Transcript: Transcript The Golden Voice of Paul Carrack: his Music, his Story

Welcome to A Breath of Fresh Air with Sandy Kaye. Welcome to you and thanks for your company today. What if I ask you this, do you know what the band’s Ace, Squeeze and Mike and the Mechanics all have in common? Well, the answer is Paul Carrick, one of the most revered voices in music.


Paul’s been dubbed the man with the golden voice and even after 50 years, he remains one of the hardest working independent musicians on the scene. Let’s get to know a bit about him. Hello Paul, if I can take you back to 1972 and the band had just changed the name from Ace Flash and the Dynamos and then just to Ace, why did that come about? Well, I mean, it was just a bit of a joke really, but Ace looked better on the poster, you know, on the gig poster, three letters, they always came over the biggest, but Ace Flash and the Dynamos, yeah, it was a bit of a joke because we were very low key, ex-hippie, denim and plaid wearing, scruffy people.


Where had you come from in order to join them? What was your background before that? We’re going back a long, long way. I was playing in semi-pro bands when I was at school and I left school, I’d already decided I didn’t want to follow the conventional route of all the rest of my family and all that by getting a normal job. I wasn’t very smart, but I loved music and I just wanted to be in a band and get in a van and go off and do gigs and that’s what I did.


So I lived very hand to mouth for a good few years. I was in various cover bands when we formed this progressive band, it was called Warm Dust, it’s awful, don’t look up their records because they’re terrible. Sorry, Paul, I couldn’t help myself.


This one was Warm Dust’s one and only single from 1970. That dissolved and some of the guys from that formed this band Ace, which was just for fun to play in the pubs around London and they said, well, we could do with some keys and they said, well, we know a guy and that was me. So I joined and we started playing and gigging, but we did write our own songs, which made us a little bit different to a lot of the other sort of pub bands.


And of course, it wasn’t long after you joined them that you wrote that huge hit, How Long? Yeah, that’s right. We never imagined it would be a hit that would keep going all these years, you know, it still gets played on the mainstream radio. Yeah, and it’s been covered by so many people too.


Yeah, one or two covers. So that was one of my better ideas, actually. It’s a very simple song, really.


The structure of it is basically got that strong hook, what you might call a chorus. It’s just really a hook. And then the verse is just a simple kind of vamp.


So I’ve never quite understood how I’ve been so lucky that that has caught the ear of so many people. I think it was a cool record, less than a great song. It had a real vibe.


It had an atmosphere, because in the 70s, that was kind of how you recorded. It was a little less clinical than a lot of records these days. We tried to record the song previously, just didn’t happen.


And it wasn’t until we went to a place in Wales, and we went to this little studio, and it literally was in the country on a farm. The two crazy guys, they recreated a 16 track studio in what was originally a cow shed. And it was when we got down there, and just started having fun and relaxed, that the track evolved into that cool flavor.


When I wrote the song, I envisaged it to be almost Motown. So that’s how that came about. I can remember quite well, even all that time ago, I can remember me and my then girlfriend, my wife, still now, had this little basement flat.


I have my piano in there. I had a tape machine. So I had that hook, I put the harmony on it, and that sounded great.


And I had the verse, the first verse. And then it was time for my girlfriend and to get on the bus to go and visit her mom, where we would go once a week to get a decent meal. I kind of wrote this verse on the bus ticket.


And that’s my excuse for it only having one verse. Do you know it’s 50 years since we released How Long It’s Crazy. What were you writing about? Well, the story goes, and it’s true actually, that as I said, we were sort of struggling bar band, but we were very tight, had a lot of fun.


And we knew some other guys who were doing a lot better than us. They had a record deal and tours and stuff like that. They borrowed our bass player, Tex, for a few shows.


And during the course of that time, they were sort of bending his ear, trying to get him to leave and to join them. And that’s what it’s about. So how long has this been going on refers to the guys in the band? One of the guys in the band, yeah.


But of course, I mean, most of my songs, they’re pretty simple and basic. And I try to leave them a little ambiguous sometimes, so you can put your own interpretation on it. So as we all grew up as young teenagers, we thought you were writing about broken relationships and people playing up on each other.


