Does Rock ‘N’ Roll Kill Braincells?! – Shakin’ Stevens

On Does Rock ‘N’ Roll Kill Braincells?! we quiz a grizzled artist on their own career to see how much they can remember about their own career. This week: we find out if years of festivity have knocked the knowledge out of Shakin’ Stevens

1
Which Stockport band recently covered your 1985 Number One single ‘Merry Christmas Everyone’?

“I don’t know.”

WRONG. It’s Blossoms.

“I didn’t see that. I’d like to hear that though! Not blowing my own trumpet, but it’s the perfect Christmas song – it’s got everything there: the bells, uplifting tempo, lyrics. Prince William and Kate Middleton recently requested that I play it for them while they were doing their royal duties, as it’s one of their favourite Christmas songs. They were down-to-earth like me and it was a pleasure to meet them.”

 

2
You performed at Glastonbury in 2008. Who headlined your day?

“Just got to get the thinking cap on! Was it Beyoncé’s husband?”

CORRECT. Otherwise known as Jay-Z.

“Do I win the car now?! (Laughs) I looked out an hour before we were due on, and there was nobody there, so I was worried! But when we went on, it was a great reception, and audience members had even brought green doors along [in tribute to his 1981 hit of the same name]. It was great fun and Glastonbury founder Michael Eavis told us it was the biggest crowd they’d ever had for an opening artist. I hung out backstage with Elbow, who turned out to be fans of mine, and their lead guitarist [Mark Potter] later sent me through his copy of my ‘This Ole House’ album to sign. Fabulous!”

 

3
Which presenter did you attack on the ‘80s TV show Calendar Goes Pop?

“Oh God, that was Richard Madeley?”

CORRECT. 

“I was due on at 9am in the morning, and arrived at 7am, but there was a power cut in the studio and we didn’t start the interview until late afternoon. I was tired from the amount of promotion I was doing, and he kept saying: ‘You’re a revivalist act aren’t you?’, even though I was current. I thought: ‘You’re winding me up here!’ I told him he was lucky he didn’t have Jerry Lee Lewis on otherwise he’d have thrown his piano! So I pounced on him playfully and he kept yelling: ‘My watch! Watch my watch!’. I offered to repair his watch, but he wouldn’t have me on any of his shows for years later. We met in 2005, and he admitted: ‘I really was a prat’.”

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4
Which iconic band booked Shakin’ Stevens and the Sunsets to play their “Christmas party” in December 1969?

“Was it T. Rex?”

WRONG. It’s the Rolling Stones.

“Of course! At the Saville Theatre in London. My manager saw a clip of John Lennon wearing a white suit uncannily like Chuck Berry wore in the ‘Johnny B. Goode’ film and told the press: “If John Lennon wants to wear a rock ‘n’ roll suit, he should come over and do a gig with us and we’ll show him how it’s done!’ It was a crazy thing to suggest but the Stones got a whiff of it and asked us to support them. When we finished the gig, we went for a couple of drinks at The Ivy, but they baulked at the prices and they ended up down the local boozer instead.”

You also played with David Bowie. What was that like?

“I admired him and he was a lovely guy.  We [Shakin’ Stevens and the Sunsets] arrived at the venue and set up in no time, and David Bowie gestured to us and said, ‘Why can’t I do that?!’ as his stacks of gear were piled behind him (Laughs). Rumours went around that he came to see the Elvis musical I did in the West End from 1977 to 1979.”

5
In 2005, you won the grand final of ITV’s Hit Me, Baby, One More Time, where legacy pop acts competed against each other by singing contemporary hits. Name three acts you beat.

“There was the guy who had a Number One with ‘The One and Only’? [Chesney Hawkes] and…(Sighs) Isn’t that annoying? If you’d asked me nearer the time, I could have told you!”

WRONG. You did indeed beat Chesney Hawkes, as well as Tiffany, Carol Decker, Hue and Cry, Shalamar and 911.

“The great thing was I had to do one of my own hits and pick something by another artist -and I chose ‘Trouble’ by Pink. After the show, I went straight into the studio and recorded it – and it got to Number 20 in the charts without any support from the label.”

