Digger: What made the sixties such
a special time for the creative arts?
Tony: It was very exciting
because for so long we'd been following America. Always following,
following. We did have our own writers here in the fifties like
Paddy Roberts and there were some good songs coming out but
nevertheless we were being dominated by the American influence.
And I think that about the mid-fifties when Tommy Steele, Cliff
and skiffle came along we started to make music. And it wasn't
instantly saleable overseas, but by the time the sixties started
then the music we were making - they wanted to hear it and they
wanted to sell it in America as well.
Digger: We'd cracked it. I think
that 'Telstar' got to number one over there didn't it?
Tony: Yeah, but I had a number
one even in 1958 with a song called Look For A Star from the film
Circus Of Horrors. And I had a number one with The Billy Vaughan
Orchestra and I was still only eighteen.
Digger: How would you describe the British music business today?
Tony: Oh, well it's vastly
different. I mean it's just huge. I went to an industry dinner the
other evening where Kylie Minogue was honoured. It was to do with
the Brits and it's just a huge business and I hardly know anybody
in it. The record companies are bigger and there's an
infrastructure now that didn't exist. I mean, every little record
company in the sixties had in-house PR and in-house record
producers. Everything was in-house, even our sleeve designers. So
I mean there's a much more independent sourcing now, of course.
Tony on New Faces
Digger: What do you think of the 'X factor' phenomenon and the craze
for reality TV and being famous for fame's sake?
I think it's great actually. Because I think it's great television.
And yes, there are criticisms that it's like throwing the
Christians to the lions. But, you know, these people surely know
what they're letting themselves in for. It's just the same as New
Faces in the seventies. There were only three terrestrial TV
channels then and so we would get 16 to 17 million viewers at 7:30
on a Saturday evening. And I would say to these people
"You've just been given the greatest opportunity you ever
could have had and you've just thrown it away. You're not ready
and you're not right."
I suppose Simon Cowell was learning a few things from you in those
Tony: He said that
to me - he said "You started it all and we're all very
grateful to you."
Digger: What would Tony Hatch in the sixties have
made of iPods, computerised music and the Internet?
Tony: It was amazing in
the late fifties and sixties. The technological advancements were
incredible because when I came into the business there was just
about monaural recording and then within a year or so there was
the two-track machine. And then four-track, eight-track,
sixteen-track all happening within a few years so by 1964 I'm sure
we were recording 24-track. In six years they went from hardly any
technology at all to great technology. But it all has to move
forward and I'm sure we wouldn't have understood iPods and
computers. It still amazes me that I still remember rehearsing a
recording session with Petula Clark and Peter Knight senior, the
wonderful music arranger/conductor. He arrived at the 'routining
session', which is what we used to call them, with the first
Philips cassette recorder. Before that everything that the artist
and arranger agreed had to be written down longhand on a piece of
manuscript paper. But here we were with new technology which meant
that once you'd decided what the arrangement was going to be you
could just record and you took it home and listened to it . And
you were able to do your musical arrangement from that.
Digger: Why did you
come up with the names Fred Nightingale and Mark Anthony for
some of your compositions and did aliases ever work better for you
than your real name?
Tony: Not really, no. (Digger
laughs) There were two reasons there, one for each name. When I
first started working at Pye records the boss Louis Benjamin said
to me "I'm a little bit unhappy about seeing your name on so
many records." And I told him that I'd always been a
songwriter before I joined Pye. But he said "Nevertheless, I
think it would be a good idea to hide your identity a bit and
there won't be so many complaints from the music publishers."
So I chose Mark Anthony for the first one. Well, of course, it
didn't take very long for the New Musical Express to find out
exactly who Mark Anthony was, so I quickly dropped that and
reverted to my real name. The only reason why Fred Nightingale
came up, and Fred has only ever written one song and that's Sugar
And Spice for The Searchers. And that's because I was a bit nervous
about these four lads from Liverpool and I didn't think they'd
like the song and I knew that it was a deliberate follow-up to
Sweets For My Sweet. But they say now that they knew all along
that it was me. I said I'd found the song from a promising new
young writer and they recorded it and, as you know, it didn't make
number one but number two in the UK and also was a big hit in
America. It also featured in the Robin Williams film Good Morning
Vietnam. I've always used the name Tony Hatch and I've never gone
back to those names.
