a bass guitarist. The first group for which he became lead singer was Kat Kool & The Kool Kats.
In the late 1970s he joined Streetband, who had one Top 20 hit in the UK, with the humorous, novelty track "Toast". The single peaked at No. 18 in November 1978. In December 1979 the Streetband broke up and Young formed the Q-Tips.
The Q-Tips disbanded in 1982, and Young was signed by CBS Records as a solo performer. Helped by the driving sound of Pino Palladino's fretless bass in his backing band, his first two singles, "Iron Out the Rough Spots" and a cover of "Love of the Common People" had no success, but the third, a cover of the Marvin Gaye classic "Wherever I Lay My Hat (That's My Home)" reached No. 1 in the UK singles chart for three weeks in the summer of 1983.
Similar success followed all over Europe. In the UK, follow-up single "Come Back and Stay" reached No. 4, and a re-release of "Love of the Common People" made it to No. 2, while his debut album No Parlez was certified platinum in various countries.
In 1985 he performed on the Band Aid single "Do They Know It's Christmas?," releasing his second album, The Secret of Association, which secured his future success in the United States, Japan and Australia.
Young's biggest worldwide hit followed in 1985 with a version of Daryl Hall's "Everytime You Go Away." The song reached #1 on the U.S. pop charts, and he performed it during the London segment of the Live Aid concert. In 1990, he released a cover of The Chi-Lites' song "Oh Girl," which peaked at #8 on the Billboard Hot 100.
Having recently had the opportunity to chat one-on-one with Paul Young, we chatted about his career, his earliest TOTP memories, his nightmares, and, of course, ... penguins!
Taking it from the top, and please tell us more about your days as lead singer of Kat Kool & The Kool Kats - which to this day HAS to be one of the best ever names for a band! "Well, I started as the bass player (influenced by Andy Fraser of Free); we had a singer in the Robert Plant mould, but already our material was more diverse than that (Zeppelin, but also Albert King, Jess Roden and Bill Withers covers as well as our own), so I had a 'spot' in the middle of the show that got bigger as time went on. I expressed a desire to be the lead singer which was ignored (!), so I left them for a London band called Streetband."
And talking of Streetband, the very first single (7") that I purchased back in the UK was Streetband's Top 20 hit, 'Toast'! Never knowing, until now that you were part of the band for that song, in reflection, was it a highlight of your career - and if not, I think you owe me, as I spent some of my pocket money on that bloody thing! "It was born from a gig where we had to cover for one of the players who had to go offstage, so we jammed (actually the chord sequence is from the Rodgers & Hart song 'Lover'; little known fact) and I talked over the rhythm arriving at the word 'Toast' at the end of the sequence; Chaz Jankel (Ian Dury's producer/writer) was due to record us and was in the audience. He thought it was pre-written and part of the show and suggested it as the B-side. We didn't know it would come back to bite us in the ass!"
Your solo career came about soon after and, with both 'Iron Out the Rough Spots' and 'Love of the Common People' having no success, suddenly the TOTP world and Radio 1 were your personal musical stomping ground with 'Wherever I Lay My Hat (That's My Home)'! Who made the choice for you to cover the Marvin Gaye classic and as it was the third single out the gate, did you ever worry that (if it hadn't been a hit) perhaps your solo career was going to be a rough, unsuccessful ride? "All choices were mine; the record co. were unsure as it hadn't been agreed as a song choice. I was blinkered; I just wanted to strike out on my own and make an album to be proud of. CBS were expecting me to record a better version of The Q-Tips!"
Being that Top 5 UK single's chart success quickly followed with both 'Come Back and Stay' and the re-release of 'Love of the Common People,' you were riding high for sure - but then you strained your vocal chords, to the point that it nearly cost you your place on the 'Do They Know It's Christmas?' single. Just how close to losing that slot were you - and who would have taken your place, did they tell you?! "That strain didn't happen til well after the Band Aid record; in fact in between the first two albums. I actually had my middle slot secure first; 'Here's To You, Raise a glass for everyone', etc. Then Bob asked me to take the first line as well, as I remember 'cos Bowie couldn't make it, but that's just my recollection...."
