Spotlight on ……

Geraldine Vine

Geraldine Vine

Q. When did you first become aware of the late Matt Monro?

I first became aware of Matt Mono when I was a child, my parents were always playing his music.  At such a young age his music didn’t mean much to me but as I was growing up it became more apparent what a wonderful voice he had. When I was 7 years old my father was in the army and he was lucky enough to be posted to Singapore.  My mum, sister, brother and me accompanied him and we lived there for 3 years.  One day Matt Monro came to entertain the troops and afterwards he was invited into the Officers Mess and he joined my parents and their friends for drinks.

Q. How did you originally connect with Michele?

I sent Michele an email putting forward my passion and ideas for running the Friends of Matt Monro.  She took no time at all to answer my email and we set the wheels in motion.

Q. I understand Michele can be exacting and is totally passionate about the music of her father – was she how you imagined her?

I can’t really answer that because I never knew much about the family.  I can comment on my findings now, Michele is a lady who certainly knows what she wants in life and doesn’t suffer fools gladly.  She is a very kind and warm person and yes very passionate about her father’s music.  Michele has suffered with her health over the years and she is amazing how she has not let this get in her way and has achieved her ultimate goal.

Q. How would you describe the music of Matt Monro?

I would describe the music of Matt Monro as some of the finest to have come from these shores.  He had a voice that was immediately unforgettable; he appeared to sing effortlessly and totally relaxed.  He was able to sing anything from The Beatles to swing and jazz.  If he was alive today I feel he would definitely be up with the best in the world.

Q. What is your favourite song/album and why?

I would say Softly As I Leave You -  he sang the lyrics with so much feeling and emotion. On Days Like These -  lay back and listen to the rhythm and lyrics and before you know where you are you’re in that place Matt is singing about.  Also I like If I Never Sing Another Song -  it’s very emotional and frank and the lyrics were written by the great Don Black.

Q. And which one would you exclude off your play list?

To tell you the truth none of them.

Q. Looking at some of the past albums is there something you would like to have seen done differently?

I love all the albums I can’t think of anything that I would like to have seen done differently.

Q. Matt became known as King of the Movie’s after recording the theme title tracks for such notables as The Italian Job, From Russia With Love, Born Free, The Quiller Memorandum, The Sea Wolves and Tomorrow Never Comes – which ones do you like and do you think they added to the films?

Yes, in the sixties Britain was big in the film industry and produced some blockbusters.  I think Matt’s quality and panache made these films classics, memorable for the theme as well as the film.  Personally I like On Days Like These, the melody and words are so sixties and evocative of the theme and pitch of the movie, when you hear Matt singing you are drawn to that magical place in the song’s lyrics.

Q. Do you think the singer should receive an Oscar as well as the songwriters as Don Black and John Barry received the award but not Matt?

Yes, I think Matt should have definitely won an Oscar as well because I believe without Matt’s voice the film and the song might not have been such a huge success.

Q. Have you ever seen Matt perform live and what was the experience like?

No, unfortunately I have never seen Matt perform live.  Judging by other people’s experiences I have missed out on so much. 

 Q. What is your favourite aspect of the website and what do you think sets it aside from others of its kind?

I would say my favourite aspect of the website is Michele’s monthly news updates.  Michele goes into great detail and although sometimes rather lengthy they always make a good read.  I normally print the news page and Matt Jnr’s monthly update and have a good read in bed.  It’s so different from other sites, there is so much more information.  Credit goes to the web designer, it is so important to update information regularly.  Another important factor is the site needs to be easy to navigate around, colourful and interesting and the Matt Monro website certainly has all those qualities.

Q. mattmonro.com has won several awards since it was launched and recently the Forum was taken off air – do you think it is an important aspect of the site and worth fighting for?

Yes, forums play a very important part.  Where else can the user connect with other fans on the site?

Q. ‘Fans Reunited’ a gathering for fans of the late singer was started a few years ago – how did you get involved?

The first ‘Fans Reunited’ was held in the foyer of The Beck Theatre Hayes, Middlesex. It was organised shortly after I started the Friends of Matt Monro. The event was different from others I’ve been to before.  Everyone took part in a quiz, we were divided into teams, and the winning team had obviously done their homework, as I wouldn’t say the questions were that easy.  I hasten to add my team came second from last.  My favourite part was when Richard Moore took to the floor with his big box of tricks and with Michele’s help he showed us some fabulous footage of Matt, which we had never seen before.  It was amazing what he came up with.  My favourite was when Matt did a duet with Sir Tom Jones.  There was one clip when Matt actually stood on a platform to sing with Don Lane, a television presenter in Australia who was very tall.  Bless him.

