Celebrity interview - Shakin’ Stevens
PUBLISHED: 00:00 04 March 2017
GRAHAM FLACK 07747 015131
In my teens I had three posters on my bedroom wall, unlike my Duran Duran worshipping friends, I chose Elvis (two) and Shakin’ Stevens (one). Imagine my joy then when I was invited for a chat. Kate Houghton writes.
Back in the day, the heyday if you will, Shakin’ Stevens did not fit into the 80’s pop star mould, at all. Quiffed hair, brooding eyes, not a slick of make-up and a constant stream of hit songs…of the rock’n’roll variety. He had his first hit in 1980, has had a total of thirty-three UK Top 40 hits, including four number one singles, and during the 1980s spent more weeks in the UK Singles Chart than any other artist. His huge hit Green Door beat The Specials (Ghost Town), Spandau Ballet (I Don’t Need This Pressure On) and Stevie Wonder (Happy Birthday) to the top spot and stayed there for four weeks. Oh, those heady days!
His massive success started to peter out in the final years of the decade, as it did for so many, and things went quiet for a while, but now he’s back – and he’s just as cool as ever. More so, in fact.
At the age of 70, Shaky is going on tour. I am SO going! He has a new album out and is taking this, with a selection of his original hits, around the UK, much to the delight of his die-hard fans. The new album brings us a new form of music from this rock-n’roll guy however, a soulful bluesy, country collection with rhythms and beats that will get you tapping your feet and properly chilling out.
The songs were inspired by Shaky’s family history, one which he has learned about after setting out on a personal Who Do You Think You Are quest.
‘I decided to research my family tree and it inspired these songs, which are very personal to me. Growing up I didn’t know anything at all; the adults would avoid any questions and send the children out of the room before they talked. I had no idea for example that my dad had been married before he met my mum and I had a half-brother!’
As one of 11 children, life wasn’t an easy one for Shaky’s family, but what went before was truly hard.
‘My family originate in Cornwall, where they were workers in the tin and copper mines from the 1700’s. It was a hard and short life. My great-great-uncle Samuel, born in 1836, died at the age of eight, when he was already working in a copper mine. Stories like this are dark and they suit this form of music. When the mines played out, the Cornish miners scattered all over the world, to wherever mining was still happening; America, South Africa, Australia…and of course Wales.’
Shaky struggled for a while to get the album out, with many record labels loving it, but unsure of how to market it. In the end, he did it himself and launched to critical acclaim from blues fans and Shaky fans alike.
‘My name got people to listen, but it’s the music that’s carrying it forward,’ he says, with quiet pride clear in his soft Welsh accent.
I ask if he has a favourite song.
‘I’ve a soft spot for The Fire in Her Blood, which is inspired by my grandmother’s work in the Salvation Army, helping others even when her own life was so hard, but no real favourite.’
The track Down in the Hole makes reference to his ancestor’s brutally short lives as copper miners, while the final track, Last Man Alive, a punchy, rocking piece with a very American feel, is his angry lament at the damage we are doing to our planet. How things (never) change.
He’s very much looking forward to the tour and getting in front of fans again.
‘I’ll be doing a mix of the old and the new – they won’t be disappointed!’
Oh, I am SO going!
Shakin’ Stevens performs at The Lowry on 16 April
thelowry.com | 0843 208 6000