Noting that a lot of your hits have been covers - 'Everytime You Go Away,' 'Oh Girl,' 'Wherever I Lay My Hat' + 'Don't Dream It's Over,' etc. does it make you think twice to know that it's those covers that (perhaps) people know you best for, all these years later - and that your own written songs are secondary? "Once again, my choice; I see myself as a singer first, so the best material is paramount, whether it's mine or not. Anyway, I chose 'em, so I hope people appreciate that I choose carefully."
You've continued to have a very successful career, have sung with some of the music business's biggest names, and so looking back, is there one stand out moment that suddenly, right there and then opened your eyes to who you were, and what your music meant to others? "Not really! Just knowing that I sold more than my heroes in some countries was an eye-opener. My music means different things to different people; some people realise I am quite discerning about my career, others just see it as a pop career. But knowing that it marks certain periods in peoples lives is cool."
After all that '80s/'90s pop fame whirlwind came to an end, it seems to me (from press now that relates to it back then) that you were kinda relieved - was that the case at the time? "Kind of; I didn't go all out for fame, Free were my heroes and like them, I wanted to move people. So the fame was something I put up with. It was fun tho!"
Fun Five - OK, it's now time to fire off some quick questions - to allow those that think they know Paul Young to perhaps think again!
a) Can you remember your very first TOTP appearance? What song/year was it and at what level of nervousness were you at that whole day? "It was 'Toast' with Streetband; but it was a blur. I know they took time to film inserts after the show was over, which they didn't often do; typical! On a novelty song!"
b) Is there one of your songs that you look back on and would today change the title to, or a line/lyric from it - and if so, which one, and why? "Just a slight melody change on my version of Tom Waits' Soldiers Things, in the chorus; just because it was too repetitive... I wish I'd argued with Laurie, the producer on that one!"
c) Do you have a recurring nightmare or dream - and if so, how does it usually end? "Sad really: when I had a '54 F100 pick-up truck I was restoring, I always dreamed it would get stolen and wrecked. Dreaming about monetary possessions is not a good sign; but it was my baby.... I would always wake up and think that it really was wrecked!"
d) What is your sweetest, guiltiest pleasure late at night? "Sleep! I've got a big family... really, a lie-in is my guilty pleasure, but that's a morning guilty pleasure."
e) If you could meet any deceased celebrity, who would it be - and what would be the first question you would ask them? "Sam Cooke, maybe; and I would ask him what it was like to be living in such a repressed era, and how he rose above it, which he did. Very smart; forming his own publishing company, and in control of his career, when so many other black artists were ripped off."
If asked to record one for charity, what '80s (and possibly cheesy!) pop/rock song would you love to cover today...and why? "Hard! Can't remember many... maybe 'Wonderful World,' by Black?"
As we haven't seen a new album from you in many years, have you plans for one in 2010, perhaps - and if so, as we're not called Exclusive Magazine for nothing, has it got a working title?! "I'm just talking to Universal at the moment, and I've got some cool songs; but no working title!"
And will the USA ever get to see Paul Young tour over here? There's the Here & Now and Regeneration tours, but we never get to see you named on the bill for the American side of things. "I'd love to! I love touring anyway, but touring the U.S. is a special thing. I hope to soon."
Lastly, and throwing you a journalistic curve ball, Exclusive Magazine loves Penguins (the flightless bird, not the chocolate bar!) do you? "Ah, 'Happy Feet' and 'Surf's Up'; love 'em! Very cute.... although when asked, I did choose to sponsor a Fruit Bat at London Zoo! Sorry.....!"
Interviewed by: Russell A. Trunk
If you’re interested in knowing more about Paul Young, visit his website:
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