Barry Mason ISA Interview
You have a very illustrious track record, which I would naturally like to talk about later on. But what are you working on at the moment?
I've been lucky enough to have my songs performed by some of the great artists of the world. Now, since my friend Ian Mack produced my new album "In my lover's eyes" I'm really enjoying working on my new projects. Recording songs for my CD' and rehearsing for concerts.
How many times have you done the one-man show?
Hundreds over the years, all over the world. I love my one man show "Remember Delilah". Don Gould is my accompanist and as he's an old friend we have lots of fun.
What size audience do you play to?
Anything from a couple of hundred at a Golf Club, to 3000 at the BECTERO HAll in Bangkok.
Didn't you do an album once before, for Magnet Records, in the seventies?
Yes I did.
Were the new songs written alone?
No, I rarely write alone. Songs on "In my Lover's Eyes" are co written with Michel Legrand (Title song and "Man and Wife") Les Reed (The Last Waltz and "Les Bicyclettes de Belsize) Don Gould ("Such a Love"and "Big enough for me and you") Michael Carr, the legendary Irish writer ("1 2 3 O'Lerary")
Ian Mack("Falling", "I wanna thank you", "One and Only"and "If there is no you" Ivan Laybourne (Where Is the light?"),
You are mainly a lyricist aren't you?
Yes, lyrics and melody lines. I don’t play an instrument so am free to sing any melody that comes into my head whilst my collaborator plays chords.
Who are your current collaborators?
Ian Mack. He's also my producer and best friend. He' coming to Prague with me for my concert on the 29th July to sing back ups. We'll have some fun and if I faint on stage with the fear of it all, he'll be there to bring me round!
Do you have your own publishing company?
Yes, with the original title of, Barry Mason Music!.What, for you, is the big attraction of musical theatre?
If you listen to a love song, let's say it's called "Goodbye", whilst doing the ironing, it's not as effective as the same song sung live, by a character in a show who you have grown to relate to and is leaving his/her lover for ever.
Have you had a show staged yet?
Yes, "Miranda", which did a short run at the Crucible theatre in Preston in the 70's, "American Heroes", off Broadway in 1982 and "One last Summer" which ran at the Alliance theatre in Atlanta USA about 1998
Isn't the trouble with musicals that you spend so much time on them and they may never get staged?
Yes, a lot of work, but looking back, I've had a load of fun just getting them together...writing, rewriting casting rehearsals.
If we could turn to records now - what recent covers have you had?
Main covers lately seem to be in movies, for instance I had a meeting last week to discuss a new movie just going into production about a guy who is in love with Rosemary, and luckily for me, Love grows where my Rosemary Goes is his favorite song. So the song is featured all thro the movie.
An artist you've been strongly associated with, Tom Jones, surely proved something with his big hit song from the show "Matador". What was that if it wasn't MOR?
Yes it was MOR.
Let's go back. How did you get into songwriting?
Whilst I was trying to be a singer I helped Tommy Bruce, a friend of mine, get a record contract. He was an instant hit and needed help so........I became a manager...a hideous job. When he needed another hit I lay in bed thinking about it and somehow I thought of a little song. Next day I sang it to Peter Green, the guitarist in Tommy's backing group who demoed it, it became a b side for Tommmy and I was off!!
You were introduced to Les Reed by a music publisher - Stuart Reid. Did you hit it off straight away?
When Les plays piano I go off...he just touches me deep inside.
How long before you had that first hit with Les?
Our first hit "Here it comes Again" by The Fortunes came pretty quickly, but then we had over a year with tons of songs being released but no hits. I thought I was a one record wonder. Then whilst singing for my supper in friends club in Malta I read in the New Musical Express that Englbert's follow up to his smash hit "Release me " was Barry Mason and Les Reed's "The Last Waltz". After that we had a pretty good run,
If Les was the publisher, what would happen next?
We both signed publishing contracts for our songs to Donna Music, Les's company named after his baby daughter.
What can you recall about your 'breakthrough' song, "Here It Comes Again"?
It was a rare song in which Les had the basic melody before he played it to me. Usually we'd work on the song together, then I'd go off and finish the lyric.
What was your feeling when the song happened?.
Unbelievable...I got a check thro the post that looked to me like a long distance telephone number. I immediately stopped smoking and never touched a cigarette again. Apart from the odd joint of course.
In 1967 you had a rather famous Sunday afternoon where you wrote three big hits and ended your barren spell: "Everybody Knows" (The Dave Clark Five), "The Last Waltz" (Engelbert Humperdinck) and "I'm Coming Home" (Tom Jones).
Did you think, because it flowed so quickly, that it had to be a hit?
In the case of "The Last Waltz". once we had the title the song wrote itself.
Normally I'm pleasantly surprised when one of my songs is a hit as I don’t have a lot of self confidence. Tony Macaulay said immediately we finished "Love grows" it was going to be a number one. Luckily he was right.
One source quotes over 500 covers of "The Last Waltz"
I thought it was more than that.
Was that your biggest song in terms of covers?
I think "The Last Waltz" as the title translated directly into so many languages, and it was incidentally the biggest live performance song in the UK for many years.
"Delilah" was about jealousy. Are you often inspired by a theme?
Yes, I think when you go thro emotional crisis in your life it makes you creative..
I'm just in the throes of my third divorce so maybe another biggie is on the way!!
Isn't Sinatra supposed to have recorded - but not released - one of the others -"Julie"?
Yes, Les heard he had cut "Julie" which was in the film "Les Bicycvlettes de Belsize"
Another big Engelbert song for you was "A Man Without Love". Was that written with Les?
No, it was a huge Italian hit and I did the English speaking lyric.
Your partnership with Les Reed broke up around the end of the sixties and you bounced straight into Tony Macaulay...
Yes, we only wrote a couple of songs, but luckily one was "Love Grows". He is a brilliant writer and now writing novels.
You worked with another European giant, too - Charles Aznavour.
Yes, but no hits. One song we began writing in the Westbury Hotel London, continued it in the Charles Cinq in Paris, and finished it in the Beverly Wilshire in LA.
What did you do for Elvis?
A country song with Les called "Girl of Mine" Elvis sang it toward the end when he was not very well. It was about four in the morning and they wanted him to get some sleep, but luckily for me he loved the song and insisted on cutting it before he hit the sack.
How about Rod Stewart?
One of the few songs I wrote the words and music for was "The day will Come" which Rod recorded long before he became famous. I have great memories of playing in Rod's soccer team in Hollywood in the seventies.
I'd forgotten I wrote one for David. I can't remember the name of the song but it was co-written with Tony Macaulay.
You have even worked with Morecambe and Wise.
Yes, I produced an album of old songs and a new one I wrote in the nineties. Ernie was a good friend of mine.
It doesn't seem as if publishers have played much part in your success over the years.
No, not really, apart from taking 50% of the dosh for the life of copyright.
So what sort of deals will you do as a publisher your self?
70 or 80 twenty for a few years.
That's another thing that's pretty much unacceptable today, wouldn't you say? "Life" deals?
Finally, may I ask you what your biggest wish is for the future?
To spend spend the remaining years of my lucky life making albums and performing my own songs.