BREAKFAST WITH: CHRIS FARLOWE
CHRIS: NEVER OUT OF TIME
If you spot a man who looks like Chris Farlowe restoring a table at an antique furniture business in north London, it will probably indeed be Mr
'Out Of time' himself!
The man with the powerhouse of a voice may be an international star but away from the stage he cherishes being
"just me – no airs and
His gigs list is one of the most packed among the 60's stars still on the circuit – testament to his enduring popularity and to his boundless enthusiasm for music.
Both sides of Chris were underlined when I bumped into him before our planned chat over coffee near Chapel Market in his beloved borough of Islington.
Shopping bag in one hand, he was listening through headphones to some tracks he had downloaded in his search for material for a new album he plans to record.
For a man who turns 69 in October, Chris is a wonderful advert for "Golden
Oldies" because he has no intention of retiring from either singing or his antique furniture business.
This month he embarks on a lengthy tour of Britain as a guest of The Alan Price Set – featuring Alan
Zoot Money and
The Maximum Rhythm 'n' Blues Tour
A Night At The
Flamingo, which also has
Maggie Bell on the bill, goes through well into November.
Chris might be working on a new CD but only last year he released the strong-selling
'Hotel Eingang' and this year he features on several live tracks on a CD produced by the
The Hamburg Blues Band.
Some artists decades younger would be left in Chris' slipstream by the pace he sets!
"I love what I do and I'm lucky to have so many people who seem to love what I
do," Chris told The Beat.
The fans seem to come from all over the world. We did Japan last year and that was two sold out concerts. It was amazing.
"Then there is Russia – we've been to Moscow three times now and that has been sold out.
"One big surprise for me was Istanbul where we sold out too. When we were going there I thought who on earth will know us in Istanbul, but at the end of the night I had people lining up to get their albums signed.
"The internet is an amazing thing and that is what has made the world so small now, where everybody knows what is going on, which I'm very pleased about.
"I got my first fan letter from Shanghai the other day and it said every month they have a meeting in their house when they just play Chris Farlowe records all the time. Isn't that strange to think that someone is doing that in a place like Shanghai? I'm really knocked out by that. I would love to go to China one day and sing to the people!
Chris has never married – "nearly, a couple of
times" – but his family and friends are very dear to him.
"We've always been close as a family and that is something that is important to
He loves Islington too and regards stall holders and regular customers in Chapel Market as part of the
"I was born just down the road in this borough. I got my fruit today and I'll walk along and they'll greet me with: 'Morning Chris, how are you?' They'll ask me where I'm off to next to perform and who I'm performing with.
"When I'm travelling I like going out and looking at antiques so if I go to somewhere like Budapest I'll have my breakfast and then go out to the cab drivers and ask them where the antique area is and off we go.
"I'll walk around the shops and then sit down and have a coffee. People will probably recognise me and say can they have a photograph. I'll say sure and ask them how they are.
"In the end we'll probably have a coffee. Some of them can't quite believe it when I ask them if they'll join me for a coffee. That is just the way I am."
Chris recalls poignant moments when he met fans in eastern Germany after the end of the cold war in 1989.
"When The Wall came down, we went to the east to Dresden. Leipzig and places like that. I had men coming up to me, putting their arms around me and crying their eyes out. They were hugging me, sometimes quite violently! I would say 'hello mate, and how are you?' They would be crying and saying: 'For so many years I've waited to see you'.
"That was communism of course. They weren't allowed to listen to the radio from the outside world – it was illegal. One guy came up to me and was very emotional and said, 'I saved up for six months to buy your album – six months I put my money away to buy it on the black market'. "It turned out it had cost him the equivalent of £400 in East German money and I just thought wow what an amazing compliment that was.
"I told my merchandise man to give him one each of my CDs for nothing, as a thank you for buying that album for so much money. The guy was overcome, but it was so nice to see that".
Chris' love of antiques and renovating old furniture goes back a long way.
"When I was at school, we had a carpentry section and I made my Mum a tea tray. The teacher said: 'You're really good with your hands and you can really handle wood'. He asked me whether I would like a job as a carpenter and joiner and I said yes, so he introduced me to a joinery shop in the Holloway Road and I became an apprentice there and passed my exams there. "I became a joiner, worked on building sites and then when I was 21 my first record came out which was 'Air Travel' on Decca. I then became a professional singer.
"I've got the furniture business and today I'll probably go into the warehouse just down the road here, get out a nice table, strip it and polish it.
"I enjoy it and I know what I'm doing, so that's a really nice hobby for me.
"People come in sometimes and say to me, 'You're Chris Farlowe, aren't you?' They're surprised to see me working and want to know why I don't get someone else to do it.
"But once again that's me – I do it because I love making a bit of furniture look good.
John Henry Deighton
in north London on October 13, 1940, Chris grew up as a child amid the German bombing raids of World War Two and had to contend with food rationing and gas masks.
His first musical hero was
and as a teenager Chris formed his own skiffle band – the
John Henry Skiffle Group.
In the late 50's , Chris switched to the new rock 'n' roll craze that was sweeping Britain and he gave up the guitar to concentrate on singing.
The group evolved into
Chris Farlowe and The
Thunderbirds, with Chris drawing this stage name from US jazz guitarist
Tal Farlow, and The Thunderbirds finding inspiration in the American car of the same name.
By the early 60's, Chris had established the band as favourites on the London and Hamburg club scenes. Their musical direction was changing too, towards RnB.
In November, 1962 Chris and The Thunderbirds had their first vinyl release
'Air Travel'. There was critical acclaim but it failed to chart.
It brought Chris to the attention of Columbia records which signed him the following years. Five singles over the next couple of years once again stirred interest but not a chart hit, The next breakthrough occurred when Chris signed to
Andrew Loog Oldham's
Immediate label, with a 1966 release of an EP on which he covered
'In the Midnight Hour',
'(I can't Get No) Satisfaction'
and 'Who Can I turn
Andrew, of course was the
manager and that was a bridge to opportunity for Chris. EPs were popular with record-buyers and there was a separate chart for them. Chris' EP reached No.6 followed by the single
'Think' which charted, getting to only No.37, and the first album
'14 Things To Think
Then came the huge hit that will be forever associated with Chris – 'Out of
Time' penned by
Produced by Mick, the record peaked at number one in the British charts on July 28, 1966. It was also a chart-topper across many other parts of the world.
Chris' thundering and evocative vocal was embellished with orchestral flourishes and the talents of some of the finest rock musicians around.
Mick supplied backing vocals and there was also
(drums and percussion).
took care of the string arrangements.
Andy White was the man who
brought in to play drums on
' first single 'Love Me
Do'. A much in demand studio drummer, he also recorded with
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