Popentertainment conducted interview with Tony Burrows about his career. The
from the interview follow:
Do you remember the first time that you heard your music, on the radio or in a club or something like that? What happened, and what was it like?
Wow, that was a very exciting time for us. I remember, that was with the Kestrels, and we actually made a couple of tracks, which got played very near the charts. It was a song called "Chapel in the Moonlight," believe it or not. Hearing that on the radio and actually on a television plug program here called Cool for Cats . It was actually very exciting.
The Ivy League changed to the Flowerpot Men and had a British hit with "Let's Go To San Francisco," a psychedelic Summer of Love tune. Did you get into the San Francisco scene at all?
I never did. The longest time I've spent in San Francisco was about three hours, between flights.
After the Flowerpot Men, what made you decide to go the studio route?
Well, I'd been touring since the early '60's..., '61, really, I suppose. I'd had nearly ten years on the road. I decided that's enough. One gets a little bored living out of suitcases and in hotel rooms. I decided to concentrate on recording work. I was married and I had a family. I'd toured the world. I'd seen an awful lot of places and decided it was time to settle down and try and build more of a career rather than a month by month tour of the world.
In the first six months of 1970, you had four different U.S. hits leading four different bands with "Love Grows," "My Baby Loves Lovin'," "United We Stand" and "Gimme Dat Ding." No one has ever done that before or since. What was it like?
It was a strange feeling, I have to say. But, they weren't all recorded at exactly the same time. They were recorded over a period of between six and nine months. I was doing a lot of session work. I knew most of the writers at the time, and I was doing a lot of their work. They were all issued at the same time. It was a little inconvenient, that's right on it. I was stretched. I tried to stretch myself in four different ways.
I know that the White Plains was an offshoot of the Ivy League and Flowerpot Men. How did you get hooked up with the other different bands?
Well, "Love Grows" specifically, I had done some recording for the musical director on that particular record, a guy called Lou Warburton. I was doing backing vocals, in actual fact, for (songwriter) Tony MacCauley, who was recording a lot of his titles. I happened to have a tape of a track, which Lou wanted to hear. So I asked everybody, "Would you mind if I play the track in the studio for Lou?" They said, no, go ahead, which I did, and he listened, and after he did, he came up and asked would I like to sing lead on "Love Grows?"
Did you ever want to make any of those bands a fulltime gig, or were you enjoying the variety of playing in all different situations with different people?
I'd made a conscious decision to stop touring, and I really didn't want to go back on the road with a live band. So, what I said I'd do was the television promotion with these groups, but I wouldn't go and work live with them. And I never actually did.
In the early seventies after all of those hits, you started recording as a solo act, but except for a minor hit with "Melanie Makes Me Smile" the solo stuff didn't really take off. Why do you think that may have been?
Well, there is a story behind that, as well. With these four records out at the same time, I had previously started recording solo titles. They all got released, and all sold as we've just talked about. That was because of Top Of The Pops , a record program, which has been running here for about... it must be thirty years. In those days it was a major television show. I did three of the titles on one particular night on the show (with the Edison Lighthouse, White Plains and the Brotherhood of Man.) Imagine changing clothes on the side of the sets to appear with different bands! After that, the producer came and spoke to me, "I ought to tell you something, Tony. I had the word from above you're not to be used again." I asked what he was talking about. He said one particular wag from upstairs says this doesn't look right. It looks as if there's something wrong with the situation where you appear with all these different bands. Well, you asked us to do these shows. If you got on the chart, you go out and plug it, do the show. They're all selling and you asked us to do the show and that's what we've done. But he said, "well I just thought I ought to tell you." To be quite honest, I got banned from BBC Radio for two years. That was the period when I had the solo records, and I really and truly couldn't get played. We had no commercial radio in those days, just BBC.
"Beach Baby" was quite possibly the best song the Beach Boys never recorded. Throughout your career, songs sounded very strongly American, like that and the psychedelia of "Let's Go To San Francisco." Was there a conscious decision not to have British quirks, like, say, the Beatles or the Kinks?
No, I don't think it was a conscious decision. I grew up with American pop music. That's what I remembered. That's what I listened to. That's what I enjoyed. I think that just rubbed off more than anything else. I think that probably applies to a lot of people in those early seventies.
I know of about six bands that you recorded with. Do you have any idea how many there have been totally?
Oh, wow. (laughs) Actually recorded with or featured with? I mean, I do studio work and session work. I've recorded with an awful lot of bands. But, featured, I think probably, it's about eight. Something like that.
What have you been doing since "Beach Baby?"
Well, I've still been in studio work, but I got into commercials... I've been in commercials for twenty years. I do voiceovers. I write. I produce. I do just studio work, really. That's it.
Who are some of the people you've done studio work with?
I've worked with Rod Stewart and Elton John and Tom Jones and most of the British acts that have been successful at some time or another, I've recorded with. I toured with the Beatles. With the Kestrels, we did the two tours in Britain with the Beatles.
How involved were you in the making of the Varese reissue?
In what respect? How do you mean?
I mean, did you help to decide which songs were going to be included...
No, that's been purely their choice. In fact, they've come up with one or two titles which I didn't even remember singing. But, they sent me tapes and things and I said, yeah, that's me. I did that.
Do you have a favorite song you recorded?
I suppose it'd have to be "Love Grows (Where My Rosemary Goes.)" It was a natural, if you know what I mean. I just heard it and said, oh, yes, that's a good song. That's a hit. I think it's probably my favorite. (laughs) It's certainly financially my favorite song.
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