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Chris de Burgh featured in Record Collector magazine

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Record Collector - Chris de Burgh

Record Collector 1980 edition

Until 1980, European record collectors had no home. There was nowhere for them to find out information, buy and sell their records, or contact other people who shared their passion for music and rare vinyl. All that changed when the first issue of Record Collector appeared in March 1980.

Chris de Burgh has featured twice in Record Collector since 1980, the first time in 1986 and then later in 2001.

CdeB - Record Collector 1986

Disclaimer.
Please
be aware that all issues discussed here were relevant in 1986 and as such, will be out of date.

Record Collector 1986

Dave Thompson looks at the multi-talented musician who has broken away from his cult status with the dramatic success of his recent hit, "The Lady In Red".

Chris de Burgh record collector magazine 1986 image
  

When "The Lady In Red" hit No.1 at the end of July this year, it was a case of 24th time lucky for Chris De Burgh -for that is the number of singles he had to release before finally achieving anything more than the most minor hit. Of course, his fans always believed it would be just a matter of time before his phenomenal LP success was repeated at 45rpm, but even they must be amazed at just how enormous an impact "The Lady In Red" made on the chart. Outselling the previous chart topper, Madonna's "Papa Don't Preach", by two to one, "The Lady In Red" was proclaimed as everything from "Fergie's favourite" (a reference to the Duke and Duchess of York taking a copy of the song with them on their honeymoon cruise) to "the new anthem for the world's lovers". And having finally cracked the chart, Chris De Burgh seems set to remain at the top for many years to come.

 

Born in Argentina to British parents, Chris grew up wherever his father's job in the diplomatic corps took him -Malta, Rhodesia, Nigeria and finally Ireland, where the family moved into the 12th century castle purchased by Chris's grandfather just after World War II.
The castle was converted into a hotel, and Chris earned his performing experience giving impromptu concerts to friends and guests. Later, upon graduating from Trinity College, Dublin, he made ends meet playing in a hamburger joint, alternating old favourites with his own compositions. He also toured Ireland with local heroes Horslips, but by the end of 1973, he was still no closer to fulfilling his dreams of becoming a recording artist.

Then one night, a friend introduced him over dinner to songwriter Doug Flett. Flett's immediate reaction was, in his own words, "Oh God, not another singer-songwriter. But Chris was charming, funny and personable, so after the meal, we went into the living room and he played a few of his songs. I was just knocked out by them." He immediately arranged for Chris to come to a more formal audition in front of Doug's partner, Guy Fletcher; he, too, was impressed and within days, the pair signed Chris to a production deal.

In 1974, Chris signed to A&M Records - A&R director Dave Margereson, enchanted by Chris's latest demo, met Chris at Doug and Guy's office at yet another live audition. "They took me in and sat me down, gave me a drink, then turned the lights out," Dave remembers. "Suddenly, Chris leaped out of a cupboard, singing and playing." Dave, who today is Chris's manager, signed the singer immediately, and in November 1974, Chris was unveiled to the general public, opening Supertramp's "Crime Of The Century" tour.

INNOVATIVE
"Far Beyond These Castle Walls", Chris's debut album, was released in February 1975, a startling innovative collection of self-penned songs marred only by producer Robin Cable's insistence on smothering each song in strings. Onstage, Chris played solo, creating his dynamics with voice and guitar alone. The studio embellishments detracted from this native talent, but "Far Beyond The Castle Walls" has still become a firm favourite with Chris's fans. Today, the album exists in three versions; the first, now deleted, on A&M and a 1982 reissue in the label's mid-price series both bore a striking black cover, with Chris pictured through a castle window in one corner. The more recent Pickwick release, dating from 1984, comes packaged with a more pedestrian mugshot.

Two singles were culled from "Far Beyond These Castle Walls": "Hold On" and "Flying". Neither charted in the UK, but the latter created something of a stir when it topped the Brazilian charts for a record- breaking seventeen weeks (incidentally, the same song is called "Turning Round" on the LP, although there is no difference between the two versions). Both were deleted very early on, a fate they share with the bulk of Chris's singles, and both are fairly scarce today.
"Spanish Train And Other Stories" was Chris's second album, released towards the end of the year. This was the set for which his growing band of supporters had been hoping for, a powerful recording on which Chris's vocals took control of every song to the exclusion of any neat production tricks (Robin Cable again supervised the sessions).

