Happy New Year to one and all. I hope it has started well for everyone. I’ve always tried to stay optimistic but sometimes events conspire against you. After the loss of EMI, it took years to convince Universal to issue a new project but finally after seven years and to celebrate dad’s 90th birthday year we released ‘Stranger in Paradise: The Lost New York Sessions’.
It exceeded Universal’s expectations going straight to the No 8 spot in the official album charts and stayed in the charts for 24 weeks. The first CD is brand new material recorded with just a five-piece band, which I have to say is now among my favourite albums. There is also a second disc with all of dad’s more familiar titles remastered of course by the fabulous Richard Moore, for any new fans of dad’s music. I was thrilled as this was the one project, I was ready to release on the EMI label so for a long time I thought it would never see the light of day.
Despite its success, Universal did not follow it up although they were presented with several options. The problem arose when EMI went under and Universal bought up the whole catalogue but because they were thought to hold too much of a market monopoly, they were forced to get rid of some of their repertoire. This resulted in some of dad’s tracks being held by Universal, Capital and the Warner Music Group so you can imagine the loopholes everyone has to jump through when trying to put together a new project.
Richard and I were excited when Cherry Red approached the Estate wanting to invest in a new project but the tracks all belonged to Warner. Despite the fact that Richard and I submitted a list of the tracks we were to use and proof that Warner owned the majority, it has taken almost two years to wade through the legal department’s red tape. We thought we had clearance last year but then another hurdle was put in place.
At long last, it looks as if we are about to go forward with a 4-CD set called ‘The Complete Columbia/EMI Recordings 1971-1984’. As usual, Richard has done a stellar job with the remastering and the notes tell the whole story of how these tracks came to fruition. We are just waiting on an official date of release and hopefully, next month I hope to be able to share that with you.
February is always a very difficult month for me as not only is it dad’s anniversary on the 7th but mums on the 25th. I really can’t believe it is 38 years since the world lost one of the greatest singers. The 60s produced some great talent and the difference with today’s artists is that they have no longevity. Even with that said it is sad that very few radio stations dedicate air time to that amazing era of song.
I thought I’d share with you the opening paragraphs of the book I wrote on dad’s life ‘The Singers Singer: The Life and Music of Matt Monro’. I actually wrote this part of the book while sitting in the hospital.
Softly… As I Leave You
Tossing and turning, then stillness, a vision begins to form, a room, stark, white, clean, clinical, almost virginal in its sterility. The odour of disinfectant is overpoweringly noxious with its undiluted presence. A clock, its only function to make the minutes pass too quickly, draining the body of life each time the second hand moves, an eternity. A stricken face lying on top of the sheets, like a dressmaker’s dummy, unstirring and as white as the linen itself. The inevitable drip attached to the mannequin’s arm, in perfect synchrony with the motion of the timepiece. Time itself has become the enemy, the judge and the ultimate hangman.
Genderless people move in and out between the life support systems as if on a crudely man-made obstacle course, each one careful not to intrude on the other’s duties, carefully playing with a myriad of dials and instruments on bleeping and blinking electronic meters. A game: if played in the right sequence, the ultimate prize – life itself – one false move, a splinter of error, then the booby prize.
Malignant cells spreading their vicious poison, a failed hepatic transplant because an extensive spread was not found until after the incisions were made – a bit bloody late to realise that, don’t you think. Thirty-two nameless people in a remedial tag team who just lost the relay race against the devil. Someone’s vital organs now lying discarded and useless, thrown into a sterile tray marked for incineration.
A hand reaches out and touches, contact, warmth, feeling, sympathy, pulling me down an endless corridor of clinical detachment. Hundreds of people, faces merging together in an infinite maze. Everyone looking, peering, staring, their eyes boring into mine, searching for answers to unanswerable questions, heads tilting in mock sympathy.
