David Martin: singer-songwriter

David Martin lives and breathes the songs.  Chances are, you’ve heard something David Martin wrote.  His songs have sold over 26 million records around the world, but all stories have a beginning.  For the British singer-songwriter, he began his career as a member of the group Butterscotch on RCA Records.  Soon after, he formed a songwriting partnership with Chris Arnold and Geoff Morrow.  The partnership resulted in many the composition of many songs recorded by the true legends of recorded music, including Elvis Presley, Cliff Richard, Wayne Newton, Dusty Springfield, Cilla Black, Mama Cass.  Many others would perform and record their well crafted songs.

One of the songs David Martin would write has brought many smiles to the world.  David Martin’s song “Can’t Smile Without You” would become a pop standard and worldwide hit after being recorded by Barry Manilow.  Manilow was not the first, nor the last artist to record the song.  The Carpenters, Engelbert Humperdinck, Vic Damone, Andy Williams, Gino Cunico and others would perform and record their own versions.  The song has been performed countless times in concert and featured in motion pictures as well as earning Martin three BMI awards for over 3 million airplays.

Although he has written and continues to write songs, he is still very much a singer.  As a songwriter, he has a great admiration for the great songwriters of the American Songbook, those great lyricists and composers who wrote the standards: Cole Porter, Irving Berlin, Harold Arlen, Johnny Mercer and Sammy Cahn.  It is his love for these American classics that resulted in his new album “Silky Smooth Moments.”  Accompanied by the Terry Coffey Trio, David Martin sings such standards as “I’ll Be Seeing You” and “In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning,” as well as one written by David Martin himself.

It’s a beautiful gesture from David Martin.  Although he has accomplished so much with his own songs, he pays tribute to the great songwriters who came before him.  We invite you into the world and passion of David Martin, where songs with great messages never die.  They endure.

Ladies and Gentlemen, it is my great pleasure to welcome this man, he’s a singer, song writer, his name is David Martin and he has a brand new album ‘Silky Smooth Moments,’ welcome.
Thank you Paul and thank you for inviting me to be part of your show, I’m really looking forward to speaking with you.

The pleasure is all ours, I think most stories are best from the beginning, what was life like growing up?
Well, you know, it was pretty tough, happy, very happy, I had a… thank God a very happy home life with my parents, we had… the best years I can remember were  in West London, where… in a little place called Hammersmith, which is a pretty throbbing place these days, and it was a happy time really, I was an only child, strange as it may seem and a lot of time in those days just spent playing on the street, which is kind of different to how it is now, because now a days people don’t let their children go out on the street understandably, but it was happy and we had fun and you know, I was kind of a young sporty, I did a lot of sport as a young kid and my school days were great, so, I’d have to say, didn’t have lots of money, but in those days, you know, it didn’t matter, in fact in these days it doesn’t matter really, cause money is just a thing isn’t it really, yeah, I’d have to say that I had a fundamental, happy home life and it was a good start for me to enter into the big, wide world.

Was it a very musical household?
My Father was very, very musical, well, I think it’s a 50-50 situation, my Father had an amazing operatic voice, although by trade, funnily enough a bit like Perry Como, he was a hairdresser by trade and he never ever took his singing seriously, but he had a great, powerful, strong voice and on my Father’s side, he had a Great Aunt who had two children and one of them was a lady called May and he remembers vividly when he was a child, that they would spend weekends, evenings, weekends with May sitting at the piano, thumping out tunes and everybody would be singing away, so, I think it’s my Father’s side where that musical strain came from.

And when did you realise that you had a musical talent?
I realised that Paul as long ago as when I was seven years of age, I remember being in a playground with a friend at school, and we were walking, just walking across the playground and I was singing away, singing away something or another and he said to me “oh that’s really nice, what song is that you’re singing?”, and I said “I don’t know I must have heard it on the radio,” so I kind of listened out for a few days and didn’t hear this song and realised that at the age of seven I had actually made a song up. That’s when I realised I had that gift really and to be honest I’ve been making songs up ever since. (David and Paul laugh)

So you think the ability to write songs was something you were pretty much born with?
Oh there’s no question about it, there is no question, it has always come very naturally to me it’s always been something that…. you know, you could say to me now, I mean if you could come up with a song called  Paul Leslie Show, I can probably do it on the spot. It’s one of those things which, it’s always been there, I kind of have a… I can wake up in the middle of the night with a whole melody going through my head, or I can be in the car or whatever, and it’s just always been there, it took some years for me to develop it and own it and in actual fact, I mean jumping forward a bit, when I was first signed as a singer, ’cause I started out as a singer, but I was signed to a record label called Pie Records, and it was then that it really started properly, because the record producer said to me, you know, “we’re going to go out and look for some material today” and I went all around the publishers with him and they played these songs, most of which I thought were pretty boring and he just happened to say “do you write yourself?” And I said “ohyeah, sure”, you know, kind of bluffing it really, and I went home and wrote a couple of songs and we put them on a recording session, and that’s really  how it started out, then I realised that I had something which was approaching something professional, it’s always been there.

What about the group ‘Butterscotch’ how did you come to be in that group?
By that time, I had two writing partners, Geoff Morrow and Chris Arnold. Chris Arnold, Geoff Morrow and we were known in the industry as Arnold, Martin and Morrow and we were kind of jumping, working songwriters, writing away trying to get artists to record our songs, in the middle of this wave of euphoric activity, a record came out which was number one in the USA, I’m sure your listeners will know it called ‘Love Goes Where My Rosemary Goes’ and a pal of mine called Tony Burrows was the lead singer on that record. It shot to number one in the UK, shot to number one in the USA and the bizarre thing was that I started getting telephone calls from friends saying “oh, we’ve heard this fantastic single that you’re singing on David and how fantastic for you” and I said “well it is a great single, but it’s not me singing.” (David and Paul laugh) it’s actually Tony Burrows, ’cause we both have kind of a similar kind of sounding voice I guess, but what that did was, made me think we’ll maybe we should do something like that, so Geoff, Chris and I put our heads together and we came up with this song, ‘Don’t you know, She Said Hello’ and I did the vocal and we decided to call it… call the band ‘Butterscotch,’ and it was a bit hit in the UK, so that’s how that happened, it was kind of triggered from one thing that led to something else and that’s how that happened.

