Chris Norman's July interviews
Interview on the radio “hr1” 02.07.2011
(with Werner Reinke)

hr1 ...I know that you celebrated your birthday not too long ago in a very remote place...

— Thatís right, I did. Oh God, on my 60th birthday I was travelling between two towns in Russia. And I was on a train, a Russian train... (laughs)

One of them being Nizhniy Novgorod, right?

— Thatís right, Nizhniy Novgorod. What was the other one? I forget that... You know, they get confused... So, midnight. We finished the show by about 10 oíclock or something, and then we got on the train by 11-30 at midnight. Somebody opened a bottle of champagne and we had a cake. Me and the band and the crew and everybody that was with me, we ate cake and had some champagne. And then we tried to get a bit of sleep. Got off at 3 oíclock, got off the train... That was my birthday, 60th birthday (laughs). And everyone said “Did you have a great 60th party?” – “Yes, sure, it was great!” (laughs).

Thatís real professional – you know, celebrating the 60th birthday and not caring about it. Great way! (laughs )

— Either though you could just try, you know, to say that I was just trying to forget about it.

Well, you just released a marvelous, marvelous album “Time Traveller” which we should talk about...

— Thank you very much!

“Chasing Cars”. Was there the intention to create something absolutely new, a new sound about it?

— Yeah, I think with the whole album I tried to do that because... I mean it's a very strange thing to decide to do a covers album in the first place, because you start to think – well, should I or shouldnít I... I first started to think about doing an album in 1991, and I found a list the other day of songs that I had. I'd even got the title which was gonna be “Under The Influence”. Actually Status Quo have done that since, they had an album a few years ago and they called it that. So that was the end of that title. And then I never got round to doing it, you know. And then finally, about a year and a half ago, I decided – when the record company people said to me: “You should do a covers album”. And I thought – I don't know if it's the right thing to do, you know. Anyway, we did it. But the main thing, as you say, was to get everything different, to make sure that I could sort of try to make them my songs rather than just copy the originals. And thatís what we tried to do with the whole album really.

And you succeeded brilliantly!

What about the song “Be My Baby”, when did you hear that?

— Oh my God, the first time I heard that was back in the 60s. It was a Phil Spector Ronettes track and had that typical sound. To be honest with you, that song would never have crossed my mind to do. And the guy that I was working with is the producer Lars Pedersen, a Danish guy. We were swapping ideas and I was sending him my list and then pretty much had most of it. And he said – what about “Be My Baby”?.. And I said – well, “Be My Baby”, you know, how can you do that, itís a Ronettes?.. And he said to me – why, letís just go on with acoustic guitars and do it like it's a Smokie track. And I went – ok, letís see that. So we did. And it's turned out ok, I think.

Chris, what about Mike Oldfield?

— Well, thatís a song that everybody told me “you canít do that one”. And I said – why not? Itís a great song. I mean, it was always, you know, with a girl singer again, like “Be My Baby”. But the thing is I didnít want to do songs that sounded like me already. You know, I mean, somebody said to me: “Oh, you know what you could do, you could do “Itís A Heartache” by Bonnie Tyler”. I said: “What if I do that, I went up sounding like Iím copying Bonnie Tyler!” Because I canít think of any other way to do it, than the way she already did it... or any of those kind of people. So I didnít want to do that. I was better to pick somebody who is completely not like me and then do it, you know. And I always loved “Moonlight Shadow”, that was a great track always, and I still love the original version of it, I still like Maggie Reillyís version. With all that – (singing) and little guitars, with echo on it, and the vocal thing – “moonlight shadow-shadow”, it was like great... But I got rid of all that for mine, and just again, just went through, and thought – ok, weíll just go for it, you know. We sing it like I sing, and see how it comes out. I donít know whether it turned out great or ok or what... Itís difficult to say, you know, Ďcos you are close to it. But I think itís ok, itís definitely worth having to go out.

“19th Nervous Breakdown” from The Rolling Stones – I mean, it takes guts to cover a Rolling Stones tune, doesnít it?

— Well, you know, as I stayed away from the really big ones – I didnít do like “Honky Tonk Woman” or one of those, you know. I like that song, and we used to play that song when I was at school, when I first started, I guess it was coming out in 1965-66. And when Iíve had the first school band we used to do that, in the same way The Stones did it. So I always liked it. But it was one of those again that we had to find a way of doing it, and we just did it like a little... what you would to call it?... like a rockabilly thing. Almost like a rockabilly – (sings), with a shuffle drum thing. And it sounds great, I love it. Itís such a lot of energy in it. When we recorded it – the band was rocking, you know. It was just a great feeling, we did it about 2 or 3 times, and we had it, I mean everybody was just rocking every take. So great!

...And Primal Scream!?

— Yeah! Itís not a lot of people that are aware of that song over here, in Germany. But it was a pretty big hit in England a few years ago, I guess 2005 or 2004. I remember hearing it on the radio in England quite a lot and thinking it sounded like The Rolling Stones, their version of “Country Girl”. And my wife liked it a lot, she used to be always saying “Oh, I love this...”. And at first I was so as just – “they're copying The Stones... Come on!..”, you know, for they grew on me. And so that was just another one I wanted to do. We just slowed it down a bit, made it a kind of bit more bluesy. Thatís a great song, you know, again it was one of those that just made itself, really, once we started into it.