Claustrophobia, a pressing heat, parched throat, cold clammy droplets of sweat dribbling from the creases of my brow, utter panic, legs moving, running faster than they can possibly go. Eyes blink, a mirage, doors, no, two doors, quite normal looking in their appearance but disguising the escape route I desperately crave, a trick of the light or a cruel optical illusion? Pressing, pushing, opening, falling and then the wonderful night air enveloping me with its coolness, the breeze embracing me with its fingers. The stars ablaze with compassion and understanding, their inner peace, calmness and serenity engulfing me with their tranquillity. A deep laboured breath, then another, each one urging my soul for the courage to face the clock. His scars will heal, but will mine?
Minutes, hours or days, no difference, still that same hospital room to be faced each time. I sit looking at the clock, wondering if yesterday has gone or is it already tomorrow. My eyes are heavy, weary with the hypnotism of the stillness. Holding the mannequin’s hand, sharing our sorrow with each other’s touch, without having to say the painful words. Sleep, an end to the nightmare of consciousness. My eyes open, just a fraction, just in case the set has changed. If things have altered I will close them again, maybe forever. Everything is exact, as before. I can wake to face reality. I glance down at the motionless figure, our fingers as entwined as a spider’s web. Our hearts no longer beating as one, mine: pulsating with youth, vitality and eternal love, his: slower with age, riddled with disease and lost vigour, but with no less love.
Movement, just out of the corner of my eye, rubber soles connecting with stone floors. It is lunchtime at the zoo. Hands reach to reconnect the new drip, tubes like spaghetti junction, sending the sterile saline solution, infused over thirty minutes, on its weary travels. Not too fast, not too slow, just at the precise speed. Do not pass go, do not collect £200, go directly to jail.
Tick tock, tick tock. I think they have turned the sound up on the clock; the monophonic pitch drowns out my thoughts. I must turn the volume down or think louder. I love you, I need you and love conquers all, doesn’t it? Even the evil spirits of the timepiece? Where there is life there is hope, what else do they say? Nothing, words are but empty letters formed together in vague meaningless sentences.
No single person can speak and cure the emptiness inside, the numbness that engulfs my limbs is all consuming. There is but a void, full of hot air, rage and bitterness. Is life that unfair that just when I am old and wise enough to understand the power of love and to have learnt what it is to be able to return it with complete unselfishness, it is taken away? The final gift vanishes before it has been given. The pupil is unable to show the teacher what she has been taught. Empty lessons… No, that is not what is required. The lessons must continue but from a different tutor. The lesson must be acknowledged from life itself. Hard or easy, the road must be travelled, wheels in motion towards the unknown. Not too fast, not too slow, just the precise speed, do not pass go… STOP, I’ve played that game before, rewind, the synapses are working in reverse, like a video in backward motion, the incessant celluloid holding vital caches of information. Memories of happier times, smiles, laughter, tears but this time with joy, running, talking, holding hands, unity, togetherness and love. I feel pain, heart pumping faster, breaths coming more quickly, tears welling up, panic. STOP. Buttons pushed, fast forward. The video stops at the required position, the present. I will concentrate on the present, on the future; I must not give up hope. We have been through worse, I think. Was there anything worse? Can’t think straight at the moment, the cameras have stopped, the video has broken… NO – only the pause button was pushed for a split second – relief.
There it is, the inevitable sound of the timepiece. Life is as it was, no more yesterdays, just tomorrows full of loneliness. Play the game, please continue. My move, or is it yours? We will play later. I must sleep as you have done for a million years. When I wake up it will be your move, don’t forget.
Daybreak filters through my lashes, a glimpse of sunlight awakens my senses and I know it is a beautiful day. Another sound: music, harmony, a chorus line of skylarks on the windowsill running through their orchestration perfectly. Happiness has settled on the day. Fingers still entwined. Eyelids flutter, no, not mine, his, or just another illusion from the vestige of sleep. No, it’s there. His eyes focus on mine, my fingers squeeze his, his smile promotes mine. My tears, for my eyes only. No time for words, so much to say, but mustn’t tire him, they say he must rest. Rest, what else has he been doing for three days? Dying is their only reply, their excuse for not knowing the answers to my questions. The coma has passed, life has restored itself and the cocoon has burst, emitting a brilliance of colour, pouring out in never-ending rays of hope and achievement. The ultimate test has been passed. Full marks. The game nearly played out, just home base to reach and winner takes all. Well done, a brilliant manoeuvre. Letting your opponent think you were down and out, and just as defences were low, and reflexes off-guard, you pounced. The unexpected comeback, false tabs, a standing ovation to a full house, the orchestra plays on. Encore. Bravo.