Going back then, before that, you mentioned Chris Arnold and Geoff Morrow, the songwriters that you wrote so many songs with, what circumstance led you to meet them.
You know, it’s the old story, isn’t it Paul, we all lived in… at that time I’d grown up and I was engaged, or about to be married, I can’t remember at what stage, but we all… I’d moved well away from West London and I was now living in North London, and they were living in North London as well, so we knew each other socially and they were song writers, Geoff and Chris and I was a vocalist, ’cause I’d signed my deals I said just now with Pie, so although we were great friends, it was one of those situations where they wrote songs and didn’t really tell me much about what they were doing and I was kind of trying to make my way as an artist, and so we were friends but weren’t really involved together, until one day Jeff called me up and said “look, we’ve got this song that we’ve written for Billy Fury, do you remember Billy Fury, Paul?

I have to be honest, I don’t know that name.
Well, Billy Fury was a massive artist in the UK and I’m going about the late, late sixties, into the seventies, he was a really big, big artist over here and he had a lot of big hits, ‘Half Way To Paradise’ and all sorts of things, they had this song that they’d written and Geoff said to me, you know, “would you be interested in demoing the song for us, doing a demo of the song?” I said “yeah, I’d love to,” I went over to their place one evening where they used to work, and they played me this song, which was called ‘In Thoughts Of You’ and half way through the song or when the song ended, I said “yeah, I love the song, I’m happy to do it” I said, “but, I hope you don’t my saying so, I think the middle section’s a bit weak and Geoff said “what do you mean, what’s wrong with it?” and Chris wasn’t very happy with me making that comment (Paul laughs), I said “well, I just think.. I don’t think it’s really going anywhere, I think it needs to…”well, what would you do with it?” Said Geoff, I said “well, okay, play it again,” so they played it again and I said “well I think I would do this, and suggested a couple of changes, which in fact they made, I did the demo, Billy Fury recorded it, it went top five in the UK and then Geoff approached me and said “look, why don’t we work together as a team?” So I said “okay, fine” and that’s how it started.

Of the songs that the three of you wrote, could you pick a best interpretation of a song that you wrote?
Do you know, it’s a really good question, it’s a really good question because the thing about writing songs… I mean at the beginning you’re only too happy for anybody to take the trouble to record something you write, I mean, you’re desperately trying to get your songs covered by anybody, you get over that stage after a while, because sometimes what happens is, you write a song, and people record it and when you hear it, sometimes you get quite disappointed because you don’t feel they’ve treated it in the way that you would like them to have done, I think there are two answers to that question, if I may, one of them has to be the Presley version, Elvis Presley version of our song called ‘This Is The Story,’ the reason why I say that is because we did a demo of the song, obviously aimed for him, I tried to do, dare I say, my best Elvis Presley impression I could, although I didn’t sound anything like him, but I did a really… tried to get the essence of it if you like and when we heard the recording, it was absolutely fantastic because it was exactly the way we demoed it and the phrasing and everything, I think that was one of the best. The other one was a song that Cliff Richard recorded of ours, called “So Long,” which is a really beautiful recording and one of the best lyrics I think that Chris wrote, ’cause Chris in those days wrote most of the lyric and Jeff and I did most of the melodies in those days. Cliff did the song ‘So Long’, which sadly ended up on the ‘B’ side of a single, but I think we all felt should have been an ‘A’ side and would have been a very big hit in this country, so I would say those two songs stand out for me.

The number of artists have recorded all the songs that you guys wrote, you mentioned Elvis Presley recorded a few of those songs, but then you mentioned Cliff Richard, has there been an artist that you had an emotional attachment to that you were just had a over the moon that they recorded one of your songs?
Well, I mean, you know, you’d have to say, again, there’s a wonderful answer, we had a song called ‘Who In The World’ that was recorded by Mama Cass which was fabulous and always comes back every time I suppose, to ‘Can’t Smile Without You’ Barry Manilow, which is impossible not to be emotional about it, I mean, it was a most fabulous recording and I think even though, funnily enough a number of recordings before he did it, when he did it, I think he made it into the essential recording of that song, you see, it’s a very good question Paul, because you get very mixed emotions when artists record your songs and I think the Mama Cass version of ‘Where In The World’ was just gorgeous really, beautiful, beautiful recording.

 A second ago you mentioned the song ‘Can’t Smile Without You’ and I suppose as a great testament to what a great song it is, it’s been recorded by Barry Manilow, The Carpenters, Engelbert Humperdinck, Vic Damone even  recorded it, the late Andy Williams, why do you think it is, because people universally seem to love that song. Why do you think it’s so beloved?
It’s a very good.. these questions are very good questions, because if we only knew, if one even had a clue, it’s so difficult to understand what makes this one song stand head and shoulders above another one, I mean, again, the story behind that song was a fascinating one because it was during the time of my marriage to a lady called Debbie and she had a greeting card shop in Hampstead, North London, I went and picked her up to take her home one night in Hampstead… we lived in a place called Harrow and when I arrived, she gave me an envelope and in the envelope was a plain blue card, with a small badge on it with a tear, and I opened the card and it just said ‘can’t smile without you’ and I thought ‘well, a brilliant song title’, so by the time we got to Harrow, which is about thirty minutes from Hampstead, to be honest the song was written and I actually recorded it, the first recording of the song and from that recording, all these other recordings were emanated, and our publisher at the time was an American guy in America, we were with Dick James Music, with a guy called Arthur Braun in America and he had great beliefs in the song and he went running around with this song and first, when he went to see Clive Davis, Clive played it for Barry Manilow, who kind of, actually passed on the song and they recorded it on Arista with a new up and coming guy called Gino Cunico.
Oh yes.
Do you remember that?
I have that vinyl album.
You do.. fantastic, and then, as you say Engelbert Humperdinck did it and this one did it, a UK guy called Des O’Connor did it, and also, The Carpenters recorded it and it was one of these songs that kept on being picked up, until of course, Barry picked it up, eventually Clive persuaded him to do it and the rest I guess is history, but, you know, to answer the question, it’s really difficult, because when a song is written, as the writer of it, you have a ‘thing’ about it, you kind of like it, or love it, or whatever, but you have no way of knowing whether that song is going to end up being a world monster or not, it’s very difficult to understand, I think what it is, is that the message and the style and everything about it resonates so strongly with people and perhaps they recognise their own situation in the song, which is what makes them make it their own. I remember going to the O2 a couple of years ago, ’cause Barry was over here at the O2 Arena, 25,000 people and when he just played the introduction, and he whistled (David whistles the intro) just whistles the introduction, the whole place, 25,000 people stood on their feet and sang the song from beginning to end with him all the way through, now that was emotional experience, I can assure you.