Well, it was in one sense. How long was Ace’s debut single from their 74 album Five Aside? As Paul has already alluded to, Ace bassist Terry Tex Corner, who had also been a member of his previous band, Warm Dust, had been secretly working with the Sutherland Brothers and Quiver, who’d had a massive hit with this one, Arms of Mary, in 76. It all worked out pretty well for Paul Carrick and Ace.


Although Tex Corner did leave the band briefly, he not only provided the impetus for their biggest hit How Long, but he returned to play on it too. The song skyrocketed to the top of the charts. It was number 20 in the UK in 1974, spending 11 weeks on the Billboard charts, peaking at number three in the following year.


Did you ever expect it would take off like that? No. And when you say skyrocketed, it kind of cracked up the chart in America. I mean, back then, I think it was a Billboard 100.


And it doesn’t happen nowadays. But back then, it just sort of gathered momentum and was moving up the charts a few positions at a time. Each week, we watched it and it was unreal, really.


But even more surprising, as I say, is the fact that it’s kind of endured, I suppose. But it was very exciting watching that. And of course, we got to go to America, tour America, which was like going to the moon back then in the 70s.


But it was marvellous. And it was pretty much a one hit wonder for Ace then, wasn’t it? Yeah, it’s very much a one hit wonder. I mean, it wasn’t typical of the band, really.


I mean, there were two other sort of main writers in the band, and they were more sort of blues country sort of guys, you know. And the way that the record turned out was kind of smooth. It was a smooth West Coast thing.


So I think there was a kind of an attempt to equal things out a little bit. But we didn’t really have another song that caught the imagination. No.


So we just kind of had this escalation and then there’s a steady decline until we decided to call it a day. Was that demoralising for you at the time? Yeah, I think it was a little bit demoralising because we had a little taste of success. I was keen to capitalise on that, if you like, and develop.


And having been absolutely skint from leaving school to suddenly have a sniff of success, I was keen to make it work. So we came back to London after living in the States for a while, I think in 19… I can’t remember the exact year. Was it 77 or 78? But, you know, we came back and the whole punk and new wave thing was kicking off in London.


And I thought, well, that’s it. It all changed. Yeah.


Yeah. Yeah. It was around that time then that you joined first Roxy Music and then Squeeze.


And soon became a member of Mike and the Mechanics. Yep. I didn’t think that I was joining those bands.


I think, you know, Roxy were kind of established. I was played on a few of their records and went on tour with them, but I wasn’t really a member of the band. Paul played with Roxy Music during their later years.


He contributed keyboards on their final studio album Avalon in 82. His collaboration helped cement Avalon as a classic and the period in which he was with them marked the band’s transition towards a smoother, more polished sound compared to their earlier and more experimental work. I look at you.


There’s a picture of you. Every moment. And your destination.


You don’t know it. Even with Squeeze, I didn’t realize that I was joining the band as such. I turned up to play keyboards because their keyboard player, Jules Holland, had left the band.


And I came in and played some keyboards and I sang the song, which funnily enough, came off the album and was kind of a breakthrough hit for them. That was a song called Tempted. So the next thing I knew, I was, you know, flying off to the States to tour America with them.


Flying high yet again. Paul joined Squeeze in 81. The song showcased his vocal and keyboard talents, adding a new dimension to the band’s sound.


Pajamas, a hairbrush, new shoes and a case. I said to my reflection, let’s get out of this place. That kind of lasted for about a year.


And then I moved on. And out of the blue, I moved on to work with a guy called Nick Lowe, actually. He’s a very good friend of mine from way back.


And Nick and I had a band together for, I don’t know what it was, it was at least three or four years, I think. This was after he left Rockpile. The band was known as Noise To Go.


It existed to back both Paul on his solo recordings, as well as Nick Lowe on his. Similar to the arrangement Nick had with Dave Edmonds and Rockpile in the late 70s.


This is a breath of fresh air with Sandy Kaye. It’s a beautiful day. It was late 81 when Paul Carrick joined Nick Lowe in Noise To Go.


Aside from helping each other out, they also backed Nick’s wife Carleen Carter, the daughter of June Carter Cash, on her studio album of the same year, Blue Nun. The following year, as band members changed, the group was rechristened Nick Lowe and His Cowboy Outfit. They recorded two albums from 83 to 85 with Nick as lead vocalist.


