Spotlight on …

Marian Down

A fan’s perspective

 


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


Matt’s music has always been a part of my life as my husband Peter was a great fan and played Matt’s tapes all the time in the car. In those days I suppose he was always comfortably there in the background. It was around this time I also discovered Jack Jones, and I suppose you could say at that time that Jack came out the winner.


Q. I understand you are an ardent Jack Jones fan so how have you come to be a fan of Matt’s – was it a sudden change?


It was a very gradual change and I still am a great fan of Jack’s, but Matt slowly grew on me, and with the beginning of the website a whole new world of Matt Monro opened up, and I became more and more interested in discovering all about the man and appreciating his music.

 

 

Q. How did you originally connect with Michele?


I first met Michele many years ago when Peter and I went to see Joe Francis appear in Bournemouth. In her official capacity at the time Michele invited us to Joe’s dressing room to pick up a tape after the show. We were very impressed by her friendly and relaxed attitude, although I don’t think she is quite so relaxed these days! The next time I met Michele was at the first ‘Friends Reunited’ get together at The Beck Theatre. I wrote a note of thanks to her after the event, and possibly have remained a thorn in her side ever since!


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


I wasn’t quite sure what kind of person she would turn out to be, but I believe I have come to know and understand Michele well enough over the months and even years now, to know she is absolutely committed to her Dad’s cause.

She doesn’t suffer fools gladly and she is a stickler for detail and getting things right. For some this can be a bit scary, and we even gave her the nickname ‘Minefield Monro’ as if you put your foot down in the wrong place, there is likely to be an explosion! (Only joking Michele.) Not too far beneath this veneer though there is a loving, caring daughter, mother and friend, whose main aim in life is to promote her father’s memory and music to the very best of her ability, and woe betide anyone who gets in her way!

 


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


Timeless. He had a natural born gift that is given to very few.



Q. What is your favourite song?


It is really impossible to name just one. There are so many to choose from and they move in and out of the favoured position regularly.


Q. And your least favourite?


Yet again, it’s impossible to give a direct answer. There are some songs I do not like as much as some others, but that is the song, and not the singer.


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


Not really, although I would have liked more varied titles for the later releases.

It can be confusing at times with so many similar titles, especially now I’m getting on a bit!


Q. You attended the ‘First Fans Reunited’ a gathering for fans of the late singer, how did it go, and was it everything you imagined it to be?


Everything and much more, I didn’t know quite what to expect, and it turned out to be something I have never experienced before. As well as the rare music and film clips which were purely magical, there were friends everywhere, people who were strangers but friends, people brought together by the website who already knew one another and yet didn’t, it was an extraordinary and memorable experience.


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


Friends of Matt Monro’ is the Official Fan Club for the fans of both Matt Monro and Matt Monro Jnr. run by Geraldine Vine. Anyone who cares to join receives a welcome pack with some great photos and also four newsletters a year. These give all the recent news for anyone who doesn’t have access to the website and it also has special offers and competitions that are not available on line. The Backstage Passes available during Matt Jnr’s concert tours were a really enjoyable bonus and a special part of being a member of ‘Friends of Matt Monro’. The website gives you more immediate information and contact with other members, but it is good to belong to both, then you won’t miss anything.


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


I think all aspects of the website are special and the amount of information packed within its pages is phenomenal. The regular monthly updates by Michele are eagerly awaited each month. Other websites do not get this attention to detail and often appear to be running well out of date. Ours is an up to the minute, living, breathing website, well in touch with all that is happening in the world of Matt Monro, and far beyond.


Q. www.mattmonro.com http://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?


The forum is probably the most well used and valued section of our website, you’ll notice I say ‘our website’ because that is how it is thought of, as we are all a part of it and have formed firm and lasting friendships through our postings.

It is definitely worth fighting for. As Michele has mentioned, it is the ‘heartbeat’ of our website and the ‘hub’ that holds us all together.


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?