 On that note, there’s a picture on your web site, everyone can go to the web site, it’s davidmartinsingersongwriter.com, there’s a picture of you and Mr. Manilow together.
There is indeed, yeah.

Well, there is an article recently where Barry Manilow was talking about that song, all these years later, since it was originally recorded, he was talking about his fondness for that song. I am wondering what your personal experiences have been like with Mr. Manilow.
He really is an absolute lovely, lovely sweet man, very… you know… what you see is what you get, and I’ve on and off been speaking to him for all these years, I mean we’re talking about twenty five years, well, where were we when he first recorded it? Seventy… wait a minute… he recorded it in… it was a hit in America in 1976 I think, so we’re talking twenty four… we’re coming up to thirty, thirty nine years ago that he did the song, the last time I saw him was at the O2 as I think I mentioned, I said “Barry,” I said “you know, we’ve been involved with this song for so long,” he said, he said “David”, he said “it’s kind of like ‘Yesterday,’” he said and “may it carry on for another thirty odd years”,  you know, he said, he’s a really lovely person and very articulate, very much involved in his career and how he comes across for the public in terms of his vocal and everything else and he’s very professional, and a great guy, with a beautiful voice, which seems to do the trick wherever he goes.

Our special guest is David Martin. I wanted to bring everybody up to the present, you have this brand new album out, it’s entitled ‘Silky Smooth Moments.’
Right.

Just to tell everybody a little bit about it, most of the tracks… you have a song you wrote on there, but most of the tracks are the classics from The American Songbook.
Yes.

What is it about the American Songbook that made you want to record an album of standards?
Well, obviously like everything in my life, there’s always a story behind it, it’s just simply this, as I mentioned to you Paul when we started talking, I began.. I started out as a singer, I was never intending to become a songwriter to be honest, I started out as a singer and in the UK I was travelling around doing little clubs in army bases ’cause in those days you had a lot of army bases over here, entertaining US troops and stuff like that, and most of the songs that I did in those days were these kind of standard songs, and then lo and behold, about, I suppose about two years ago now, eighteen months, two years ago, I got a call from a friend of mine, a promoter friend of mine who puts on concerts and shows and he said “David,” he said, “I don’t know if you’d be interested,” he said “but I’m putting on an American Songbook show, would you be interested in taking part, you know, as one of the artists in the show?” So I said “Well, why not, I’d love to, be lovely to go back to all those beautiful songs again.”

So I did this show for him, which was called ‘The Seasonal Great American Songbook,’ ’cause it was heading into the Christmas period, and the show ran for about five weeks in a small theatre called ‘The New End Theatre’ in North London, and we got pretty good people turning out and during the course of the show, which was really enjoyable, I got a lot of reviews from people and also a lot of… a lot of comments from all sorts of people, and in the reviews that I got, they were referring to me as the ‘honey voiced David Martin,’  ‘listening to David Martin is like listening to confectionary,’ ‘silky tones’ etcetera, and I thought ‘this is really lovely’ and I pitched the songs pretty low in this show, because I was singing with a girl called Sarah Parry who had a big, strong kind of, very big voice and I thought it might be nice if I pitched all my songs really low, so having got all this reaction, I thought it might be a nice idea to go in the studio and see what the voice sounds like with these kind of songs in this low register, so that’s how it all started Paul, and I went in and recorded two or three songs, everybody got so excited because… a little trio got.. trio together, and we ended up actually recording 16 songs, of which ended up… there’s about 11 on the album, one of which is ‘Silky Smooth Moments’ and that song came about because the engineer on the session kept saying ‘God, this sounds so silky smooth’, so we thought, ‘oh great idea, I just called it ‘Silky Smooth Moments,’ and then me as song writer, couldn’t resist coming up with a song called ‘Silky Smooth Moments.’

 The wonderful thing is that a lot of my peers over here in the industry, have heard it and said to me ‘you know, I think this is like a standard song waiting to happen’, so you couldn’t ask for more praise for a song than that, I’m pretty proud of it and actually pretty proud of the album too, I think it’s one of the nicest works I’ve done, so that’s the story behind it, the song called ‘Silky Smooth Moments.’ Obviously I wanted it to be in the same genre as the songs on the album, something in my brain kind of ‘clicks’ and very, very quickly, songs started to form and shape and came out as it was, so I wouldn’t say that I was thinking about any particular song writer, or I was influenced in any way, I think style of the songs written in that period by Irving Berlin, by Cole Porter, etcetera has made an imprint in my mind, so that when I go in to that songwriting mode, it comes out, very much in that style, it’s the best way I can answer it Paul.

 You mentioned a second ago Cole Porter and Irving Berlin.  What are your favourite composers and lyricists from that Tin Pan Alley era?
I’ve got to say Irving Berlin, I’ve got to say Cole Porter, I’ve got to say Sammy Cahn, Johnny Mercer, fabulous, brilliant writers and if you like, more latterly, Henry Mancini is a great writer, Harold Arlen who wrote ‘Somewhere Over The Rainbow,’ I mean these songs frankly, absolutely on a strarter which is top, top, top quality songs, and then if I… I went to a… some years ago now I think, probably going back about 25/30 years, but I went to a celebration dinner in London at a big, one of the swanky hotels on Park Lane in London, and it was in celebration and tribute to the great writer Sammy Cahn who wrote as you know ‘All The Way’ to Sinatra and ‘Second Time Around’ and one of the tracks, I think, ‘Teach Me Tonight’ on the album, he was a giant writer on. I arrived at the… at the hotel and as I walked into the reception area where there must have been about at least 200 people, it was a bit like the parting of the waves, it was coming sort of like a parting of the space and through the middle of this space walking directly towards me was Sammy Cahn himself.
Oh wow.
So I… well, I thought ‘well, I’d better take the opportunity while I’ve got it,’ so as he walked toward… I think he might have been going to the gents, to the gents room, I don’t know, but as he walked towards me, I sort of extended my hand and he took it and I said “I just somehow, just wanted to shake your hand and say ‘thank you for the wonderful, wonderful pleasure that you’ve given me and millions of other people at the same time and may you go on for many, many, many, many, many years,'” he said “well David,” he said “what’s your name?” I said “David Martin” I said “I’m one of the newer breed on the block, one of the new kids on the block” and he said to me “well ummm”, he said “I don’t know you David” he said, “but you must have done something right for you to have been invited to be here”, he said “and if I can give you any words of wisdom it’s this”, he said “stick with what you know best, do what you know best, don’t allow yourself to be influenced by other stars and other people and all the rest of it”, he said “you just stick to what you do best”, he said “and your style will come in to fashion, go out of fashion and come back again,” he said, “but that, I think is the best advice I can give you.” I’ve always kind of remembered those words and there’s a lot to be said for it too.

