Paul Young, English singer, songwriter and musician, chats with Kevin Cooper about his tour of America with old friend Midge Ure, his love of cooking, the 35th anniversary of his debut album No Parlez and his tour of the UK later this year.

Paul Young is an English singer, songwriter and musician.

Formerly the frontman of the short-lived bands Kat Kool & the Kool Cats, Streetband and The Q-Tips, he was turned into an 80s teen idol by his subsequent solo success. He is famous for hit singles such as Love Of The Common People, Wherever I Lay My Hat (That’s My Home), Come Back And Stay, Every Time You Go Away and Everything Must Change, all reaching the top ten of the UK Singles Chart.

Released in 1983, his debut album No Parlez, the first of three UK number-one albums, made him a household name. At the 1985 Brit Awards, Young received the award for Best British Male.

In July 1985, Young appeared at Live Aid at Wembley Stadium. Amongst other songs he performed That’s The Way Love Is with Alison Moyet. Since the mid-1990s, he has performed with his band Los Pacaminos, performing initially in bars and clubs before progressing to theatres.

After a lengthy absence of recorded material, Young released an album of vintage soul songs in 2016 called Good Thing produced by Arthur Baker, and began a lengthy period of tours and festival appearances. He is still touring around the world with his band.

Whilst putting the final touches to his forthcoming tour of the UK, he took some time out to have a chat with Kevin Cooper and this is what he had to say.

Paul, good morning how are you?

Hi Kevin I’m very well thank you, how are you today?

All is good here thank you and before we move on let me just thank you for taking the time to speak to me today.

Not a problem, thank you for your time.

And I have to say that you have made me feel very old this morning.

Why is that then, is it because of the thirty five year anniversary of No Parlez (laughter)?

No, I was trying to work out when I very first saw you and it was back in 1980 when The Q-Tips supported The Who at Wembley Arena.

Oh yes, well that feels more like forty years (laughter).

Well I have to tell you that I’m an old soulie at heart so everything that you did with The Q-Tips was brilliant in my eyes.

Thank you, that’s always nice to hear. But it was such a very long time ago now.

Staying on the subject of things being both made and done a long time ago now, can you believe that it is thirty-five years since the release of your debut solo album No Parlez?

(Laughter) well yes, because I did see it coming (laughter). We re-released the album after twenty-five years and then again after thirty tears. So it was only a matter of time.

The album spent five weeks at number one here in the UK, spent a hundred and nineteen weeks in the UK top hundred and was certified quadruple platinum. Not bad for a debut album.

No not at all. That really isn’t so bad is it?

I was recently speaking to Nick Heyward and I said to him that in my opinion No Parlez and Pelican West were probably the best two debut albums that I have ever heard.

Wow, what can I say to that (laughter). Being honest with you I never knew that it was going to be a pop album and throughout all the time that I was recording it I still never really knew that it would finish off as a pop album. I always believed that I was making something different and that for me it was a definite move on from The Q-Tips. It was very musical at the same time, especially when you consider the standard of the players that were on it, but that doesn’t always mean to say that you are going to make a good pop record just because you have good players. So all in all I was very pleased with it.

How long did it take you to record the album?

The problem was that we did it in bumps and starts. For some reason the record company would only let me record three tracks at a time. So it was in the studio, out of the studio, in to do a bit more, then back out again. Then all of a sudden Wherever I Lay My Hat (That’s My Home) went to number one here in the UK and then the record company threw me back into the studio and said “quick, complete the album as it might go silver” (laughter).

Were you always happy with the album right form the word go?

Oh yes, I always was happy with what we were doing. I mean there are always things that you would change and when we did the track Sex, I had already made a demo of it and the demo was much simpler, a bit more African sounding and a little darker. Then when we appeared on The Tube we decided to perform the then current single which was Love Of The Common People and Sex. When we got back from that Laurie the producer of the album said “it was fantastic how you played Sex on The Tube. That’s the way that you should record it on the album”. And although I like how it is on the album, I still love the original demo version. Apart from that, I was very happy with everything else on the album.

Will the record company be doing anything special in order to commemorate the albums thirty-fifth anniversary?

You know what, there has been no mention of this at all and I am sad to say that there are no plans to do anything special at this moment in time. I personally think that it is something that I need to have a conversation with Sony about.

I personally feel that the occasion certainly shouldn’t go unrecognised should it?

