Who Does Shakin’ Stevens Think He Is?
New Documentary – Wednesday 12 October, 10pm, BBC Radio 2
Nearly everyone knows something about Shakin’ Stevens. The Welsh rock ‘n’ roller, born Michael Barratt, was the UK’s biggest-selling singles artist of the 1980s, and not just thanks to that festive perennial ‘Merry Christmas Everyone.’ He had three other UK No. 1 singles, a chart-topping album and a track record proudly showing no fewer than 33 top 40 hits.
But Shakin’ Stevens is far more than a name from our collective pop past, and Paul Sexton’s documentary shows the singer, now 68, in a remarkable new light, as he goes on a voyage of self-discovery.
Stevens has just released the new album ‘Echoes Of Our Times,’ which he was inspired to make when he researched his family history and uncovered tales of wartime heroics, salvationists and strife in the copper mines of Cornwall. With influences from blues, folk and Americana as well as his trademark rocking style, it’s being warmly greeted as one of the most surprising albums of the year. Echoes Of Our Times entered the Official Album Charts at number 22.
The programme, illustrated with many of his signature hits, not only unlocks secrets of the performer’s family past, but depicts many other unknown scenes from a career in which he paid his dues for some 15 years before ever making the charts. Few people remember now, for example, that way before his hit years, Stevens was signed by John Peel to his Dandelion label, or that with his band the Sunsets, Shaky once opened for the Rolling Stones on the ‘Let It Bleed’ tour.
Shaky and Paul travel to Stevens’ hometown of Cardiff, where he is reunited with David Dutson, his next door neighbour as a teenager and early bandmate in the Denims. Dutson shares the memory of how the group were all set to follow in The Beatles’ footsteps by playing in Hamburg, until Stevens’ mother refused to let him go because he was only 16.
Stevens and Sexton also go back to the street on which Shaky’s grandmother lived, and on which a Barratt family feud began – a street so rough that it became known as Flagon Alley, for its reputation for drunkards. Elsewhere, Paul talks to other key figures in Stevens’ life and visits the locations of some long-lost London venues where he built his reputation.
Producer, Paul Sexton:
“As soon as I heard ‘Echoes Of Our Times,’ with its themes of Shaky’s family background, I knew this record would take a lot of people by surprise. I gave it its first play when I was sitting in for Bob Harris on Radio 2 in August, and started working on the idea of making a documentary about him for the network.
“There’s way more to Shaky’s story than is generally known, with chapters featuring everyone from John Peel to the Rolling Stones. With his help, and with a visit to his hometown of Cardiff to meet old friends and neighbours, I’ll be reliving some surprising and amusing scenes from his life and times, and finding out who he really is.”
Shakin’ Stevens entered the Official Album Charts at number 22 on 23rd September 2016 with his new studio album ‘Echoes Of Our Times’. Although Shaky has been in the charts with compilation records, his last new studio album to enter the UK charts was ‘Lipstick Powder And Paint’ in 1985.
‘Echoes Of Our Times’, released on Shaky’s own label HEC, is a surprising record on which blues, roots, Americana and classic rock take centre stage as Shaky explores his mysterious and intriguing family history. The album grew from Shaky’s realisation that, like most of us, he knew so very little about the background of his family – the stories of his ancestors’ loves and lives lost, and their struggles to survive. Research revealed tales of poverty and strife in the Cornish copper mines, of bravery and loss in war, of philanthropic preachers and stoic Salvationists, of children suffering and of family secrets and feuds.
Speaking about the chart position Shaky said“’Echoes Of Our Times’ is not only very personal for me, it is also a progressive album, mirroring where my music now stands. I am more than elated to know that the songs and the stories speak for themselves and that it has been allowed to be well received.”
On the day that the album gave Shaky a welcome return to the charts, tickets for his biggest ever UK tour went on sale. Visiting 34 towns and cities across England, Scotland and Wales in spring 2017the Echoes Of Our Times Tour will see the UK’s biggest-selling artist of a decade hit the road from Easter next year with the opening night on Saturday, April 15 in Carlisle. Shaky will then travel the length and breadth of the country, including London’s Shepherd Bush Empire on 2nd May, before ending the tour on the 28th May.
Tickets for the Echoes Of Our Times Tour, priced from £24, went on sale on Friday 23rdSeptember from www.ticketmaster.co.uk
With 33 hit singles and four UK No. 1s to his name, the platinum-selling artist will be delighting his audiences as he performs new tracks from ‘Echoes Of Our Times’, along with classic hits, and a few surprises.
Speaking about the tour announcement Shaky said:“I can’t wait to get back on the road, and introduce the songs from ‘Echoes Of Our Times’ to people who have seen me perform in the past, and those who have not.”
Sat 15 The Sands, Carlisle
Sun 16 The Lowry, Salford
Tues 18 Cliffs Pavilion, Southend
Weds 19 The Orchard, Dartford
Thurs 20 The Coliseum, Watford
Fri 21 The Pavilion, Worthing
Sun 23 The Opera House, Buxton
Mon 24 St David’s, Cardiff
Tues 25 The Forum, Bath
Thurs 27 The Churchill, Bromley
Fri 28 The Hexagon, Reading
Sat 29 Regent Theatre, Ipswich
Sun 30 Assembly Theatre, Tunbridge Wells
Tues 2 Shepherds Bush Empire, London
Thurs 4 Venue Cymru, Llandudno
Fri 5 The Opera House, Blackpool
Sat 6 Baths Hall, Scunthorpe
Sun 7 Theatre Royal, Norwich
Tues 9 The Queens Theatre Hall, Barnstaple
Weds 10 Hall For Cornwall, Truro
Thurs 11 The Pavilion, Plymouth
Fri 12 Babbacombe Theatre, Torquay
Sun 14 Guildhall, Portsmouth
Mon 15 Alban Arena, St Albans
Tues 16 City Hall, Salisbury
Thurs 18, The Barbican, York
Fri 19 Parr Hall, Warrington
Sun 21 Grand Theatre, Leeds
Mon 22 Royal Concert Hall, Glasgow
Tues 23 Eden Court, Inverness
Thu 25 May, Civic Hall, Newcastle Upton Tyne
Fri 26 Town Hall, Birmingham
Sat 27 Corn Exchange, Cambridge
Sun 28 Whiterock Theatre, Hastings
‘Last Man Alive’, the first single from the album is on the Radio 2 A List. Shaky recently appeared on The One Show (BBC ONE) and Lorraine (ITV).
Shaky will be performing at the Wales Festival of Remembrance at St David’s Hall, Cardiff on November 5th and at Christmas With The Salvation Army at the Royal Albert Hall, London on November 24th.
Reviews for ‘Echoes Of Our Times’ include:
“Indulges his inner Woody Guthrie to surprisingly impressive effect – Uncut Magazine
“A radical change of direction…A set of songs full of sincerity and forcefulness…An album which entirely succeeds on its own terms” – Q Magazine
“…a dark, socially conscious album” – Guardian
“A few of the newer, younger “stars” coming out of Nashville could learn a thing or three from Mr Stevens about how a darn fine song should be delivered, both on stage and in a studio…..Shaky always was a class act and this is a classy album” –Country Music People
“Even now, almost four decades after his first hit, Hot Dog, in 1980, one thing is clear – the musical desire still burns within Stevens” – Telegraph
“This was a surprising album that grabbed and held the attention, and is a sheer delight to hear, and therefore is highly recommended indeed.” – Blues Matters