Well, I have to admit it has been a very slow year news-wise mainly because on the 24 January I was rushed into hospital by ambulance and I don’t even remember the first few days. No, it wasn’t covid but I could well have come home with it. Various people in beds opposite and beside me were suddenly rushed out of the ward deemed as covid contact. It was a scary time especially as I was in the ‘fragile ward’ so the two ladies with dementia wouldn’t keep their masks on and I was vomiting non-stop so I had to keep taking mine off.
I’d been feeling rough for five days prior to my admittance and was suddenly bringing up bright yellow bile. I couldn’t get through to my doctor for love or money so rang 111 thinking they might have a different number to get through on but after a few questions they dispatched an ambulance.
I was panicked as I kept passing out, it was snowing and I had the puppies to worry about but unbeknown to me my neighbour called Max who hurtled down from London. Little did he know he’d be in Telford for six weeks. I had various tests, scans an endoscopy and a biopsy on the stomach nodules they found but nothing was conclusive. I came home after a week as certain results I was waiting on were going to be another six days and I didn’t want to be in there a minute longer than I needed to because of the virus. Unfortunately, I was bedbound for several months, kept retching throughout the day, couldn’t eat solids, had caregivers coming in several times a day and lost 3.5 stone. The worst thing was I found it hard to take any liquids either so couldn’t take my meds as I take 18 tablets a day. The trouble with that was that not everything I take is available as intravenous and the morphine patches didn’t seem as effective as my tablets plus I had a reaction from the glue. I didn’t actually get out of bed until 18 June and then spent several months trying to get my strength and muscle tone back.
Even though I am 90% there now certain foods and drinks don’t taste right. Believe it or not, I haven’t been able to drink a coca-cola since I got ill and for anyone that knows me well that will come as a shock, lol
Last year, in line for dad’s 90th birthday, Richard and I launched dad’s very own YouTube channel – https://www.youtube.com/c/MattMonroOfficial and set about putting together a four-part audio documentary to celebrate dad’s special day. The programmes were written and narrated by myself and feature an intimate portrait of the man behind the voice, drawing on previously un-broadcast interviews, extremely rare recordings previously thought lost, interviews with his family and friends and messages from some of his more famous fans.
It took months to go through around a hundred hours of interviews between 1962 and 1984 but I’ve included contributions from dad’s siblings, Alice & Harry Parsons, mum, Matt Jnr and some of dad’s fans and famous friends including Quincy Jones, John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Martin, Anton Du Beck, Cliff Richard, Dave Allen, Bruce Forsyth, June Marlow, Billy May, Rosemary Squires, Tony Christie, Helen Shapiro, David Hamilton, Bob Monkhouse, Frankie Vaughan, Buddy Greco, Tony Bennett, Johnnie Mathis, Bernie Clifton, Duncan Norvelle, Lance Ellington, Bobby Crush, Joe Mantegna, Barry Cryer and many others.
The series draws on the estate’s extensive archive of rare material featuring:
Never before broadcast appearances on radio in Hong Kong whilst in the army along with his first recordings.
Previously thought lost performances from the BBC Showband Show, Lunchbox, 1964 Song for Europe, Parade of the Pops, 1966 Royal Command Performance and more
Audio from lost TV appearances including, Cilla, Val Doonican and Petula Clark
Rare and unheard live recordings, demos and jingles.
Recording session clips and more
Episode 1 – From his birth to early fame including the army years, Early recording and radio career and first steps to fame.
Episode 2 – His first hit, Portrait of my Love and working with George Martin, through to Eurovision and Lennon and McCartney
Episode 3 – Signing with Capitol and worldwide fame, through to his South African tour and making a movie.
Episode 4 – His split with Capitol, later career and final illness. Also features his legacy and messages from famous fans.
