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Mike Dixon Interview

 

 

 

Digger spoke to Musical Director, Composer, Arranger and Conductor Mike Dixon. 

 

Mike Dixon


Mike Dixon is a leading musical director, arranger, composer and conductor who has performed with just about every major TV and Music star in the UK.

His career has featured numerous West End shows, countless TV and radio shows, Royal Variety Performances, The Queen's Jubilee concert, The Diana concert, Glastonbury and, most recently, the Elbow Abbey Road concert recordings.

We caught up with Mike who kindly answered a few questions for www.retrosellers.com

 

 

Mike with Dame Shirley Bassey

 

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Digger: Hello Mike, how are you?

Mike: Very well thanks.

 

Digger: Are you busy?

 

Mike: Moderately, yes. 

 

Digger: I suppose it's an obvious question, but is the 'credit crunch' effecting you like it's effecting everybody else?

 

Mike: Well, I suppose it is really. One of the shows I'm involved with, Zorro, is coming off. It's done nearly a year and got five Olivier nominations.

 

Digger: But unfortunately that doesn't count for anything when it comes to finances, does it?

 

Mike: No, not at all. But it does count for something in terms of the longevity of the show internationally, so that's something.

 

Digger: Everybody's waiting for somebody to make a move in the current climate, aren't they? 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mike with Marti Webb

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mike: There was a very interesting announcement yesterday, which I presume you saw, that U2 are writing Spiderman for 2010 on Broadway. We need something like that over here really.

 

Digger: So that's getting your creative juices going, isn't it?

 

Mike: Yeah, yeah. Sadly I won't be involved because it's Broadway, but it would have been a nice 'gig'.

 

Digger: You've had some remarkable gigs. You have performed with Shirley Bassey at Glastonbury, The Queen's Jubilee celebrations, The Royal Variety shows, for TV and radio, in numerous West End shows and around the world.

 

Mike: I've been very lucky, at various times, and have been in the right place at the right time. And I've been really fortunate to do some amazing gigs over the last few years.

 

Digger: So shall we crack on with the questions?

 

Mike: Yes, I've got a cup of tea.

 

Digger: And the tape's running... I've been lucky with the interviews too. I know you've recently worked at Abbey Road and I was able to ask Sir George Martin some questions not that long ago.

 

Mike: Oh, well done! I've met him a couple of times and he's fantastic.

 

Digger: He's a lovely guy and I really like his son, Giles, now. After watching All Together Now about the making of Love by the Cirque Du Soleil I thought Giles came across as a really nice chap.

 

Mike: Yes. It was good to hear that actually.

 

Digger: So, can you tell us about your early musical influences?  What were the signs that you were destined for a career in music and what were your first performances?

 

Mike: Well, if I go right back, I was a choir boy.

 

Digger: (Laughs) That's like the 'choir boy' joke Aled Jones made at the Tony Hatch concert.

 

Mike: Yes, I sang in the local churches. My first headmaster wanted me to go to Exeter cathedral school. Actually my parents couldn't afford to do it, so I just sang locally. And that headmaster, Mr Parish, basically gave me his old piano. Because I played the recorder since I was five and there was something musical going on.

 

Digger: I assume you were better than the average recorder player then?

 

Mike: I think so yes.

 

Digger: Because not many of us made it above that awful din, did we?

 

Mike: I used to really enjoy playing the recorders actually. So anyway, from then on I was very lucky to go to Devonport High School for boys in Plymouth and I had a fantastic young music teacher called Tref Farrow. I went down for his retirement party two years ago and we did a sort of This Is Your Life. And I was one of the guests and I felt more nervous standing up and doing that than I did when I performed at the Diana concert.

 

Digger: Isn't it weird how the nerves take you?

 

Mike: Yes, really weird, and it was fantastic to see him and we had kept in touch anyway. To be there was lovely. So he was great, because my musical influences came from that period in time. They were completely eclectic because Tref was very young and we did things like madrigal versions of Beatles songs.

 

Digger: What year was this?

 

Mike: It would be... '68. I was at school from '68 to '75.

 

Digger: About the same time as me.

 

Mike: It's a very good pedigree. So madrigals of Here, There and Everywhere, for example, coupled with listening to Ravel and Gershwin and Tippett and Bernstein. I was very, very much on the classical side, but being interested in pop music that had a classical bent. So, when progressive rock came in, like Emerson Lake and Palmer and King Crimson and Jethro Tull, I completely got sold into everything they did. So the first ELP album, which I think came out in 1970 - I wore a hole in it.