They also backed John Hyatt on side two of his 83 studio album, Riding With The King. I did a good job and I got well paid Blew it all at the Penny Arcade A hundred dollars on a Cupid doll I guess no white chick is gonna make me crawl Every winter, don’t you know we’re riding with the king Wishing mercy to the new frontier He’s gonna check us all on out of here Through that mansion, where you can get your prescription Don’t you know we’re riding with the king We did tons of touring in vans and buses up and down America. So tell me about Mike and Mechanics.


How did that come to be? Well, I’m trying to keep it brief. Basically, the thing with Nick had kind of run its course. We had a lot of fun doing it, but it was getting a little bit old.


So we decided that we were going to let that go. And coincidentally, I got a call from Mike Rutherford, who was the guitar player in Genesis. Oscar is the guitar player in Genesis.


And he said he was making a solo record and he didn’t want to sing on it. And would I come down and try out on a couple of songs, which I did. The first song I went down and tried was a song called Silent Running.


Or people think of it as, can you hear me? Again, I recorded a few songs with them and didn’t think too much more about it. Until a few months later, the album was released and it did very well. It was well received, particularly that song.


And Mike was in a position with his Genesis connections to put the band, which was basically a studio type band. He was able to put the whole thing together and we became a kind of entity, a touring entity, all the rest of it. Don’t believe the church and the state and everything they tell you.


Believe in me, I’m with the high command. Can you hear me running? Can you hear me running? Can you hear me running? That was your third time around that’s hitting the big time. Well, it was a sniff.


Well, it was more than a sniff, wasn’t it? Because that one lasted for some time. Well, it was a it was a funny situation because, of course, Mike still had his commitments with Genesis, but also Phil Collins was it was a drummer in Genesis. Obviously, I hope I’m not stating the absolute obvious.


But, you know, Phil was his his career had gone supersonic. So it was a kind of on off situation. I was happy with that because it meant I could do my other bits and bobs as well and made a couple of solo albums.


But we had some good success. Every generation Blames the one before And all of their frustrations Come beating on your door I know that I’m a prisoner to all my father held so dear I know that I’m a hostage to all his hopes and fears I just wish I could have told him in the living years Oh, crumple bits of paper Filled with imperfect thoughts Stilted conversations I’m afraid that’s all we’ve got You say you just don’t see it He says it’s perfect sense You just can’t get agreement in this present tense We all talk a different language Talking in defense Living Years also won the Ivor Novello Award for Best Song Musically and Lyrically in 1990 and was nominated for four Grammy Awards. Were you surprised by that? Yeah.


Yeah, very surprised. We actually performed at the Grammy celebration and we performed the Living Years. And the front row that evening was like Ray Charles, Michael McDonald, Billy Joel, Stevie Wonder.


So my knees were knocking, let me tell you. We went down pretty well. But fortunately, we didn’t win the Grammy.


I say fortunately because Bette Midler came on after us and she did the song Wind Beneath My Wings and brought the house down. And I thought if we get awarded the Grammy, we’re not getting out of here alive, you know. So I was kind of relieved.


That’s a good story. Say, say, say it loud Say it clear Oh, say it clear You can get some As well as you get It’s too late It’s too late When we die It’s too late when we die Were you basking in the glory in those days? Not really because nobody knew it was me singing anyway. They all thought it was Mike.


I mean, I used to go to my news agent in the morning to get my paper and he would say, Morning, Mike. How’s it going? But I didn’t mind. I’ve never fancied being famous or anything like that.


I thought it would be a night now. It was handy. It meant I could pay the mortgage and feed my four kids.


So it’s always nice to have a little bit of success. Keeps you going. It was that same year that Mike and the Mechanics scored another top 20 hit with Over My Shoulder.


That one not only featured Paul on lead vocals, but was the first Mechanics hit to be co-written by him. Looking back Over my shoulder I can see that look in your eyes I never dreamed it could be over I never wanted to say goodbye Looking back Over my shoulder With an aching deep in my heart I wish we were starting over Oh, instead of drifting so far apart Everybody told me you were leaving Looking back Over my shoulder I can see that look in your eyes To say goodbye To make a grown man cry I can’t be Paul followed it up by writing Love Will Keep Us Alive for the Eagles. Well, I co-wrote that song.


It’s three guys. With the wonderful Jim Capaldi. Yeah, Jim and myself.