No, not really, no.

You have mentioned Wherever I Lay My Hat, as soon as the record company released that track, suddenly everybody was talking about Paul Young.

Yes that’s right, they were.

I have to say that I think that Pino Palladino’s bass playing is sublime.

Yes it was, I have to agree with you on that point and say yes it was and it was quite interesting when he came into the group. We had seen Pino play with Jools Holland so we knew what he was capable of. But once he came into the studio and started work on the track, we actually changed a lot of what was going on around the part that he was creating.

And it is probably one of the most recognisable openings to a song.

Oh yes, most definitely.

Did you ever get any feedback from the writers of the song, Barrett Strong and Norman Whitfield?

No I didn’t, not from Barrett and Norman but I did get feedback from Marvin Gaye’s brother. He told me that Marvin had heard my version of the song and that he liked it. Unfortunately, I never heard it from the man himself which would have been absolutely amazing. However, I did actually meet Lamont Dozier many years later and he said that he thought that it was great and he loved it.

My favourite track on the album is actually the title track, No Parlez, and forgive me for saying this but I think that it has got an industrial feel to it. Does that make sense?

Yes it does, those big synth sounds that come in, they are quite expansive. I know exactly what you mean.

Do you have a favourite track?

Because I have heard the singles and have performed them so many times now, it is hard for me to get excited about them so whenever I play the album I would probably hop over those and go straight to Ku Ku Kurama. That has to be one of my favourites and another track that I think was just a great piece of perfect pop but it just didn’t catch was Iron Out The Rough Spots.

Written by Steve Cropper, Booker T. Jones and David Porter and originally recorded by Don Covay & The Goodtimers.

That’s the one. You certainly know your stuff, perhaps you should come down and join our pop quiz team (laughter)

I was fortunate enough to interview Steve Cropper a couple of years ago now and I have to tell you that I sat there with my mouth open the whole time (laughter).

(Laughter) well let me tell you, I did that as well (laughter). I was asked to interview Steve by a UK radio station while he was over here, and I have to be honest with you and say that I found it very hard too.

People ask me why I found that particular interview so difficult and I tell them that I was talking to the man who co-wrote one of the best songs ever written with one of the best voices that ever lived.

You are obviously talking about Otis Redding and (Sittin’ On) The Dock Of The Bay right?

Yes that’s right, it really is a classic, and is simply timeless. Whenever Steve tells you about sitting with Otis under a tree, overlooking the bay, whilst they were writing the song, it’s the stuff that dreams are made of.

It is really, yes I totally agree.

You are going to be touring the UK later in the year with your 35 Years Of No Parlez tour. Are you looking forward to that?

Yes I am, very much so.

Does touring still excite you?

Yes it does, it really does and that’s why I am never off the road really (laughter). I always get a buzz from touring, I love it.

I recently interviewed Burt Bacharach and he said that the events of 9/11 had, for him at least, taken all the joy out of touring. He said that you are now spending so much time being searched and hanging around airports that it really had soiled the whole experience for him. Having said that he is now ninety years old.

That’s right, and I know what my dad was like. Him and my mum used to go to Spain every year, and then one day out of the blue he suddenly announced “I can’t be bothered any more, it’s too much hassle” and he never went again. However, for me flying is a small part of what I do. So I will fly over to America but then the rest of the time is spent in a bus driving and I have to say that I love that side of it. I love just sitting there, looking out of the window, especially as America has a slightly different landscape to the UK, particularly when you get down to the South-West. I love that area. And basically, although I have done the East coast and I will be doing the West coast which I love, a bit more, what I really enjoy is when we are driving through Arizona and Mexico in order to get to Texas. I really do love it down there. Flying to Australia is one flight and you are there. And then once you are there you are spending your time in all of these great cities so, I will put up with the flying side of things just as long as I get to the destination.

On the tour will you be playing the album as it was recorded some thirty-five years ago?

Well we will be as much as possible. I have only got as far as playing the whole album from start to finish and making notes. So it is early days at the moment and it is too early to say whether or not we will be able to recreate all of those synth sounds as quite a few of the synths that we used on the album are no longer manufactured. The sad point is that we were not able to save any of those sounds because it was a case of twisting knobs until you got the kind of sound that you liked. The problem then was trying to recreate those sounds every night when we played live. It really was quite difficult to recreate those sounds. So we will just have to wait and see.