Thank you very much for sharing that story, that was incredibly interesting. I can’t imagine what it was like to meet him.
It was just… it was one of those enjoyable moments in your life, because he was a very cute, smart, perceptive man and also had a lovely sort of style of fun about him, I think that’s the thing about song writers, you know, we’re all a bit crazy to be honest and we all see life in a funny way, and we all have fun and pull each other’s leg and, but when we get down to it, we do the business, but unless you’ve got a sense of humour, I don’t think you can be a song writer to be honest.

The album, is there a favorite track on the album?
Obviously I ‘m going to push mine to one side, because like I say, I’m very proud of it, but if I had a favorite track of all the other tracks, I’d have to say it was ‘Wee Small Hours Of The Morning,’ I just adore the song, I can’t imagine being able to improve on the vocal that I’ve done, ’cause you know we singers always think we can do better, but I can’t… listened to the album a few time and that track for me, stands out, I’m really, really proud of it.  Love the song. I love the track.

That is the one that also caught my ear.
Wow.                                                                                          

That one, you did that one very well.
Ahhhh, thank you Paul. Thank you very much.

 On that note, what vocalists have influenced you the most?
Well, I’d have to give you different branches of music for that, first of all, in the genre apropos the album, I ‘d have to say Nat King Cole, probably rates as my favorite singer of all time, I  just, when I heard him as a young lad walking through a store in London, I couldn’t be more than 10 or 12, and I was walking, I think, with my Mother through a store and suddenly this voice came out through the store speakers and I remember being routed to the spot, thinking to myself ‘if this is a human being, it’s so utterly beautiful and perfect’, I couldn’t believe it, so Nat King Cole is just, for me, a most wonderful singer. But I love Frank Sinatra, I love Tony Bennett, I love Michael Bublé who I think does a fantastic job these days, great singer, obviously I love Barry Manilow, but Barry’s not in the same… he’s not in that genre, and from the rock side, you know, I was crazy about Elvis. I think Elvis is one of my favorite singers of all time, but funnily enough, going back to, again, into my early days of listening to records and stuff, there was an American singer called Guy Mitchell who I loved to hear, and I used to love Guy Mitchell, so I don’t know if you guys remember him, but I do, he’s really good.

When someone listens to this album.
Yes.
What do you want the listener to get out of the experience?
That’s a really wonderful question Paul, thank you for asking it. I am very impressed when I listen to albums by Ella Fitzgerald, by Sinatra, by Nat King Cole, by various singers of that ilk—Al Jolson going back even further if you like, they all have, even though they may be singing songs that they’ve all recorded, perhaps similar songs or the same song, they all have a uniqueness about them, in their own voice and their own delivery, and something about it, which grips the listener and makes the listener say “well, I love this voice, I want to go out and buy it” and that’s what I’ve tried to accomplish in making this album, to have my own unique sound, which people around me have called ‘silky smooth’, which is very flattering, but nevertheless, my own unique sound, so that anybody listening to anything I sing,  makes them want to go out and buy that record, I think hopefully I answered your question.

Indeed. What is the best thing about being David Martin?
The best thing about David Martin is that he’s got five wonderful children, who he loves to pieces, and thank God they love me. I’ve had a wonderful life. I’m still having a very happy life. I have great friends, a great family, and do you know, all of that, is the most important thing, and all the rest is wonderful, and if I can give people pleasure along the way, then that gives me, makes me happy with my life, and that to me is the best thing about being me.

I have a very strong feeling that there will be people listening to this interview, not just here in the States, but from different places in the world, what would you like to say to the people who are listening to this?
That I hope that all of you are in good spirits and in a good place, that you’re happy in your lives with all your friends and family, that you are good to one another, do the very best you can, if you can do a good deed every once in a while that’s fantastic, but, at the end of the day I think the most important thing, is to be happy with yourself and if you can achieve what you set out to achieve, then, congratulations to you, but, the most important thing you have to do in life, is just try your best, and if you try your best, then you can never say that you did anything but the right thing.

Wow, my last question, who is David Martin?
Who is David Martin?
Yes Sir.
David Martin is a young guy in the UK who wanted to achieve certain dreams, he achieved many, many of them, and is a guy who is probably like Mr Joe, Mr and Mrs Brown who live next door, ’cause I’m kind of like the guy next door, but I, you know, happily I’m able to entertain people and that makes me happy, and also David Martin is a guy who continually has ambitions to continue to do things that will become successful and hopefully give people pleasure, and I think that’s a very important thing, to carry on in life, and always want to do something better and achieve something, rather than decide you’ve reached a point in your life where you’ve done as much as you need to do and then kind of switch off and don’t continue, I think that kind of sums me up, I will always have a little project on my time board and I will always want to give people pleasure by achieving it.

Very well put, may I make a confession?
Please.
I very much respect and admire songwriters and it’s always a very big pleasure for me when I speak to people who compose and write the songs. When you whistled the little beginning part of ‘Can’t Smile Without You.’
Yes.
The hair on my arms stuck up.

(David and Paul laugh.)

It really did and I grew up in part in the Philippines and my Mother sang that song.
Ahhhhhh

And played that song, I’m not kidding you, I probably have heard that song a thousand times in my life, and to speak to you is a very big honor. So I congratulate you on your album, and, much like you thank Sammy Cahn, I just thank all the songwriters for writing something positive.  It makes people smile, because, I also… if I could say one more thing, I witness people cry, mothers and daughters, mothers and sons when that song is being sung and it’s very special.
That’s so lovely Paul, well, thanks for saying that, I think in one of Barry’s books he mentions in a chapter that there was a lady who was… I’m not sure what the illness is called, I think it’s agoraphobia, but there was a lady who suffered from not being able to leave her home, is that called agoraphobia when somebody leaves their home?
I believe so, agoraphobia.
But she had… she just loved ‘Can’t Smile Without You’, and he was coming close to her town to perform, and she left her home to go to the show so she could hear him sing the song. Now that… when I read that in the chapter, that made me feel quite… quite eerie to be honest. Anyway, why don’t I do this, if we’re at the end of the interview, I should go (David sings to the tune of ‘Can’t Smile Without You’)… ‘Paulie my dear, I’m glad to be here, doing your show,  we all think of you as cream of the crop, the man at the top, and we’re glad to know, cause you know we can’t smile without you..’ How’s that?
I am smiling as big as I ever smiled. (David and Paul laugh) That was special, thank you very much.
My pleasure.

