Saturday, May 7, 2011

The British Are Coming! The British Are Coming!


One if by land, two if by sea ... 
Well no, actually ... it was two by air ... it IS 2011, after all ... but what a great week here in Forgotten Hits ... as a couple of famous Brits landed in Chicago!  
Last week I got the opportunity to meet and visit with songwriter Tony Hatch and musician / author Julian Dawson.  Both happened to be in Chicago during the same week and offered the opportunity to get together and talk about our love of music.

Imagine getting an email like this one:

Hi kk,
I am in Chicago returning to the UK on Monday evening, May 02.
I'm here for the Variety Childrens' Charity World Conference and staying at the Palmer House Hilton.
I just thought it would be great to meet the face behind Forgotten Hits if you are there and have some time to spare.
Best wishes,
Are you kidding me?!?!?  Tony Hatch?!?!?  And he wants to meet ME?!?!?!?  (What's wrong with this picture?!?!?  lol)
I laugh because there was a time where I would have been afraid to write the very same email to him for fear of being intrusive (or, worse yet, turned down), so it was QUITE flattering indeed to be offered the opportunity to meet such a musical mastermind ... and at HIS invitation nonetheless!Tony Hatch, of course, wrote the majority of Petula Clark's biggest hits -- a non-stop musical assault of pop classics:  Downtown, I Know A Place, You'd Better Come Home, Round Every Corner, My Love, A Sign Of The Times, I Couldn't Live Without Your Love, Who Am I, Color My World, Don't Sleep In The Subway, The Other Man's Grass Is Always Greener, Don't Give Up ... an INCREDIBLE array of music ... and all of it came from the pen (and the piano!) of one Tony Hatch!  Hatch also wrote "Sugar And Spice", a huge hit for both The Searchers and The Cryan' Shames (depending on which side of the pond you grew up), "Forget Him", a Top Five Smash for Bobby Rydell, "You're The One" by The Vogues and "Call Me" by Chris Montez.

Not a bad resume, eh?!?!?  As a MAJOR, MAJOR Tony Hatch fan, it was ESPECIALLY flattering to find out that he's a fan of Forgotten Hits.  (We talked for quite a while in the lobby of the elegant Palmer House Hotel in "downtown" Chicago where he even bought me a couple of Bloody Mary's ... which made leaving the parking garage ESPECIALLY exciting afterwards!!!  lol)  And, I have to say, a nicer guy you're never going to meet.  Again, the power of music ... once we started "talking shop", it was as if we'd known each other for years with nary an awkward or silent moment!  Music truly IS the universal language.

Tony was in town raising money and planning events for Variety Club Childrens Charity, an organization for which he has been a proud member (and former President) for decades now!  What's especially nice is that all money raised in Chicago during this particular visit STAYS in Chicago for the Chicago Chapter.

I asked him to give us a little background on Variety Club so that other Forgotten Hits Readers could check it out and do their part, too.  (kk)