 

Digger: I was a smoker at that time and it took me ages to be able to listen to those tracks without wanting a cigarette. 

 

Mike: I can understand that but I haven't put those two things together to be honest. I was a smoker up until nine or ten years ago. Very glad that I stopped.

 

Digger: A lot of the albums had scratches too and when you listen to the tracks on high quality like CD or iPod you wonder where the extra bars have come from! 

 

Mike: (Laughs) Oh yeah, I like that new bit!... On top of that I was really getting into the Goons as well.

 

Digger: And the Pythons?...

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Tony Hatch

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mike: Yes, I had all those records. And last year, finally, got to work with John Cleese. It was on ITV's special comedy for Prince Charles with Robin Williams and John Cleese and I did a little bit with him that wasn't for transmission. But I was there looking after the music for the show and it was great to actually meet him and to be able to say I have worked with him. I worked with Eric Idle years ago on a Royal Variety show where he sang Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life. That would have been '89 or so, well after Life Of Brian came out. So my musical influences were fairly eclectic, although Ravel is high up on the list and William Walton. I remember the very first concert I saw at the Albert Hall was Belshazzar's Feast. I would have been about 13. But in Plymouth...

 

Digger: Were you writing stuff at this stage?

 

Mike: I was starting to write at this stage. Bits and bobs. And Plymouth was brilliant because there was the Plymouth Guildhall, and if you were an erstwhile musician and in the Plymouth Youth Orchestra or whatever, then you could become an usher. So I used to go to loads of concerts and watch all these people doing stuff. You didn't get paid, but at 13, 14 and 15 you were seeing it for free and getting inspiration. 

 

Digger: So the people would ask you to show them to their seat and you'd be saying "Sshhh!" ... 

 

Mike: (Laughs) Yes.

 

Digger: On the Tony Hatch retrospective Radio 2 show - Tony showed that the same song could be arranged in numerous diverse ways (and sound good) when he performed Downtown as a Scottish dirge, a Latin American dance, in Russian Cossack style and so on. How does an arranger decide what is the best performance style for a piece of music?

 

Mike: I always think it's best, if you can, to go back to the very first existence of the tune and see how the composer first thought of it. Not to say that's the way it'll end up being, by any stretch, but it's always good to find out what the first intention was.

 

Digger: I've heard lots of demos, Beatles particularly, and they bear little relation to the song as it was recorded. And I prefer the song the way I know and love it. And the early demos often sound odd, naive, incomplete.

 

Mike: Absolutely, I know exactly what you mean. The only one that I would say goes completely against that is Blackbird where the click track is still there. And I really love the fact it's still there.

 

Digger: With the 'Love' album, the cynic in me was saying that I wouldn't like it because they'd mucked about with it, but after I really grew to 'love the Love album' then I was expecting to hear those extras and merges and flourishes and so on when I listened to the original Beatles tracks. It's weird the way the brain works.

 

Mike: I know what you mean. Hang on, I have to say cheerio to the postman (Pause).... Right, I'm back!

 

Digger: I was posting on a forum with some American Beatles fan friends of mine the other day and asked them when was the last time they wrote a real letter and not a text or email or posting on the web?

 

Mike: It's true actually. I've got an American friend who lives in Germany. And he only occasionally does an email but I get a letter from him every three months. A personal one rather than a round robin and they're really lovely.

 

Digger: Are you thinking of doing the same back?

 

Mike: So far I've always done an email back, 'cos I'm rubbish. It would be quite a good idea to do it really.

 

Digger: Yeah, even if it's only a couple of lines. 

 

Mike: Exactly.

 

Digger: I do a lot of emails but I'm going to start to write more, I think. Go back to the old-fashioned ways ... Moving on,  I've got a friend who says that when he hears a song it always takes him back to the last time he heard it and not the first time he heard it.

 

Mike: Ooh no. Just as an example from me, when I hear the second movement of Tippett's concerto for double string orchestra which starts with a gorgeous cello tune and then transfers to fiddles, so that it's got a blues influence...

 

Digger: A bit 'Gershwiny'?

 

Mike: A bit Gershwiny. There's a flattened ninth chord in it which makes it sort of (sings) "Wah, da dee.." Anyway, when I hear that I always go back to the very first time I heard it, when I was reading about the Plymouth blitz in my music room at school. And I cried and I must have been 15/16. And I always remember that. For me there are definite associations - colours, smells, tastes - all those sorts of things come and hit you. It is very weird. 

