A little chat with Shakin’ Stevens
By Helen Barnes @loving80smusic www.loving80smusic.com
4 UK Number 1’s and an incredible 33 top 40's... Shakin’ Stevens was the biggest-selling singles artist of the 1980s. Famous for his denim jacket, Welsh charm and seemingly endless string of rock and roll hits, he’s still going strong at 72. With the release of new album and boxset to celebrate the last 40 years, Helen Barnes caught up with one of the greatest hitmakers in UK chart history...
Hi Shaky! It’s so amazing to see you! How are you?
Not too bad at all, full on with work. How are you, Helen?
Really nervous! It’s quite surreal to speak to you again after all this time – it's been 36 years since I spoke to you on Saturday Superstore...
Don’t be nervous! Good God, where’s that time gone?
I know! Did you get chance to watch the clip I sent through from that day? (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o_ux1tH5MKk&t=8s)
Yes, we’ve just looked at the clip, with Mike Read on there too. We all looked a bit different back then, obviously, but yeah, the ‘Letter to You’ video was a lot of fun to make.
Ha – but it DEFINITELY wasn’t you flying the plane?
(Laughs) No, definitely not.
So, 40 years after your first hit single, you’re now back in the top 10, in the Official Album Charts (with ‘Singled Out’), you must be thrilled?
Yeah, it’s great news, I’m over the moon actually. We are really pleased with the album.
It’s titled ‘Singled Out’ - is this a compilation of all your greatest hits then?
Well, ‘Singled Out’ is 54 tracks and that’s the album that’s in the top 10. But, there’s also the book-pack, ‘Fire in the Blood’, out now too. That has 266 tracks on it!
Wow, I’m guessing that’s virtually everything you’ve ever recorded then?
To date, yes. But, there’s also a lot of other things in there that wouldn’t have been in the box set previously – there's a lot of tracks that people won’t have heard.
I read that it’s one of the biggest projects that you’ve ever undertaken?
Yes, we started it in January worked together as a team to sort through the photos, etc. and of course with Covid you couldn’t go in to the studio and listen to the tracks, you had to sort it on-line, but we got past it and were very pleased. It was good actually to hear the early tracks again – there was a lot to listen to but we both enjoyed it.
On the new album, ‘Singled Out’, what’s your favourite track?
I’d say Merry Christmas Everyone. It comes out every year and charts in several countries, including the UK, so I’ve got a soft spot for that. But it was ‘Marie Marie’ that basically kicked it all off for me in Germany – it got to number 19, stayed in the charts for 9 months and was then followed up by ‘This Ole House’, which opened it up internationally for me.
I love ‘Green Door’....
You like ‘Green Door’, do you? We play that slightly differently now on stage. I ran it through the followers and they loved it. I don’t do the ‘door’ quite so high these days. (Laughs)
I saw you so many times at the TRCH in Nottingham, back in the 80s. Do you have any nice memories of playing there?
Again, it was SUCH a while ago, but it must have been a great one to do or we wouldn’t have gone back so many times! (Laughs). I don’t think I’ve done that area and that venue in Nottingham for a long time.
Any plans to come back to the East Midlands?
That’s down to the promotors and agents to sort out really. A lot is also due to the availability of the venue – you pick a date but it’s not convenient, etc. It would be nice to go back there...
When you came to TRCH, I remember there being a little film that was played after your last song, where we saw you whizzing out of the stage door and driving off.
Oh yeah (laughing)
I’ve always wanted to know if you did REALLY do that or if you were just hiding in the building until all of us crazy fans had left the venue, believing it wasn’t worth hanging out by the stage door?
No, it was all filmed. They put the film on and that was it, everyone left.
Nooooooo! All those times I could have waited by the stage door – I can’t believe it. (Laughing) You’re shattering all my childhood dreams now, Shaky!
Ha! It was quite a sneaky thing to do, but it worked.
When I interviewed Mike Read recently, I managed to get him to sing and play his guitar for me. He joked after that I wouldn’t be able to get you to do the same...?
Well, I haven’t been singing for a while, so it’s quite difficult for me to do that. I might start singing and make a bit of a ‘boo boo.’ With the voice, basically if you haven’t been singing regularly and doing your exercises, it’s difficult to take that chance, especially on-line!
No problem. How have you managed to keep your voice in such good shape – 40 years on from your first big hit and you’re still sounding incredible.
Thanks. I do exercises with a CD I have, that goes through the scales and all that. You Have to do that really or your voice will just disappear. But, to get it to top notch you have to rehearse with the band and run through quite a few numbers.
I go to a lot of these 80s festivals, like ‘Let’s Rock’ and ‘Rewind’, but I’ve never seen you on the line up. How come you’ve never headlined any as you are the most successful solo artist of the 80s?!
Well, I think the 80s are the 80s. When I go on tour, which is quite regular these days – although the dreaded Covid stopped that – I try to keep away from those events. I think if you do those venues, with that tag, you’ll always have that tag and you won’t be able to move forward. So, it’s nice to move with your music. People grow up, new audiences come along. For example, off the top of my head, there was Wham, then George Michael, then he changed his style again. Myself, I perform differently to who I was, but there’s still a twitch here and there, not as much though. (Laughs)
You can’t leave the hits out, but in the early days I’d put them all in there practically, apart from 4 songs, whereas now we keep it a nice balance. I just don’t think you can keep doing the same thing. You have to move on, but without shooting yourself in the foot, obviously.
Do you still have that denim jacket in the back of your wardrobe?
It’s still there, somewhere, yeah. It’s had a few bashes, there’s lots of patches on it now. (Laughs)
Shaky, it’s been such a privilege to speak to you again – 36 years after we spoke on Saturday Superstore. You were such a big part of my childhood, Thank you for that.
Thank you very much, Helen. It’s been lovely speaking to you. Happy Christmas!
Purchase ‘Fire in the Blood’ here: https://shakinstevens.lnk.to/fitbPR
Watch the new video, ‘I need you now’, here: https://shakinstevens.lnk.to/inynPR
For all things SHAKY: www.shakinstevens.com