And we wrote that for the… Well, it wasn’t written for the Eagles. It was actually written for a project that was instigated by Don Felder and Timothy Schmidt from the Eagles. Now, they were frustrated because at that time the Eagles were not together.


But they wanted to work. And I knew Timothy from way back from the Ace days. And he got in touch and suggested I go over and we start a project.


And that’s what I did. And we took a few songs over. And we were making tapes.


And everybody was getting excited. And then, lo and behold, the Eagles got back together again. So that was the end of that project.


But one of the songs we’d been doing with me singing was Love Will Keep Us Alive. And basically, Timothy needed a song to sing on the comeback album. And he asked if it’d be okay for him to do that song.


And naturally, we all thought it was a great idea. I was standing all alone Against the world outside You were searching For a place to hide Lost and lonely Now you’ve given me The will to survive When we’re hungry Love will keep us alive Don’t you worry Sometimes you’ve just gotta let it ride The world is changing Right before your eyes Now I’ve found you There’s no more emptiness inside I would climb the highest mountain Maybe there’s nothing I wouldn’t do What was it like working with Jim? He’s certainly one of my heroes. Well, I didn’t work that much with Jim.


As I said, Pete, Jim and myself got together to write songs. I can’t even remember if it was initially to write songs for me or maybe it was just for this project. But, I mean, obviously, nice guy, been around a long, long time, like me.


Yeah, it was good. But it wasn’t that much. We didn’t work that much together.


How does it work when three of you write together? Or do you just kind of brainstorm? Well, there’s no tried or tested way. It happens in all kinds of different ways and often it’s why bands split up, I found. Because, you know, I did most of this and the other guy’s like, well, I did that and the other guy’s, well, I didn’t do much but my bass line did, you know.


So it’s a bit tricky. And then everybody wants their part of the pie. Exactly.


So I’m not going to go into detail but it was a bit funny, actually. But it happens. And up until that point, the only people I’d ever written songs with was my pals.


And if you happened to be in the room, then you went on the credit, which was fine. But to be honest, we got into one of those situations that I’ve just described and it was a little bit weird. I can imagine.


I mean, you talk about writing with your pals. You did do a bit of writing with Nick Lowe, didn’t you? Yeah, well, I mean, Nick, you know, he’s a great, great writer. And we were under the same kind of roof.


We all had the same manager. It was Nick, Elvis Costello, Squeeze, for a time, and myself. And I was in awe of these guys and their songwriting ability because my stuff has always been pretty straightforward, you know, lovey-dovey type of stuff.


Nothing wrong with that. Well, there was back in the late 70s when things were a bit sort of edgy, if you like. Satisfy my soul Let the day begin Make the evening roll Let the big sky in Satisfy my heart It’s so good to feel Love is all around And all the hurt will heal Oh, this is what my heart needs to feel Oh, this is what my heart needs to feel Satisfy my soul So I was kind of in awe of these guys, particularly Nick.


I think he’s very underrated. Well, not by his fans, but, you know. And he doesn’t particularly need to write with people.


So he likes to do it on his own anyway. But he wrote a great song. I made an album called Groove Approved back in the day, and Nick provided a song called Battlefield.


And it’s a great song with a fantastic lyric. And he very kindly gave me a piece of that song. So that goes down as we co-wrote it, but really Nick wrote it.


And he just gave, you know, it was a bit like that. The world just couldn’t get enough of singer-songwriter Nick Lowe at that time. Actually, we couldn’t get enough of Paul Carrick either.


So Paul kept writing, kept being used on sessions for bands like The Smiths and The Pretenders, and in his spare time, kept putting out solo albums.


This is a breath of fresh air with Sandy Kaye. It’s a beautiful day. We’ve been hearing about the closeness between Paul Carrick and Nick Lowe during the 90s.


Nick, of course, made his mark as a producer for artists like Elvis Costello, Graham Parker and The Pretenders. This is the song Battlefield that Paul’s been talking about. I live on a battlefield Surrounded by the ruins of the love we built And then destroyed between us, the smoke has cleared As I stumble through the rubble I’m a decades cheating devil And I’m truly mystified My new home Is a shell or bell With tears and a muddy water And bits of broken heart All around There is desolation And the scenes of a devastation Of a love being torn apart I live on a battlefield Diana Ross no less covered that one.