So, if you didn’t catch it yet pop in.- Find the full series HERE
I have also made a deal with a company called Aviator who are licensing matreil from TV stations on my behalf so that every two weeks we feature a rare television performance of dad and the YouTube channel still has all the ones you may have missed by not visiting yet. It’s all totally free and if you register the site will send you a reminder every time something new is added.
Talking about rare footage, several months ago, Richard received an email from Kaleidoscope asking if we wanted to buy a MM show from 1968. This was not a guest appearance but dad’s own 45-minute show from Talk of the Town that we didn’t know had been taped. I was so excited as this would give me another full-length show to add to the archive. The tape was received and sent out for transfer or so I was told but this turned out to be untrue. The company weren’t upfront with the way they do things and after nearly two months I found out that my film reels were nowhere near being transferred because of a lack of funds on the company’s part. I was desperate to arrange a courier pick up so that I could send it to a transfer house that would deal with it immediately but that also caused problems. It would seem that although I officially and legally owned the footage, having paid a huge sum of money for it, the company didn’t want to let it go. After several false starts, it was finally sent to John Pegg at FilmFinity who had stepped in to save the day. He knew how anxious I was to see the footage so he put it on a print run straight away. That was on a Friday and he said he’d ring me later that night. He didn’t and alarm bells started ringing, and not for the first time since the purchase. John in fact didn’t ring me until the Sunday with the opening statement that he didn’t want to ruin my weekend. The footage wasn’t dad at all and neither was the secondary reel of what was supposed to be the Petula Clark Show. It was a scam and I couldn’t believe that the buyer hadn’t checked the footage when he picked it up. Because the email had come in from a reputable archive company, I had stupidly assumed that they would check the tapes as a matter of course. I was gutted and haven’t gotten over how people can be so cruel.
The new album I released on 11 March last year ‘Stranger in Paradise: The Lost New York Sessions’ spent an incredible 27 weeks in the charts and has continued to exceed all my expectations so if you didn’t grab a copy, now is the time or buy an extra one as a stocking filler for someone special especially as Amazon are selling the double album at a ridiculously low priced £3.99. No wonder I’m broke!
Last year, being a special one, and I designed something exclusively for the run-up to dad’s birthday, the abridged audio of my book: “The Singer’s Singer: The Life and Music of Matt Monro” on a USB stick.
Bound in leather and offered in a gorgeous presentation box with a magnetic clasp “Words & Music’ includes the equivalent of 3 CDs that make up the audiobook, 9 music tracks (Babycham jingle, Camay jingle, California Here I Come, Dreamdust, Lazy River, Pennies From Heaven, Star Eyes, The Nearness of You, You’re Driving Me Crazy) and 2 video clips (Born Free, My Kind of Girl).
Unbelievably it sold out in only two weeks, something I was totally unprepared for, but I did place another order so if anyone is still interested just let me know.
Because of the pandemic I haven’t been on the cruise ships for nearly two years and because of that my new book ‘The Autonomous Cruiser: The Complete Guide to Cruising For and With Disabled Travellers’ has been sitting at the publishers the last 18 months as the timing wasn’t right. Now that the majority of cruise ships have returned to the seas, I was looking at releasing it in the autumn but was told that the publisher couldn’t make the deadline so it now looks to be January or February. This is a big blow as I had hoped it would be included in a few people’s Christmas stockings.
People are still using the pandemic as an excuse to be less productive. Slow is an understatement and the paint I was watching dry is still wet, lol. I have never and will never understand how record companies make any money. They have even fewer excuses as working from home should have freed up more time in their day, not less. Richard and I have been waiting to release uploads of all the Capitol albums (including one that hasn’t been available before). I was upset to learn nearly two years ago that a few albums available to download/stream were inferior in quality to what we know is on the mastertapes. So after airing my complaints, Universal gave the go-ahead. Richard re-mastered them within weeks, creating versions that sound better than they ever have, from the 1st generation tapes, even creating first time stereo mixes for a few tracks. He has been paid for them, but they are still sitting in cyberspace waiting for someone to push a button that would make them live. It is absolutely crazy. 18 months and counting.