The album has remained on catalogue since its release, while of the singles to be taken from it, "Spaceman Came Travelling" has now seen daylight on no less than four occasions; thrice as an A-side, once as an in-concert B- side. It is the earliest of these, released one full year after the album came out, which is most collectable, although in terms of rarity, it is easily eclipsed by "Lonely Sky", released in January 1976, and the LP's title cut, which appeared as late as March 1978. This last song came very close to being banned in South Africa, because of the references to the Devil in the lyric. Only a court case brought by A&M prevented this, thus denying collectors a genuine curio -a copy of "Spanish Train" without the lead song!
   

Chris de Burgh record collector magazine image BOMBARDED
"Patricia The Stripper" was the second single to be taken from the LP; prior to its release, A&M had been bombarded with calls from DJ s and public alike to put it out. Despite some misgivings about it projecting Chris as a novelty songsmith, the company finally bowed to the pressure -only to find they'd left it too late and nobody was interested in it anymore. Copies of this single are fairly easy to find, usually for around £2.50.
" 'Spanish Train' was a very dramatic album, full of fire and power", said Chris, "so to prove I had absolutely no sense whatsoever, I followed it with' At The End Of A Perfect Day', which was all ballads."

Released in August 1977, " At The End Of A Perfect Day" is Chris's gentlest album -as he says, it was exclusively ballads ("a la Cat Stevens", he said, referring to producer Paul Samwell Smith's recent work with that artist), and A&M leaped on the set joyfully, unleashing a quite overpowering marketing campaign --a mistake, as company chief Derek Green now admits. The campaign, he said, was designed to promote "The face of Chris De Burgh", and for a time, the country was plastered with close-ups of Chris.

It would have been the perfect occasion for A&M to give Chris a picture sleeve single. Unfortunately they didn't, sending two singles from the new LP out to fend for themselves with no marketing gimmicks at all -and that at a time when record companies were finally beginning to wake up to the added push even a humble colour wrap- around could give their product. Neither "Broken Wings" nor "Discovery" sold a fate they shared with the reactivated "Spanish Train", and neither is likely to turn up for much less than £5 today.

"Crusader" was released in 1979, and with it, two more singles; in February, "I Had The Love In My Eyes"; in March, "The Devil's Eye", totally contrasting numbers issued in the hope that if people didn't like one style, they'd like the other. Unfortunately, sales indicated they didn't like either. But if Chris was still unknown in Britain, elsewhere he was rapidly approaching superstar status. In Canada, he was already guaranteed a gold disc every time he released something. Ireland adored him; in South Africa, demand for product was so great that a live album appeared briefly. Isolated pockets of support were springing up in Germany and the US, but when Chris's music next struck a chord in the hearts of a nation, it was in perhaps the most unexpected place of all -Norway. "I always thought a big seller in Norway meant 25,000 copies", Chris said. " After all, the country only has four million inhabitants total!" Imagine his surprise, then, when "Eastern Wind", his fifth album, ended up selling 125,000 copies -establishing itself as the second best selling LP in the country's history, behind only the Beatles' " Abbey Road".

"Eastern Wind" was Chris's most rock- orientated album yet, the result, he says, of being written and recorded on the back of 130 live shows -he was touring prodigiously, either as an opening act (he supported Supertramp so often he was all but a member of the band at one point!) or in his own right. No longer a solo troubadour, he was now working with a regular band. Their experiences, too, went into the recording of "Eastern Wind", and although the end results were a little disappointing, there was no denying the energy behind the ten songs.

"Shadows And Lights" and "The Traveller" were both culled as singles, backed as usual by further selections from the album. By this time, A&M seemed resigned to not making the chart and can only have pressed up a handful of each single -"The Traveller", at least, was almost as difficult to find on release as it is today!


Despite the Norwegian success, Chris seemed to have reached something of an impasse with his career. He felt a strong sense of treading water musically; "Eastern Wind" had been a very deliberate stab at winning s commercial success, and in his own mind he o wanted to return to the values which he now felt had been shelved in the struggle for acceptance. At the same time, with the light at the end of the tunnel growing all the time, he had no wish to throw it all away on some sudden move which might alienate everybody who had fallen in love with "Eastern Wind". The solution to the problem seemed elusive; in the end it was breath- takingly simple. "Best Moves" was a compilation album first suggested by A&M's Canadian office as a Christmas 1981 stopgap. Chris put the set together himself, adding a live version of "Broken Wings" and one new song, "Waiting For The Hurricane", to a " selection of "the songs I considered said most about my music. And really, that album was the best thing I could ever have done. It introduced so many new people to my music. ." The set gave Chris his first UK 1: chart entry, albeit at a lowly No.65; more importantly, it catapulted him into the German Top Five, opening up a whole new market for him.