What did Marc Bolan mean to you?

— Well, he was like one of the kings of glam-rock, you know, with him and David Bowie and there were like a few... guess Elton John was kind of part of that, he started a bit earlier but... You know, they were a part of that thing and I kinda liked it. It wasnít really what I was into much but it was ok. I met Mark Bolan a couple of times because he was still around when we were doing the shows and stuff in England, and TV shows. Very nice guy, very, very pleasant man, it was a terrible thing what happened to him, you know. And I actually told him once: “I really like “Get It On”, you know, that's my favourite of yours” – “Oh, thanks man”. You know, he was very humble, very pleased about it. So, the reason I did it on the album was because we used to do it on the soundcheck of gigs. We do like a 12 bar blues sometimes, just to get the sound and the balance and that, before we do any tracks that weíll maybe do at night. We just get like a thing... And one time we were doing like a 12 bar blues in A (sings), and I started singing: “Well you're dirty and sweet, clad in black...”, and I just started to sing “Get It On” over this... And it was sounding great, you know. For we did it more bluesy, and the guitar player started playing these little blues guitar licks in between. And I thought – this is great! And we did it a few times after that. And I thought – if we come and do this album, maybe I should try that. Do it in a kind of a bluesy way, you know. So thatís what we did, and we took it away from that 70s rock thing, glam rock thing and made it in a kind of like a 12 bar blues.

One last song you have on the album, itís a Green Dayís song. I think itís the ideal song to end the album... When I read the lists I read that you really donít stop listening to modern music, to new music.

— No, actually. You know, Iíve got kids, they are so young, early 20s. And they listen to music all the time. So you get that feedback from them and I hear all this stuff from everybody, you know. Thereís some great stuff out there, you know, it makes me mad sometimes when people say “Oh, itís not as good as it used to be, bla-bla-bla...” – itís just because weíre getting old. You know, weíre a different generation and it's nonsense because thereís some great stuff around.

In every time you have great music, thatís what I learned.

— Yes, I agree absolutely. And I think this Green Day Song... I mean the way they did it was kind of... Ďcos they are rock band... it starts slow with a guitar thing and then it gets very heavy (sings) like later on. And I just stripped it right back and thought – well, this song is an emotional ballad really. No matter what else you do with it. I read somewhere that it was written about his father who died some years ago, and I thought – well, itís just an emotional ballad. So letís do it like that. And we actually recorded it live. A piano next to me with a little glass screen between, the piano and a vocal of mike. And I just stood and we did it live. And the piano player followed me when I took a breath and he knew when I was going to come back in. We did 4 takes and we used the first one in the end. It was just the freshest. And the only thing we did after that we just add a cello in the second verse. That was the take, it was the quickest record Iíve ever made! (laughs).

“Wake Me Up When September Ends”. Probably I will wake you up when September ends because you have to start your tour right after that?

— Yes, near enough. I wish I could sleep till that, thatíll be nice. I will after this (laughs)...

© Radio “hr1” (Germany)
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Interview for “” 06.07.2011
(with Axel Heyder)

You are in business for so many years. What keeps your motor running?

— I simply love what I am doing, and as far as I am producing new CDs, I keep on enjoying myself. If I just roamed the world and played the old songs like some other musicians do, I probably would have already stopped.

Do you know each song you ever wrote?

— Over the years I have recorded so many songs, you can't remember them all. You forget complete passages. Sometimes people ask for songs and I ask them “are you sure it's one of my songs at all?” I especially remember songs which mean something to me.

Is there anybody you would like to be your duet partner?

— Actually I am not so keen on singing duets. Tina Turner would be the number one on my list. I would like to play together with Eric Clapton, he is a great guitarist. It would be interesting as well to do a song with this young lady called Helene Fischer. Just recently I saw her on TV. I don't know anything about her apart from the fact that the Germans say she is a “Schlager singer”, but she seems to be a kind of German Celine Dion.

You received so many awards, but which dreams didn't come true?

— Smokie never had a number one album in America. That would be a dream, but it will not come true. At least I would have liked to play a big tour in the big venues of the United States.

What was the reason for that?

— Well, from a present-days perspective this might have been a misjudgement, but in America there is only one “Smokie”. If Americans are talking about Smokie, they mean Smokey Robinson. I realized that when I made a song as “Chris Norman” together with Suzi Quatro. It easily became a hit. As a solo artist I turned down a lot of offers from the States at the time. From a present-day perspective this might have been a mistake, too. My career would have taken a very different course. But on the whole I am very contented, there are not many dreams left.

Did you ever realize that your voice is something special?

— Oh no, people say that, but to me the only thing that matters is the fact that I have a certain kind of musical sense, that's all. When I heard the first review about a Smokie record and the press was talking about the characteristic voice of Chris Norman, I didn't know what they meant. To me my voice sounds normal. I don't even know why people like it, I don't hear that.

Your actual album is called “Time Traveller”. If you had the possibility to do a time travel, to which era would you travel?

— Oh, that's a good question. I am interested in history anyway. There were many: First I would like to watch what I did when I was a young man in the early days of Smokie. Or even travel to the 50s and 60s to find out what I was like as a child and a boy. The period of the two world wars would appeal to me too, as well as the beginning of the 19th century, or the era when Queen Victoria was in power.

© “” (Germany)
 Texts prepared by Annie & Stranger
© 2011