I thought to myself what a wonderful way to meet the fans that had joined the club and also to try and recruit a few more.  After the event Matt Jnr performed in concert at the same place.  I stood at the merchandise stall at the end of the show with Paul & Sue White and handed out membership application forms. It proved successful and I managed to get a few more members on board.  Michele organised the whole event and I thought what can I do to help?  So I decorated the area with balloons and had a beautiful cake made.  It was in blue and white with black and white photos of Matt Jnr and his dad thereon.  Although say it myself it went down very well!

 cake

Q. The event obviously enabled you to meet up with other fans, have you made any good friendships?

Yes, I met up with a couple of sisters around my age.  We had a lot in common as well as Matt.  We often speak on the phone and meet up at different venues to see Matt Jnr in concert.  I went along with my mum and mum-in-law but if you are worried about attending on of these events on your own, there is no need to fret, as you will no doubt meet up with someone in your position.  Everyone is so friendly and you never know someone may live near you and you can travel together.  It is a great way to make like-minded friends.  I went to see Matt Jnr in concert at the Pavilion in Weston-Super-Mare and I sat behind a lady and a young girl.  Then to my surprise I saw the same woman at a Joe Longthorne concert.  Her name is Christine Whitnall: she travels all over with her daughter Samantha to see both artistes perform.  We have become great friends and she will be joining the Friends of Matt Monro very soon.

Q. What is Friends of Matt Monro and how does it differ from a visit to the website?

Friends of Matt Monro is a good old-fashioned way of keeping people in touch with each other and their idols.  Nowadays everything you want to know is on the Internet.  You can buy anything you want (and unfortunately you can only buy some goods solely from the Internet).  What about the elderly (and others) who don’t know the first thing about computers, and those who just don’t have one.  Lots of fans don’t join clubs because they feel they are wasting money if all the information is on the Internet.  I am speaking from experience.  Many fans have told me it’s nice to have the personal contact.  I am there to answer queries or on the end of a phone for a chat. 

Organising the quarterly magazine takes time.  I have to be prepared at least a month before.  I scan the Matt Monro website for up-to-date news.  I check the forum to see what’s going on there, and collate the letters and photos that the fans have sent to me.  I also contact Michele and Matt Jnr to see if there is anything special they would like to add.  I would like to see more fan letters and photos in the magazine.  Please if you have any fond memories that you would like to share with others please send them to me and I will publish them.  Don’t forget the magazine needs to be a two-way effort.  To those who are members of the fan club and who share their stories on the web please don’t forget the less fortunate and send them on to me.

Q. Running the Fan Club takes a lot of time and effort, why on earth did you volunteer and what do you get out of it?

I am currently the secretary of the Joe Longthorne Friendship Club, which I have been involved in for the last five years.  About three years ago I went to Blackpool to see Joe in a show at The Grand Theatre.  Afterwards I went back to The Queens Hotel and was introduced to Matt Jnr.  What a charming and approachable man. We got chatting (as you do) and I told him about running Joe’s friendship club and he told me he was a close friend of his.  I then popped the question would you like someone to run a fan club for you.  Well, he jumped at the offer and said, “Why not, let’s go for it” and I’ve been going for it ever since.  I love the contact with the fans, and knowing I am there for them.  I feel that all fan clubs should be managed by a fan rather than the management or agent.  Speaking from experience with Joe Longthorne, I have been following him now for over twenty years, so who really knows him best - me or a manager/agent who’s known him five minutes?  Obviously it’s different in Matt Monro’s case because his family are involved.  It makes my job just a little bit harder.

 Q. As well as running that side of the fan club, what do you do as a normal job, what are your hobbies and passions?

I served twenty years in The Metropolitan Police Force and was medically retired about eight years ago.  At the time it was my life, my everything.  The social side was incredible.  I was slim, young, athletic and full of fun.  Now I’m overweight, middle-aged, lethargic but still full of fun!  I’m passionate about music and dancing and I have even joined a salsa class.  I also enjoy the theatre, I’ve been to over 100 different theatres, and I’ve seen many different kinds of shows, from musicals, dramatic plays, comedy -  not forgetting Matt Jnr and Joe Longthorne.  I also enjoy reading, especially thrillers (light reading, nothing too heavy).  I am also a full time carer for my mother who takes up a lot of my time but I do have some help from other family members.

Q. The Rare Monro was five years in the making – do you think it was a valuable addition to the catalogue and would you welcome a follow up?

It was well worth the five-year wait, amazing.  I would love to see a follow up.

Q. Matt Monro never brought out a Christmas album although he did record Mary’s Boy Child, When a Child is Born and the recently discovered Christmas Magic, do you think Matt lends himself well to this sort of music and are you surprised he never brought out a seasonal album? 

No not really, to me Matt was a song stylist, I don’t think it essential for every singer to bring out a Christmas album, it’s the quality and depth of what they sing which attracts me to a certain singer like Matt. 