LOYALTY
Well aware of the loyalty of his hard-core fans, but unwilling to stretch that loyalty too far, Chris ensured that "Waiting For The Hurricane" was also released as a single. Fans I who'd already got all the other albums now wouldn't have to payout for the compilation simply for one song -it was a genuine gesture, but an unnecessary one. The fans bought the LP anyway, and the single scarcely sold at all
!

"I followed 'Best Moves' with such renewed excitement and inspiration", Chris said. "I was feeling much more solid and sure myself, mainly because I now knew people were interested. If you have a feeling that they're not, maybe you don't give it all you've got. Now I knew I had to give the next one every thing I had."

'The next one' was "The Getaway", conceived by one of the most unlikely alliances of the year. Chris teamed up with producer Rupert Hine for this set, and the blend of Chris's almost bardic approach and Hine's ability to harness the best of modern technology produced electrifying results almost from the word go. "Don't Pay The Ferryman", released a month before the new LP, was surely his strongest single since the 'Spanish Train" days. Its eventual chart performance (No.48 in Britain, No.34 in the States) belied the amount of radio play it received; quite simply, its potential was crushed by the release of the album, a Top 30 lit at the end of 1982.

The single cut of "Ferryman" was a substantially remixed version of the LP Tack, tighter and more theatrical. It was also he first of Chris's singles to be released in a picture sleeve (a 12" single would have been better, but A&M seem not to have thought of that), and with this intact, the single now sells 'or around £4, a pound more than its unsuccessfu1 follow-up, "Ship To Shore".

"High On Emotion" gave Chris his second lit single, again on both sides of the Atlantic, and again in a fairly modest fashion. However, the album from which it came, 1984's "Man On The Line", did somewhat better. Aside from topping the Swiss charts on its week of release, and dominating the German listings for eight weeks, it entered the British charts at No. II and even breached the American Top 70.

A 12" of "High On Emotion" was released, a formula which was also followed for "I Love The Night", released three months later. This was a particularly interesting effort, in that two bonus cuts were included: "Don't Pay The Ferryman" and a live version of " A Spaceman Came Travelling", a song which reappeared on single just before Christmas (it had also been repackaged two years before).

Its issue in 1984 was timed to coincide with Chris's second compilation. "The Very Best Of Chris De Burgh" was released by the Telstar label, a licensing deal which, for Chris' management, was seen as an experiment in the power of TV advertising as much as anything else. The album came through with flying colours, making it to No.6 in the UK (to the chagrin of Chris's European supporters, the set has yet to be released elsewhere).

"Sight And Touch" was pulled off "Man On The Line" in February 1985 in a belated attempt to get another hit from the LP. Then came a year-long silence while Chris toured, and during this time, he began work on his eighth studio album. Early on in the sessions, he promised a departure from the electronics of "The Getaway" and "Man On The Line"; a single released in March, "Fire On The Water", backed those words up to the hilt and came very close to giving him at least another minor hit -only to stop selling the moment the LP, "Into The Light", appeared. Indeed, when A&M released the follow-up, "The Lady In Red", the 'New Musical Express' singles' reviewer happily predicted that nobody would bother buying it simply because they'd all got the album already. "The Lady In Red" was made of sterner stuff, however. Within a week, it was resting at No.40; a fortnight later, it was No.2. Seven days after that, it was topping the chart, and while the daily papers beat a path to Chris's door, it suddenly seemed that his back catalogue was no longer as easy to find as it once was.

It's not unusual that sudden success should result in an increase of interest in an artist's back catalogue, of course, but in this case, recent weeks have seen an escalation in prices which is quite extraordinary. No-one can say whether or not this excitement will last -fans of the Cars, for instance, will already be well aware of just how widely prices can fluctuate in the space of a few months. The question of when to invest is one which time alone can solve, but one thing is certain - the strength of the music you'll be buying is such that you'll get your money's worth however much you pay!
©1986 Record Collector magazine.

CdeB - Record Collector 2001

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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“Writing gets me away for a while' from this world and into one where I, alone, can make or
break the rules as I see fit.” - Chris High 2003.
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