Digger: You have been
called the British Bacharach. What do you think of this and what
are your favourite Bacharach compositions?
Tony: Bacharach was so important
to all of us. When a music arranger composes he does not
deliberately copy but you hear a shape or a sound or a structure
of a song and you think well, you know, you don't always have to
have three chords. We can start in minor keys and we can do other
things because people are buying it. So that was the biggest influence
he had on me. I never copied a Bacharach song but I always felt I
want to listen to everything he's doing because it's like looking
at a painting and beginning to understand how the creator is
Digger: Did you hear his recent
album 'At This Time', which included his lyrics as well as his
Tony: No I didn't
hear that. But I have heard, of course, that sometimes Burt
Bacharach has been called the American Tony Hatch. (Digger laughs)
So it can work both ways.
Good. I like that. Chalk one up for the UK... How different
is it writing a TV theme as a commission compared to writing a
song with a 'free hand'?
Tony: Most songs that I
wrote had a specific goal. They had a specific artist in mind and
a recording session looming and I would write for a specific
artist. The big difference with writing for TV is that you're
writing for the subject matter. Obviously, with things like
Neighbours which range from comedy to high drama, you just need a
good theme which is going to act like a call sign to get people
around the television so that when they hear that music they know
their programme's about to begin. One of my favourite programmes I
worked on was Airline and that had a specific theme - those
Dakotas in the post-war era. And I wrote that sound for the look
of it all. But things like Sportsnight, I think that's just a
great sports theme that will do for any sports programme. As it
did for about 30 years.
And it evokes sport, doesn't it? I don't know whether it's horse
and cart or why it works?
It's pacey and sports, apart from bowls and golf, are pretty
Digger: You wrote the Hadleigh
theme as well?
I like that one. And although I'm not credited on the screen I
wrote Emmerdale too and I think that's very evocative of Yorkshire
moors and dry stone walls and rolling green pastures. You can see
the sheep with your eyes closed.
Digger: Paul McCartney did a
version of your Crossroads theme?
He did indeed. And for all the wrong reasons. It is part of and
built into a song called Lonely Old People and he thought that the
only people who watched Crossroads were lonely old people. He
should have known better and that the show was watched by people
from age ten to ninety. I'm sure he does now. I was very proud of
that version and I think they used it for at least a couple of
Digger: The Searchers
were ahead of their time in terms of folk/rock. How did this early
development come about?
Tony: At the outset of
the Liverpool invasion everybody was rushing up to Liverpool to
see what was there. The Beatles were one thing but when Gerry and
The Pacemakers and Billy J Kramer came along every record producer
had to find his own Liverpool band. And so one Friday afternoon I
drove up to Liverpool. I was with my singing group The Breakaways
who did all the backing for Petula Clark and loads of records I
made in the fifties and sixties and they took me to a club in Bootle.
And there were The Searchers playing Sweets For My Sweet. And I
said this has got be a number one single, would you sign-up with
us? And the deal was done pretty quickly, we got them down to
London and recorded them. But when I listen to them now, it's very
uncomplicated. It's got lots of rhythm guitar and nice riffs and a
very simple rhythm and their voices are great. You're right, it is
folk-rock much more than heavy rock.
Digger: Many of your
songs' lyrics are very sophisticated stories. Where did you draw
your inspiration for them - can you give us any examples?
Downtown was written on the occasion of my first visit to New
York. I was staying at a hotel on Central Park and I wandered down
to Broadway and to Times Square and, naively, I thought I was
downtown. Forgetting that in New York especially downtown is a lot
further downtown getting on towards Battery Park. I loved the
whole atmosphere there and the song came to me very, very quickly.
When I came back to London I sat in the recording studio waiting
for something to happen as happened a lot in those days. Largely because
the technology was still not that advanced and when you made a
record you then had to re-patch the desk to mix it down so there
was always a good half an hour while I waited for the engineer to
do things. And that was when I used to write a lot of my songs,
just waiting in the studio for something else to happen. And Don't
Sleep In The Subway was also an adult theme and had a strong story
to it. People say about Downtown that it's a mini musical, that
it's a Broadway show in three minutes. I like that
I can see that. There is a bit of a trans-Atlantic thing going on
in those songs, for the reasons you have explained, but it is
funny how Petula pronounces things in a very English way.
Yes, it's incredible that. I was almost worried about it at first.