You mention playing the album through from start to finish, is it all coming back to you or are you having to re-learn certain tracks?

To be honest with you I would say that I will have to re-learn forty percent of the material on the album. I have done, and I am still doing, Come Back And Stay, Love Will Tear Us Apart, Wherever I Lay My Hat, Love Of The Common People and No Parlez. So that is five songs off the album, and I have got another six that I will have to go back and re-learn.

Do you have any ideas regarding a support act as yet?

(Laughter) lord no. That is still way off (laughter). I am still working on the finer details of my forthcoming American tour with Midge (Ure) together with the live album by Los Pacaminos which is coming out shortly. At the moment I am looking at artwork, font design, running orders; there is just so much stuff on at the moment.

You mention Los Pacaminos and I have to say that I have seen you a couple of times now and have had a great evening on both occasions.

Thank you for saying that. We really do have a great time whenever we get together. People don’t really understand how great it is, words can’t describe until you actually go along and see it. It is very hard to describe to people what it is like. They still refer to it as being country, no it’s certainly not country, and it really is nothing like country (laughter). Its Tex-Mex, its Americana and it is songs with a lot of joy and it really is a great night out.

I have to ask you about Live Aid. Everyone that I speak to who performed on the day tells me that the event went by so fast that they can’t remember anything. What can you remember?

Well what I will say is that the events of the day are not clear at all. I defy anybody to remember what happened during that day because it was an unholy mess from start to finish. There were people running around not knowing what they were doing simply because it was the very first time that anything had been done of that magnitude. The only things that I remember are probably the things that I have seen being shown back on the TV screen or YouTube or something like that. I think that I can remember them when in actual fact I most probably can’t (laughter).

From what you can remember did you enjoy the day or did you find it nerve-wracking?

It was a kind of blink and it’s over moment although it lasted all day. I sometimes look back on it and think ‘wow, did that really happen’ (laughter). It really was madness form start to finish. It was a rush, there were no sound checks, you did your slot, you got off stage and then ten minutes later after I came off stage I was being told “can you get out of the dressing room because Queen want to come in” (laughter). It really was madness from start to finish. It was interviews, interviews and even more interviews and then all of a sudden it was over.

I remember seeing you perform That’s The Way Love Is the old Marvin Gaye track with Alison Moyet.

Yes that was a really nice surprise. My manager was also looking after Alison at the time and he told me that whilst Alison didn’t have a band at that time she really did want to do something on the day. So he hatched a plot that we should do something together.

I was recently looking at the Band Aid video and during recording you turned to the late Rick Parfitt, whispered something into his ear which made the two of you giggle like naughty schoolboys. Can you remember just what you said to him?

(Hysterical laughter) you must be joking (laughter). You are asking me to remember one thing that I said thirty five years ago (laughter). Anyway, if I did I couldn’t possibly tell you what I said.

You have briefly mentioned the American tour with Midge Ure. You and he seem to get along fantastically well.

Yes we do, Midge is wonderful. We have never before spent this amount of time together but we have drifted in and out of each other’s lives all of the time. His first born was born on the same day as my first born so we have always felt a certain kinship that we both became dads on the same day at almost the same time. He is a very nice guy; he really is a musician’s musician. There is no pretentiousness that goes on with someone like him. Whenever I get the chance to tour with Midge it is always a very comfortable trip.

I have to tell you that knowing that I was going to be speaking to you today, I have been revisiting 2016’s Good Thing; an album that I think is a great piece of work.

Thank you, thank you so much, that really means a lot to me. That particular album as you most probably know was a collaboration between veteran producer Arthur Baker and top musician and producer James Hallawell. I was particularly happy with Good Thing. That was another album similar to No Parlez where it was done in bumps and starts. I would work on the album whenever I could between playing shows abroad. Each time that I came back to it things started to change. So it started off quite programmed, then it was slightly less programmed and more real, and then it finally ended up being played by a completely new band from when I first started recording the vocals (laughter). All in all it was good fun.

You have appeared on both Celebrity MasterChef and Hell’s Kitchen so I have to ask you, where did your love of cooking come from?

That’s easy, it was simply down to all of the travelling that I was doing. Also the organist in The Q-Tips, Ian Kewley, was a very good cook and we would always be going round to his house for something to eat. All of the band loved Indian food and Ian made it really well. He would always be asking us if we were definitely going round to his for something to eat because if we were going round he would prepare and marinate the food the night before. At that time I had never heard of anything like that.

