Interview with .......
Maureen & Harry Carruthers
We first became fans of Matt after listening to the Hits Of Yesterday in the 1960’s. It was actually the first LP we purchased but from then on we became avid collectors of all Matt’s albums. As new media was released we added these to our growing collection including cassette tapes, CD’s and more recently DVDs. Now here we are all these years later still amassing new collected works and thanks to all the hard work done by Michele this includes previously unreleased material.
The reason we became such avid collectors was that his music was absolutely outstanding. His phrasing, pitch, breath control, delivery and interpretation of a song made him stand out from the crowd so that you could not help but appreciate his superb talent.
It is very difficult to pick just one favourite, as there are so many in the catalogue that we could choose from. Born Free, Walk Away, Yesterday are several that are preferred tracks but there are so many more that the list would be too long as we rate so many of them equally. However, if we had to make a choice we would pick If I Never Sing Another Song (Harry) and Didn’t We (Maureen). It is even more difficult to choose a favourite album but if pushed for an answer it has to be The Late, Late Show (Maureen) and Matt Sings The Standards (Harry). We have chosen these songs/albums purely and simply because we love them.
A few tracks don’t make the play list as often as others as we think we all have different favourites for various reasons. There are a few songs that were not to our personal liking but that is no reflection on Matt as his singing was always spot on.
We love all of Matt’s albums. Changing any of the play lists would purely be a matter of personal taste and to please everyone would be impossible. We wish Matt had recorded album tracks like Unforgettable, The Way You Look Tonight and Let Me Try Again to name but three but this was probably not possible at the time for various reasons.
We think that without doubt The Rare Monro was a very valuable addition as it contained many unreleased songs, which is always great to have from a collector’s point of view. There are so many favourites on the CD but just to name some of these they are Let Me Choose Life, It's That Time Again, I've So Much To Be Thankful For, Day In Day Out, Till and Taking A Chance On Love.
We certainly did not expect such a generous issue of fifty tracks especially as there were so many unreleased songs on it. We personally like this edition but had it been split into two separate releases, we feel sure that the fans would have still found it a very attractive edition to their collection. A follow up would be more than welcome.
Among Matt’s releases were recordings from movie title tracks. In fact he became known as King of the Movie Themes. We like all of them but The Italian Job is certainly one of our favourites because we love Italy and whenever we see or hear of the film, Matt and the song comes to mind. Last year on the Jeremy Clarkson Show, Top Gear, while driving in the Italian Alps he said, “Let’s have some music on” and he put on a CD and of course it was Matt singing On Days Like These. The same goes for the movies Born Free and From Russia With Love, we feel that Matt singing the title song complements all these films.
It was an injustice that Matt did not get an Oscar for Born Free. It didn’t seem right that the award was only given to the songwriters. The song was well written and was perfect for the film but a good song can mean nothing if you don’t have the right singer and Matt was without any doubt the right singer, making it an outstanding film recording that is recognised throughout the world.
It is a shame that Matt 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. To be honest we could quite easily have found enough Christmas songs for a full album that would have ideally suited Matt. Our personal favourites would have included Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas, Let It Snow, Walking In A Winter Wonderland, Chestnuts Roasting On An Open Fire and White Christmas.
We first saw Matt perform in 1968. In a radio interview he referred to being on stage for about two hours at a cabaret club in the Manchester area and this was the very club we first saw him at. It was quite a large venue called Poco Poco. The club was almost full and among the audience were many members of the Manchester United football team. They were celebrating the fact they had won the European Cup for the first time a week or so earlier.
The evening was wonderful and suddenly it was time for Matt to arrive on stage and what a performance he gave. He was taking requests from the audience and singing them, which was something he never repeated again. To hear Matt live was incredible. We had thought that the recordings he made in the studio were enhanced by the equipment they used but not with Matt – what you heard on record was what you got live – a fantastic voice, as any of you who were fortunate enough to see him live will agree.
During the performance the bar was closed and tables were cleared – there wasn’t a glass in sight. The waiters weren’t serving; they just stood listening, transfixed by the show and when Matt eventually have his last bow the audience showed their appreciation over and over again. It was a night we will never forget.