Another MM product Richard and I have worked on is also almost ready to go, but he has been waiting for the tracklist to be approved. Not only are the record companies losing money but they are also losing me money which has an impact on what I can work on next. Looking back, EMI and especially Steve Woof were such a joy to work with and I am immensely proud of what we managed to produce over our 20-year relationship. In fact, it really all started with EMI when they gave me the green light to produce a dedicated website for dad. We released some fabulous albums, all in stereo and not just the standard ‘Best Of’ or ‘Greatest Hits’ titles. I was immensely chuffed with ‘The Rare Monro’ and ‘The Rarer Monro’ and it was good to finally expel the belief that if an album didn’t have ‘Born Free’ on it then it wouldn’t sell. It was fabulous to finish off using the EMI building for the book launch in tandem with Titan Publishing. I have to say I was devastated when EMI closed its doors as I knew it would be an end to the freedom I’d enjoyed over those years but I am at least grateful that I managed to release nearly everything on my wish list.
Have I ever mentioned I hate technology, lol? I have now added Apple to my list of loathsome companies. I have been championing them for years and I cannot knock their innovative product launches over the years but like all companies they get greedy. First, they took away the CD ROM from my Apple Mac, then the earphone connector on my phone so one is forced to buy add-ons, which of course means spending more money. When setting up my new desktop I found that both Apple and HP don’t support the printer software anymore so I have been forced to buy another machine. Then my iPhone kept telling me I had no memory because the compulsive updates were huge so I had to buy a newer phone. No wonder people are hooked on Valium.
The latest annoyance is the removal of iTunes and iPhoto’s. WHY? I don’t like change being a technical dinosaur and it wouldn’t be so bad if the new software was better but it isn’t. I spent years cataloguing over 127,000 photos, all in their own files, named, dated and with added notes. They have now changed it for ‘Photos’ and whilst my pictures might be in there it is impossible to know as all the folders have been removed including the information. I have four iPhoto backup files but Photos cannot implement a merge so I can’t see them all when I open the Photos program.
Richard found a program called Power Photos which apparently enables a merge and so we started to use the free trial. It took days to run the preview but it showed that all 127, 000 photos, 615 videos and 4,500 doubles, were in there. Great, but when I pressed the button to start the merge up popped a message saying I had to buy the full version. That was fine but I then had to start from scratch. I finally started the merge again and after two days the program crashed while running. Over the course of two weeks, I ran the merge 6 times, each time it crashed and the files were sent to the company to ascertain what the problem was. I couldn’t believe it turned out to be that because I had formatted the external drive to FAT it wasn’t compatible. Why don’t they tell you these things beforehand? I’d just invested in a 4TB external hard drive so I could back up everything on my desktop and it took near on a week. I’ve always formatted to FAT as it allows the drive to be viewed on both Apple and Microsoft. Power Photos suggestion was to wipe the drive, reformat it and start the merge again. I think not. So, yet another £80.00 on another external drive but at least it has finally worked. Now I just have to find some software that is as good or even better than iPhoto’s was. If any of you have any suggestions, please let me know. The great thing about iPhoto was there was no limit to the number of photos you could upload and you could edit the pictures within the program. You could create folders and catalogue everything, name the folders and an individual photo if wanted. I could spit…. Well actually I just did
Even though Max was here for six weeks I was so ill that I hardly saw him save him rubbing my back and bringing in a drink I didn’t want. When the caregivers came in on a regular basis he was finally able to go home but took the two puppies with him as I just wasn’t up to the task. It was a disaster because Stitch decided he was the alpha male and kept going for Arlo. After taking advice from a vet and several animal behaviourists we were told they had to be split up which broke my heart. Max brought back Arlo the chihuahua as he felt he was the less difficult of the two to manage and Max and Justine have given Stich a new home. They love him to death but I still miss him lots.
