Known by the public for a fortunate string of glam rock and synthpop successes in the 1970s including Do You Wanna Dance?, School Love and the 1973 super smash hit Dancin’ (on a Saturday Night), as well as for composing more than 45 hits for artists such as Michael Jackson, Andrea Bocelli, Céline Dion and Diana Ross, Barry Blue is a man of many hats and endless inspiration.
His studio work totalled 40 million records sold worldwide, his music was chosen for the likes of the TV series Breaking Bad and Sex and the City, and his tunes soundtracked movies such as The Long Good Friday and The Sweeney.
The release of Barry Blue‘s 2020 music collection box Chapter and Verse… 50 Years On which is made up of two albums titled Songs From The Lost Book and features 1980s and 1990s hits and Songs From The Heart Book including new and unreleased music, offered the opportunity to arrange this interview with Barry Blue.
Barry, what achievements are you most proud of?
Getting through the last 50 years in the music business in one piece and being married for 47 of them… intact! Seriously speaking, though, I think my best achievements have been writing my first song for late American celebrity Gene Pitney when I was just fifteen, winning a Carl Allan Award, which is like the ballroom dancing world’s Oscar, in 1974 for Best Record of the Year, with previous winners including Abba, The Beatles and Queen. Then I’m proud of having produced Escaping for Dina Carroll, Heatwave’s Boogie Nights and Always & Forever in 1976 and having three top three records in three different categories as an artist. And then, of course, composing Dancin’ on a Saturday Night as a songwriter!
Which one of your songs are you most attached to?
There are three of them: Boy in the Moon, which I wrote when my son was born, Lost For Words, which I sang at my daughter’s wedding, and also Call My Name, which is my wife’s favourite song of mine.
Why did you pick Barry Blue as a stage name when your real name is Barry Green?
Prior to that, I had released three singles as Barry Green by Decca label, and all of them had been quite unsuccessful, so, after chatting with the record company, one of the chaps around the table said: “How about a name change?” He went on to suddenly explain that green is considered an unlucky colour by circus performers. As the music business is something akin to a circus, I eventually decided to change my colour!
What was your dream job as a child? Did you have a plan B?
I’ve always been fascinated by ancient history, especially Egyptology, so I would have probably “explored” this as a career!
You are a singer, a producer and a songwriter. What’s your favourite role?
I definitely feel more like a songwriter and, more specifically, a lyricist; I can write both music and lyrics but writing a good story in three minutes with a beginning, a middle and an end is what gives me the greatest satisfaction.
Do you have a favourite memory from your time working with artists like Michael Jackson, Diana Ross, Andrea Bocelli and Céline Dion you would like to share?
Michael Jackson would never stop dancing for all the two weeks I spent rehearsing with him! Regarding Diana Ross, I only spoke to her through her manager, so it was all quite business-like. I was then bowled over when one of the greatest singers in the world, Andrea Bocelli, covered one of my songs – I actually fell off my chair in the studio when I heard it! And at some point in my career, I was asked to write a song for a sixteen-year-old Céline Dion: the song was called Too Young at Seventeen, and I knew since the beginning that she was going to be a massive star.
What does the album Chapter and Verse… 50 Years On mean to you?
I have always believed there’s been something missing, so Chapter and Verse… 50 Years On is the culmination of what I believe to be all my best work as a songwriter in my long career. There are two albums included in the box and they bring it all together. Songs from the Heart Book contains my songs recorded in the way I have always wanted them to be heard: it is not a sort of revisited greatest hits, but a chance for me to reclaim the compositions that have meant the most to me. I feel these are my legacy songs, the ones I now realise no one should have ever sung before me because they’re all too personal. And I couldn’t leave them in the past, I needed to drag them kicking and screaming back into the light where they belong. On the other hand, Songs from the Lost Book contains rarities, tracks that were never released before and interesting musical vignettes from the 1980s and 1990s at a time when I felt it may be right to broaden my horizons and extend my musical boundaries and I began to explore new genres of music that no one probably expected of me. This was when many of my alter egos began to emerge as I changed direction to experiment with new technology, trends and fashion. All the tracks on Songs From The Lost Book are like moments in time, like goals I wanted to reach without necessarily needing acclaim or attention. And looking back, I’m glad I had the opportunity to ride on various musical highways.
Pictures provided from Barry Blue’s private collection © belongs to their respective owners
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