Soundtrack Of My Life: Brian Blessed

Actor, mountaineer and possessor of the loudest voice in showbiz; also says he's immortal

The first album I bought

A Paul Robeson record

“I was a war baby and there was a great hero in Britain at the time called Paul Robeson who had this bass baritone. I got his album and played it until it fell apart. I actually met him. There was the World Peace Congress to mark the end of all war, and I went to Sheffield and saw him. I got in the front row and he sang ‘Canoe Song’ from the film Sanders Of The River. The whole audience was sobbing, 5,000 people. Then I rushed backstage, I was just 11 years of age, and said ‘you didn’t sing ‘It Still Suits Me’’ and Robeson said ‘good heavens young man, that’s a duet with my wife, would you like to sing it with me?’ Christ almighty! I sang it with Paul Robeson in his dressing room at the World Peace Congress in Sheffield.”

The first song I fell in love with

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Petula Clark – ‘Downtown’

“I was in a [1960s] series called Z-Cars playing Fancy Smith, the tough guy, and it was live on television each week. Once we’d shot, I’d go downtown from White City to London with the rest of the lads and we’d celebrate in the Black Sheep, a restaurant and very small nightclub. It was there that I heard ‘Downtown’ by Petula Clark, which was full of verve and the love of the city. I was absolutely living it. I knew Petula Clark, a charming, lovely girl, she was often at Television Centre, I’d say hello to her when we’d be in the studio next door.”

My first gig

‘The Planets Suite’, London Symphony Orchestra, Royal Albert Hall

“I went to the Albert Hall with Patrick Stewart – Jean-Luc Picard in Star Trek. We got on the coal wagon from Yorkshire right down to London because we had no money – he was two years younger than me and I was about twelve – washed ourselves in all the toilets and got over and they let us in free for ‘The Planet Suites’. It was bloody marvellous. I was always leading him into trouble. I knew him from the age of nine, we went on drama courses together for the next six or seven years, we both wanted to be actors. We both went to the Old Vic Theatre school. Me and Patrick go way back, we’re brothers really. I take him mountaineering – he’s a marvellous actor but a bloody awful mountaineer. [Does impression of Patrick Stewart freezing on a mountain].”

The song that reminds me of home

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Sidney Torch And Queen’s Hall Light Orchestra – ‘Coronation Scot’

“It was the music to [radio detective series] Paul Temple, which was wonderful, brilliantly done. It had a train’s motion on it and the whole nation loved it. These were the war years so doodlebugs and bombs were bloody coming over and we had an air raid shelter in the back garden. We had staying with us two Polish pilots who’d shot down lots of Messerschmitts. People were very frightened of it all but I loved it, for the kids it was exciting.”

The song I wish I’d written

Enya – ‘Orinoco Flow’

“It’s fabulous and it reminds me of my expeditions in South America when I went to the lost world in Venezuela and crashed into the forest and managed to survive and work my way out. I was there to climb the highest mountain in South America, Aconcagua, 23,000 feet high. Enya’s music says it all. ‘Orinoco Flow’ is genius.”

The song I do at karaoke

Pavarotti – ‘O Sole Mio’

“A few years ago they had that programme Stars In Their Eyes and Kenneth Branagh, who I know, said ‘you’re not frightened of anything?’ and I said ‘no, Everest, nothing frightens me’. And he asked me to voice Pavarotti. I said ‘this can’t be done’. When I was in the musical Cats, there was Luciano Pavarotti backstage one day and [opera singers from The Three Tenors] Plácido Domingo and José Carreras – and they bowed to him. I said ‘why do you bow?’ ‘Because he is the greatest of all, he has the greatest voice’. So I walked onto the stage at Granada Television to do Stars In Their Eyes as Pavarotti, which is a tall order. The make-up was fantastic, I looked exactly like him. I walk through the mist and the audience applaud going ‘well he looks like him but does he sound like him?’ And then to their shock and amazement, [sings, almost breaking dictaphone] “OH SOLE-MEEEEEOOOO!” And I won. That’s my karaoke.”

The song I can’t get out of my head

Jimmy Young – ‘Unchained Melody’

“He does it so simply. My first love, she was called Nancy, beautiful woman, black hair and black eyes, I met her on a drama course. It was the first time I was in love in my life and this made me think of her all the time and shaped me emotionally. We only held hands but that song was being played all the time and it reminds me of her because I could never get to see her. She lived 20 miles away, which was hard for me then, and we couldn’t date each other, we’d write letters.”

The song I can no longer listen to

John Keating And His Orchestra – ‘Theme From Z-Cars’

“It’s a fabulous piece of music, which they play at Everton and Tranmere Rovers [football grounds]. The only reason I say is because there was a large cast of regulars – Jock, Lynch, Steele and the inspector and sergeants – and they’re all dead. I’m the only one alive. So when it’s on television I just close my ears because it makes me weep. I’m going on from strength to strength, I get fitter and fitter and fitter, I train a lot and I’m fit and strong and I go on expeditions to Everest and the North Pole, and they’ve all bloody died. Twelve of them, I can’t believe it.”

The song that makes me want to dance

Nancy Sinatra – ‘These Boots Are Made For Walkin’’

“I wear really strong boots on Mount Everest and when I’m up there, as I’m walking on the glaciers, I sometimes find myself dancing on the glaciers of Mount Everest to Nancy Sinatra’s ‘These Boots Are Made For Walkin’’. I dance on the lower slopes of Mount Everest.”

The song I want played at my ‘funeral’

Not applicable

“I’m never gonna fucking die. Bollocks to death. As John Donne the poem said, ‘Death, thou shalt die’. The only thing that dies in life is death. I’ll live forever love. I’ll go on and on and on transcending different spheres. We are the children of stardust, yearning for stars. No love, you’ll never get me dying, fuck death. And I’ll not make a pact with old age. I’m sick of people making pacts with old age. It’s not how old you are, it’s how you are old.

“As regards to my funeral, I’ll kick death into the middle of next fucking week. I don’t die, love. Can I have another one in light of the fact that I’m not going to die? Maybe ‘Flash’. Everywhere I go, people ask me to say ‘Gordon’s alive’. GORDON’S ALIVE! I was near the North Pole, I remember getting there with a British expedition, and a fucking submarine came through the ice like Sean Connery’s …Red October. The captain came out and looked at me and said ‘oh, it’s him, please say Gordon’s alive…’ It’s a celebration of life. So everyone can say ‘Gordon’s alive’ and ‘Brian’s alive’ and I’m not dead and I’ll never fucking die. Fuck death.”

‘Tubular Bells: A 50th Anniversary Celebration’, the album featuring Brian Blessed & the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra is out October 28 on Cleopatra Records, and tours from October 31

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