 

Digger: The 'Maestro' programmes recently explained some of the mechanics and complexities of conducting to the general viewing public. How would you describe the relationship between the conductor and the orchestra and between the different disciplines in the orchestra itself?

 

Mike: It's a funny one that Maestro programme because there were some comments made by the panel that I thought were just RIDICULOUS. I could see people, Goldie particularly, who was learning by hearing the music and then transmitting what he was hearing and being instructed as to how to wave his arms around. But then when he came to conduct the orchestra there was absolutely no communication with the orchestra. He was conducting for himself and not as a form of communication and to make music as far as I could see. Whereas Sue Perkins was actually making music and the orchestra were responding to what she was doing. From Goldie, they were responding to someone waving his arms about with his eyes closed. And making huge allowances all the way through. It is a difficult one, because on TV you can't make it as real as we all know it should be, because it wouldn't be entertainment. I think overall it was a good programme. And the comments that I've had from people saying "I never knew that's what you did and how you do it." I think there was lots of instruction that came out of it. And funnily enough, after Sue Perkins had won, the very next day I was the next person to conduct the band. 

 

Digger: What were their comments?

 

Mike: Some of them I couldn't possibly tell you. And there were some where they thought "Hang on, I'm sure we didn't say that." It raised the profile of the orchestra and a couple of the leading lights of the orchestra who I know quite well were saying "Actually, we started off very sceptical about it but by the end it seems to have done us all some good."

 

Digger: What are the relationships between the different sections of the orchestra? When they play, they play as one but within that are there distinct groups?

 

Mike: Yes, the orchestra falls into five categories - the strings, the woodwind, the brass and the.... four categories (Both Laugh) This is sounding like a Python sketch. And percussion. That includes things like piano and celeste and then, of course, if you're doing a pop or rock with an orchestra, then you add rhythm section or you might add a big band with saxophones and things like that. But those are the groups - and when they walk in front of you, you can kind of tell who the trumpet players are and so on. I mean, I'm sure there are certain types of conductor as well. But there are types of people who play certain instruments. There are loads of viola jokes and I know lots of viola players who tell jokes about themselves. But I suppose you can say that person is going to be a fiddle player because they're a bit more finicky. There are definite types and when you're talking to the orchestra from the stand, because you've normally got the strings right in front of you, so you have to work a bit harder to make the trumpet players understand what you're saying. And then, basically, you've got to try to get everybody to play at the same time. The tradition with classical orchestras is that they play after the beat, and if you're working with a click track or with a rhythm section then you want them to be on the beat. Sometimes you just have to ask them gently to go with the beat. In this country, orchestras know that and it's okay. But I was talking to Nick Ingham who did the orchestration for the Elbow concert and he's done a fair bit over in Prague recently and he said it was a nightmare getting the orchestra to be on the beat. 

 

Digger: I play the drums and I'd find it very hard to get my head around a fundamental change like that.

 

Mike: Even when they do play on the beat - talking to Mike Smith who was the drummer on the Tony Hatch gig, it can still be a nightmare.

 

Digger: Mike was great, wasn't he? I was in the third row and he was superb and the kit was miked-up really well. The sound that came out was amazing and I listened to the show three times on iPlayer after as well.

 

Mike: Oh, you were there?!

 

Digger: Yes, a terrific performance by all.

 

Mike: I was very pleased with it in the end. I've got a lovely picture - a lovely man called Chris Egan, who is one of the youngest arrangers - he and I have worked together for the last five years, on and off. He's done most of the orchestrations I've needed doing - he's brilliant. He's young, he's much older than his years and he organised all the new charts that needed to be done. And on the day that we did the gig we had Chris, Roy Moore - one of the older arrangers who has been around for years, Ray Monk the TV MD, myself and Tony Hatch. The five of us, which was great. We decided that the normal collective noun for a group of arrangers should be a 'discord' but then because we had such a nice time I said "Come on chaps, it must be a 'concord". It was brilliant. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Concord of arrangers

 

 

 

 

 

 

Digger: Tony Hatch also belongs to the SODS - the Society Of Distinguished Songwriters.