She did indeed, which was a bolt out of the blue. We actually had to amend the song a little bit because it was a guy called Peter Asher was producing it and he said we’d like to recall that song Battlefield but we feel it needs a middle bit. So actually I think that’s where I just about earned my crust because I helped Nick with that extra middle bit that was needed.


Yeah, I think maybe that’s where I earned my corn. It was the following year, Paul, where you joined Roger Waters on tour and you performed in Berlin in front of a crowd of like a quarter of a million people. I mean, you said you were nervous at the Grammys.


What was it like playing in front of such a huge crowd? Yeah, it was pretty terrifying. They say quarter of a million, but I think it goes up about 100,000 each year. And the next year it was a crowd of half a million.


But no, that was another situation where I’m thinking why do I let myself in for this? But I was a last-minute replacement for somebody. I don’t know who. I had a call from Roger about a week before the war, which was this massive event, as you said, and he said, listen, could you just have a listen to these four songs and just get them in your head and know them? I said, OK.


He said, I might need you. But I think it was literally the day before or the day before the day before the show he called up and said, right, get out of here. I want you to do Hey You, which is one of the songs.


So I performed that. But actually behind the wall, when they’d constructed this massive wall, I mean, there’s helicopters, cranes and all sorts involved. So I said, well, Roger, I would have worn a paper bag, you know, if it was that much of a problem.


Anyway, no, that’s another one. For the grandkids. Hey you Out there in the cold Getting lonely, getting old Can you feel me? Hey you Standing in the aisles With itchy feet and fading smiles Can you feel me? Hey you Don’t help them to bury the lies Don’t give in Without a fight Hey you Out there on your own Sitting naked by the phone Would you touch me? There’s been many highlights in your career today.


Yeah, I mean, it’s been a long journey, which started as soon as I left school at 16. And it’s been unbelievable, really. I mean, I just wanted to get in a van with a band and avoid getting a proper job, basically.


And all these things have happened along the way. It’s been, you know, tons of ups and downs. It’s never been something you could take for granted.


And I think you were definitely one of the lucky ones where you managed to keep life on the road and making music and a family all together and balanced, didn’t you? Yeah. That’s pretty rare. Well, that’s right.


As you say, very, very blessed. You performed with some huge artists. You played organ on Elton John’s Made in England, Big Picture, something about the way you look tonight you did, Candle in the Wind.


I’m amazed to hear you say that performing live sometimes you actually felt nervous. What was it like playing with somebody like Elton John? Did that prompt nerves as well or you took that one in your stride? Yeah, no, I’ve always had a very bad case of imposter syndrome, especially when it came to keyboards because I’m totally self-taught, play by ear. So I never was quite sure what I was going to be facing when I got to a session.


And of course, Elton’s a great piano player anyway, but he doesn’t play the organ. ♪ Man stands in all his glory ♪ Sitting at the crossroads ♪ Of the same old story ♪ Gotta make out the weather like a mask ♪ Hides inside a child ♪ Lives inside a glass ♪ Man’s grief is undefeated ♪ Man worships his undefeated I was always nervous before shows, especially if you’re doing all the singing. Any singer will tell you they get a little bit nervous and hope the voice is going to be in good nick.


I’m a lot better now. Well, you’ve certainly paid your dues. If you’re not relaxed and good at it now, you’re never going to be visual.


Did you have to keep up your chops? Did you have to practise and utilise that muscle like you would any other to stop it from atrophying? Yeah, I think you do. You have to use it or lose it, as they say. It’s very important to keep it in nick.


These days, because we’re always touring and if we have a break off the road, I keep it ticking over. Do you sing in the shower? Apparently so, yeah. But never in a normal singing voice, apparently.


I do a pretty good club singer and a bit of a Pavarotti, but I can’t get right up there like that. But yeah, definitely. I’m a compulsive whistler.


That’s what drives people mad. I’m very annoying. I don’t even know I’m doing it.


I walk around whistling all the time. But my missus always says it’s quite handy because she knows where I am and how to find me. Is that a habit you’ve developed of late or was that something always? No, my dad was a painter and decorator.


He whistled as he worked. He was an influence, yes. So I picked that up very early in life.