Q. If you had free reign and money was no object what project would you like to bring to the market?

If money was no object I would like to see the television programmes that Matt appeared on transferred to DVD.  I never saw Matt’s This Is Your Life and it would be great joy to see on DVD.

Q. Considering a few years ago there was thought to be no existing material on the singer, how do you feel about the release of DVDs to the catalogue?

How exciting, keep them coming I can’t get enough.

Q. On 16th February, Odeon added another disc to their growing library The Ultimate Performer.  Is it a worthy addition or do you feel they are flooding the market?

Yes, it did make a worthwhile addition.  There so many people out there who are not aware of Matt’s music.  We need to reach out to this new generation and what a better way to do it.

Q. With the above question in mind were you looking forward to the last EMI release last April Matt at the BBC, which will also included rare television footage?

As a keen fan I was very excited at this prospect, it is not just another greatest hits compilation but a very interesting collection of tracks.  It was a valuable and prized addition to any fans collection and the release of any Matt Monro footage is always valuable.

 Q. Richard Moore has contributed to the last few releases; the forthcoming one is no exception so how do you think his input has benefited these new masters?

What a lovely and talented man Richard Moore  is.  His knowledge of music is second to none.  He is the man responsible for enhancing the early recordings and bringing them up to DVD/CD quality.

Q. What do you think is the most exciting experience you have had regarding the Monro family?

My most exciting experience of the Monro family was seeing them all together and happy at the first Fans Reunited event.  Michele and Matt Jnr were with their dear mum Mickie and Michele’s son Max.  They sat on the top table in full view of everyone in the room.  This was the first time I had met Michele and Max and it was a great honour to be introduced to Mickie.

Q. What do you think is the hardest aspect of Matt Jnr’s job?

I think it has to be actually coming out on stage in front of an audience who are undoubtedly going to compare him to his late father.  His mannerisms are like his fathers and his stage presence is also very similar.  Although Matt Jnr has his own style of singing, he does sound like his father at times.  It’s lovely to see him come into the foyer at the end of the show.  He has kept this up through all the tours, I know he loves meeting and talking to people who knew or liked his father, or maybe just came along to see Matt perform.  It must be hard sometimes, especially after a long journey, uncomfortable hotel beds, not forgetting over two hours performing on stage. 

Q. He recently brought out a solo album – have you heard it and how did you rate it?

Yes, of course I have heard Matt Jnr’s solo album.  I keep playing it over and over again.  I love the way he interprets the songs in his own way.

Q. You attend a lot of the concerts – don’t you get fed up with seeing the same show over?

Yes, I do attend a lot of concerts, and no, I don’t get fed up with seeing the same show.  Matt Jnr asked the same question, I suppose he can’t see it himself.  It’s a great evening out. I usually meet up with a couple of friends and we have a drink at the bar and then take our seat (normally front row, where else would one want to sit).  We sit back and relax and listen to our favourite man singing our favourite songs, new and old.

Q. As one of Matt Monro’s staunchest fans – what prompted this love affair?

When I was old enough to appreciate Matt’s music, I fell in love with his velvet voice. Part of Joe Longthorne’s act includes the impersonation of Matt singing Born Free and it always brings tears to my eyes, he sings the whole song and it is so uncanny. 

Q. Do you have a large collection of Matt Monro music?

Oh yes, I would like more and from time to time buy a re-released LP on CD.  I like browsing round old record shops in search of that classic Matt LP.

Q. What do you think Matt Monro contributed to the British Music Industry?

Matt made a huge contribution to the British Music Industry.  In the fifties Britain had some very good male singers such as David Whitfield and Michael Holliday but to me no one before Matt attracted major attention from the other side of the Atlantic.  Matt made the rest of the world sit up and listen to him as no other British performer before him.  He left a massive legacy and generations of young British singers have tried to follow in his steps.  Of all the male performers to have emerged in the last 30 years or so I would say there is only one who makes me think of Matt when I hear and see him sing, he has the same ability to make you feel like he is just stood there on stage singing a song and he is only singing to you, and that is Joe Longthorne.

Q. With everything you know about the singer, do you think the forthcoming book written by his daughter will be objective?

Yes, Michele has worked so hard to be able to give an accurate account of Matt’s life warts and all.  I can’t wait to read all the things we never knew about her father, it is going to be a fantastic read.  I have ordered my copy already.

Q. There are several book signings being put together – are you going to one and what do you expect from the event?

Yes, I will definitely be going to one of the book signings. I don’t really know what to expect but it will be very interesting to see people there who I have not seen/met before and have ‘A Matt chat’ over a cup of coffee

Q. If you could only take one CD to a desert island what would it be and why?

I would take them all, put one on display in the sand and hide the rest.  I couldn’t survive if I left any behind.

 Q. Describe Matt Monro in three words?

A STYLISH VIRTUOSO

 

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