Thursday, 20 March 2014
IT'S ALL OVER NOW WITH MANDY AND DAME SHIRLEY BASSEY GOES WILD!
The demand for Mandy was still extraordinary, there was hardly a day that we weren’t either flying off somewhere for a TV show or spending the day at some photographic studio for yet another glossy magazine article. Wherever Mandy went the paparazzi turned out in force. Mandy couldn't go to the toilet without her photo appearing in the front of the morning papers! All was putting terrible pressure on her young shoulders and was beginning to really get to her, as I said, I started to notice bad eating habits begin to form , she continued to ask me if I thought she was putting on weight? Unfortunately, if anything, she was losing weight. Mandy wouldn’t except that and kept eating very little. By this time I was getting very worried. Mandy being Mandy handled herself publically brilliant and as soon as she was working you couldn’t tell anything was wrong. We could be having a row in the car on the way to a job but as soon as the cameras rolled she would light up like a Christmas tree. (photo: Mandy making one of her now routeen Europian TV apperances))
We were now spending a lot of time together, she had broken up with Keith, who was left heartbroken. By this time Mandy was beginning to distrust everything and everyone believing they were just using her for what they could get. She was getting more and more difficult to manage!
I secured a very important job for her to fly to Tobago to do a photo shoot for Harpers and Queen, one of the worlds most prestigious magazines, I knew this was really a very big step forward for Mandy's career and meant she was making inroads to being accepted by the establishment. The photographer, again, was the brilliant Andrew Macpherson; remember he was in charge of the Vanity Fair shoot and knew Mandy could be moody. We were accompanied by a crew of approx 10 including makeup, a hairdresser, stylists and a team from the H&P. We stayed at a magnificent five star hotel (the name has slipped my mind) each room was a thatched chalet in the hotels stunning grounds. I remember on our arrival we were gathered in the foyer for our room allocation, when it came to Mandy she was told she was to share a room with one of the makeup girls. To everyone's surprise she refused point blank and insisted that she would be sharing my room, saying that I had promised her mum that I would look after her. I just stood there not knowing which way to look knowing exactly what everyone must be thinking (You the readers can STOP now thinking anything untoward, it was a suit with separate bedrooms!!!!)
The trip was not a very happy time for Mandy, she just wasn’t enjoying it and everyone could tell. We always had to leave very early for location shots on the Island so we could take advantage of the morning light which meant long exhausting days under the hot sun. I remember one day driving back from a glorious location called Pidgin beach when the crew wanted to stop off for a cool drink at a small roadside bar which was swimming with the wonderful sounds of reggae music and a load very colourful Rastafarians, the place was thick with the smoke coming from the reefers that were been freely passed around, everyone one started to drink the local, illegal and highly potent Poteen (like the Irish Potcheen) and insisted I had a glass or two. It tasted like what I imagined rocket fuel tasted like and had the same desired effect!! All I remembered was my legs left the bar before my top half did!!!
Mandy and myself rowed a lot on this trip and I was glad to board the BWI airways flight back to UK in fact I didn’t even know if Mandy was going to sit next to me until she boarded the plane plonked herself down and apologised for her moods. That was Mandy for you. I realised our time together was coming to an end, she just wasn’t enjoying this celebrity life and I was finding it harder to manage her.
It was that very evening that Stock, Aitken and Waterman’s struggling careers made a dramatic turn around, shortly they became one of the biggest selling writers and music producers in Europe!!!
The pressure of work and the constant rows that were now occurring more frequently between Mandy and myself were to finally drive us apart. Managing her was now practically impossible. Mandy was not enjoying the whole fame thing, her health was also suffering, I was beginning to turn down jobs. I believe our eventual split up was as much my fault as hers and we simply drifted apart. Mandy went on to record a couple more songs for PWL before finally stopping. It was such a shame because she was such a talented girl and I believed if she had gone on she would have become hugely successful as an actress.
Our paths were to cross twice again over the coming years. She was to be guest on my TV show in Spain in 1995,
The second occasion was when Mandy and her sister Nicola worked on a magazine I launched in Manchester, that was back in 2005. I haven't really heard or spoke to her since.
As most of you know Mandy married Bill when she was eighteen and divorced him two years later. During her time married to Bill she continued to suffer health problems ending up in hospital at one time.
In conclusion to my Mandy Smith Story: Would Bill Wyman be arrested today for what he had done, absolutely, but I will leave this question up to Mandy as she had told the Mail on Sunday only a few years ago: ‘People aren’t as protective of celebrities nowadays and if this had happened recently I think Bill would have ended up in prison. I can’t think of it as child abuse. If I did I wouldn’t have been able to move on. But I’m reminded of it on a regular basis. 'Things I hear on TV about young girls, different scenarios with older men, rape... But he fell in love with me so I can’t look at it as sordid or wrong. I did sleep with Bill Wyman when I was 14... but now the only man in my life is God'.