The house is full of old friends, your chair beckoning its master, aged and frail pictures smiling at me with calmness and tranquillity. Phone calls full of “I told you it would be alright”, full of cheer and warmth and then stilted, not knowing quite what else to say, so we’ll speak later. A promise of a good night’s sleep, pleasant dreams, home sweet home, a welcome call away from the nightmares of yesteryear. I will return tomorrow, after my dreams have ended and I awake.
Sunshine streaming into frosted panes of glass, shards of light fighting their way through the closed curtains, which have been drawn to shut out the paparazzi and their pugnacious obscene lenses. The kettle whistling for attention, no bills in the morning mail, only hundreds of get well cards. Today so different from the rest, all the get-well-wishers in the world who banded together have finally got their wish. The dream has come true. Getting better is the order of the day. Time to talk and listen to advice on how to travel the road to recovery. Clock ticking, faster and faster, but the fear is gone. It now races to heal the body of its ordeal.
Chemotherapy now replaces the saline solution, its Mitozanthrone drip giving the body the power to fight the disease and break down the filthy cancer cells that threatened to destroy our lives. It is another day suffering one more treatment, a further experimental test and so on, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera.
Vomiting racks the frail body but this is expected, swelling in the right leg countered with an intravenous drip and stitches removed from the ‘Mercedes Benz’ incision wound. Hopes are high that no further side effects take hold and the patient can return home until the next dose of Mitozanthrone in a fortnight.
The warrior returns the victor, but in a blink of an eye the poison starts building again, the liver goes into failure, he can’t eat and a drip needs to be attached to pump the body with nutrients, the pain is too much, morphine is administered and an ambulance called.
I wake up, something is wrong, masks come into focus and blue gowns break down the harshness of the endless white. I am led and draped in the same costume as the other players, to protect him, they say. Protect him from what? Us is the answer, our germs, our nefarious contamination. The chemotherapy has broken down the life destroying cells but they did not read the instructions on the packet. It could not differentiate the good from the bad and so has invaded them all. His white cells have faded and been destroyed by their own helper. The enemy has got the edge once again. Sleep again, pain, his, more drips. Chemo discarded like the joker in a pack of cards. Morphine to ease the burden of death. Can I have some please? I am dying inside, cell-by-cell.
That damn clock again, seeking its revenge, this time the victor, its hands drawing the final curtain across the stage of despair. The theatre emptying of its non-paying audience, the scene has been repeated once too often for them to sit there and watch the predetermined ending. At the first showing they reached for their hankies waiting for the tears that would fall, crying for the actors in the roles that they have been cast. Intermission. Time to stretch the legs, relieve themselves of the tensions of sitting on the edge of their seats for too long. A quick drink to quench the thirst of apprehension whilst the clock reaches the point where the second half beckons. The play resumes. The dialogue is being replayed like the video that re-runs the sketch. The cause of the deterioration is now bronchopneumonia and an intramuscular diamorphine cocktail is administered. This time no tissues, the crying was done in the first half. The audience ponder for just a fraction of a moment, as if to verify whether the author might have made a miscalculation. No, the scene is being played just as it has been written.
Fingers entwined, tears falling over the eyes that had hoped.
The clock finally comes to a standstill, its mechanism has at last worn out. The executioner has come to collect his prize. The waiting is over… or has it just begun?
Dreams or nightmares? Neither, just stark reality.
Goodnight daddy, I will miss you until the end of time itself.
Time of death 15.20pm: 7 February 1985.
A lone figure in a crowded arena, the face hung with misery and the burden of pain, a hundred tears falling silently onto the whiteness of the ground which has frozen into a crisp icy crust, just like my heart which even the warmest of sunlight rays couldn’t thaw. It is so cold, the air freezing even as it leaves the mouth that utters empty words and promises of better days to come. I cannot remember a time of such steely weather that even the trees oscillate in disgust and the bleakness of the day conveys the thoughts of others. Tiny snowflakes drift down from the sky and I can only imagine that heaven must be crying too. I am alone in my grief even though there are a thousand faces looking on.