Hi Kent,
Thanks so much for making the trek to The Palmer House and I'm sorry I didn't have the time to buy you lunch to soak up the Bloody Marys.
It was good talking to you and I hope we can do it again some time.
The main Variety International website is  and from that you can access individual Tents (Chapters) such as Illinois,
I appreciate any mention you can give to Variety The Childrens Charity.
My own past roles within the organization have been Chief Barker (President) Variety Club of Australia (1987 - 1989) Chief Barker (President) Variety Club of Great Britain (2000) and I was International President 1997 - 1999. My main involvement with Variety International nowadays (as a Past President) is more in an advisory capacity but I also produce fundraising events for the Variety Club of Great Britain.
Keep in touch and keep up the great work you do with Forgotten Hits.
Best wishes,
KEEPING THE MUSIC ALIVE:  You'll find several of Tony's songs being prominently featured in advertising campaigns around the world.  "Downtown" was recently used as part of a HUGE ad blitz for the Visa Card ... "Color My World" has been used to sell paint ... and a television commercial featuring Frannie's favorite, "I Couldn't Live Without Your Love", has been used to sell Caesar Dog Food in Great Britain for over two years!
A few nights later, I met up with Julian Dawson.  Julian is the guy who has just written and published the definitive biography on Nicky Hopkins, the consummate musical sideman, LONG overdue for recognition for his contributions to SO many great artists and recordings over the years.  Julian's new book is called "And On Piano ... Nicky Hopkins" and it's a VERY in depth look at Nicky's illustrious career. (Hopkins worked most famously with The Rolling Stones, The Beatles -- both together ... that's him playing that rockin' piano on "Revolution" ... and as solo artists, The Kinks, The Who, Steve Miller, Rod Stewart, The Jefferson Airplane, Nilsson, Jeff Beck, Joe Cocker, Van Morrison and SO many more.  Sadly, we lost him in 1994 after a lifetime spent battling one illness after another.  Through it all, he truly gave his heart and soul to rock and roll.
Julian was in town doing book signings and performances.  You see, not only is he a recently-published author, but he has ALSO released 21 CD's of his own music over the past 36 years as well ... and proved to be quite an entertaining performer when I saw him perform in the intimate setting of Fitzgerald's, a fun local pub here in the Chicago suburbs.  (In fact, Julian will be performing ... and signing copies of his book ... this Sunday ... the 8th ... at The Old Town School Of Folk Music on Lincoln Avenue in Chicago ... if you get the chance to stop by, please do ... a VERY pleasant fellow who truly loves and appreciates this music.  Once again, the conversation just flowed and flowed ... and I was treated to a very special one-on-one pre-show concert of Julian performing a barrage of well-known hits at the mere mention of a song title!) You can check out his website here:
Julian allowed us a great track to share with our readers ... and it's one that has a VERY special meaning (as well has an interesting Nicky Hopkins connection).  Again, I'll let him tell the story in his own words:
In 1994, I was a singer / songwriter, signed to a worldwide record deal with BMG, and was due to make my eighth album.  One idea, as yet unwritten, concerned my father, who had died suddenly though not unexpectedly, days before I was due to leave for the USA.  Dad had been an avid classical music buff but, despite having seven sons growing up in the sixties, had successfully avoided listening to pop music.  This unfortunately included all of my own efforts as a musician.  Thinking that he could maybe catch up now on what he'd missed in his lifetime, I was planning to write something for him to be featured on the album.
After an intense day's work, we were relaxing and listening to some late-night music.  We shared an affection for the very early Steve Miller Band records and on this particular night were listening to "Your Saving Grace", an album that prominently features Nicky Hopkins on the piano.  Neither of us had heard any news of his whereabouts in years.  I wondered out loud, "Whatever happened to Nicky Hopkins? Wouldn't it be amazing to have someone like him tracking with us on this record?"  This was possibly the first time Nicky's name had ever crossed my lips.
Two days later, I broke off to play a showcase gig at the South By Southwest Festival in Austin, Texas.  My half hour show went well and was followed by Texas writer / singer Jerry Williams, accompanied on second keyboards by ... NICKY HOPKINS!!!
After the show, I was able to wrangle my way in to an "invitation only" party in a neigbouring room where, by pure luck, I was introduced to Nicky and his red-headed Scottish wife, Moira.  I explained the coincidence of my recent New York conversation and, being a firm believer in grabbing the moment, asked Nicky if he would consider joining us in the studio.  He politely pointed out that he didn't know me, or my music, and asked if I had anything he could listen to before committing himself, so I gave him a recent compilation CD that BMG had put out in Europe.
Fate kicked in again when it transpired that Nicky had moved that very week from Los Angeles to Nashville to escape the recent earthquakes.  I had a flight booked next morning to Nashville to try and come up with some last minute gems before going in to record.  This gave me a perfect opportunity to follow up my chance meeting with Nicky.
Over a cup of tea, he said he'd enjoyed my songs, particularly the lyrics, as he himself only wrote music and furthermore that he would be delighted to join us in the studio.  His fee was beyond the limits of our budget and, extremely reluctantly, I had to decline (a decision I've regretted bitterly ever since.)
Before I left, however, I mentioned that I was in town to try and write some more songs for the album and asked if he had any music that needed lyrics.  He handed me a cassette with a beautiful piano piece he had recently written and promised that we could get together again.
I said my goodbyes, got into my rental car and put the cassette into the player.  By the time I arrived at my publisher's office twelve minutes later, I had almost the complete lyrics to a song about my Dad.  All I had to do was write them down, an experience I've only had once or twice in thirty years of making songs.
"You're Listening Now" was channeled rather than written.  I knew right away that it was one of the better pieces of work I'd ever come up with.  I went back next day and played the completed song for Nicky and Moira.  They loved it, so we agreed that I would go and make my album, but come back to Nashville so that we could record our new composition together. We soon had a version we both liked and I felt I'd made a great new friend, and Nicky and I agreed to work together again as soon as I came back to Nashville.
When I flew home to London, I found my wife, pregnant at the time, in tears on the sofa, having just had the news that her father, too, had suddenly died.  On a September morning, after the second funeral that year, in our tiny one-room apartment, with unseasonably deep snow on the ground outside, the phone rang. It was my brother in England.  "Have you seen the paper?  Nicky Hopkins has died."
I was completely stunned.  I tried to console myself that day by listening over and over to "Baby's House", my favorite track from that "Your Saving Grace" Steve Miller Band album that we had listened to that earlier night before I met Nicky, and calling Nicky's widow and other friends who felt as devastated as I did.
Our session together turned out to be his very last recording.  The album came out as "Travel On", with a dedication to both fathers and to Nicky in the sleeve notes.  I undertook a lengthy tour with my band to support it and found that wherever I played "You're Listening Now", people were immediately asking for the song at the merchandise stand, and there were sometimes rows of people in tears after I'd performed it.  I've now sung "You're Listening Now" hundreds of times, including once at the much-missed Bottom Line in New York, with Nicky's niece in the audience ... one of two occasions where I couldn't get through it.  I've had a man who works in a hospice for the dying tell me that he's played the song for dozens of terminal patients and that it helped them.  It seems that not only did we subconsciously write Nicky's own epitaph together, but we also put something in the world that people can use.
-- Julian Dawson
And today Julian shares his very special, heartfelt collaboration with our readers.  Again, complete ordering information can be found on his website ... and, if you get a chance to swing by The Old Town School Of Folk Music on Sunday, please do ... and tell him you heard his song in Forgotten Hits!  (kk)