Mandy married and divorced footballer Pat Van den Hauwe. In 2001, she was briefly engaged to fashion model Ian Mosby with whom she had a son, beautiful son Max. She is now single and happy. I would never hear a bad word said about her, she is a very special person.
I was now back at home in Marbella and wondering what I was going to do with my life, what would be my next big thing? The time spent on the Mandy Smith circus now felt so unreal. I would lay in bed nights remembering the excitement and amazing times we had, the lows and the highs, but it was now all over and time to move on and get back to reality. Although at times it was very difficult, I don't regret one moment and given the choice I would do it all over again.
Dedicating this part of My Story to the late great Martin Rushent. Many a wild time we had! RIP
I had made great contacts in the media world during my time in London and many lasting friendships which I hoped that I would be able to call on in the future. One of them was with record producer Martin Rushent who owned Genetic Studios. These were residential studios housed in a magnificent thatched mansion in Goring and Streatley, Reading. Martin had produced many hit records for bands like Human League, Dr Feelgood, the Stranglers etc. I had spent some time with Martin just after the Mandy period at his studios messing around which included me co writing a song with Joe Callis, keyboard player with the Human League, called Cruel and recording a cover version of the Troggs Wild Thing.
I explained about Genetic Studios etc. to Dame Shirley who told me she was going back to UK at the end of the week and could possibly come up to the studios the following week.
After leaving Shirley I called Martin Rushent to tell him the news that Dame Shirley Bassey was coming to his studios next week to record Cruel, his first words were; “Have you been drinking?” Thankfully in the end he believed me and the stage was prepared for the great lady’s recording.
As I said Genetic Studios is a residential studio so Dame Shirley and her assistant planned to stay overnight. Around 5pm a chauffeur driven limousine with blacked out windows pulled up outside the thatched mansion and out stepped Dame Shirley
After dinner we made our way to the studios which were housed in a standalone building in the grounds of the mansion. Next to the studios was another residential building that was then being used by Roy Thomas Baker who was currently cutting an album in studio one with the American group East of Eden. Thomas Baker is responsible for some of the greatest hits to come out of UK including the Grammy award winning Bohemian Rhapsody by Queen and hits for The Rolling Stones, David Bowie, The Who and T’Pau to name but a few.
As soon as Shirley prepared to record a difficult problem occurred, she explained she never uses headphones and wanted speakers in the sound booth, this would cause a serious problem as the backing track would bleed onto her voice microphone (sorry, this sounds very technical but anyone who knows about studio recording will appreciate this difficulty) Martin sorted it out and in less than four takes the voice track was laid down she was brilliant a true professional. After a few playbacks we all went back to the main house where we joined Roy Thomas Baker and East of Eden who were celebrating the completion of their album by enjoying drinks and a buffet supper. Although it was almost 1:30am Dame Shirley stayed up and joined in the fun
Around 2am Shirley called myself and Martin aside and asked about the B side of the record as she insisted that it should NOT be just a musical version of the A side (this went on a lot in the music industry at the time so the writers could claim all the royalties without having to pen another song) All we had finished was the backing track of Wild Thing and as Dame Shirley was leaving the next morning it was all we could offer her. As ridiculous as it seemed and hard to ever imagine Dame Shirley Bassey does the Troggs!!!! But to our surprise she was game for it. So armed with beers and bottles of wine we made our way back up to the studios. Bassey recorded Wild thing in just two takes!!! You can listen to it and the video below. (Interesting to note, when Bassey’s version of Wild Thing was eventually to make its way onto Youtube some of the comments questioned that in fact was it Shirley Bassey or just a sound-a-like, but I can assure those doubters it IS Dame Shirley Bassey) .
Shirley Bassey has a reputation of being rather hard to handle but all I can say from my experience she was more than cooperative on every suggestion and a lot of fun, in fact we spent a lot of time enjoying a good laugh during her stay at the studios
After returning to London Shirley called to asked me to telephone her management as they needed to talk to me. I called them thinking how excited they must be with my plan to launch Shirley Bassey into a younger market, in fact I had planned that she should come back to the studios to record an album which I had the idea of calling it The Bitch Is Back which would include her recording a cover of that same song by Elton John, Shirley loved the idea. With that in mind I couldn’t of been more shocked when her management tore strips off me for getting Shirley to trivialise her career by recording these 'These silly little songs’ as they described them. They told me that Bassey’s total career was being put at risk and I should forget any work with her in the future and that there was NO chance of these recordings seeing the light of day! They just simply hung up!! I never saw or heard from Dame Shirley again.
To be continued.....