Spotlight on ……

John Higton


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A Fan’s Perspective

 

I was about twenty when I first became aware of Matt Monro. Towards the end of 1990 while on holiday in Blackpool (before moving there) I bought a compilation cassette tape from a market. It was called True Love - 16 Songs From The Heart and had a lot of lovely songs on it by artists including Brenda Lee and Daniel O Donnell. When I got home I played it straight away and the whole album was very nice but then I came to one particular song - Portrait of My Love by an artist called Matt Monro. Well, I just loved the song and the voice and remember asking my mum at the time ‘Who is Matt Monro?’ I recall her reply very well – ‘Oh yes, Matt Monro, he was a lovely singer’ – and she then went on to tell me that sadly he had died a few years earlier and was a very popular and familiar face on television.

I first met Michele around 1996/97 when a friend of mine, another avid Matt Monro collector, very kindly sent a letter to Matt’s widow Mickie from me telling her how much I loved Matt’s music. By then I had moved to Blackpool and Mickie wrote a lovely letter back, which I put in a frame, and from then on we have always kept in contact.

 

I used to work at a printers and photographers and I’d had an idea about taking photographs of Matt’s albums and putting them in a frame. My boss very kindly took the pictures for me and I cut them all up and framed them. I didn’t have that many albums at that time, as they were practically all UK releases. I thought it would be nice for the Monro family to have something like this, so I repeated the process. I wrapped it up very carefully, well packaged, and guess what? Yes, it arrived all smashed to pieces. We were all hugely disappointed but I wasn’t going to give up. I got another set of prints, another frame and did the whole thing again.

 

My partner and I decided we would take it down there personally as we were already going down south for a few days break and it wasn’t very far out of our way. Michele had a little shop in Harrow at the time, which we found fairly easily and we sat and chatted for about half an hour before taking our leave. She was over the moon with our gift - that was our first meeting.


Michele is a perfectionist and she likes things to be done properly, following in the footsteps of her father. She is immensely proud of him and his music, and very rightly so, and does everything she can possibly do to promote his legacy. But basically, she is very down to earth like the rest of the family. Saying that, I wouldn’t like to get on

the wrong side of her. (jokingly)

In a nutshell, Matt’s music is pure gold. Matt had the perfect pitch, never a bad note or a bad performance. It was quality all the way through and so relaxing to listen to. He knew the right songs to pick and worked with some wonderful arrangers and musicians. Absolutely top notch.


For The Present is my personal favourite album although I love all of them. There are so many lovely songs on there. Sarah’s Coming Home is beautiful and it was my mum’s favourite and I Am, Curiouser and Curiouser and First of May all feature on this album.


Picking a favourite song is much more difficult. If I was to narrow it down, among the well known tracks I would choose three - Portrait Of My Love, Walk Away and If I Never Sing Another Song. Then amongst the lesser-known ones I would select All That Remains, (absolutely love this one) Let Me Choose Life and Before You Go.

Everyone has a couple of songs they don’t care for and I am no exception. Mirage and Quite Suddenly would be my least favourite. Both songs are from around the same year but I’m afraid they would be at the bottom of the list.


To be honest I think all of Matt’s albums are great apart from perhaps Other Side Of The Stars, which has been mentioned several times on this website’s forum. Although I like all the songs on the album and Matt sings as well as ever I feel some of the arrangements could have been better, particularly with No Regrets and What A Wonderful World. Saying that, in total contrast, When You Wish Upon A Star is great.

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Unfortunately I have never seen Matt perform live. Perhaps if I had been around twenty years earlier I would have had a chance and it is something that I often think about.

