Spotlight on ……

Ian Billingham

Ian Billingham

I first became aware of Matt Monro from birth really – My father Derek and Matt (Terry as he was known back then) were close friends in the army and my dad used to play piano for him in Hong Kong as well as letting Private Parsons sneak out whist he was on guard duty!! Terry used to sing in clubs around Hong Kong and he was always trying to sidle out or indeed back in to the compound.

I think Paul Gambaccini summed up Matt Monro’s music best when he said “his voice was a beautiful instrument” just like Tommy Dorsey’s trombone and Glen Miller’s woodwind section. I’m a big jazz fan and play trumpet and sing in a club in Bangkok and I like the idea of combining that sound from middle of the road songs with a bit more out there jazz like Miles Davis – much as Chet Baker did.

My favourite Matt Monro song would have to be “Till the End of Time” The arrangement is awesome, the lyrics fit with it, You can tell Matt really felt the music by the way he sings it and Chopin didn’t do a bad job of writing the music either J.Ian Billingham

I have about ten albums in my collection and I’ve put them all on my MP3 player so I have access to them at all times. I was asked which track I would you exclude off my play list and the answer is none of them, Matt’s voice always makes it worth listening to. I love all the albums and only wish I could hear some of the things he did in Hong Kong - just to hear if his voice was the same then.

It’s amazing just how many film title tracks Matt did. I think “On Days Like These” totally set up The Italian Job, “From Russia with Love” was a great song that had those Bond chords with a touch of romance and what would “Born Free” be without the title song? I think there should be a special Grammy Award – for movie music and I can see the thinking behind giving an award to the singer – they often make the soundtrack what it is.

I’ve just ordered both of the CD’s EMI brought out for the 25th anniversary, “The Greatest” and “The Complete Singles Collection”. Unfortunately they’re not available in Bangkok – imported music here is very heavily taxed – so it’s a job for the post office I’m afraid.Ian Billingham

Even though I’m a big Sinatra and Chet Baker fan, if I could only take one CD to a desert island I would choose Matt’s Hollywood and Broadway – his best album.

 I was never lucky enough to see Matt Monro perform live – but he did come to my house to see my dad once when I was about four years old – I believe he was playing at The Night Out in Birmingham at the time. That was actually one of the most exciting experiences – one of the few occasions that dad got the bottle of “Bells” out that lived in our drinks cabinet for five years J.  I was also made up that Michele included my dad in her book ‘The Singer’s Singer’, it has made my 85 year old Mom very happy.

I think Michele did a fantastic job writing the book, I can see what she went through to write it. She’s shown the world how much she loved her Dad and that made it very special to read. Unfortunately all the book signings have been in England and I live in Bangkok but I’m back in England at the end of July so I’m hoping there might be one I can go to.

 Ian Billiingham

Living in Thailand, I’m really grateful for the website, not only because of keeping up-to-date with the news but it is invaluable in being in touch with fans across the world. I read in the Forum that it was taken off the air for a few days about a year ago and that must have caused a panic. I think without the website there is a danger that the world will stop appreciating class and succumb to the Justin Beibers of the world!! Musicians and singers make music not PR men and Marketing conglomerates.

I’ve never been to ‘Fans Reunited’, which I’ve read is a gathering for fans of the late singer. But I’m sure it is a great occasion with movie clips, tribute acts and people’s recollections. Like the official Fan Club ‘Friends of Matt Monro’ and the Internet, it offers a chance for fans to bring in new information as well as the other way round.

 “The Rare Monro” is definitely a valuable addition to Matt’s catalogue, I think its like anything from sadly missed artists – anything newly uncovered is always welcome. It is a shame that he didn’t bring out his own Christmas album but he needed an original Christmas song in order to do it.

I can’t believe that only a few years ago there was thought to be no existing material on the singer, all the new material is excellent – but it always makes me wonder how these things, like lost Beatle tracks, can stay lost for so long when they’re so much in the public eye. I know they have brought out some of Matt’s television programmes to DVD but it is a shame that there isn’t much of Matt’s earlier footage.

It is nice that Matt Jnr has followed in his father’s footsteps, his job must be quite tough especially having his voice compared to his dads all the time – He does a great job and gets a great reception wherever he goes – deservedly. The concert I saw him at in Dublin was superb – and its arguably harder for Matt Jr in some ways because middle of the road music has to compete not only with what it had to compete with in the 60s, but also with new music trends such as rap. I liked his recent solo album “If He Could See Me Now”, there are some good tracks on it – a good mix of Latin, Swing and Big Band together with some of his father’s original covers.

It is a wonderful accolade to his father that he is carrying on the tradition but there will only ever be one original Matt Monro. His contribution to the Music Industry is enormous. At a time when people were sitting in mud-filled fields watching long-haired, pot smoking youths smash up guitars, Matt’s voice offered another option – looking back on it – the youth of the 60s really contributed something – So did Matt!!

If I had to describe Matt Monro in three words, I don’t think you can say better than Gambaccini – “A beautiful instrument”.

 

 

 

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