A blackness surrounds my being, am I asleep or dead? I feel in limbo where everything is blurry and disfigured and the world is running in slow motion. Bloody endless lines of people, pitying handshakes, mumbled condolences, silent tears and controlled hysteria. I want to go home and lock myself away from this wretched scene but… I don’t want to leave him alone here in a place full of strangers and nowhere to rest undisturbed.
The service is over. I don’t remember it beginning. Cameras flashing into the privacy of my soul and the long eternal walk down an aisle of no return. We are led to the best seats in the house, which is only fitting since we paid the highest price. All eyes watching… staring… at us, the mourners.
“The Lord is my shepherd”, is he? The lull of a monotonous tone waffling on about his life, what do they know about it? Turn to page thirty-two in the hymnbook – or was it thirty-four? Who cares? All stand, all sit, bloody puppets on a string who are mechanically worked by a man uttering God’s commands.
All eyes focus on THAT box, lying solitarily on its pedestal, the expensive one because that is what he deserved – the best – it’s amazing that one inconsequential item can hold an entire audience captive. It just lies there and we wait until the final curtain closes and he has taken his final bow. Do we applaud his life or weep in his death?
I look around our home and all I see is him, his glasses by a crossword book, cigarettes in a green onyx box, a dressing gown hung so carefully by the shower waiting for its master to lay claim, his watch laying on his bedside table waiting for his return. This home that he built up for us to live in, is full of his being, his presence, but he is not really here at all. I feel so empty; no one will ever be able to explain any of this to me.
They say time heals, I say it is a burden. I’d give my life to turn the clocks back and start again but there are no fairy tale endings. Dreams are but lost causes and death is just an extension of life in another sphere, ashes to ashes, dust to dust.
Another sad event is the passing of dad’s pal from his army days in Hong Kong. Reinaldo Maria Cordeiro MBE SBS, known professionally as Uncle Ray, by all music lovers in Hong Kong, was born on 12 December 1924. Shortly after he graduated from St. Joseph’s College, he started his career as a clerk at Hong Kong Bank in 1946, which bored him to tears. The evenings gave him a chance to pursue his real passion, that of music, especially jazz. He formed a trio, “Ray and his Band” with himself appointed as the group’s drummer and continued to do the two jobs for a few years. But burning the candle at both ends began to take its toll and on the advice of his brother, who had started with the newly formed Rediffusion, the first cable radio station in Hong Kong, took a job as a scriptwriter, a job he knew nothing about. The year was 1949.
He started from scratch and under the guidance of his American boss; Frank Harris made a name for himself. Sometime later a friend of Roy Dunlop, the Controller of English Services approached Ray and asked him to look after a friend of his who was due over from Switzerland. Ray was unaware of how important his newfound companion was, for Lance Shannon was the director of the Swiss Radio Corporation. After introductions, he decided to interview Lance and showed him around the obligatory tourist spots of Hong Kong. In the evening he took him to a little nightspot called “Blue Heaven” where his friend Bing Rodriguez played on tenor sax together with his daughter Stella who did vocals. The two men had a great time.
Before he left Hong Kong Lance spoke to Roy Dunlop and at his insistence Ray was promoted to the rank of a DJ. The very first programme he hosted was called “Progressive Jazz”.
Ted Thomas was working for Government Radio Hong Kong, with Timothy Birch who was also Head of the English Service. John Wallace also worked as a disc jockey there. Ray & Ted were responsible for producing the Forces Talent Show at the Cheero Club which was at Murray Barracks in Garden Road, Hong Kong (where the Hong Kong Hilton now stands).
Terry, as dad was known back then, travelled over by Star Ferry from where he was stationed at his army barracks – Sham Shui Po Army Camp about half an hour away, to enter the talent shows as the winner would get ten HK dollars and 200 Philip Morris cigarettes. He kept winning the shows so Ray and Ted offered him his own 15-minute programme on Rediffusion, called Terry Parsons Sings.