TRANSCRIBED BY ROSALIND WINTON.

Richard Kerr: Composer

Richard Kerr is a British composer who has written songs recorded by Dionne Warwick (“I’ll Never Love This Way Again”), Helen Reddy, Tom Jones, Kim Carnes, Natalie Cole, Frankie Valli, Rita Coolidge, Bonnie Raitt, John Denver, the Righteous Brothers, Roy Orbison, and Peter Cetera.  He is perhaps best known for writing many songs recorded by Barry Manilow, including “Mandy,” “Looks Like We Made It,” and “Somewhere in the Night.”

What was life like growing up?
Hard question, not a wonderful life for me early on, but I have always… from my very first memories, I remember my Father singing me songs.

What kind of songs?
Probably songs you’ve never heard of Paul.. ‘Little Man You’ve Had A Busy Day,’ ‘Old Faithful,’ songs like that.

You’re absolutely correct, I have not heard of those songs (Paul and Richard laugh)..
What type of songs are they?
Well, ‘Little Man’… well, actually, they are very well known songs, but they’re of my Father’s era, I don’t know how I would describe them, they’re sort of like.. I guess.. Lullabies.

I see.
Old Faithful’ is about a horse that was a firm favorite in the forties, and I think the same applies to ‘Little Man You’ve Had A Busy Day.’ You can imagine what that song is about, a Father singing to a son.

What city were you born in?

Bedford.

What kind of town is that, what’s it like?

Well, it’s a, fjord means river and it’s a town on a river, the Ouse, and I went to Bedford school, which is a privileged school to go to, it was a fee paying school and for the first seven years or so I did very well indeed, and then I realized that I had probably been learning everything parrot-fashion and for the next six years I did terribly.

Mmmm.
We had a school chapel there, and I was in the choir, and we always congregate there every Sunday and of course at holidays, especially at Christmas time where I sang the solo in ‘Once In Royal David City.’

So you had a talent for music from a very early age.

Very early age, yes, I studied the clarinet, which is not much use as a songwriter. (Paul and Richard laugh)

It’s the instrument Woody Allen plays.
Woody Allen certainly does play that, yes, absolutely. My very favorite clarinet of all time, now I’ve forgotten his name, it’s terrible, I can’t think of his name, Art… no, no.. I can’t..

Artie Shaw?
Artie Shaw! Artie Shaw, I never could manage the Concerto for Clarinet in ‘C,’ it was incredibly complicated thing, but Artie Shaw had such a wonderful tone to his clarinet.

In addition to.. you just mentioned Artie Shaw, I was curious specifically about the popular music of the day, that you were especially fond of.

The first vinyl record I ever bought was Eddie Cochran’s ‘Twenty Flight Rock.’ But I would have to say that growing up round about…as a teenager the first influence I ever had although I didn’t know I was ever going to be a songwriter was Buddy Holly.

I see.
I remember going… we used to go to a place called Clacton-On-Sea, which is not that far away from here, but I haven’t been back since my youth and I played ‘All Shook Up’ by Elvis Presley till people.. must have turned people out of the place, I just could not stop playing that record. (Paul laughs)

You mentioned the clarinet, what about the piano, how did that enter your life?

It’s pretty boring little story, but I mean..very briefly there was a piano…. when I left school I went into the wine trade, very briefly and I was living in a sort of a boarding house, where in the main sitting room, which nobody ever went into unbelievably, there was a grand piano and myself and a friend who was also in the boarding house there, we just decided one day that we would sit down and try and write some songs and I’d never had a piano lesson in my life, but we started hawking these little songs around, our version of Tin Pan Alley in Waldorf Street in London and eventually publishers got interested.

Tell us about the interest of the publishers, what was the songs specifically that caught their ear?

Not songs that would mean anything to you. I mean I could plug out a few titles to you, but they wouldn’t mean anything to you because they weren’t hits.

Well just tell us a few so we can look them up.

‘Hard Loving’ was the first.. I think the first single I put out as a recording artist and ‘Concrete Jungle’ which sort of was almost, almost a hit.

Interesting.
It was played like a hit, but it didn’t really sell that great and I never dreamt that I could possibly ever make a living out of being a songwriter, but, as I say I was in the wine trade at the time at a very posh store which is still very much in existence now in London called Fortnum & Mason, and Fortnum & Mason heard about the fact that I was recording – as they put it ‘a rock n roll singer’, and they did not like the association of their store with rock n roll, now we’re going back a long time now, because today it would probably be a plus but in those days they sure as hell didn’t like the association, so they asked me to stop having their name associated with my record and I had the greatest publicist, man named Les Perrin, who was also the publicist for a slightly well known group called the Rolling Stones (Paul laughs, Richard continues) and David Bowie and he said “it’s too late Richard, I can’t.. you know, all the stuff has gone out to all the various people, I can’t suddenly pull it back” and then in the end the Fortnum & Mason fired me.

I see.
And I was absolutely scared to death, cause I’d been, you know, I had a steady job and I didn’t dream I could be a song writer or a recording artist or anything like that, but it was the one thing that pushed me into the music business.

Well, tell us about the song ‘Blue Eyes.’

(Richard laughs)  Ohhh, ‘Blue Eyes,’ ‘Blue Eyes’ is…you don’t know the term ‘busker’ do you over there?

One who plays on the street for…?
Yeah.

Yeah.
Yeah, yeah a one man band Don Partridge was the man’s name and myself and my Manager Don Paul, we were queuing up to see the latest James Bond film in Leicester Square and this guy Don Partridge was busking outside of the cinema and he had the most incredible co-ordination and he was really good and Don Paul said to me “I think I’m going to take that guy if he’s.. if he’ll let me and I want to take that guy into the recording studio” and in those days it was all mono, not even stereo and he took Don into the recording studio and it cost him eight pounds to make a record called ‘Rosie,’ which went to number three in the British charts, and Don Partridge could not write or couldn’t find a follow up that he liked and he asked me if I would like to have a go and ‘Blue Eyes’ was the result of that, and I wrote that with Joan Maitland and that went to number two in the charts for twelve pounds it cost him because we put an upright bass on it for a half session.