 

Mike: It was the first time I've worked with him and he was delightful. We did a rehearsal a week before with the 'turns', just to make sure the keys were right. And it was very funny - there were three of us there, Chris, Tony and myself and we took it in turns to play the piano.

 

Digger: Peter Grant, who was at that Radio 2 show, has got a wonderful voice.

 

Mike: He did the Don Black one too. I don't know if you heard that one but he sang the Matt Monro stuff. And he was lovely and has an easy way with him. All of the performers, Alesha Dixon, Tony Hadley, even Peter Duncan who's not a natural singer. But because he'd done the stage show he brought some of that flavour to it.

 

Digger: What's been the most special to perform at of all the shows you've done?

 

Mike: Ooh... the last one! But there are some major high points, such as doing the Queen's Jubilee concert and the Diana concert - the Andrew Lloyd-Webber segment in that and then Glastonbury with Dame Shirley (Bassey.) Those would be the three - "Goodness gracious me, was that really me waving my arms around?!" 

In the last couple of years I did a list of the people who I've worked with over the years and the guy who does my website has put it up there and I look at and I go "Blimey!" We also have got the Elbow concert listed on there.

 

Digger: We saw the Tony Hatch concert and stayed over in London and came back late the day after and the BBC were plugging the Elbow concert on the red button, so I watched it late on the Saturday thinking that would be the only chance to see it and it was on non-stop for a week. We saw you and the same BBC Concert Orchestra again and it was just fantastic. And we felt as though we knew the musicians because we'd just seen them live at the Tony Hatch.

 

Mike: That has to be another on my list of favourites as well. It was an extraordinary couple of days.

 

Digger: I wanted to buy the special Abbey Road version of the album on their site and it wasn't available. 

 

Mike: I know that they're making a DVD because I've had an email from the guys in the band. When I get my copy of it I must listen to the commentary because I get a lot of mentions. I think on my website there's an MP4 of the gig.

 

Digger: A good thing about the Internet is that you can listen to sound bites and view items and reviews on Youtube, Amazon and elsewhere and find out about new bands. I treated myself to several new albums for Christmas and Elbow was one of them. It's like the modern equivalent of the old sound booths we used to go into in record shops, isn't it?

 

Mike: Yes.

 

Digger: I've played that Elbow album to death now and bought the first two. 

 

Mike: I didn't know them either before I worked with them, and, in fact, I was originally asked to do it and it was at the beginning of December and I was away and said I couldn't do it. And while I was away I got a call saying the date had changed to January 16th and, thank goodness, I was available. It was one of the really good ones to do and the boys were fantastic and really musical...

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Elbow

 

 

Mike conducting the Elbow Abbey Road concert recording

 

 

 

 

 

 

Digger: How many takes did you do it in?

 

Mike: Those were the only takes of every song.

 

Digger: Wow! You're kidding.

 

Mike: No, but we did a couple of false starts. There were a couple of places where Mark on guitar hadn't quite got plugged-in right. 

 

Digger: The faces on the people in the choir looked as though they were having orgasms.

 

Mike: Yeah, they were REALLY enjoying it and some of those girls you wouldn't mind watching either.

 

Digger: That certainly added to the experience for me. 

 

Mike: They were really loving it and I hadn't worked with that choir before. I had a little session earlier on in the afternoon because their choirmaster had gone through all the dots with them. I had a little session with them and the lead singer came in and we had half an hour and really personalised it with them, so they were very much on side. It wasn't like they were just hired help - Guy had come in and they felt part of the team and of the gig. Which was great and they were very good.

 

Digger: If anybody thinks music is in the doldrums it's just not true.

 

Mike: No, not from that. There's some great stuff around and Elbow are one of them. I'm just looking at your questions... "Were you aware of an aura (ghosts of Syd Barrett and John Lennon perhaps?) at Abbey Road when you performed there recently at the Elbow recordings?" Not in that room, but I've been in Abbey Road 2 a long time ago and I did a TV programme based on songs of The Beatles and we recorded it all in Abbey Road 2 where The Beatles had done their thing. And the very last song was Hey Jude with The Bootleg Beatles and we did a bit of research and found out where the instruments were originally placed and tried to replicate that, which was quite fun.

 

Digger: And you felt the cold presence of somebody tapping you on your shoulder?