When Joe Smith from Warner Brothers first heard it in my managing
director's office shortly after I'd made it I said to him
"Don't you think it's a very English record?" and he
said "It's perfect. It's just an observation from outside of
America and it's just beautiful and just perfect." And I
realised then that was her secret and after that she never
Americanised anything she did at all. She always sang with that
pure English accent and that great voice that she's got as well.
Maybe that's why the French like her too? Because of her English
Tony: Yes. I think
Digger: Who do you
admire most as songwriters and musicians? And what about other
Tony: Well, obviously it's changed so much these days that I
hardly know any of the names of the songwriters and the producers.
Especially when the whole group writes the song or it's credited
to The Spice Girls and you don't know which one did all the work.
But going back, of course, George Martin was an incredible
producer. And I'm a member of a gang called the Society Of
Distinguished Songwriters, the acronym for which is S.O.D. (Digger
laughs) And a lot of my contemporaries and friends are in it. Don
Black, Les Reed, Barry Mason, Bill Martin, Phil Coulter, Roger
Cook. The big hits of the sixties were all written by these guys
and I really do admire them. And these days song selection is as
much part of a manager's job as much as it is the producer's or
the record company's so you have to admire Louis Walsh for picking
great songs for his artists. And Simon Cowell's a great
Digger: I asked
Sir George Martin about his favourite genre of music, he said
there were only two sorts of music, good and bad. What's your take
Tony: I totally
agree with him. Although I have to say that I've never really got
into punk and some heavy metal gives me a headache. I like some
rap but I'd say, like George, that there's good rap and bad
Digger: Was Petula's
enunciation always her own or did you give her guidelines? For
example, on The Other Man's Grass she employs an almost
story-telling-like quality to her singing, putting different
stresses and phrasing on key words to move the story forward,
reminiscent of the immaculate phrasing and timing of Matt Monro.
Tony: That's Petula through
and through - it's exactly her. And although she's not much older
than me yet I always seems to treat her, when writing a song for
her, as somebody very adult. And so The Other Man's Grass Is
Always Greener has a lot of thought in it. A lot of DEEP thought.
A lot of philosophy. And she enjoyed singing those kind of songs.
How many takes would those songs have taken?
My usual working style was to rehearse a lot and only do two or
three takes. You see, if you start recording too early and you're
not ready by the time you get to take thirteen, people start to
get frustrated and despairing. Whereas if you rehearse a lot they
don't know where they're up to in the rehearsal and by the time
you press the button to record everything is so right and ready to
come together at the same moment. Two or three takes - three at
the most, and usually take two was the one we chose for the master.
Bobby Graham, was the session drummer on many of your recordings. As he didn't read music can you
recall how you agreed on the drum parts? How did you rate him as a
like Ronnie Verrell and Kenny Clare were readers and would be able
to interpret the drum parts I had specifically written. With somebody like
Bobby, or Clem Cattini who also wasn't a great reader to start
with - they had a great feel. So once they heard the
arrangement that everybody else was able to read - the bass
player, the 'keys' and the guitars, they knew exactly what to do
with it and they were very flexible. You could ask them for any
style that you wanted or any weight. Bobby's a great drummer and I
did use him on many sessions but I think I probably used him where
I needed more imagination from the whole group.
Many of your
songs are filled with lot's of unusual key changes. I think you've
already touched on that. Both 'Don't Sleep In The Subway' and 'You've Got To Be
Loved' change keys three or four times. When you sit down to
write a tune, is this a quirk that just naturally flows out of
you, or do you make a deliberate effort to stretch the boundaries
of song structure?
Sometimes I think it happens too much. I'll get to the end of the
second stanza of the first part and I feel that I want to shift
into another gear. Downtown doesn't do that too much, but I
Couldn't Live Without Your Love has got one section in the middle
that's totally in a different key and then resolves back to the
tonic key. And also Don't Sleep In The Subway is built on lots of different
key changes and they seem to fit so perfectly. I feel they should
be natural and fit into the whole arrangement and structure of the
song and that's what I've always tried to do.
Petula said to me that a lot of your work was overlooked because of the huge success
of your recordings with her and she raves about a lot of your
other work. Are there any of your songs that weren't big hits that
you feel should have been, and on the opposite end, are there any
records that were big hits that completely took you by surprise?