 

Fans Reunited is a gathering for fans of the late singer and it was a wonderful day. I was unable to attend the first event in 2006 but I made it the following year. I’ve got to say I was a bit nervous at first but it was lovely meeting everyone I had spoken to on the forum. I met some wonderful people and made some great friends. In fact I don’t know what I’d do without them. It was also wonderful meeting Mickie for the very first time because although we had spoken on the phone many times over the years we had never actually met. It was also great seeing Michele again and meeting her son Max for the first time. It was incredible hearing songs that had never before been released (up to now, hint hint!) and also watching lots of rare video footage. The video that brought a tear to my eye and a few other people beside was of Matt singing Somewhere from an Australian TV show in1984. It was just wonderful - this surely has to find it’s way to DVD someday (hint, hint again!). The day was rounded off we a quiz and evening buffet. A great day.


I have to admit I am a new member of ‘Friends Of Matt Monro’. The membership pack includes membership cards and a newsletter full of interesting information, which you receive four times a year. I have to say the presentation of the newsletter is superb. The latest issue is packed with details of Matt Jnr’s tour plans, interviews with the fans; information on forthcoming releases and details on the backstage passes. ‘Friends Of Matt Monro’ is ideal, not only for members of the forum but for fans who haven’t got access to a computer.


The website – mattmonro.com - is just great. I very much look forward at the start of each month to the ‘News’ section to find out what is in the pipeline and the ‘Spotlight On’ section as it always makes an interesting read. Also brilliant is the Member’s Lounge and the Scrapbook, where you can look at all the photos and memorabilia put on by the fans of Matt as well as the photo’s from Fans Reunited.

 

I love the Forum as well because I have made so many friends on there and there is always someone else on line to talk to. I think it is an important aspect of the site and definitely worth fighting for? It is a way of being able to communicate with other people on your own wavelength as we all have the same interest and love of Matt’s music. It’s a place where we can all keep in contact with each other and discuss anything and everything about Matt and his music. It also gives us the opportunity of discussing virtually everything else such as our other favourite artists, what music we are listening to at the moment, quizzes and games, current news items and entertainment as a whole. I, like several other members of the forum, do spend quite a lot of time on the forum, more so in the evenings, and to be honest I don’t know what I’d do without it sometimes. It’s my ‘Second Family’.


The Rare Monro has become one of my favourite CD’s (especially disc one). There are some lovely songs on there. Let Me Choose Life and It’s That Time Again are beautiful and most of the tracks featured have made their way to CD for the first time, some with slightly different arrangements from the original release. I would definitely welcome a follow up to it - in fact I welcome anything that comes out in any format.


I was always very surprised Matt never made a Christmas album. I am sure if he had it would have been a great success. I especially like the songs Mary’s Boy Child and When A Child Is Born. It was great when Christmas Magic was discovered, that is a lovely song. I remember a few years ago in 1979 I was watching a repeat of ‘Larry Grayson’s Christmas Generation Game’ where there were five singers all behind closed doors and they each sang a few lines from a Christmas song and Matt was amongst them. He sang part of The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting On An Open Fire). Of course, I knew instantly who it was, but the contestants didn’t!

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I would love to see the complete singles all reissued (A sides and B sides). I believe that project is currently in the pipeline. Although I do have all the UK singles there are the odd ones that are obviously a bit worn and have the odd scratch - what can you expect when they are thirty to fifty years old? It would be nice to have them on CD in a boxed set. I am also looking forward to Michele’s forthcoming book; it is definitely a ‘must have’ and would be wonderful if it is ready for the end of the year. I can hardly wait for the release. Michele is totally passionate about her father and his music and I know she won’t leave any corner unturned. It will be great to read his full life story and I

know the finished result will be excellent.

I just can’t believe how lucky we all are to have all the releases of DVD added to Matt’s catalogue. I remember years ago when I first became a fan of Matt and I hunted high and low for video material but there was nothing, zilch! The first video I ever saw of Matt was when Matt Jnr recorded the duet album and released We’re Gonna Change The World. I remember seeing this on the Gloria Hunniford show and I actually taped it. Matt was singing on a screen in the background. Not long after that I taped a ‘Morecombe and Wise Show’, which had Matt as a guest. He sang Thanks and it was wonderful. Then I tried writing to the TV stations to see if they had anything. The BBC refused outright but I was luckier with ITV and for a fee I received a copy of ‘Frost On Sunday’. Not long after that, I got a response from another ITV station who produced ‘Tarby and Friends’ stating that for an astronomical fee (I am not disclosing how much it actually was) they would send me a copy of the show from 1984. Anyhow, to cut a long story short I did get the copy.