Living in the Manchester area we were lucky to have a lot of cabaret clubs in the vicinity, which were always advertising headline names. Our regular was Talk of the North and we always went to see Matt there whenever he was appearing. He was one of the few artists who were asked back on a regular basis. The clubs were really good places to go for a night out. In the 60’s and 70’s men were not allowed entry unless they were wearing a suit and tie and although trousers suits were in fashion for women, they were not allowed at certain venues. Fortunately, around this time, long dresses were in fashion so it gave both of us a chance to dress up and enjoy a meal and a nice bottle of wine. To top the night off the greatest singer in the world – our beloved Matt entertained us.
The atmosphere in the clubs created a sense of intimacy. Matt used to go round the tables shaking hands with people as he sang and this set the mood for the night. On one such night when Matt was topping the bill, we had just finished our meal when the cabaret started. First on the bill was a magician and Harry’s one claim to fame was that he was invited, with several others, to take part in his act. Harry always mentions the occasion by saying “Do you remember the time when Matt Monro appeared on the same bill as me?” You might chuckle at this but Maureen has heard this story told over the last forty years!!!
Mind you Maureen has her own claim to fame, which happened on a separate evening but at the same venue. Matt came down from the stage onto the dance floor singing It’s My Happy Heart. He approached the table and took her hand, pulling her onto the dance floor all the while singing to her. After sixty wonderful seconds he brought her back to her table and thanked her for the experience. He also shook hands with Harry and thanked him too – yes Matt was a real gentleman.
We have been very lucky to have seen Matt Monro on many occasions, both in clubs and concerts. We can say in all honesty that every performance was wonderful and his live shows were just as wonderful as his recordings. He always enjoyed the relaxed atmosphere of a club. He had a great sense of humour and would interact with the audience as he performed. You can see for yourselves what we mean when you watch him in The Ultimate Performer on DVD. For us the experience was something that we will cherish for the rest of our lives. Not only did we get to see Matt perform several times over but on some occasions we were fortunate enough to speak to him afterwards to tell him how much we had enjoyed the show.
We also saw Matt Jnr, the first time in 2005 at the Albert Halls in Bolton and it was a wonderful show. We met him after the show and said to him that Matt would have been so proud of his performance. We have also seen him since then and each time we have thoroughly enjoyed the show. It was great to see that he has got the same musical director that Matt had – the very talented Colin Keyes.
We would think the hardest part of his job is when people compare him to his dad. This is so unfair as Matt Jnr makes it clear that he is paying tribute to his dad and his music. He is confident and at ease with the audience and performs the songs really well. We also think all the travelling he does must be very hard especially when things go so drastically wrong as they did in the Philippines. It did, however, make for very good reading!
We really enjoyed Matt Jnr’s solo album, the selection of songs are really good. We personally loved his versions of Mr Bojangles, Something, Some Kind Of Friend, The Lady Is A Tramp and others which showed his own particular style.
Thankfully several things have happened since Matt’s death that allow people to keep up with what is happening, especially in terms of the music. We know that Michele organised ‘Fans Reunited’ a gathering for fans of Matt but unfortunately due to family commitments and/or holidays we have not been able to be at any of the events. However, we know from reading the Forum that a lot of people get great pleasure from going and for that reason we hope they continue. Hopefully we might be able to make it to one of them in the future.
We do however subscribe to the fan club ‘Friends of Matt Monro’. This is great for anyone who does not have access to a computer as it brings them up to date with news and views and we always look forward to reading our copy of the quarterly magazine. We are lucky and have access to the website as well and we love reading the monthly newsletter as it not only gives us up to the minute news about Matt and Matt Jnr but also an insight into other singers when they appear in the Spotlight section. We do think the Forum is a very important part of the website and we really missed it when it was taken off air. We think it is a great place to read the postings from other fans. Everyone is really friendly and it doesn’t matter if you only want to write occasionally or if you just want to read what others have written then that’s ok too. There is also a wealth of information about Matt and if anyone wants to know something in particular there is always someone there who invariably has the answer.
BBC4 did an excellent programme on Matt called The Man With The Golden Voice (Legends), which covered the start of his career until his untimely death. However, Matt’s career did not end there and in the 25 years since he left, he has enjoyed chart success for several CDs and DVDs while also adding a new fan base. If we had free reign and money was no object we would carry on filming and cover this part of the story and also include how Michele has been responsible for the many unreleased songs and DVDs actually being released. We also have the book to include and Matt Jnr, who works to continue the legacy of Matt’s music and these would all form part of the story. This project would be released in time for Matt’s 25th Anniversary and perhaps for a title The Legend Lives On.
