Spotlight on ……
Interview with Keith Good – 28 March 2009.
When did you first become aware of the late Matt Monro?
I was captivated on hearing him sing on Radio Luxembourg’s Winifred Atwell show, circa 1955. I was then a teenager growing up in picturesque West Cork whose discerning dwellers continue to hold Matt’s music in the highest esteem.
How would you describe the music of Matt Monro?
Matt was a sublime interpreter and exponent of a popular song - all the essential elements were there: rich baritone, ineffable style, unique intonation, extensive range, a trumpeter’s breath control et cetera, all presented gift-wrapped in charm and warmth. We shall never see his like again.
What is your favourite song/album and why?
Favourite song: I Get Along Without You Very Well, probably because the lyric started life as a poem. I love all of Matt’s albums equally.
And which is the one that wouldn’t make your play list?
The Christmas Magic track, for me, fails to live up to its billing.
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?
Spoiled for choice, On Days Like These just shades it. Of course Matt’s renditions were perfect introductions to the films.
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?
It is a perverse omission, the system exists to recognise writers and performers.
Have you ever seen Matt perform live and what was the experience like?
Not as often as I would have liked. My wife, Mary, and I made an evening round trip by tube from Archway, north London to the Wimbledon Theatre where Matt was appearing, in the Seventies, I think. Needless to say, Matt was superb. (Whisper it, Mary is an avid fan of Neil Diamond.)
Looking at some of the past albums is there something you would like to have seen done differently?
No. I guess I approach all of Matt’s albums with equal uncritical acclaim.
‘Fans Reunited’ a gathering for fans of the late singer was started a few years ago – is this something that would interest you and why?
It would be a thrill to meet my fellow forum members in person. Without meaning to be presumptuous, the launch of Michele’s book would be the perfect occasion for such a get-together. I’m sure everyone would love to be there on the quayside to wish the lovingly crafted Magnum Opus ‘bon voyage’.
What is ‘Friends of Matt Monro and how does it differ from a visit to the website?
I am a member, a very fulfilled one, of the website only.
What is your favourite aspect of the website and what do you think sets it aside from others of its kind?
The wide-ranging, information-packed nature of the website holds special appeal. The forum element is blessed by being populated by warmly agreeable people.
www.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?
I think the forum is indispensable to the website. It has afforded me the opportunity to burnish my writing skills, so called, and in transcribing my English textbook manuscript onto it, has acted in a revising capacity.’ For this relief, much thanks.’
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?
Yes, on both counts.
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?
I wish Matt had recorded sufficient Christmas numbers to comprise an album. His voice graced every genre.
If you had free reign and money was no object what project would you like to bring to the market?
That’s a tough one, may I phone a friend?
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?
The posthumous release of Matt’s work has enriched my life beyond measure.
On 16th February Odeon added another disc to their growing library ‘The Ultimate Matt Monro’ Is it a worthy addition or do you feel they are flooding the market?
I think all of Matt’s fans are overjoyed by the release of his music in DVD and CD formats. Following the startlingly agreeable surprise of An Evening With, the release of The Ultimate Performer, and Matt Sings, Nelson Swings, among other memorial gems, are manna from heaven to Matt Monro aficionados.
With the above question in mind are you looking forward to the new EMI release in March/April “Matt at the BBC”, which will also include rare television footage?
Yes, that DVD is top of the shopping list for our next visit to Brent Cross Shopping Centre.
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?
Richard’s endeavours remind me of a sub-editor polishing a literary work. A sub-editor of rare expertise, I hasten to add. I am fascinated and baffled, in equal measure, by Richard’s extraordinary skills.
What do you think is the most exciting experience you have had regarding the Monro family?
When Michele phoned me to say she had received my adapted poem entitled, Spring Is Here, and confirmed that she and Mickie had read it favourably. I was concerned that I might be intruding into private grief. That phone call was, for me, the highlight of 2008.
Matt’s son has followed his footsteps in the business, have you see Matt Jnr. perform and if so did you enjoy the show?
I confess to not having enjoyed any of Matt Junior’s work. Maybe someone would kindly suggest an introductory example?
What do you think is the hardest aspect of Matt Jnr’s job?
Forgive the cliché, but he has a tough act to follow.
As a long-standing fan – what prompted this love affair and can you tell us a bit about your memorabilia collection?
I possess no memorabilia as such; Matt’s musical legacy more than suffices.
What do think Matt Monro contributed to the British Music Industry?
As the foremost performer of popular songs these islands have produced, the industry’s recognition thereof is lamentable. As an exponent of a popular song Matt is unsurpassed, a songwriter’s dream performer.
With everything you know about the singer, do you think the forthcoming book written by his daughter will be objective?
The question is impertinent; Michele would never besmirch her father’s memory by misrepresenting him. (It is entirely apt that the letter M is one of the most alliteratively euphonic in the alphabet. Magic!)
If you could only take one CD to a desert island what would it be and why?
Probably Matt Sings Hoagy Carmichael – an exquisite, timeless, song and singer combination.
Describe Matt Monro in three words?
Magical, musical mastery.
PORTRAIT OF MATT
Matt Monro and I never met,
and yet, I got to know him well.
I see him now: an engaging personality
devoid of any big-star grandiosity;
the glint of humour in strong brown-eyed gaze
reflecting the impish smile that plays
around that handsome physiognomy.
A witty man and warm,
a gently debunking mimic,
with a talent for dialects deployed to disarm.
A man of stocky stature,
a persona comprising a core of steel
soft-wrapped in a sympathetic nature.
Unlike the aspiring cadences
of his beloved bells-fabled Shoreditch,
the mellifluous Monro sound continues,
musically, to enrich.
No, Matt Monro and I never met –
that is, not yet …