Spotlight on ……
I became interested in big band swing in the late 60’s and then as a natural progression developed a real passion for the crooners of the 50’s & 60’s era. Matt Monro was an obvious choice to include in my choice of singers from this period as he was the only British singer, (in my opinion), who could interpret a lyric with such style.
Matt’s music is swinging and stylish and he has a natural feel for a song. His emotion and enterpretation for the lyrics of a ballad are both meaningful and magical. ‘Portrait of my Love’ is the song that I consider to be my favourite from Matt’s collection but then again I love ‘Softly as I Leave You’ equally. There are so many songs to choose from that could be at the top of my list, it’s a difficult decision. Being a performer myself, going under the name of Martin Croones, I always include a selection of Matt’s songs when performing as the audience always requests them and they are always included in my playlist. There are not many songs that I would exclude but the one that I feel Matt did not quite get right was ‘Spanish Eyes’. I think the tempo change from the original Al Martino version does not work at all.
Looking at past albums I don’t think anything could have been done differently. Each album shows Matt’s style to the full. He was definitely the king as far is movie music is concerned and my personal favourites are ‘From Russia with Love’ and ‘Born Free’ and oh yes they certainly do add to the film especially ‘Born Free’. The lyrics and Matt’s interpretation says it all. So often theme tunes are used that have no bearing on the film contents but in this case it captives everything. Mind you I do think the singer should receive an Oscar as well as the songwriters because without the right singer the songs mean nothing. Matt always delivered with so much feeling that it is beyond belief that he did not receive an award.
It is with great regret that I did not see Matt perform. I have watched countless footage of his shows but nothing beats a live performance. I have recently seen Tony Bennett at The Royal Albert Hall and that was a magical evening and Matt ranked alongside Tony as one of the greatest of them all.
Having the addition of the website to the Internet is a bonus as it gives the fans a way of knowing what is coming up. I loved ‘Matt’s Jukebox’, with snippets of some of my favourites tracks and in such clarity. I also think the ‘Spotlight On’ feature is great. The website has so much information and something for everyone. It’s packed with so much delightful stuff it’s difficult to know where to start. So often websites only tell you what they think you need to know and not what you actually want to know…..that’s why this is different. As a newcomer to the site it is difficult for me to comment on the Forum but I would say that anything that creates a topical talking point to stimulate debate is worthy of fighting for
I know that ‘Fans Reunited’ a gathering for fans of the late singer was started a few years ago and it sounds great. When is there one near me? I’m dying to go and I would enjoy meeting and making friends with like-minded people. I’d love to see film clips of Matt’s performances and maybe hear from guests, friends and artists who knew or worked with Matt talking about his life and his work…that would be brilliant. It would also be good if Matt Jnr could attend and perform.
With the Christmas season approaching it brings to mind that Matt never brought out a Christmas album although he did record ‘Mary’s Boy Child’, ‘When a Child is Born’ and the recently discovered ‘Christmas Magic’. Of course Matt should have bought a Christmas album out. His easy listening style lends itself to all of the seasonal favourites. I’m very surprised he did not record ‘The Christmas Song’.
If I had free reign and money was no object I would most defiantly bring out a film of Matt’s life. This would certainly compliment Michele’s book. There have been many biographical films of major recording artists and entertainers and this would make a welcome addition. For the time being I will have to be content with what is offered on DVD. I think I can sum them up in one word - Fabulous!
The BBC documentary ‘The Man with the Golden Voice’ was wonderful. I watched it and it was brilliant, in fact I recorded it and watched it again several times over.
I think the most exciting experience of discovering the Matt Monro website et al is the wonderful enthusiasm the children have in keeping their dad’s work alive and to reach out to those unfortunates who have until now not been a part of the Matt Monro experience. I saw Matt Jnr perform about three years ago when he appeared at the Marlowe Theatre Canterbury. I was a little apprehensive but found him to be very entertaining. It is marvellous that he has now become a performer in his own right and tours the world. It is definitely hard for Matt Jnr because he will always be known because of the success of his father and that’s a difficult thing to shake off. He needn’t worry though because it’s wonderful that he keeps Matt Monro alive with a tribute but doesn’t try to be his father. So often tribute artists such as Sinatra look-and-sound-alikes don’t capture the true persona. I have never been in favour of mimics; if a singer is confident in his ability then he shouldn’t hide behind someone else. Matt Jnr has developed his own style and that is great to see. I have not had the pleasure of listening to either of his album yet but I’m sure it will be a great experience.
When I took the decision to become a full time Crooner my repertoire was mainly with an American influence. From gig to gig it became quite evident that my audience were keen to hear songs by Matt. It was also clear that people knew an awful lot about him; I have even met people that travelled on his bus. It was from listening to these people and including their requests in my song list that I have developed a real passion for not only singing his songs but also in knowing more about him. I read the book that Michele wrote on her father ‘The Singer’s Singer’ from cover to cover and it was a fabulous read. It was marvellous that it was written in such a way that it was as if Michele had not had any input. I loved the way the book told the story from start to finish with the pictures in the correct places. Very often biographies jump backwards and forwards and it is difficult to follow, but not in this case. It was brilliant to read quotes from Matt himself and all his friends and acquaintances that were with him throughout his career. I now feel that I have been brought into Matt’s life because it was such a thoroughly informative book and I have recommended it to friends. That is why the book was such a great addition to my biography collection. I would love to attend a book signing but so far there have been none close to home. If I were to attend it would be lovely to meet Michele and also to browse the memorabilia that I’ve seen in the photographs.
One thing from reading the book is that I didn’t realise that Matt had recorded such a huge range of material. I have to say that I don’t have a huge collection of his music because I am still discovering little gems. I recently added the 25th anniversary release ‘The Greatest’ to my collection which was wonderful as there were so many tracks on there that I’d never heard Matt sing before. Now with so much attention focused on bringing his life and work to the world’s attention I will be actively looking to expand.
Matt Monro’s contribution to the British Music Industry is that he became a true British icon. After struggling to get that lucky break he suddenly became the voice that everyone wanted to hear. Through the 60’s when music trends were changing rapidly Matt held his own and proved that lyrics with a true meaning still had a place in the music world. He recognised that in order to stay at the top he would probably need to re-invent himself and he succeeded in doing this when making the decision to record some great Lennon and McCartney numbers. He was a true music ambassador.
If I could only take one CD to a desert island it would have to be ‘The Very Best of Perry Como & Matt Monro’. This compact disc has some amazing tracks by two of the most stylish vocalists in modern times.
I recently gave a Newspaper interview about my life and career and was asked what four people I would invite to a dinner party. My answer was Frank Sinatra, Matt Monro, Barbra Streisand & Rolf Harris……What a fabulous night that would be!
If I had to sum up Matt Monro in only three words, it would have to be”
British Music Icon.
Interview given by: Martin Farbrother