Considering a few years ago there was thought to be no existing material on the singer,
it is great that unearthed material is now available on DVD after all these years. This is a really good bonus for any fan/collector having been unreleased for such a long time especially for those fans who were not fortunate enough to see Matt live in cabaret. Our favourite part on The Ultimate Performer would be the live cabaret performance in Australia. The informal style of Matt is exactly how we remember him from the days when we used to see him at the clubs in Manchester. These intimate settings and his love of interacting with the audience are there for all to see from his performance.
As to the television performances we enjoyed them all but our particular favourite was of Matt on The Liberace Show who at that time was one of the biggest stars in America and it was clear that they both enjoyed working together. On What's On, Matt sang If I Never Sing Another Song, which is one of our favourite songs. The Talk Of The Town clip with Tony Bennett showed just how much other big name singers from America appreciated Matt Monro.
A personal highlight was seen on Tarby & Friends. Matt was superb but sadly this performance was his last one on television, so it is especially one that we will always remember. We enjoyed the Dave King Show and especially the duet they did of
Singin' In The Rain and at the same time You Are My Sunshine. It was very clever how they sang two different songs at the same time and they obviously enjoyed themselves.
Saturday Variety was another great selection of songs. One of our particular favourites was You'd Better Love Me While You May, which was good to hear, as Matt never recorded this particular song. This DVD set is a worthy addition to the catalogue and as most fans will tell you, there is always room for another Matt Monro CD/DVD. There is a new generation of fans as well as the long-standing ones who would welcome any material that is brought out.
We have really enjoyed Matt at the BBC. It was made up of two discs, one audio and the other a DVD with Matt giving his usual fine performance and we thought that it showed off his wonderful vocal range. He was able to sing We’re Gonna Change The World (a pop song) and then perform a beautiful rendition of Maria and Yesterday. The TV clips were a great bonus and gave us a chance to walk down memory lane.
We know Richard Moore has contributed to the last few releases and we think he is a star! He has worked really hard and his knowledge of all things musical is truly amazing. As we get older we sometimes wish for times past but progress brings its own rewards as the digital age has enabled someone like Richard to enhance so much of the early recordings and bring them up to DVD/CD quality.
With regard to the most exciting experience we have had regarding the Monro family, we think the most appropriate word that springs to mind is approachable. The reason we say this is because we had quite a lot of very early-recorded cassette tapes that we had done from old television and radio shows and we decided that we would put them on to compact disc to preserve them. We wondered if Michele would be interested in having copies of them but hesitated to contact her as we know how busy she is but we took the bull by the horns and contacted her to tell her what we had. She replied very quickly that she would like copies and we have been in touch ever since and as busy as she is she always takes time out to reply.
From the very first time we heard Matt we fell in love with his voice and his unique talent. We have many press cuttings, programs and of course CDs, albums etc. We also have tapes of TV and Radio shows and although they are not in the best of condition we still treasure them. We have a photo of Matt from his Columbia record days signed to Maureen. We recently purchased two items from Michele’s Auction, which we are delighted to have.
Matt took the British music industry to a new level showing it could produce a great singer, good songs and great records to compete with the established great singers such as Sinatra, Bennett, and Mathis etc. He also helped open the doors for our songwriters to be recognised and he most certainly gave a helping hand to success for songwriters like Don Black. As far as we know the industry did not recognise Matt’s contribution and perhaps some award could be given on Matt’s behalf to the Monro family.
We have been keeping up with the website news and know that Michele has been writing a book for the last few years. She has worked tirelessly to make sure that it will give an accurate account of Matt’s life and tell it as it is. There are bound to be things that we didn’t know about Matt not only as an International singing star but also as a husband and father and we are so looking forward to its release.
We were asked to choose only one CD to take to a desert island but we are going to cheat here! We both have an IPod which we would take as we have all Matt’s CD’s and DVD’s on them and having these would help us to survive life on a desert island.
Describe Matt Monro in three words? World’s Greatest Singer