Remember YELL! - the pop duo that had a hit with the cover 'Instant Replay' back in 1990? Well, Loving 80s Music caught up with one half, Daniel James, to talk new music, East Enders, Simon Cowell and 80s/90s memories...
- When was the last time you sang ‘Instant Replay’, either to a crowd or even to yourself in the shower?
I have been doing lots of radio interviews lately and sometimes they play Instant Replay at the beginning and I find myself singing along waiting for the interview to begin. Hearing it played after so long reminded me what a great track it is.
- What was the best bit about being in ‘YELL!’ back in the day?
It was always my dream to be on Top Of The Pops and be in a successful band.
Waking up every day being fortunate enough to do a job I love was a privilege.
It was everything I imagined it to be and more.
- Are you still in touch with the other half of your group, Paul?
- Who decided on covering ‘Instant Replay’, you, or Simon Cowell?
I heard the track while on holiday In Ibiza. It caused such a buzz on the dance floor. When I got back to the UK we had a meeting with Simon Cowell. When I mentioned the song Simon smiled..he opened the Guinness Book Of Hit Singles -which was his bible. As it fell open it rested on a page that Simon had folded over the top of the page and in that fold was the Song Instant replay. So, it was quite a fateful moment and we shared the choice of the song.
- I met Simon a few years back and found him to be utterly charming. What’s he like to work with? Can you tell us something no one will know about him?
Simon is a very driven and determined man. Like any good businessman he wants his artists to succeed. Simon also used to keep a big stash of sweets in his office drawer…!
- If you could have been in any 80s band, which would you choose?
The Human League, Duran Duran, Spandau Ballet, Depeche Mode, Roxy Music. All Legendary bands. It would have been a joy to strut my stuff with any or all of them.
- Did you get compared to Bros?
Bros had begun to peek by the time we came along. The only time we came into contact with each other was while performing at The Royal Variety. I think it was at the Dominion Theatre. The same day as the infamous Poll Tax riots in central London. The atmosphere outside the theatre was electric . The atmosphere inside was electric but for different reasons. Yell! were sharing a dressing room with Frank Bruno and a whole host of celebrities and Bros minders came into our dressing room by mistake as a lot of our fans were outside chanting for us to come to the window and I think the Bros minders assumed it was their dressing room.
- Is it true you did the warm-up for ‘Crackerjack’ back in the 80s?
I performed the warm up first for Top Of The Pops and the producer then asked me to do it for Crackerjack. Wednesday was TOTP Day at the legendary TV Centre. Thursday was Crackerjack day at the equally legendary BBC TV Theatre on Shepherds Bush Green. Amazing times. Thursday meeting and working with the legends of music from the UK and abroad. Thursday was fun with comedians singers and Vent acts Boom Boom !
By the time I was asked to be a Children's BBC presenter and present The Birthdays and But First This, I already felt very at home at BBC TV Centre.. What an honour to be part of the BBC Broadcasting history.
- Great that you appeared in EastEnders last year.... Stuart Anthony (who played Simon White) told me to ask you what it like stepping out on to the lot/square for the first time?
Another thrill. Walking out onto The Square on a freezing cold December morning . Hail and snow coming down and the cold wind ripping across the square! I will never forget it. My scenes were with the character of Ben Mitchell. Max Bowden who plays Ben is a great actor and it was fantastic facing off with him outside the Car Lot. His dad Phil had sold me a dodgy motor and I was back to ‘sort it out’ I didn’t find Phil. So Ben and I had an argy bargy as my character was a bit edgy.
I ended up running over Ben’s daughter in my car so there’s always hope that Ben and Phil will want revenge one day. The scenes were part of an important storyline about deafness and how people cope when they can only hear parts of a conversation. It was pre Ben’s operation and he could only hear half of my dialogue. The audience were also only allowed to hear what Bens was hearing .Hopefully so that they could understand how frustrating it must be for people with any hearing impairment. I remember being directed to only say certain words right to Ben’s face so he could read my lips…Of course my character was ranting at the time so it was a scene full of energy.
During breaks in the scenes Max and Danielle Harold who plays Lola hung out in the porta- cabin on the car lot. It was great fun. Those guys have so many lines to learn each night. They do an amazing job every day week in week out. I was a one episode guest. Hopefully one day I can return and do much more. Maybe as a different character?