I did a tremendous amount of recording with Petula and wrote a
huge amount of songs for her and with her and also there were
lyrics with Jackie Trent involved in a lot of those hits. And in a
lot of the album material. And that's what she's thinking about.
We had some wonderful album songs that really do stand out but
they just weren't good enough to be hits or the record company was
nervous about them.
with Jackie Trent
And in the sixties it was still taking people a bit of time to get
used to the album format.
Digger: Why do you
suppose that Petula's 'Who Am I' and 'Don't Give
Up' were such big hits in the States, but failed to chart in
really don't have an answer for that. I think that when you write
a song you're not really thinking about which market it's going to
be right for. Certainly, with Don't Sleep In The Subway, with a
title like that it was pretty obvious it was aimed at America but
everybody in Britain could understand it as well.
So were you thinking of an American subway and not the British
type which is just a pedestrian underpass?
I was definitely thinking of the subway where down-and-outs hang
out until they're chucked out onto the streets. Who Am I is a
great song and one of my favourites and I think Don't Give Up is
pretty good too, except somebody has noted, and it might have been
you actually, that it has got some shadows of Can't Take My Eyes
Off Of You with the brass bit in the middle. It was a bit of a
Digger: Have you any
idea how often your songs are being played around the world each
Tony: I would say
(thinks....) It must run into a million performances a year.
I hope they're sending you the residuals or royalties or whatever
I hope so too. (Digger laughs)
Rod Argent tells me that he has had over three million plays of 'Time
Of The Season' on American radio alone. That's a great way to
supplement one's income in older years, by writing songs that are
still being played constantly today.
It's a lovely feeling I get. It doesn't matter where I am. I could
even be in London and I hear one of my songs on the radio and I
get a great kick out of it. I know that there are thousands of
performances a year of Downtown in America. Especially because the
word downtown is so associated with the centre of entertainment in
American cities and towns and not just as I envisaged it as being
Times Square, which felt like downtown to me. Wherever you go in America
they all have their downtown areas - some of them are not very
attractive but some have been beautifully developed with malls, restaurants,
movie theatres and clubs and that's good business for the town.
they usually adopt Downtown as their song.
I know an American who tells me that he grew up loving that song
and even now when he hears that piano intro it makes him tingle.
I love it.
If you were able to have a dinner party with any guests, living or
dead, real or fictional, who would you invite and why?
My dinner party guests would be...
Stephen Fry - A great raconteur and a fountain of useful and
Frank Sinatra - I worked with him on several
occasions but never got to know the man inside.
Coleridge - I once tried to write a stage musical about him and
his relationship with William Wordsworth. It's a fascinating story
but the project stalled when we couldn't fathom out what words and
music to put into the mouths of these literary giants. A
conversation with 'Sam' might solve the problem.
II - I wish I could have collaborated with one of the greatest
lyricists of all time.. I would also like to ask him just how high
is 'an elephant's eye' (Oklahoma).
Princess Diana - Beautiful to
behold but, I fear, not a great conversationalist although she'd
bond with my wife Maggie and they could talk 'shoes' all evening.
Dame Kiri Te Kanawa - Any artiste of her magnitude who uses one of
my songs (Don't Sleep In The Subway) at her wedding is worth
having at a dinner party so I can thank her personally and get the
best advice on what to see in New Zealand.
Marilyn Monroe - A
second 'candle in the wind' with untold secrets. But would she let
are your current projects?
I'm working on Downtown, The Musical. The problem we're having is
that most people who approach the book look at the song and write
Downtown as an extension of those three minutes. But I have a team
of writers in Australia who have just had a big success with a musical
called Dusty which is obviously about Dusty Springfield and
they've taken an entirely different approach and I think that's
the one I will be going with, provided they get the book finished.
Digger: And finally
Tony, what do you see as your biggest achievements and what
would you still like to accomplish?
Tony: Well, I
certainly would like to write another stage musical. You see,
Downtown would be a compilation of the songs and I really would
like to find another book. And I've got a television project in
mind as well all about the British bands and the music makers of
the twenties through to the sixties, going through the war
years, and that's very exciting. And I'm doing a lot of research
on that right now.
Tony with his wife Maggie and, right,
with Frank Sinatra
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|Visit the website for
Tony Hatch interview. November 2007.
Many thanks to Tony for his kindness
with this interview. More information at www.tonyhatch.com
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