So, twenty pounds the total cost, a number three and a number two, not bad.

We had an interview recently with Scott English, he’s a man you wrote with, what was your first impression of Scott English?

The entire, exact opposite from me. (Paul laughs).

Well, explain what that means.
Very loud, from the Bronx, I believe it’s the Bronx and extremely loud man, I’ve always been a very quiet person, and…which is not very well suited to the music business, but there you go, but I can’t absolutely remember howwe got together, I think it was probably… I think it was actually at some sort of music business function and we… I think we were just talking to one another and we just decided that we would try and write something together, as simple as that.

One of the songs that you wrote was entitled ‘Brandy.’

Yep.

Tell us about composing ‘Brandy.’
I know that Scott put out a whole load of his own explanations to the title of ‘Brandy’, but I never paid much attention to things like that when I was presented with the lyric because I think I was actually presented with the lyric of ‘Brandy’ first. I think that the lyric came before the music, and I wrote to it almost in a sort of James Taylor style, I mean I wasn’t aware that I was writing in the James Taylor style but almost in a James Taylor style, and we sat and we wrote that, I remember exactly what it was, it was in Curzon Street in Mayfair, we couldn’t… Scott’s electric piano wasn’t working properly and we had to go next door to his neighbor who had a sort of out of tune piano and the song just came musically very, very quickly for me, because I just related to the lyrics so clearly.

The song later became entitled ‘Mandy’ as recorded by Barry Manilow. What did you think of Manilow’s interpretation?

Interesting. It’s one of the first memories that I had of going to Los Angeles. I was asked to go over by my publisher and Rondor, Rondor which is A&M’s Publishing company, and I was waiting to see a man named Jeff Benjamin who worked at Rondor and outside the…while sitting outside of his office door, I heard this song being played, and it genuinely took me Paul about a minute into it to realize it was my song that was being played.

Interesting.
I couldn’t actually tell, I mean, being behind closed doors as it were, I couldn’t actually pick out the fact straight away that it was ‘Mandy’ as opposed to ‘Brandy’ that was being sung, but when I did find that out, I was absolutely livid that someone had changed the title without asking us. Until I saw it zooming up the charts. (Paul laughs) When you think about it I think ‘Mandy’ is probably a much more accessible title than ‘Brandy’.

Yeah.
But Scott had had chart success in England himself as an artist as ‘Brandy’, but anyhow, you know, Clive Davis had decided to change the title of the song, in my mind probably has the greatest ears.. had the greatest ears of any record Chief in the States and he had that record ‘Brandy You’re A Fine Girl’ by Looking Glass, which had been a recent number one for him on CBS and he just started up this new label Arista and ‘Mandy’ was in fact I think the very first release on Arista.

A lot of the songs you’ve written have been with Will Jennings, in my humble opinion a brilliant lyricist. How did you meet Will Jennings?

On that same trip over I had been asked to sit down and write with a man named John Bettis.

Yes John Bettis.
John Bettis that time of Carpenters fame, I’d travelled all the way over there and I hate flying, I’ve got a tremendous fear of flying, always have done, still do, I pushed aside my fear and go on the big bird in the sky and come over to write with John Bettis and he said “I’m awfully sorry, but I’ve got some re-writes to do for this new Carpenters album.” So I thought ‘aaah well that’s okay, I can get some really good melodic things together on my own and wait for him’, and my publisher over there said to me “I really would like you to look at some of these lyrics by a man named Will Jennings,” and I said, his name was Lance Free and I said to Lance, “you know, Lance, I really… I understand what you’re saying but I really don’t want to sit down with a lot of different people, I came over here to write with John and I’d rather…” and he said “now please just look at a few of Will’s lyrics”, when I looked at a few of Wills lyrics, he never had a hit at this stage, he’d just come over from Nashville himself and I looked at some of these lyrics and I just thought ‘this is my sort of lyric, you know what he writes it’s from the heart, I can write with this guy’ and so we decided to sit down and write together whilst I was waiting for John Bettis.

Is that how most of your songs have come about, is the lyric usually done first and then you compose the melody?

No, in fact the first song that Will and I wrote was a song called ‘Somewhere In The Night,’ we were very fortunate enough to have several chart records on that but never one I would call huge hit. Manilow recorded it and Helen Reddy and Yvonne Elliman, Kim Carnes and various other people,but I remember presenting the melody to him first on that one, the first song we wrote, I was staying at a place, a very infamous place called the Sunset Marquis, which is on Sunset Boulevard and it was… I rented this electric piano which had three notes missing on it, but it didn’t matter because it was such a great atmosphere at A&M Records where my publisher was the old Charlie Chaplin Studios and if you couldn’t write a hit song there, you couldn’t write one anywhere.

Well, what’s your opinion of that song ‘Somewhere In The Night’?

I love the song, in my mind it was about a particular lady and it was one of those melodies that came very quickly and although it’s entered the charts on several occasions with Manilow and with Helen Reddy, I’ve never felt it quite… the closest that it came to in terms of feel was an act that Clive Davis produced himself, and act called Back Door From Rodney who never set the world on fire, but one of these days, I still think that it’s going to get a definitive version.

Hmmmm, it is absolutely, in my humble opinion anyways one of the most beautiful songs ever.
Oh well thank you, that’ s very kind of you.

There’s another one that you wrote with Will Jennings, ‘Looks Like We Made It,’ that is a favorite with a lot of people, tell us about composing that song.

Well, we were.. I was back… we would come over to England, this was back in England and I remember so clearly it was one of those rare beautiful days where there wasn’t a cloud in the sky and Will was… had been put up in some small hotel and he had all the curtains closed and I came in and said “Will, it’s beautiful outside there” and he said “I can’t concentrate when all the curtains are open,” we sat down, we wrote ‘Looks Like We Made It’ that afternoon, Will and I used to write, always used to write in my favorite way of writing and that is we both sit together with nothing and I would be fooling around on the keyboard, Will would be just thinking about lyrics and we might be in the same room, we might not, but we’d be in the same house or hotel and he’d hear what I was doing and I would hear what he was doing and he’d say, nine times out of ten he’d say “I love what you’re doing there” and I wouldn’t even be aware of what I was doing and I’d just go over and over and over it again and he’d say “yeah” and we’d write really, really , really write together as it were as opposed to so many songs of late, where someone will send me a lyric or I will send a melody, we’d actually write and compose the song together in the same room.