That was the start of a very long friendship with Ray, Ted and Bing Rodriguez, a friend of the boys who used to play on tenor sax at the Ritz, a nightclub in North Point, a district of Hong Kong. Later he worked at the Star Hotel in Tsim Sha Tsui in Kowloon and Terry used to go there on many a night and join the band.
In 1970, Uncle Ray started the series ‘All the Way with Ray’, the longest-running radio programme in Hong Kong which ran for 51 years until 15 May 2021 when he retired at the age of 96. The veteran radio presenter was named “The World’s Most Durable DJ” in 2000 by the Guinness Book of World Records and in 1987 was awarded an MBD by Queen Elizabeth 11 at Buckingham Palace. Sadly, Ray died at the CUHK Medical Centre in Hong Kong on 13 January 2023, aged 98.
Nearly two years ago I found out that a few albums available to upload were inferior in quality compared to what is available in sound today so after airing my complaints Universal gave the go-ahead. Richard mastered them within weeks, and now at last someone has finally pushed a button which has made them live.
The remastered downloads of 8 of his 9 original Capitol albums now appear on all good download and streaming sites.
Don’t forget to visit dad’s very own YouTube channel – https://www.youtube.com/c/MattMonroOfficial
Every two weeks we feature a rare television performance of dad and the 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.
If you haven’t had the chance yet do check out ‘The Boy From Shoreditch’ the four-part audio documentary Richard and I made to celebrate dad’s special 90th birthday, then it is a must for any MM fan. 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.
Having had a wonderful cruising season last year, I am hoping this year will be equally buoyant although I have no dates set as yet. Before Covid, I was booked up to 15 months in advance but since the ships have started running again, everything is last minute.
I can’t believe my book “The Autonomous Cruiser: The Complete Guide to Cruising For and with Disabled Travellers” has been out nearly a year, I’m sure the older you get the quicker time goes.
This is the first book to specifically address the needs of the disabled cruiser and their carers so they can ensure a stress-free holiday. Having spent more than 40 years cruising the world and also working as a specialist speaker on a number of cruise lines including Celebrity, P&O, Fred. Olsen and Royal Caribbean, I was shocked to find there was nothing on the marking to address the needs of a disadvantaged traveller and that made me very cross.
In the 1990s I was diagnosed with MS. It was then I began to fully appreciate the absence of advice and information about cruise travel with a special need. I felt strongly that whilst living with a disability presents a lot of obstacles, a cruise holiday shouldn’t have to be one of them and I began what was to become 3 years of painstaking research covering all the possible details a disabled cruise traveller needs to know. Because of the pandemic, the book was put on hold for a further two years and I then had to update it twice, one for Brexit and again for the effects of Covid on the industry. At one point I nearly pulled it but when the industry started going back to sea I decided to persevere.
The Autonomous Cruiser is the result. The most up to date and comprehensive guide available, advising on the whole process of cruising, including: –
Cruise and port choices, and the accessibility of cruise terminals. A comprehensive section on fly-cruises including airport guides, car park assistance, wheelchair advice, checked luggage, lounges, and delayed and missed departures
Critical pre-planning information including holiday administration, vaccinations, medication, cabin selection, upgrades, pier transfers, luggage services, drinks packages, specialty dining and online check-in
Life on board incorporates embarkation, cruise ship etiquette, dining, entertainment, meetings, bridge visits, swimming pools, spa facilities shopping and duty-free, photo gallery, onboard savings, ship visits, port calls, tendering, safety, technology at sea and the travel scams to watch out for
Caregivers, chaperones and service dogs
A directory outlining the most important disability resources, including accessible shore excursions, dedicated apps, cruise specialists and accessible travel agents
This market first covers the most common areas of special needs – from those travelling with pre-existing conditions, special dietary considerations, prescriptions and medication, epilepsy, diabetes, heart disease, dementia, cognitive, intellectual and developmental disabilities, compromised immune systems, breathing disorders, kidney disease, and visual and hearing impairments to make this the most comprehensive guide to cruising available.
I look forward to catching up with you in March and in the meantime, stay safe and keep spreading the MM legacy.