It was wonderful when An Evening With came out. It was great to see a full concert, something I had never seen before and even better when it went to No. 1 in the charts. Then came A Portrait Of, which was equally as enjoyable and not long after that came Matt At The Movies featuring a show Matt did in the sixties called Go Go With Matt Monro and of course the only feature film he did Satan’s Harvest.


On 16th February Odeon added another disc to their growing library The Ultimate Performer and I was over the moon about this release. I didn’t even realise that so many performances still existed and it was just wonderful to see them all. It is hard to pick a favourite from the Matt On TV section because they are all great but I thought the quality, was excellent from the very early 1962 to the later performances. On the same disc is the newly cleaned up version of An Evening With. You can definitely tell the difference between the original release and the ‘new’ version and as an added bonus we are treated to the CD Live In Manila 1965. Matt sings some of his early hits here as well as a few of the lesser-known singles. Good to hear ‘live’ versions of these songs. I recommend anyone adding this to their

collection, they won’t be disappointed!

I can hardly wait for Matt at the BBC the new EMI release on 26th April! I say that each time something new is on the horizon, so I have been saying that a lot the past three or four years! The ‘live’ CD with The Ted Heath band sounds really good and I believe we will be blessed with some songs from the wonderful Hoagy Carmichael album. It will be great to hear different versions of these songs. The bonus DVD, which will accompany it, will be just as enjoyable as The Ultimate Performer as well. More classic clips will include performances from The Morecombe and Wise Show and the Cilla Black show and a show Matt recorded around 1974, Matt Sings Monro. It just all sounds too good to be true!


I think Richard Moore has done a wonderful job in everything he has done and I think we all owe a huge debt to him. The Rare Monro is a prime example of his work and as I have said before is perhaps my favourite album. It includes previously unreleased songs, alternative takes and a nice selection of ‘live’ material all very nicely restored. Richard of course did the remastering of the En Espana album to perfection and more recently Yesterday which focuses on excerpts from a concert Matt recorded in Manila in 1983. Live In Australia is another fine example of Richard’s skills. I love this concert; to me it is Matt at his very best.

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I first met Matt Jnr around 1996. As mentioned I was already in touch with Mickie and at the time I ran a guesthouse here in Blackpool. One day Mickie phoned and said that Matt was coming to Blackpool with his then girlfriend and wanted somewhere to stay. Well, it was the illuminations period, and Blackpool (back in those days) was really very busy. I think we had a coach party in and we just couldn’t fit them in, I was so disappointed. They managed to get a local hotel but still came round to see us for a couple of hours for a few drinks and a chat. They were so nice and down to earth and before long they were on their way. The next day, before leaving Blackpool they came and said goodbye.


Anyhow, a few weeks later Matt was a part of a Music Hall show in Swansea, along with Hinge and Bracket and Bobby Crush. By this time Blackpool was quiet, the season had finished and we were on a few days break down south. We managed to get a couple of tickets for the show and traveled across country to Swansea and found a hotel, which was a bit of a dump to be honest, but that’s another story. I remember at the time I wasn’t very well, I had tonsillitis and a banging headache and although I looked pretty awful we still went to see the show. Matt was so pleased to see us and was genuinely taken aback that we had taken the trouble to travel down there to see him. Matt sang four songs including We’re Gonna Change The World with his Dad in the background and we really enjoyed the show. After the show he went off to get my souvenir programme signed by all the performers, which was good of him. The next time I saw him was here in Blackpool in 2005 with his own show, which we enjoyed very much. We only saw him for a few moments after the show, as he was busy signing programmes when he looked up and said ‘It’s been a long time’. I also saw him briefly in 2007 after the Fans Reunited gathering. I think the hardest aspect of Matt’s job is always being compared to his father and people expecting him to sing his father’s songs. That is what is so good about his shows – because as well as the classics he puts his own touch to the shows adding new material


There are some very nice songs on his recent solo album. I loved the version of Todo Pasara/All Of A Sudden and thought he sang it very well with a terrific arrangement. Other great songs include Home, Cry Out and a good cover of the classic Mr Bojangles.