There’s been so many songs that you’ve composed that Barry Manilow has recorded. Why do you think that Barry Manilow has recorded so many of your songs?

I know why Paul, because Clive Davis wanted him to. I think you know I was a Clive Davis favorite at the time, it’s strange, I didn’t really want to get into writing all those ballads, I didn’t want to get known for writing all those ballads, although they’d been very kind to me, you know and of course having started off with ‘Mandy’, which was when Manilow was totally unknown, you know, I know that Barry I think it’s quite right and honest to say Barry never wanted to record other people’s songs, he only wanted to record his own songs, which is fair enough, he’s.. you know, he’s a fine songwriter. It was Clive that said “no, you know, you haven’t got a single here, this is a song you’re going to record” and I… I’m not privy to exactly what went on with Clive with Barry in their times together, but I do know that he never wanted to record ‘Mandy’ in the first place, he never wanted to record ‘Somewhere In The Night’ or ‘Looks Like We Made It’ or all the other ones at all, it’s down to Clive.
Interesting.

Well, one of Manilow’s long time collaborators, the lyricist Marty Panzer…

Yep.

You wrote a song with him, how did you meet Marty Panzer?
(Richard laughs).. I was lying back, exhausted after having written quite a lot with Will and needed to just take a little break, and I was in Palm Springs, I was lying back on one of those sun loungers soaking up the sun and I heard this man “are you Richard Kerr?” and I thought ‘who the hell is this’. My eyes were closed, I’d been ……. I got up and I said “yes, I am” and he said “I recognized your photograph and my name is Marty Panzer,” I said “hello Marty,” really wishing that he’d go away and he said “I’m a great friend of Barry Manilow’s” and I said “ohh well, very nice to meet you” and he said “do you think that there’s a chance that you and I could write something together one day,?” and I said “yeah, I mean let me know, or show me one or two lyrics that you’ve written, I’d love to see whether we can”  and I like Marty’s style very much indeed, very, very much from the heart and we sat down, I think we’ve written maybe six or seven songs, a long time ago now.

He has actually two questions that he asked for us to to ask you.

Oh.

So these two questions are from Marty Panzer.
Right.

As not only one of the most successful songwriters of your generation, but also one of the most well respected songwriters of your generation..
Writers..

He’s speaking of you, yes.
Oh.

Which writers today are writing at the quality level you respect?
Oh boy, there are a lot. But you know, I.. it’s funny, I haven’t… Paul I have never… and probably to my detriment, but I have never really studied the music business, or, not the music business, but I’ve never really been one of those who sort of goes out and buys lots of albums when they come out and stuff, but I’d have to say the first person that comes to my mind today is Adele and I can’t remember the name of the guy that she writes mostly with, but she’s a great talent. A lot of my other choices are people who are not really current, but, I mean I always have loved Don Henley’s writing from the Eagles..

Yeah.
And there are so many people that I love, I think that if I sat in front of a chart right now with a lot of records in front of me, I should probably be prepared for this, but there are so many bands who I don’t know the names of the writers to. I heard again recently a new album by Randy Newman, Newman’s always been one of my real favorites, but these are all old.. I mean, you know, Paul Simon is a great writer,  Jimmy Webb who I spent a wonderful evening and night with many years ago, he’s a great writer, but today, as you probably are too aware, with the exception of a few, the music business has changed, you know, a hundred and eighty degrees and it’s not really songs today, it’s more image, it’s more production, it’s like the film industry in a way, that they sort of parallel one another in that special effects are so important today in music and in film and I think to the detriment of the story andr the meat of the song or the film.

Yeah. Well, the second question of the two that Marty wanted me to ask he says, who is best at carrying the torch for well written, important songs that will last beyond the moment. You just mentioned Adele, what about perhaps singers that are singing other people’s songs, who do you think is doing a good job?

There are just so few, I have lost touch with those singers who.. they’re tough questions Marty. (Paul laughs).. I don’t know whether the British chart echoes the American chart any longer. I guess I’d have to say that Michael Bublé does a pretty darn good job of other people’s songs but you’ve really stumped me, it’s hard to pick out.. I can’t just pick out a lot of names that come to mind.

One of the songs that you wrote is a very well known song ‘I’ll Never Love This Way Again,’ what inspired that?

That was Will and I, Will Jennings and I, at my little ranch style place in Nichols Canyon, I love the names Los Angeles gives to its roads, I started off in Wonderland Park Avenue, I moved to Astral Drive, and in Astral Drive we wrote that song and it was one of those songs that had a bitter after taste to it, simply because some guy out of New Jersey put a claim that we ripped him off, we’d never heard his song, we’d never met him, what happened was that they froze all the… because they had to legally, BMI and the record company Arista froze all the royalties, so we didn’t see the royalties from that record for over a year, or a year and a half I think, but the actual writing of the song was another one with Will that came very quickly indeed and I believe that was a verse lyric first.

There’s another one that you wrote, recorded by the late Roy Orbison, ‘In The Real World’…

Ahhh yeah.

Tell us about that song.
What a lovely man, I just have to say one thing about Roy, which probably all his closest friends have said and know for themselves, but of all the stars, so called stars that I have met during the years, I would have to say that Roy was the one with the least glitter about him, he was such a humble man, you’d never known that he had had the sort of career he had. That was written in Will’s house in West Lake Village in an afternoon I remember ‘In the Real World,’ it came really quickly, and I believe that was partly lyric first, yet again it’s the sort of lyric you see for me anyhow that writes itself, and when Roy heard it, I don’t know how Will got to know Roy, but it was Will got to know Roy rather than myself, but Roy came round one afternoon, we played him that and we played him another song ‘You May Feel Me Crying,’ he loved both ofthem and actually recorded both of them, the second one ‘You May Feel Me Crying’ was in a film, it wasn’t a hit, neither was ‘In The Real World,’ but it was on the last album he did.

What about the song John Denver recorded ‘Don’t Close Your Eyes’?