Definitely. These rare recordings, many of which had never been heard before, were like a breath of fresh air, and the welcome equivalent of new releases by any other recording artist today. That is what makes the music of Matt Monro so timeless and exciting, new finds like these are still being discovered and released today. A follow up would be yet another wonderful addition and I look forward to it as soon as possible.


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?


I’m sure a Christmas album by Matt Monro would have been as successful and popular as any of his other albums and his voice would indeed lend itself to this kind of music. I suppose it is surprising that he never made one, but most artists only ever make one anyway, mostly repeating the same carols and songs, so I do not think it was particularly necessary for Matt to have produced one too.


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 have Michele’s book on general sale in all good bookshops in time for Christmas this year, and well in time for Matt’s 25th Anniversary next February. I’m sure this would be possible if enough money was available. It would also have as many pages and photographs as she wants.

I would also like to provide widespread newspaper and television publicity for each new release, including the book and Matt’s CDs and DVDs, so that many more of his fans are aware of them and know they are out there, and that the reviews would not be just written by a few loyal fans on the forum, although of course, these will always be the most important!


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?


I think they are amazing and a wonderful addition to the catalogue of Matt Monro. It must really be like stumbling across a treasure trove continuing to unearth such a wealth of previously undiscovered material, and then to be able to present it to the public digitally re-mastered, is such an added bonus.


Q. 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?


It is a very worthy addition. How can you have too much of these rare glimpses of Matt live from the past? Wonderfully presented and digitally re-mastered it has given us something we have never had before, a look back at Matt as he was, and with an enhanced picture and sound quality than was never even possible back then.


Q. 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?


As soon as it is available to pre-order, my order will definitely be in. I can’t wait to see yet more of these amazing clips.


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?


Richard’s input must have been invaluable, and I’m sure his skills have contributed greatly to the outcome, producing a finished product of exceptional quality every time.


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


I have always been interested in family history and a couple of years ago I mentioned to Michele that Peter and I were going to the National Archives in London, and I asked if she would like us to search for her father’s school records while we were there, as she had already started on research for her book.

We duly went along with what little information we had at the time and started looking through the boxes of relevant school records. We knew Matt had attended Duncombe Road School at one time and possibly Bath Street School too, so we started the microfilm machine and began looking through what seemed miles and miles of microfilm. At the end of the morning and almost at the point of giving up, I found him, in 1936 – Terence Edward Parsons!

It was an exciting moment, made all the more special knowing we were probably the first to set eyes on that hand written document in a long, long time.

We eventually found more details of his school history, but that first find was definitely the most memorable.


Q. Matt’s son has followed his footsteps in the business, when did you first see Matt Jnr. perform and did you enjoy the show?


I first saw Matt Jnr. perform during his first UK tour at The Swan Theatre in High Wycombe and yes; it was a very enjoyable evening.


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


I think it must be being expected to perform his father’s big ballad hits, and being compared to his father when he sings them.


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


I think it contains a nice selection of songs, many of which are more suited to Matt Jnr’s voice than are some of his father’s songs. All in all I found it a very enjoyable album.


Q. You must be counted as one of Matt Monro’s staunchest fans – what prompted this love affair and what is your fascination with collecting his memorabilia?


I think it was Michele’s enthusiasm for her father’s work and his music that must have rubbed off to some extent, plus the fact that I have grown to appreciate Matt’s musical talent so much more. His phrasing and pauses appear so effortless and his interpretations are unmistakeably his own. Memorabilia collecting is just a part of the whole. I was never fortunate enough to have seen Matt live, but I can still collect special memories from those times.


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


Well, with everything I know about the daughter, I’m sure it will. Michele is straight and honest, and I know wants everything about her father she writes to be told in a straight and honest way too. I’m sure it will be the complete Matt Monro story.


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


Another difficult one. I think I would probably take ‘The Rare Monro’ as it has many lovely tracks, some of which are still not as well known to me as many of the older favourites. I could remember the old songs, as well as learning to love many of the new.


Q. Describe Matt Monro in three words?


Unique musical talent.

 


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