 

Mike: No, but I'll tell you what though. We were doing We Will Rock You and we were in technical rehearsals and the orchestra and the band were upstairs in a room miles away from anywhere rehearsing. And I was having to flit from downstairs and back up again. It was my drummer who saw this - a lovely man called Tony Bourke - he was walking back at the end of a rehearsal with his girlfriend and they were going by the dress circle. And there were people on stage in that huge auditorium and about 20 feet in front of them they saw a figure dressed as a harlequin and run across and when they got to where they saw the figure go into, there was no door. So we all thought it was Freddie having a look. 

 

Digger: He still holds an amazing power on an audience. I was on a cruise and there was a tribute band to Queen with a Freddie look-alike and sound-alike and a 'Brian May'. 'Freddie' came on and within a few seconds he had the whole audience, a mix of young and old, singing and boogying along. Just because they could believe it was Freddie. That's the power of Freddie to this day even though he's long dead.

 

Mike: Absolutely. Doing 'Rock You' from the very beginning I so wish I'd worked with Freddie but being so close to Brian and to Roger has been a brilliant experience. And just a couple of quick stories about that. When we were doing the Queen's Jubilee concert it was the very first time since they had recorded the song that Brian and Roger had done the whole of Bohemian Rhapsody, because through their career with Freddie, whenever they performed Bohemian Rhapsody, they left out the middle section because they ran off the stage to get changed and the middle section was always on tape. So, during our rehearsals to perform that at the Jubilee, Roger came up to me and said "Er, Mike, can you take me through the middle section..." (Digger laughs) "I haven't played it since I was 24." We did that and it was fantastic. And Brian has got such an amazing ear. Not only is he one of the all-time great guitarists, he's a fabulous composer and he remembers everything. When we are working out the vocal harmonies for the girls' voices and the boys' voices and Brian would say "We need to make sure that note is the highest note". And he'd sing the note, and remember how they did the vocal harmonies all the time. Just hugely instinctive and musical and then you go back to Roger and you think he's the drummer and yet he wrote It's A Kind Of Magic and Radio Ga Ga and These Are The Days Of Our Lives. 

 

Digger: An amazing amount of songwriting talent in one band.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Diana

 

 

 

 

 

Mike: Well, I THINK they are still the only band where each individual member has had a number one.  Freddie wrote We Are The Champions, Roger wrote the ones I mentioned, John Deacon the bass player wrote Another One Bites The Dust and I Want To Break Free and Brian wrote We Will Rock You, I Want It All, Fat Bottomed Girls, Headlong, Who Wants To Live Forever. 

 

Digger: A huge catalogue of songs.

 

Mike: There has been talk about We Will Rock You II but I don't know whether it will happen or not. 

 

Digger: I first saw them in the early seventies at the Southend Kursaal and they were supporting a band who were big at the time called Mott The Hoople. And Queen were good, but I was there to see Mott The Hoople and was drunk on a bottle of scotch as well! And after every song, whoever was playing, I leaned over the balcony and shouted "Bloody marvellous!" 

 

Mike: (Laughs) How old were you?

 

Digger: Maybe 14 or 15. Yes, I was a bit naughty, and I remember it vividly because on the way home I gave the taxi driver a huge tip like £25 which was something like a week's wages! ... What music do you listen to for pleasure?

 

Mike: A very eclectic mix again. What have I listened to in the last couple of days? Beethoven's string quartet, Spring Awakening... goodness me... Crosby, Stills and Nash. I mean, right across the board. And then again today because I saw the Stevie Wonder tribute the other day I thought "My God, unbelievable." So there are still quite a few people out there I'd like to work with.


Digger: Is that something you'd like to achieve?

 

Mike: Yeah, to do a gig with Stevie Wonder would be pretty cool. But, I don't know, I'm just trying to think, I mean one of the great things about doing the Royal Variety show is that you end up doing all sorts of weird things. I tend to be on the ITV shows  and 2007 was the last one and I worked with John Bon Jovi doing an arrangement of a Beatles' song that I did. And Seal's doing a Beatles' song for the opening of the next show.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Stephen Fry John Cleese
  
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Alesha Dixon Marilyn Monroe
  
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The Beatles at Abbey Road

 

 

 

 

 

 

Digger: There's no strict demarcation like there used to be, is there? With Rolf Harris doing Stairway To Heaven...