Oh yeah.. funny you should say that, I was watching a special, you know, on John Denver just the other day, my wife is a huge fan of John Denver. Yeah, It was delightful to have a John Denver record, again, it wasn’t a big hit, but he was one of a kind in his style of writing and it’s always especially lovely from my point of view when a writer, a artist, someone who writes their own songs records one of your songs, that’s a special privilege I think, because it means that they really, really do value the song and they want to record it for themselves.

What about the song ‘In Another World,’ that Manilow recorded, what inspired that?

He didn’t get it at all, he didn’t… I wish I could play you the demo. I wrote that with a lady named Charlie Dore and it’s one of our favorite songs but I wasn’t happy with Barry Manilow’s version of that, it’s all I can say about that one.

Have you had any interactions with Manilow through the years?

Very little. Very little indeed, I think we probably only met on three occasions and all three at functions, you know, at music business functions, I do remember (Richard laughs)..  he suggested to me many years ago that we’d try and write together and I said “what, you mean just you and me?” and he said “yeah,”, and I said “what’s it going to be like,” I don’t know if you’ve heard of Ferrante & Teicher have you?

I haven’t heard of that no.
Oh, okay, well they were two guys who sat facing one another both at their own pianos and I said “I can’t imagine how we could do that Barry,” so nothing came of our writing… sitting down and writing together, it might have been interesting but we’d have probably had to get separate lyricists in.
Yeah.

Well, speaking of lyricists, you’ve written with the lyricist John Bettis who you’ve mentioned earlier.

Yes.

What was it like to write with him?
I think John and I had, bad luck is the wrong word, I just don’t think we were lucky, we’ve written a lot of songs together and we’ve had a lot of recordings and a lot of cuts of songs, we’ve never had a big hit together and we should have done, we started writing I think it’s fair to say, he was…the Carpenters were on the wane as it were, he had a lot of time on his hands, I, again loved his lyrics, I loved the way his mind works lyrically and he’s had so much success, just like Will has had, way apart from me I mean, you know the sort of hits that Will has had and John the same, I mean I don’t know if John’s won an Oscar, but Will’s won two, John has had tremendous success writing apart from me, but we’ve written some very fine songs, a lot of the songs I’ve put on my very unsuccessful own albums, and a nice man and someone that I think of very fondly.

I know this might be a difficult question to answer, with all the lyricists that you’ve worked with, and all of the songwriters you’ve written with, from Will Jennings to Scott English, Marty Panzer, John Bettis, I believe you told me you’ve written with Paul Williams.

Yes, but Paul, I love dearly, we’ve written maybe half a dozen songs together but we were both at difficult times in each of our lives, not songs that I think… I can only speak for myself, not songs that I’m really proud of, I would have thought that knowing his sort of writing and my sort of writing we would have been a match made in heaven, not something that I can actually say “yes, this song should have been a hit,” so we just had our writing times together, but other parts of life took over from our creativity I think when we sat down together.

 Well, on that note, of all of the co-writers you worked with, could you pick a favorite?
No. No. Absolutely not. (Richard laughs)

What about a favorite song of yours, is that possible?

Well, funny you should say that I think probably ‘Somewhere In The Night.’
Yeah.
I think so, although the one that’s been the best and the kindest to me is ‘Mandy.’ Some, I mean it changes so much that I think I know probably that most writers would say this about themselves, but I generally think I’m writing better right at this moment in time, this very moment in time and I have a half… whether the songs I’m writing and have written in the last five years we’ll become hits is something else, but I have a new lease on life, maybe one of those will be my favorite of all time.

What was it like to have Frank Sinatra record one of your songs?

Amazing, strangest thing is the song was ‘Blue Eyes’ which Don Partridge recorded, the busker.

Interesting.
And this shows you how much I don’t collect gold records, and things like that and hang them up on my walls,  like so many people do, I don’t have much interest in that side of it, but I’ve only ever heard it a couple of times, it was on a Sinatra album and therefore I felt quite justified to use it in my press handouts, but, I don’t even have a copy of it.

When somebody hears your music, wherever they are, on an elevator, if they’re listening to it on an album, however they’re listening to it, what do you want the listener to get out of that experience?

Don’t want to sound too self important here, but I would like them to be moved in some way or another by it.

I don’t think that’s self important.
I’m not very good, I’m not very good at writing songs that are just rhythmic and just bubble gum, the sort of thing that is here today, gone tomorrow, it’s hard to explain, there was one time I remember when I was signed to Screen Jenson which is now EMI publishing, where my publisher said “sit down and try and write like so and so”, only because he asked me to, I thought I would listen to a few things that ‘so and so’ had written, and it didn’t work for me, I have to come from the heart, even whether it be up tempo, slow ballad or mid tempo, it still has to come from the heart and I would just like someone to be… to say “yeah, that song really means something to me,” cause I could put myself in that person’s position, or in that piece of music, that means something to me at that particular time in my life.

What is the best thing about being Richard Kerr?

Well, I’m still alive, I’m still writing songs and I’m happily married with a wonderful Welsh Terrier who just this afternoon dug through the rabbit-proof fencing and caused me no end of strife chasing after him over the fields, I came back this afternoon Paul, after having finally captured him and it took me five to ten minutes to actually get my breath back. It’s a pretty good life I’ve got, I’ll always love music, it will always be my first love above anything I think, as long as I still have that desire to write, I’m happy.

For anyone who’s listening to this interview, wherever they are in the world or if they’re reading it, however they experience it, what would you like to say to those people?

They’re not writers or anything, just the general public yeah?

All kinds of people.
All kinds of people. Do it rather than say it.

Sound advice.
(Richard laughs)

For my last question.

Yep.

Who is Richard Kerr?
Richard Kerr is a… I think a fairly humble songwriter and someone who’s always trying… this sounds so hammy but is someone who’s always trying to be just a little better person each day if he can.

Well, just imagine if everyone had that mind set how much further along we’d be.

(Paul and Richard laugh)

A part of me would like to say ‘Thank You Mr. Kerr,’ but you like to be called Richard.

Yes please.

Thank You Richard, it’s been a great pleasure to have this conversation.

Well Thank You Paul, we tried to get together so many times on the phone and at last we’ve made it and Thank You very much indeed. I hope I’ve sort of… it’s been semi interesting.

It has been very interesting, it has been a real honor. Thank You.
Oh Thank You very much Paul. It’s been a pleasure.

TRANSCRIBED BY ROSALIND WINTON