- How many takes did it take for you to film the car scene?
The scenes took about 4 hours all told. Lots of different set ups. It was freezing cold. The crew work very hard and are a hardy bunch who work in all weathers. I remember my knuckles being red raw afterwards as I had to bang on the door of the car lot many, many times. I believe in making it as real as possible so no miming for me. It’s EastEnders..they want raw and real. So you bring it.
- Would you go back to EastEnders, if asked?
I would love to go back. If I was very fortunate maybe as a Steve Owen Character - Wheeling and Dealing in the Square. Breaking a few hearts and having fun. If not, then as the new doctor who has an affair with a patient secretly and causes a stir. Or perhaps the local priest who has a bit of forbidden love interest. The spicier the character the better. The charming baddies are always the most interesting to play and interesting to watch.
- How did you get back into singing after all this time, as you turned more to acting after leaving YELL!, didn’t you?
It was very difficult when Yell! ended. I had worked so incredibly hard for nearly 4 years and it came as a huge, huge shock. In the studio with producer Colin Thurston late one night working on an album track then waking up the next morning and reading of the groups demise in a tabloid.
One day you’re flying around the world doing your dream job. The next day you are left on the shelf. It took me a long time to find myself. I ended up going to New York and eventually workshopping a play. It was another world in NY. Nobody knew me and NY is like a movie set.
I made lots of friends. I began acting again and slowly tried to rebuild my shattered confidence. I truly never thought I would sing again Having given every ounce of my energy to Yell! It was very hard at that time to not feel very hurt. My confidence was drained. Life sends us some wonderful messages but along with those can be some very painful times too. Often when you least expect them. That’s also the music biz and Showbiz too….very high highs and very low lows.
I would not have missed it for the world. I just wish I had had more control over some of the decisions and choices made for me. I didn’t return to singing for a long time after Yell!
- What positives have come out of lockdown for you?
That I wrote new material and discovered I wanted to sing again. After Yell! I did not sing for years. I was so scarred by some of the things that happened or were directed at me. It has been a revelation enjoying writing and singing and recording again. As soon a s I started to sing in the studio I realised how much I had missed it and that I should not have left it so long. That is why this whole experience coming back with Set Your Spirit Free has been such a joy. It has and is a wonderful experience. The response to my voice and the song has been so positive. Waking up on a morning to my song on the radio has been amazing.
Before lockdown I would never, ever, have guessed this would happen. I am so grateful to every radio station and DJ who are playing it I am so grateful to everyone who keeps voting for it on The Heritage Chart.
It’s about our emotions during these long Lockdowns and our hopes for coming out of lockdown...on June 21st. People seems to be relating to the words as well as the melody. I just hope we can come out of lockdown on June 21st. Hopefully the song will still be in the Heritage chart that week. It would be a thrill if people keep voting for it every week.
- What did you struggle with during lockdown?
I was on my own at home during the long lockdown and I found it very hard. I missed my family and loved ones and my friends who were all marooned far away. Like everyone else I had to ‘get on with it’ I know many people had it much worse than me. It was a huge challenge. I took many long walks at night. That is when I started to write again. I digested all the things I had seen on tv and in newspapers online and the words for Set your Spirit Free came rolling out one night on one of my very long lonely walks, with just a few foxes for company.
- As Simon Cowell always says on X-Factor, what’s the big dream now?
To continue releasing more music and acting. I am so gratified that people are responding positively to Set Your Spirit Free. These last few months have been a joy I never ever thought would happen. Not in my wildest dreams...really. I just hope people will enjoy the follow up and allow me a period of time to release some music and perform live.
I hope also to continue acting and playing a variety of roles on screen. Having had guest leads in some of our top tv series I hope I can continue with that.
I recently read that Sharon Stone’s has been writing songs for artists behind the scenes. Maybe the industry is becoming more accepting of singer songwriters also being able to do other stuff like acting.
I’m certainly grateful for this second 5 minutes in the limelight.
Again, Thank you to everyone who has taken the time to listen to Set Your Spirit Free and those who have felt inclined to vote for the song on the Heritage chart.
LINKS FOR THE SINGLE:
Lyric Video: https://youtu.be/9F5SvBgqSmk
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