Michele counts me as being one of Matt Monro’s staunchest fans and is amazed at my memorabilia collection. My mum and dad had records such as Ken Dodd, Jim Reeves, Shirley Bassey, The Seekers etc and used to enjoy listening to them, but I would rarely go out of my way to buy a record. We used to have Radio 2 on quite often during the day and would enjoy listening to that. Most of my school friends at the time were all into the music of the time, the eighties, but it just didn’t interest me at all. It was about the time when the album series Now That’s What I Call Music came out and it is still going strong twenty odd years later. I just couldn’t get into it at all. Working at a printers with Radio 2 on throughout the day I soon started to really enjoy listening to the music and I was already used to Radio 2 because that was the station we had on at home.


In 1990 I started listening to The Carpenters, I thought Karen had a beautiful voice. It was through one of their songs called Solitaire that I became interested in Andy Williams because he also sung this. I started collecting his records as well, and it was through a song called I Will Wait for YouPortrait of My Love on cassette tape. I was looking round the shops one day and came across a CD by Matt called A Time For Love and it had the song I Will Wait For You on it. I remembered hearing and liking Andy sing it and thought I’d buy Matt’s version and compare them both. This was the beginning of a very long and happy journey. Of course it wasn’t just that song I loved, the whole album was brilliant. Favourites from that first album were With These Hands, I Will Wait for You and Without You. that I really got into Matt. At the time I had the song

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I then started buying singles and albums from the old record shops in Manchester and Stockport. I used to buy the Record Collector magazine every month and would spend hours browsing through that and within a few short years I had practically every song that Matt had recorded in some form in my collection. I also had a good friend who found quite a few records for me as well. I didn’t just stick to the U.K. albums, I bought items from South Africa, Spain, Japan, Argentina, in fact from all over the world - that is when it started getting expensive. I haven’t an enormous amount of memorabilia; I have several music sheets, some posters from Talk Of The Town, a few programmes and several photos from over the years, which I have placed in the website’s Scrapbook together with newspaper clippings. I had a record framed with the cover at the side and a little plaque, which is a good centrepiece. My friend in London had some more photographs done of album covers that we had between us and I then made a much bigger frame than the original I had. I have to say, I have slowed down now, but whenever anything new comes out I always buy that to add to the collection. I always think it’s exciting to discover something new and eagerly await news of any forthcoming releases and I usually look on eBay each week to make sure I am not missing anything. Of course, Matt paved the way for me to enjoy other great singers of the time

including Perry Como, Al Martino plus many more.

It is difficult to choose only one CD from the collection to take to a desert island and I am going to look a bit of a copycat here - but I have to choose disc one of The Rare Monro like Marian.

 

If I had to describe Matt in just three words it would have to be - Gifted, Quality, Gold.

 


PREVIOUS SPOTLIGHT GUESTS

Adam Faith

Marian Down

Kenny Rogers

Steve Woof

Glen Campbell

Richard Moore - Interview

Dame Shirley Bassey

Al Martino

Ella Fitzgerald

Jo Stafford

Lena Horne

June Christy

Nancy Wilson

Johnny Dankworth

Anthony Newley

Andy Williams

Vikki Carr

Missing Matt 2

Michael Ball

Petula Clark

Michele Monro

Lena Horne

Missing Media

George Martin

Dusty Springfield

Richard Moore

Tommy Bruce

Alma Cogan

Kathy Kirby

Tony Bennet

Johnny Mathis

Joe Longthorne

Frank Sinatra

Sammy Davis Jr.

Dean Martin

Nelson Riddle

Tony Christie

Nat King Cole

Steve Woof

Matt Monro Jnr.

Roy Leslie

Ken Dodd

Julie London

Sid Feller