 

Mike: I know, that's a weird one isn't it? Here's a very weird little gig that I did once. I was called by ITV because I'd done some stuff with Jimmy Tarbuck and he was doing An Audience With... and they asked me to look after the house band, back in '93/'94. So I said "Yes" and they said "Jimmy wants to do Johnny B Goode." So I asked them if they wanted my normal band and they said "No, Jimmy's asked a few of his mates." There's John Lodge and Justin Hayward from the Moody Blues, Hank Marvin, Rick Wakeman and Kenney Jones on drums." So that was my house band and a weird experience. I spent a lot of time in the canteen chatting with Rick Wakeman. 

 

Digger: You have to keep pinching yourself, don't you?

 

Mike: You do. Amazing. And when I look back...

 

Digger: Who do you see as the biggest musical movers and shakers from these decades. 1950s, 1960s, 1970s, 1980s, 1990s, noughties?

 

Mike: That's a hard one. I'll have a stab. It's one of those where you take an MRI scan of the time. It will change the following day when you think about it. In modern music, pop music or whatever you want to call it... the 50s, well that has to be Elvis, doesn't it? The 60s has to be The Beatles. The 70s - because of my association with Queen I have to say Queen. They did an awful lot. The 80s is the area that I'm most weak on and my wife always takes the Mick out of me saying "You always say you don't like the 80s Mike. That song was from the 80s". "Oh was it? Alright!" You know, at the Brits there was a special award for those guys - what are they called? - one of them sings a bit and the other stands there like a pratt playing keyboards.

 

Digger: You mean The Pet Shop Boys?

 

Mike: That's right. (Digger laughs)

 

Digger: I saw them with Keane and Lily Allen at the Brixton Academy and they can sound a bit 'samey' to me. I don't know if that's because of the format - a singer and keyboards.

 

Mike: I think they did change the face of that kind of music and something a bit clever but not my cup of tea.

 

Digger: So you're not into Electropop then?

 

Mike: Not really, no. And then the 90s... gosh, that could be lots of people couldn't it?

 

Digger: Take That!

 

Mike: Not Take That! (Laughs) Any number of boy bands, but if you think about Oasis and Blur and that whole thing. 

 

Digger: And the noughties?

 

Mike: That's quite hard as well.

 

Digger: I'd have to say Keane, Coldplay and now Elbow as well.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Sir George Martin CBE HRH The Queen
  
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Phil Silvers Stevie Wonder
  
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Eric Morecambe
  

 

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Nash, Stills and Crosby

 

 

 

 

Mike: Coldplay have been up there a long time, haven't they? Elbow I could say because of my association with them.  And I do think their music is really good.

 

Digger: And the lyrics as well.

 

Mike: And the lyrics as well. Interestingly, our lovely trumpet player in the BBC Concert Orchestra, Kate - she said to me just before the gig "I really like them because their lyrics are really clever." And that's interesting to hear that from somebody in the orchestra that they're really enjoying it. 

 

Digger: And the choir enjoying it as well.

 

Mike: Absolutely. So I can say Elbow for the noughties. Then, you see, with my musical theatre hat on I can go through the decades and give you a completely different list of people. The 50s is Bernstein, the 60s is Lionel Bart, the 70s is Andrew Lloyd-Webber, the 80s is the resurgence of Stephen Sondheim, the 90s is when Rent became the big thing and then in the noughties you get daft things like Spamalot happening and Mel Brooks doing The Producers and you go back a bit. But then you get something like Spring Awakening happening. 

 

Digger: Who would you invite to a dinner party, real or imaginary guests, living or dead? And why?

 

Mike: I think everybody has got Stephen Fry on their list, haven't they?

 

Digger: Yes, I think he might be booked that evening.

 

Mike: (Laughs) Stephen. Eric Morecambe and Phil Silvers.

 

Digger: They actually look similar to me in my mind.

 

Mike: Yes. James Stewart - how many am I allowed?

 

Digger: It's your party - you can have as many as you like, although if I had those four I'd be dead because I'd be rolling around on the floor in agony laughing or passed out.

 

Mike: Absolutely. Em, who else? Leslie Bricusse, who I know quite well. He tells stories of him having dinner parties in LA in the early sixties with his lovely wife Evie with people like Sinatra. The whole Sinatra/Farrow/André Previn thing happened at dinner parties at Leslie Bricusse's house. Extraordinary, the old name-dropping thing when you are at dinner at Leslie's house.

 

Digger: Woody Allen wasn't on the scene then?

 

Mike: Not at that stage. So other people - gosh. Sean Connery would be quite fun.

 

Digger: You need some females there as well Mike.

