I’ve often joked with the person at the counter when buying a bottle of wine whether they would like to see some ID. Usually they laugh, sometimes they humour me and ask for proof of being over 18 but sadly we know its pretty obvious no ID is needed. This week I’ve been off on my travels and something similar happened which has really made me quite sad.
I had been invited to be a part of a couple of projects in London and Brighton. Knowing how difficult it is to take a car anywhere near London without incurring one fine or another (the last trip at Christmas incurred an unexpected £80 charge for using a diesel car) and then you have to include parking and fuel costs.
I decided to let the train take the strain. It was a friend of mine who said I should get a Seniors Railcard as it would save me 1/3 on every ticket. That was the good news. The bad, and sad news was just like when I try to buy a bottle of wine not once was I challenged about whether I was eligible to have a Senior Railcard. I kept on expecting a ticket inspector to say, ‘Come, come young man you can’t expect to get away with that?’ But nothing not a challenge or dirty look.
Anyway, apart from that it’s been a very interesting week. It started early on Monday morning. I had to be at the Tower of London at 8am. Luckily one of my sons lives a couple of miles away in Bow so I stayed with him for the night and then walked to the Tower.
As the old spy phrase goes, ‘I could tell you what it’s all about, but I would have to kill you!’. That’s obviously not entirely true but pretty close. Can you imagine how difficult it is to film a video on any Royal property let alone the Tower itself. You really do need clearance at the very highest level!!
I had had a part in the writing and recording of the song we were there to film and I couldn’t help but wonder if I had been summoned there because they didn’t like what I had written. Luckily I left with my head still attached to my body.
I wasn’t alone at the Tower. I was there to contribute alongside ‘Sounds of New Wine’, a London based Gospel Choir. It’s strange how small the world of music can be. The choir master is a man named Lawrence Johnson. Lawrence was one of the founders of the London Community Gospel Choir and I have been fortunate to sing with him on many occasions including at Abbey Road and a performance with his group Nu Colours on my old TV Show. I asked him if he was as busy as ever. He was, having just arranged backing vocals for Sam Smith and a number of other major artists.
The Mal Pope Show featuring Lawrence Johnson in Nu Colours
We were also joined by The Aldgate School choir. Aldgate is the only state primary school in the City of London. It nestles in the shadow of some of the biggest office blocks in the city. The children came dressed brightly in clothes that represented their own family’s heritage which fitted in perfectly with the song which we were recording.
My next appointment was down in Brighton to film a performance and interview for the Heritage Chart Show. There is absolutely no problem with age on the Heritage Chart Show, in fact, age is quite definitely celebrated.
The Heritage Chart is the baby of Mike Read, the former Radio1 morning DJ, presenter of TV shows like Top of the Pope, Pop Quiz and Saturday Superstore, co-author of the Guinness Book of Hit Records as well as being a singer songwriter in his own right.
Mike had recognised that artists of a certain age seemed to disappear from radio and TV. Of course the old hits of big name heritage artists like Elton John, Rod Stewart and Diana Ross can often be heard on radio but a lot of older artists were still writing new material and making records. It was hard for them to be heard on the airwaves. Mike decided to champion these artists and so was born The Heritage Chart. The Chart has been running for a number of years and recently Mike has also started filming a TV Heritage Chart Show.
Last Christmas Mike came across the duet I had recorded with Steve Balsamo to support the ‘Everyone Deserves a Christmas’ appeal. He liked it, started playing it on his radio shows and people started voting for the record on the weekly chart. I think we got to number 24 before the end of the year.
When my new record So Sad was released last month my plugger sent Mike the record and again he started playing it on air. Within a week or 2 it had entered the top 30. I wasn’t sure if it was fair to canvas people’s votes online, but I soon put away my shame and started mentioning it on social media and with that support the record this week is no 24.
Now I often say that when people go to my website and read my CV the only person they won’t have heard of is me. It’s a bit like that with the Heritage Charts. This week I’m ahead of the Temptations, Boo Radleys and Matt Goss just behind Micky Dolenz, Tears for Fears and The Blow Monkeys!!!
I performed the song in the Cellar studio before having a chat with Mike about the song and my career. Although this was my first meeting with Mike it was amazing how many friends we had in common. I had performed my first Radio 1 session before Mike started working there. I had released my first record before his first professional DJing job. That was nearly 40 years ago.
We reflected on how difficult it can be for artists like me to find space. I’m probably a better musician, singer and songwriter than I was when I was 13 but I’m not new. The great thing with The Heritage Chart is that doesn’t matter. It’s down to the song and the recording…and of course a lot of makeup.
The Vapors recording in the Cellar for the Heritage Chart Show
I met a number of other artists at the filming including ‘The Vapors’ who had massive hits in the early 1980’s but who were still touring and making records today. We all agreed the Heritage Chart was a godsend and it was really encouraging to see our records mingling with some truly great artists. I’ve got a feeling Mike Read might be onto something here and I couldn’t be more pleased for him…and for me!
You can vote for SO SAD on the heritage Chart here…