Max started his PHD last year. It’s a four-year course, the first being another Masters and I am thrilled and proud to say he has just achieved another first. When I asked him what he was researching and what the course was called his reply was and I quote “Deep learning PET-MR longitudinal reconstruction for lower dose antibody imaging in the understanding and treatment of cancer”. Yes exactly. He did the whole first year from home which was really difficult as they moved home last November when they bought their first flat. They got a really good deal as the whole flat needed renovating but because of the pandemic, they couldn’t get builders in to give them a quote so a year on they still have very little furniture and haven’t been able to unbox their things. When they did finally get a guy in in February his quote was £30.000.00 (yes, I did say thirty thousand pounds). As I said to my son, I could have two attic conversions built for that. The pandemic has given some the chance to be greedy, knowing people are desperate to get work done… but not that desperate. Now finally last week a builder has quoted them £800.00 to do the lounge and at least get one room ready for Christmas and if he is any good, they will get him to do the rest.
I’ve only seen Max twice since he left here at the end of March because he has been so busy but I haven’t seen my brother in over two years, not since my 60th in April 2019. As you know my brother Matt and his wife Chandrika moved to Scotland to escape the rat race of London for a quieter life and live in a rural part of the Highlands, about 30 minutes from Edinburgh. The lockdown went on much longer in Scotland than in England and because Matt is self-employed got very little help from the government so he has been working all hours under the sun since he was allowed to go back. At one point he was commuting back and forth to England every week just to earn some money
For those of you who follow Matt Jnr, you will know that he officially retired a few years ago but like all artists, who take time away from the tread boards, he got itchy feet and was set to tour last year. Of course, the whole industry was affected by the pandemic and everyone was forced to suspend their plans until theatres opened again and citizens were given the freedom to venture out again. The Matt Monro Story which includes video clips, home movies and even a sequence where Matt Jnr duets with dad, all play a part in this celebration of the life and legacy of Matt Monro. The tour kicks off on 3rd May 2022 at the Churchill Theatre in Bromley so grab your tickets now. For a list of all dates go to www.chimesevents.com
Celebrity Silhouette is like my sea family and having worked on the ships for the past 12 years I have really missed cruising for what is nearly two years. I don’t think I’ve ever been at home for such a long period in my life but hopefully, next year will bring better things. Celebrity did offer me a slot on 6th September on Silhouette but I turned it down. Firstly, because I wanted to build my strength up before going back to work and also because the rules dictated that I could only get off the ship if I purchased a ship’s tour. The itinerary was mainly England and spending money on sites that I have probably seen was not appealing plus I’d end up spending more than I made, lol. Fingers crossed that I am offered some dates for the British season in 2022. In the meantime, I am looking forward to going back to work for two weeks when I join Fred Olsen on 7th December. Can’t believe it will have been 27 months since I’ve been on stage but I’m looking forward to the challenge especially as it is their newest ship, which they bought off Holland America, now named Borealis.
Christmas is again fast approaching and people around the world are busy with their preparations for their version of a Christmas dinner. How do I know? The bells are jingling, the house is covered in glitter and The Pogues are on every radio station, so it must be Christmas. And, just to top things off, you’re likely receiving cards from neighbours and loved ones wishing you a merry old time.
Whether you’re a fan of Christmas cards or not you’ll probably at least be sending one or two to your close family and friends. Because let’s be honest, it would be rude-olf you not to. (Did you see what I did there, hahaha).
Christmas is a time for family reunions, for family bonding, renewing friendships, and exchanging gifts. So, let’s dash out and buy loads of stuff no one needs! Christmas is a very spiritual time and knowing you that probably means vodka, gin or whisky. It’s the one time of the year dad made sure the family was together. Dad loved Christmas and ever since he left, I have decorated the tree and lit up the street on 1st December, his birthday. This year is no different; I have still put the tree up for dad, topping it with the shining star he was
Hopefully, you’ve all had your jabs so we should all be able to have a much better Christmas season than last year. Don’t forget to reflect on those we have lost and reach out to their families at what will be a very hard time.