 

Mike: Yes, I was just thinking about that... Who would be fantastic? I wanted to say Florence Foster Jenkins, but I won't because that would be silly.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Brian May Dame Shirley Bassey
  
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Julie Walters Dawn French
  
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Andrew Lloyd-Webber and Don Black

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Digger: Well, you've said it now.

 

Mike: Women... it's quite hard because there are lots of gorgeous ladies that you'd want to invite... Put Julie Walters down. And somebody else who I met once and there's a Plymouth connection - Dawn French. She's such a clever, clever lady and was brought up in my neck of the woods.

 

Digger: She still has that burr. 

 

Mike: Ooh yes.

 

Digger: Yours isn't so pronounced.

 

Mike: It never was. My parents were very broad. Who else, it would be absolutely fantastic to see Marilyn Monroe in the flesh, wouldn't it?

 

Digger: It certainly would.

 

Mike: I have met Tony Curtis which was a handshake away from Marilyn.

 

Digger: How was that meeting?

 

Mike: Good, he was on a chat show thing I did many years ago - Jerry Springer.

 

Digger: Was he compos mentis, because sometimes he seems a little bit not quite on the same planet?

 

Mike: That'll be the drugs working.

 

Digger: It could be that. I've just finished his and Roger Moore's autobiographies and I actually enjoyed his more. His was more of a real life story with his thoughts and emotions, whereas Roger's was like a series of anecdotes and not necessarily in chronological order. 

 

Mike: Peter Sellers would be on the list.

 

Digger: If we wait long enough you'll probably end up with a list of about 300 people. (Both laugh)

 

Mike: I've got lots of comedy on there.

 

Digger: That's good.

 

Mike: It would be fantastic to sit down with William Walton. Not so much Tippett, although I like his music. I know that Walton was quite a fun chap.

 

Digger: Who would be your ideal band then, seeing as you were talking about Jimmy Tarbuck's Dream Team?

 

Mike: Gosh. That's cruel. 'Cos at the moment I'd have all of Elbow and Roger Taylor and Brian May.

 

Digger: Yes. You're starting to sound like Al Murray.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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James Stewart Sean Connery
  
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Al Murray Peter Sellers
  
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Queen

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mike: Yes. Did you see on Brian's website, there was this thing lifted from The Sun where on Al Murray's alternative Brits, Queen won everything. (Both laugh)  And even best foreign band, because Freddie was from Zanzibar.

 

Digger: Terrific, I like it when things go off at a tangent like that and then come back and meet.

 

Mike: Al is very funny.

 

Digger: And very intelligent. His characters like the pub landlord may seem xenophobic but there's a lot of intellect behind the writing and it's very clever to appear dumb. It's built on a real knowledge of everything.

 

Mike: He's very bright. 

 

Digger: Can you tell us what projects you have lined-up?

 

Mike: I'm in the middle of completing a musical based on an Irish story, which may or may not happen next year, but with a bit of luck it will. Based in Ireland on a story of my grandfather who was a Black and Tan and who ended-up with an Irish girl. It's been a long time coming - it's finding time to do it, which is always difficult. That's a personal project, and apart from that Zorro and We Will Rock You have further shows opening on national tour, as is Never Forget. Zorro is opening at the Folies Bergère on the 5th of November, which is nice.

 

Digger: I suppose you have to keep your diary a little bit open?...

 

Mike: I'm doing the Cheltenham Jazz Festival again this year with Guy Barker - we're doing a retrospective look at the work of Billy Strayhorn which is going to be fun. There are a couple of projects in 2010, one with Leslie Bricusse and something that might happen at the South Bank at the end of the year. So there are things bubbling along and just waiting for confirmation and stuff. There is enough going on but I'm not falling over myself with being too busy which means that I can actually get on with what I want to do.

 

 

 

 

 

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Leslie Bricusse and Leonard Bernstein

 

 

 

 

 

Digger: It sounds like a fascinating life.

 

Mike: It's brilliant and I wouldn't change it for the world. And, do you know what? Many years ago when I was trying to get my fourth year grant to get into Trinity College Of Music, I actually had to come back and see the Devon county music advisor called Mr Bolsover. Now he also had been the, rather bad, conductor of the Devon Youth Orchestra and we referred to him as 'Revoslob' because that was his name backwards. So I had to see him to get my fourth year grant, and I duly turned up at Exeter and I played the piano for him and we had a chat. And I got the reply back a week later saying "We are going to give you the fourth year grant, but Mr Bolsover really doesn't think that you have a career in music." So there you go. Bless him. Fortunately he did give me a grant.

