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Interview with Chris Norman for the Radio “Echo Of Moscow”

Chris, how do you consider that period of your life when you were in Smokie?

— For me that Smokie period was the beginning of everything that I've done since. We were like a bunch of guys together for a few years before, 'cos we've gone to school together and everything, and we sort of come through and we played at different things, had some successes but not very big yet and we were trying all the time. And so when we finally had the success with the first hit record and then the continuation of that – it was great! And we went all over the world and we played and concerts got bigger and the audiences got more, we had more hits and hits and albums hits. So we were just living really our dream then, you know. It was great. We did all the things that we'd always imagined and dreamed to do. And we had a great time. We were all close like friends, like brothers nearly at that time. So we enjoyed ourselves, enjoyed each other's company, we enjoyed the new adventure that we were on. So that was a great time, yeah! And also it was like the start of everything for me.

What do you think were the main constituent parts of the Smokie success?

— Well, probably there were mainly 2 things. The first main thing was the harmony sound. We had this distinctive harmony sound which was just purely luck. A lot of groups have success and they do harmonies, but they donít always sing so good together and they make it sound better by being in the studio. But with us, we just could sing good already, together I mean, as a group. And that was really luck, 'cos, you know, we just came upon each other at school and it could have been that one of us couldnít sing or whatever. But it turned out that we could and we all had the right range of singing. So my voice was like it is and then Alan would sing a different sigh, and we could swap. And Terry would always sing this high harmony above which was a really strong high harmony. So we could sing always easily together, it was always like no effort, we didnít have to work that hard at everything. We could just say while doing a harmony – you sing that part, Iíll sing that part... Bump! And then it would sound good. We could sing it just in a room and then it would already sound good, before you start it in the studio with doing any messing around with it. It always sounded good. So that was really the lucky part because as I said it could have been that somebody couldnít sing. So that was the luck that we met each other and we just sang so good together. And I think, that harmony sound that we had was one of the main factors, you know.

And the other thing was – by that time my voice got sort of a certain style and a character in it which people seemed to like. So that sound of my voice which made it distinctive, 'cos people used to say they always knew a Smokie record straight away because of my voice, and then the harmonies. So you could always tell us, a Smokie record, immediately, which was a good thing because it set us apart from everybody else. Because as soon you heard a Smokie record on the radio, you could straight away think: oh, thatís Smokie!

Which album with Smokie you consider as your favourite?

— I think my favourite Smokie album is probably “Bright Lights And Back Alleys”. Yeah, I think so. Because it has got some good tracks on it, you know, that I like. Our first album was “Pass It Around”. I kinda like “Pass It Around” because it has got a new, innocent thing about it Ďcos to that time we hadnít done much yet. And then “Changing All The Time” was the second album – we were getting to know a little bit more about what we were doing in the studio.

So they all have their little things. But by the time we got to “Bright Lights...” – which, I think, was after “Midnight Cafe”, so it was the fourth album – weíve got a style and more confidence about what we were doing in the studio and songwriting-wise and everything else. I think it was just better produced, had better songs on it. The whole album sounded like it had been worked out properly, you know. I think that was better than the one after that, “The Montreux Album”, I think that was not as good. So, yeah, “Bright Lights...”

Chris, and finally a question which probably you've been asked most often since the time you left Smokie – what do you think about the possibility of an original Smokie reunion?

— Well, I think really itís not probably going to happen. Because weíve all been apart for so long now and I canít imagine it would. If it had happened maybe 10 years ago – that was a time when it could have happened. There was a time in about 1998 when we sat down and talked about it. It was 1998. And at that time I felt like it maybe could have happened. But I think now, like more than 10 years later, I think itís too late, I donít think it would happen anymore.

First of all, Terry is in the new Smokie and I guess heís quite happy and going round doing that stuff. And also while heís in that kind of group, heís one of the leaders or the leader of that, whereas if he was back with the rest of everybody, he wouldnít be anymore, you know, he would just be equal again. And Iíve got a certain feeling of that as well. If I was suddenly in Smokie again, I would have to do what everybody else wants and I've reached the point where Iím quite happy doing what I want, you know. Plus the fact I'm not sure it would work, not sure how we would get on. Because of that kind of reason we would probably argue a lot. Alan... I think Alan would probably quite like to get back to Smokie, the original Smokie again. But I donít know whether he'd be doing it right. I donít know. And Pete, I think, would quite like it if he could do it in bits. Iím not sure about Pete, I wouldnít like to misrepresent him, but I have the feeling that he would like to do it a bit, but he wouldnít like to do it a lot. I might be wrong but Iíve got that feeling.

And really, if youíre going to reinvent Smokie or reintroduce the original Smokie, everybody would have to be prepared to really work hard and do a completely new album, with a great session, and be serious about it, with a great producer – really do it properly, and then be prepared to tour – for probably 140 weeks or more, 2 years or whatever. And I donít think Pete would do that, Iím pretty sure he wouldnít, Ďcos he doesnít want to do that. And I think Terry, on the other hand, would probably say – why would I give up this new Smokie for the sake of a year or two years of this, and then I go back and thereís nothing there for me anymore? So I can get that position. And I would say – why would I give up my band, Iím happy doing the stuff Iím doing? To go back in a situation which might not be very happy anymore? I donít know. So I donít think it will happen.

But why canít you think about just a single reunion gig, like, for instance, Led Zeppelin did in O2 Arena a couple of years ago?

— Well, itís a different situation. I mean Led Zeppelin. Robert Plant was doing his solo thing but he wasnít doing a lot, he wasnít on the road like I am all the time. The rest of them werenít doing anything to do with that. So it was easy enough just to say – letís get back together, sell out a few shows at the – wherever it was – Wembley or whatever, and that was it.

But to do that Terry would have to say to the other guys – you are not in Smokie, you are not Smokie, this is the real Smokie, so you can piss off, Iím gonna do this now, but Iíll come back in a couple of weeks. I donít think he want to do that Ďcos it wouldnít go down so well with the rest of them – thatís the one thing.

Then, it would cost a lot, just to put it all together. We would have to give up everything we were doing even if we said we only do one night. We need a couple of months to get it right before we did the one night. And then – for one night it's not worth it, is it?

I mean, if everybody was of a similar mind – which we are not – and a similar attitude and wanted to do it really, and then we all said – ok, letís do it for a year or two and see how it goes, then it would be a different situation, but that wonít happen. And the thing is – you said before when the people asked you, doesnít he feel like itís important, like he needs to do it – I donít feel like I need to do it at all. I mean, for what reason? Money? Thereís no reason for money, Iím ok anyway and even if I wasnít, I could make more money doing what Iím doing on my own. And I wouldnít do it for money anyway. Success? Yeah, I would do it for success but whoís to guarantee that? It might end up to be crap and then everybody goes – “Uuuuh, what did they do that for? That was awful, wish I would remember them like they used to be”. And I think thatís an important thing, too. People like Smokie, people have a thing about Smokie – because itís a legend from their youth. Thatís what they want to see. Itís like me – when before John Lennon died and George Harrison died, I always wished The Beatles had a comeback together. But I wanted them to come back together the way I wanted it, not the way they might want it. And I wanted to see them come on like the “Fab Four” that they used to be, even though they're a bit older, and come on and play all old songs. And probably if they had it done, their comeback had been different, you know. And then it would have spoiled it. I think, itís best sometimes to leave things as they are.

 Recorded and processed by Stranger. Special thanks to Annie for her invaluable help.
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