6
Which The Great British Bake Off presenter once claimed you were his first crush?

“Was it Mary Berry?”

WRONG. It was Matt Lucas.

“Aww, really? I was in the same restaurant as him a few years back. We were both in meetings and I wasn’t told he was there until afterwards, and felt terrible that I didn’t go over and say hello.”

Who’s been the most unexpected Shaky fan?

Boy George. Culture Club’s first Top of the Pops appearance [famously with ‘Do You Really Want To Hurt Me‘ in 1982] only happened because I’d pulled out because I was ill and they got the slot. There was a story kicking around that Sex Pistols’ Johnny Rotten was doing an interview and he said: ‘Have you finished now because I want to see if I can catch Shakin’ Stevens and the Sunsets?’”

7
During one corporate Christmas party gig, you reportedly climbed on a diner’s table and put your foot in a bowl of salad and shouted: ‘Scream, damn you! You would scream for [BLANK], so you can scream for me!’. Which pop star is the [BLANK]?

“(Laughs) Tom Jones?”

CORRECT.

“That was a guess, but he was the first person who came into my head! It was all a bit of fun. The early Shakin’ Stevens and the Sunsets gigs were wild. I’ve jumped off pianos, I stopped climbing up curtains when the screws popped once and I fell to the floor like a Looney Tunes cartoon character, and ended up off for six months because of a broken ankle.

Apparently you once set an audience member’s hair on fire while performing in London…

“I don’t remember that, but I know the electrics were always bad in the places we played. I remember touching the piano player [after receiving an electric shock] and he threw the bass player who was on his shoulders across the room.”

 

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8
Which actor sings ‘Green Door’ in Quentin Tarantino’s 2019 film Once Upon a Time… In Hollywood?

“Lord! You’ve got me there!”

WRONG. Leonardo DiCaprio sang the 1956 track that you had a chart-topping hit with in 1981.

“Oh, I’d like to see that! When I released ‘Green Door’, the two writers [ Bob “Hutch” Davie and  Marvin J. Moore] sent me their original manuscript, which had all their notes on there like ‘Brown Door? Yellow door?’ as a congratulations because they loved my version. I appeared in the video for Peter Kay and Tony Christie’s charity single ‘(Is This The Way To) Amarillo’ and he said the track was originally going to be ‘Green Door’. Bet you didn’t know that.”

9
The cassette version of your 1983 album ‘The Bop Won’t Stop’ contains a Sinclair Spectrum video game. What animals do you battle in it?

“God, that was such a long time ago! Tick-tock, tick-tock….No, you’ve got me!”

WRONG. It was bats. In this Ole House of Vampires. 

“I would never have got that! (Laughs) It’s a struggle to remember all the tracks on an album, let alone games as well!”

A Shaky game where you’re fending off bats is quite unusual – ever turn down anything else weird?

“Only shows like Big Brother because I’d probably end up walking off the set. I’ve said no to I’m a Celebrity…Get Me Out Of Here! three times now, because I’d prefer to eat porridge in the morning than put animal’s testicles in my mouth!”

10
Which sitcom character’s autobiography did you once allegedly hail as ‘Lovely stuff’?

“Hmm – was it Alan Partridge?”

CORRECT. In series two of I’m Alan Partridge, Steve Coogan’s iconic character enthuses that you’ve described his disastrous autobiography, Bouncing Back, as “Lovely stuff”.

“(Laughs) I’m about to start my own autobiography, because all of the books put out about me, including by [ex-manager] Paul Barrett – who’s sadly passed away now – are quite shallow, and Wikipedia has loads of mistakes about me, so it would be nice to have a factual account of my life.”

You could hit up Alan Partridge for a book jacket quote…

The verdict: 4/10 

“Did I do well? Why didn’t I get closer to nine?! (Laughs)”

‘Singled Out’, a 3CD/2LP collection of all of Shaky’s solo singles is out now, as is ‘Fire In The Blood’, his  19-disc career-spanning, boxset collection
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