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Chris de Burgh features in Record Collector in 2001

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Chris de Burgh
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Record Collector - Chris de Burgh

CdeB - Record Collector 2001

be aware that all issues discussed here were relevant in 2001 and as such, may currently not reflect the views or interests of those concerned.

Chris de Burgh - Record Collector 2001 image

Record Collector 2001 SHORT TAKES...

Before 'Lady In Red' became a housewives' anthem,
CdeB was as much a rocker as balladeer He still is ...
reveals Tim Jones

Although most people know Chris de Burgh for his schmaltzy global chart-topper, 'Lady In Red', he wasn't just Princess Diana's favourite torch-song bearer.


Back in the days before superstardom, he traded in storming AOR and melodic rockers such as 'Don't Pay The Ferryman'. Indeed, he continued to do so at the height of his fame, and there are many sides to Mr de Burgh.

RC's previous feature on Chris was in 1986, when he was "a multi-talented cult performer who's just scored his first big hit single". Since then, he's racked up album sales of over 50 million, and his ebullient Into The Light hit No.2, while 1988's Flying Colours debuted at No.1. A live album consolidated his position in the premier league and, in 1992, Power Of Ten went to No.3. Well and truly part of the pop establishment, he sang his heart-rending 'Say Goodbye To It All' at the D-Day commemorations of 1994, while This Way Up (featuring GTR bassist Phil Spalding) also made the albums Top 5.


Revelations about an alleged affair with his nanny gave the press an opportunity to knock de Burgh down a peg or three and, with his public persona tarnished, the bubble seemed to have burst. Even his attempts to help Save The Children along with Cliff Richard were greeted with cynicism. Fortunately, Chris' fans were unswayed and, by the time that he played Princess Diana's memorial concert in June '98, he was back in the Top 10 with Love Songs. Despite the low-key media reception given to his Quiet Revolution in 1999, his picnic-in-the-park tours of stately homes have revealed his enduring appeal.

This year's 'best of' collection, Notes From Planet Earth, included Chris' first duet, with Tin Tin Out's Shelley Nelson, and the remix treatment from the Bloodhound Gang. So has CdeB suddenly got street cred? Not exactly. But when I met him at a palatial London hotel, he was happy to talk about his ups and downs.

Notes From Planet Earth is your fourth 'best of' collection. Why do you have so many?
The idea of a greatest hits is suspect, as you can just repackage titles. But we had fans choose their favourites and I also wanted a new song and to re-record three tracks to give them a live feel - people who can't stand me think I croon away in a tuxedo. The reality's much tougher and harder; serious rock.
'Missing You' was always chunky live and, as for redoing 'Patricia', I was in a German bar and heard Frank Sinatra's 'New York, New York'. I wanted that dirty, brassy Las Vegas style with every cliche in the book.
DJ Q-Ball was a big fan, so the 'Gang played with me. A label guy from Germany was late meeting them and said (in German accent), "I'm sorry, I was with Chris de Burgh". They went, "we love him!" So he reported to my manager, Kenny Thompson, and being a smart Scot, he got us together.

Do you feel that 'Lady In Red' created a public misperception of what you're about?
Very much so... But then I was dragged kicking and screaming to see Barry Manilow in Manchester and he was fantastic -a superb entertainer, great songs, and his fans adored him -like Cliff. And the big standards are love songs. But I also do real rockers like 'Don't Pay The Ferryman' and 'High On Emotion'. People who can't, stand me have never heard most of my music. IntoThe Light contains not only 'Lady In Red' but 'Say Goodbye To It All', 'The Spirit Of Man' and 'The Leader/The Vision/What About Me?' - tough songs.

When we played stadiums, the crowd went wild. So if people can get past 'Lady In Red', it's as powerful as anything Genesis or Queen ever did. And you can't sustain a worldwide career on one song. My biggest sales were in the 80s, but I played to more people in the 90s.

In the 70's, did you record any demos that are still unreleased?
A lot, and I'm sure I have the tapes, though they'd be pretty rotten! I remember a line in one ridiculous song: "what's a nice girl like you doing in a face like that"? I signed a publishing deal and they wanted me to be Rod Stewart, so I did awful raw throat things. But I should fish 'em out and stick 'em on the internet. The early years -very early; puberty; pre-puberty years.


Record Collector image of Chris de Burgh. When I left Trinity College (Dublin), I sang in a restaurant on Grafton Street and met M-m-michael Deaney, who looked after the Horslips and had this m-m-most amazing stutter. If you m-m-spent an evening with m-m-him, everyone'd be talking like that. He was looking for an opening act, so I did it. Later I opened for Supertramp with just my guitar in front of 70,000, which was tough. I stole the show from them and that pissed them off!
Now it's easy to be a star for a short time, and I can't stand this factory froth like Boy zone and Westlife. Not one new star will be around in 10 years, let alone 27. But good luck to 'em.

We put our egos on the line, live on hope and fear, and it's mainly disappointments with occasional glimmers of sunlight. But to be knocked for surviving -why? Even if people don't like me, they could afford me a bit of respect for keeping my head above water.


I admire Bob Dylan, 'cos he's not only a prolific songwriter but doesn't give a toss if people complain how he sings. And I love Tom Jones and Tina Turner, who've had a second bite. Yet I'm allegedly a singer- songwriter lost in the spiritual, romantic mists, so I get discriminated against.
It's a bitter pill, because Quiet Revolution had two singles, 'When I Think Of You' and 'A Woman's Heart', that sold enough to easily make the Top 20. But they weren't sold in the right shops to get in the chart for Top Of The Pops.
Still, Europe keeps things on the boil and I played at the German reunification celebrations on 3rd October 1990. I've become part of German culture, as they don't like the American thing of turning up in a limo with bodyguards, but prefer their stars to be ordinary people.

When your albums went Top 10 in the 90's, despite the media flak, you must have thought …
F**k You! People want stars to live in garrets and attempt suicide and overload on drugs. I like a drink but I've always kept my head clean. Music's one thing, but I have a home life and I want to ensure the two never meet. Scruffy unshaven guys in leathers are very appealing, as it makes people feel comfortable. But why think I'm from a privileged background 'cos I talk posh and appear to be fairly erudite? My parents were very poor when we grew up in Wexford.

f you ask, when the knives are being stuck in, 'do I have to put up with this s**t'? , the answer's 'yes'. It makes you feel you should fight for your vision and it's two fingers to the cynical and bitchy as they fall away and you carry on. When private things were aired that never should've been, years later, there was enormous sympathy. And I couldn't give a toss,

Twenty years ago, I cared, and we are flesh and blood. But after a certain point, it doesn't matter a whit. I'd hate for anyone to think that it's working, 'cos it isn't! They can f**k off -and you can print that!

Are there any Chris de Burgh rarities out there like the 1979 South Africa live album or King Biscuit US radio shows that might appear on a box set?
Yeah. Occasionally, I play old records to see what they sound like and learn from them, and I've often thought about that. The internet is great to let fans know what's out there, but there are two things they won't be aware of.
I did a private commission for a guy who had a horse that won the US Derby -'The Ballad Of Thunder Gulch': "oh Kentucky, Kentucky's in my bones" -a nice little tune, but hard to write. We pressed 100 copies. And last year, I recorded a song on the piano for my children's school choir, 'Friends For Ever More', and only 500 of that were made. One of these days, we could put together things like that.

Have you any unfulfilled ambitions?
Film sound tracks, and I'd like to write something with my hero, Paul McCartney ...

©2001 Record Collector magazine.












“Writing gets me away for a while' from this world and into one where I, alone, can make or
break the rules as I see fit.” - Chris High 2003.
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