I remember once that Ian invited me and Tony (Hughes) the trumpet player in The Q-Tips over to his for a meal. I said “yes we are coming over to yours to eat, but we are meeting a couple of girls afterwards so can we eat early” to which Ian replied “you won’t be going anywhere” and he was right (laughter). We stood the girls up and lay on the floor by his fire as we were too full to get out of the house (laughter). From then on whenever we were out on the road touring Ian would always try to find somewhere nice for us to go and eat which very quickly became my thing. When you work hard, you need to give yourself something nice to look forward to when you have got a day off. For me it is always finding a nice place to eat with a nice bottle of wine.

Putting you on the spot, what would be your favourite dish to prepare and present?

That would have to be Poblana Morla which is a Mexican dish and a firm favourite of mine. In fact I made some a couple of months ago now and I froze the sauce so I can just pull it out of the freezer and have it anytime that I want.

After the music, could you ever envisage yourself being a restaurateur?

No not as a career but I can most definitely see it as a side-line. I really do like the idea of having my own place although I don’t know if it will ever happen. I have been dreaming about it now for over ten years and I think that now, all of a sudden, I am so busy that I realise that being a musician means that you have to constantly be on the road. That is now our way of earning money. So I think that it is harder and harder to imagine running a restaurant, therefore it has got to be a self-sufficient thing.

I was recently speaking to Chris Difford (Squeeze) and I asked him a similar question because he is currently writing children’s books, and he shocked me to be honest with you. He said “there is more to life than Squeeze”. I have always thought of Chris Difford as being an integral part of Squeeze along with Glenn Tilbrook. But no, he would be quite happy to turn his back on the music business.

We have all got other things that we like, and I honestly think that every musician feels the same way. To me the Paul Young career isn’t the be all and end all of what I do. I have got Los Pacaminos, I’ve got cooking; I have got any number of things on the go. Music is the most successful part of my life but it’s not the only thing that I can do. I don’t want to be a one trick pony. So I have got hobbies, I’ve got likes and dislikes, and I like them to be a part of my life. It’s funny that you should mention Chris because what I am working on at the moment is the Los Pacaminos live album and Chris Difford is a guest on one of the songs (laughter). We did a Tex-Mex version of Take Me I’m Yours and Chris got up and sang it. It was absolutely fantastic (laughter).

Chris always looks so miserable whenever you see him up on stage but when you actually get to speak to him, whilst he is very dry, he is also quite humorous.

(Laughter) I know exactly what you mean and that’s why I call him the Jack Dee of music (laughter).

That sums Chris up perfectly (laughter). You mention hobbies, are you still into your motor bikes?

Yes I am, I have still got my trusty 1971 Harley-Davidson Electra Glide motorbike. In fact I took her out for a Sunday ride just the other day. I used to like all things vintage; I had a 1954 pickup truck for about ten years, which I had restored piece by piece but I am back to having just the bike now.

Have you ever thought of doing the Route 66 Motorcycle Tour?

I have but they have now shut so many parts of Route 66 that it is now quite difficult to do the run. To me the Route 66 ride is quite a loner’s ride. I know that a lot of people do it with a lot of other bikers but to be honest I don’t know a whole load of other bikers. The ones that I know are pretty much all solo riders.

What was the first record that you bought?

To be honest with you that is really hard to say. However, thinking about it, the absolute truth is that I bought Be Mine by Lance Fortune on PYE Records and I actually bought it in a penny jumble sale (laughter). It had nothing to do with whether I liked it or not but that was my very first record. The best bit is that I didn’t even have a record player to play it on (laughter).

Who did you first see performing live in concert?

That was one of the best live bands that I have ever seen. The first band that I saw performing live was Slade. Noddy Holder had such a powerful voice they simply blew me away.

Who has inspired you musically along the way?

Free were the first band that I truly loved and to this day I still think that they were the most underrated band and they should have been much bigger than they were. I think the problem was that they had their success when they were a bit too young and inexperienced. I also thought that perhaps they didn’t have the right manager but they were an incredible band.

On that note Paul let me once again thank you for taking the time to speak to me today, it’s been fantastic. Take care and I will see you soon.

Thank you Kevin, I have really enjoyed our chat today and I will see you at The Birmingham Town Hall on 3rd October. Bye for now.