We chat with 1980’s pop icon Paul Young
by Mark Davis
The dark brown 1980s mullet hairstyle has matured into a distinguished grey, but it’s still abundant and the soulful eyes that melted teenage girls’ hearts still have that irrepressible twinkle.
Paul Young, the former soul band frontman turned teen idol, and owner of one of Britain’s most soulful white voices, is about to return from touring in Holland and Belgium to embark on a UK tour that will take him to Manchester, Sheffield, Huddersfield , Liverpool and Preston.
Paul’s slowed-down cover of Marvin Gaye’s Motown B-side Wherever I Lay My Hat in the summer of 83 was one of the biggest hits in a decade that produced so much talent, both home-grown and from the US. Other hits like Come Back and Stay, Every Time You Go Away, Senza Una Donna, I’m Gonna Tear Your Playhouse Down and Love of the Common People cemented his reputation as a stayer.
For an ambitious young guy from Luton, it was like walking on air.
“I did three years with Streetband and three years with the Q-Tips and then I started to get some ideas that the rest of Q-Tips weren’t that keen on, so I kind of archived them,” says Paul, now an energetic 60-year-old.
“I thought I’d work on them on my own, but I still wasn’t thinking about a solo deal at that point. Then the next thing I know the manager said to me: ‘I can’t get another deal for the QTips but there’s plenty who are interested in you.’
“He said: ‘Perhaps you should think about that,’ and so I did.
“You know, it was strange that the most successful part of my life was not something that I’d chosen to do. It was just an opportunity and I grabbed it, and then it all happened.
“The other strange thing about it is if you ask me what I enjoy the most being in a band or being solo, it’s being in a band.”
Speaking of bands, next time you hear Do They Know it’s Christmas by the all-star charity ensemble Band Aid, don’t forget it’s Paul’s voice singing the opening line: “At Christmas time, there’s no need to be afraid…’
Is it true that Bob Geldof wanted David Bowie to sing that opening line?
“That’s what I believe, yeah. I mean, I asked Bob about it and he said: ‘No, it wasn’t like that,’ but I think if you were going to make an iconic single you would want one of the biggest stars of the year on it to open it wouldn’t you? I was the new boy on the block, one album under my belt and was just about to start work on the second one. He’d got all those other people like Sting and Bono who he could have chosen, so I don’t know to this day why he chose me, but I’m glad I got it.”
Apart from his solo work – he has a current solo album out, Good Thing – Paul has worked with Irish band Clannad and Italian rock singer Zucchero.
“The Zucchero opportunity came up and I thought that would be a surprise, singing with an Italian, and the same thing when I did a song with Clannad. These are choices that won’t pigeon-hole me. I hate being pigeonholed.
“One thing that I never wanted to do was to be one of those artists whose new record sounds the same as the one before, so I think I can look back and say well I certainly didn’t do that. I didn’t just do what was expected of me.”
So, what can Paul’s legion of adoring fans expect from the latest tour, first as a solo then in packages?
“Well, the March one is the 80s Invasion and then I’ve got a shorter set. I’ll keep it short sweet 80s stuff. What I’m doing at the moment is going around promoting my new album and I’ll be doing that up until December, so obviously that show is longer and incorporates more songs through the eras and through the decades.”
Finally, in all the places in all the world, where would Paul lay his own hat?
“Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.”
With any particular person?