Remember to say a kind word to someone because it could make all the difference to their day. Telephone people that you haven’t reached out to this year. Remember, to give a warm hug to the one next to you and tell them you love them, because that is the only treasure you can give with your heart and it doesn’t cost a penny. Make the most of every moment you share with your families, even if it is via Facetime or Zoom. Take a breath, look around and take stock of how rich your life really is. Don’t ever forget there are thousands worse off than ourselves however tough we might have had it.
They say the best gifts come from the heart… but cash and gift cards do wonders too! I wish you a white Christmas but if the white wine runs out then grab the red…. Please forget about the past as you can’t change it, forget about the future as you can’t predict it and forget about the present… I didn’t get you one. On a serious note, I didn’t want to miss this opportunity to show you the love and warmth my heart holds for you by reaching out with my annual festive missive. I really didn’t think I’d see another Christmas so I am very grateful I am here to share my love and hugs with you. Just remember Christmas is never cancelled and neither is hope, if we lean on each other, I know we can cope.
Much love to one and all. Remember to think of me affectionately especially when writing out your will. Christmas cheer to one and all, ho ho ho
And to end on and raise a smile – Politically Correct Santa
‘Twas the night before Christmas and Santa’s a wreck…
How to live in a world that’s politically correct?
His workers no longer would answer to “Elves”,
“Vertically Challenged” they were calling themselves.
And labour conditions at the north pole
Were alleged by the union to stifle the soul.
Four reindeer had vanished, without much propriety,
Released to the wilds by the Humane Society.
And equal employment had made it quite clear
That Santa had better not use just reindeer.
So Dancer and Donner, Comet and Cupid,
Were replaced with 4 pigs, and you know that looked stupid!
The runners had been removed from his sleigh;
The ruts were termed dangerous by the E.P.A.
And people had started to call for the cops
When they heard sled noises on their roof-tops.
Second-hand smoke from his pipe had his workers quite frightened.
His fur-trimmed red suit was called “Unenlightened.”
And to show you the strangeness of life’s ebbs and flows,
Rudolf was suing over unauthorized use of his nose
And had gone on Geraldo, in front of the nation,
Demanding millions in over-due compensation.
So, half of the reindeer were gone; and his wife,
Who suddenly said she’d enough of this life,
Joined a self-help group, packed, and left in a whiz,
Demanding from now on her title was Ms.
And as for the gifts, why, he’d ne’er had a notion
That making a choice could cause so much commotion.
Nothing of leather, nothing of fur,
Which meant nothing for him. And nothing for her.
Nothing that might be construed to pollute.
Nothing to aim. Nothing to shoot.
Nothing that clamoured or made lots of noise.
Nothing for just girls. Or just for the boys.
Nothing that claimed to be gender-specific.
Nothing that’s warlike or non-pacific.
No candy or sweets…they were bad for the tooth.
Nothing that seemed to embellish a truth.
And fairy tales, while not yet forbidden,
Were like Ken and Barbie, better off hidden.
For they raised the hackles of those psychological
Who claimed the only good gift was one ecological.
No baseball, no football…someone could get hurt;
Besides, playing sports exposed kids to dirt.
Dolls were said to be sexist, and should be passe;
And Nintendo would rot your entire brain away.
So Santa just stood there, dishevelled, perplexed;
He just could not figure out what to do next.
He tried to be merry, tried to be gay,
But you’ve got to be careful with that word today.
His sack was quite empty, limp to the ground;
Nothing fully acceptable was to be found.
Something special was needed, a gift that he might
Give to all without angering the left or the right.
A gift that would satisfy, with no indecision,
Each group of people, every religion;
Every ethnicity, every hue,
Everyone, everywhere…even you.
So here is that gift, its price beyond worth…
“May you and your loved ones enjoy peace on earth.”