 

Digger: You hear quite a few stories like that where a local, parochial figure like that seems to discourage talent almost seemingly out of jealousy for how little they have achieved themselves and trying to stop somebody from being more successful than they were able to be. But you've done well. Thanks Mike. It's an amazing career and long may it continue.

 

Mike: Thanks. It's been good talking to you. All the best.

 

 

 

 

 


Mike Dixon interview. February 2009.

Many thanks to Mike for his kindness and help with this interview.  

More information at:

Mike's website

Elbow website

Dame Shirley Bassey website

Tony Hatch website

Queen website

We Will Rock You

Al Murray website

BBC Concert Orchestra website

Abbey Road website

Leslie Bricusse website

 

The Bohemians Queen Tribute. The World's Most Exciting Queen Tribute.
Website The Bohemians
Details The Bohemians Queen Tribute. The World's Most Exciting Queen Tribute. Pure Energy, Costumes & Showmanship

Telephone: 020 8685 1721
Email: info@thebohemians.com

Unit 1 & 2
71 Miles Road
Mitcham, Surrey

Remarks The Bohemians re-enact the glory days of Queen including the ‘Craziness’ of the 70’s and the ‘Magic’ of the 80’s.
 
Formed in 1996, The Bohemians perform all over the world and are of the longest standing Queen Tribute acts. 
 
The Bohemians bring their blend of fun, high-energy playing, costumes and showmanship to the stage. This has earned them the reputation as ‘The Worlds Most Exciting Queen Tribute Act’, and have been touring all over the world including; Russia, Ukraine, China, India, Jordan, Switzerland, Belgium, Holland, Spain, Portugal, Ireland to name a few).
 
The band tour with a production including a Baby Grand Piano, a Stack of ‘Brian May’ Vox AC30’s, Pyrotechnics and Stage Drum Risers - making this a highly authentic Queen production. The band also have an array of authentic Queen stage costumes from the Crazy Tour of the late 1970’s through to the famous yellow jacket of the Magic tour in the 1980’s.

 

Ace Music Stands
Website Ace Music Stands
Details  Ace Music Stands will:
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Our stands are produced from a waterproof parallel webbed twin wall plastic, which, with proper use, will give you years of service.
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There are 6 great colours available that can be mixed and matched as desired giving 36 different colour combinations of tops and fronts.

Great for: School bands / Brass bands / Corporate bands / Function bands / College bands / Jazz bands / Recital bands and Orchestras / Big bands / One man bands / House bands

Tel: 0114 2697812

Ace Music Stands
24 Flockton Road
Sheffield S13 9QU

Email: order@acemusicstands.co.uk

Remarks Visit the website for details

 

Timeless International Productions - World Class Entertainment 
Website Timeless International Productions
Details Timeless International Productions is one of the largest show producers in the UK. Now an internationally acclaimed company specializing in show production, and supplying the very best in entertainment worldwide.

Formed by Colin Francis and Marie Adele, who together have more than 50 years professional experience, performing and producing shows all over the world.

Some of our breathtaking spectacular shows:

  • A Timeless Collection. 'Music Hall' through to 1970's
  • Showstoppers...A Night of Musicals.
  • Extravaganza on Ice.
  • Memory Lane. Featuring songs from 'Music Hall, 1950's, 1960's, and 1970's.
  • Lets Twist Again. An excellent evenings entertainment, based on all the favourite songs from the 50s & 60's.
  • Rolling Back the Years. Another great show based on the same theme as 'Memory Lane, and 'A Timeless Collection'. This time adding some of the greatest songs from some of the blockbuster Movies and Musicals. Grease, Singing In The Rain and The Sound Of Music, to name but a few.
  • Viva Las Vegas. This show pays tribute to stars such as Tom Jones, Shirley Bassey, and includes the amazing 'Las Vegas' showgirls.
  • Moulin Rouge. A brilliant song and dance spectacular.
  • Tribute Acts and Tribute Production Shows currently available include ABBA, Elvis, Take That, Il Divo, and many more.

Timeless International Productions
P O Box 235
Chester le Street
County Durham
DH3 9DL

Telephone +44 (0) 191 3702718
Email. info@timelessinternationalproductions.com

Remarks See the website for details

 

 

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