All charity for me My Lord and Son will rise This door is what you are Snare drums in tight pants Is what you are All charity for me My Lord and Son will rise We’ll sing what we know As I mentioned earlier, you’ve played and sung with some amazing people. Bands like Simply Red, you’ve toured with Ringo Starr’s All Star Band, which is the one that will come in as Chapter 4 in the book. Well, it probably would be later on in the book than Chapter 4, but for the last 10 years I’ve worked quite a lot with Eric Clapton, because I’ve played on some of his records years ago and albums like Pilgrim.


But the last 10 years I’ve done quite a lot touring with him as part of his band. And that’s been an incredible experience. Not just with him, but some of the incredible musicians he has.


You know, you’re real top-flight players. I think that has done my self-esteem as a player quite a lot of good actually, because to be accepted and respected in that situation with these world-class guys. I think it’s helped me.


Because I never really thought of myself as a keyboard player. I always thought I was a singer first. But I play a lot of, it’s called a Hammond organ, and it’s a specialised kind of thing.


And it’s a wonderful, wonderful instrument. And the instrument can do a lot of the talking for you actually, because it’s such a great thing. And Eric’s music is quite basic anyway.


So that’s been a wonderful experience, but I’ve not been doing it this year. I’ve been concentrating on my own stuff. You know, that’s really the focus these days.


You’ve been putting out albums simultaneously while touring, while working with different bands, while doing a lot of session work. Yeah. Well, like I say, I have this studio at home, and that’s where I mess around a lot.


And I put together quite a lot of the albums. I start off trying to write in a song, but I end up playing everything, in many cases. Because I’m a jack-of-all-trades.


Master at none. What kept you wanting to put your own music out on the side? I don’t know. Fear of poverty.


No, I mean, I think because I’ve done a lot of different things, had a bit of success here and there, and often nobody would know who I was. I’d have to explain what it is I do. And they say, oh, you did that? Oh, you sang that song how long? Oh, that’s you! Actually, I’ve got another story about when I went to back in the days when I had hair, I went for a haircut, and I was sitting in the barber’s chair, and Tempted came on the radio, which Tempted’s a song by Squeeze that I sang the lead vocal.


And I said, oh, actually, that’s me there. And the guy looked at me as if I was mad. He said, no, what are you talking about? That’s Paul Weller.


How many solo albums have you put out to date? Do you know? I’m not sure. It’s quite a few. I mean, it’s double figures.


You always kind of flew under the radar. Was that designed to be like that, or just worked out that way? I think it just worked out like that, but I wasn’t particularly bothered about being famous. The brushes that I’ve had with it, I don’t really like it, actually.


I’m quite happy flying under the radar, as you say. But, at the same time, I want people to hear the stuff, and I want them to come to the gigs. Tell us a little bit about your solo albums.


Actually, I released an album with a big band. A kind of bluesy, swing-type affair. That album’s called Don’t Wait Too Long, and it’s got things from people like Ray Charles, Etta James, Sam Cooke.


That was great fun. What’s your favourite track on that one? I’m a sucker for the ballads. There’s a song called Trust in Me, which was recorded originally by Etta James.


I really like that. I know you do Have the faith I have in you And love will see us through If only you trust in me Yeah, yeah Come to me When things go wrong Cling to me, baby I’ll be strong Oh, we can get along If only you trust in me While there is snow upon While there are birds that fly While there is you You and I’ll be sure I love you Oh Your music is wonderful. Paul Carrick, your voice is great.


And as you said, you’re a jack of all trades. I can’t yet imagine not writing and recording stuff. At the moment, I think I’m in pretty good nick.


I’m singing better than ever, to be honest. So I’ll keep going whenever people want to hear anything. Fabulous.


Paul Carrick, thank you so much for your time today. Thank you. All the best.


Bye-bye. So let’s just put the record straight. Paul Carrick has 19 albums out so far.


He’s no longer a member of Mike and the Mechanics, and it’s now 50 years since the song How Long was first released. Thanks for your company today. I hope you’ve enjoyed Paul Carrick’s story.


Don’t forget if there’s an artist you’d like to request, just send me a message through the website I’ll look forward to being back in your company again same time next week. Bye now. Because it’s a beautiful day You’ve been listening to A Breath of Fresh Air with Sandy Kaye Beautiful day Oh, baby, any day that you’re gone away It’s a beautiful day