READING A STORY ON DAME SHIRLEY BASSEY IN TODAY'S BRITISH PRESS REMINDED ME OF MY TIME WITH ONE OF THE WORLDS GREATEST FEMALE SINGERS...
THIS IS AN EXTRACT FROM 'MY STORY': One afternoon I had pulled into the car park of one of Marbella’s most exclusive apartment complexes where I had been invited to friends for lunch. As I got out of my car a red convertible pulled up beside me driven by Dame Shirley Bassey no less! As she got out I gave her a friendly smile, she smiled back and started to unload shopping bags from the boot of her car, I could see that she was struggling, and as the gentleman I am, I immediately offered to help her carry the shopping up to her apartment, she gratefully accepted my offer. Once I unloaded the shopping Dame Shirley invited me to stay for a drink. We sat on her terrace enjoying a drink and chat. After some Marbella small talk we got around to music and I asked her, her thoughts about Dusty Springfield current recording of a Pet Shop Boys penned; What Have I Done which had just topped the UK music charts? . She told me she loved the song. I then asked her why she hadn’t recorded anything away from her jandra of songs Like Goldfinger and Hey Big Spender etc? Would she not have liked to do something more current? She told me she would like to go back into the studio and try something more up to date but hadn’t been offered anything that she liked. As bold as brass I told her I had penned a song called Cruel and would love her to hear it, in fact I told her I had the cassette in my car, she agreed to listen to it and within minutes myself and Dame Shirley were listening to my song, it was all pretty surreal sitting here with one of the world's iconic female singers listening to my silly song. There was a pregnant pause when the tape finished before she smiled and said she would like to give it a go and where would we do it. I nearly fell off my seat. After all it was only a short time ago I had met Dame Shirley by carrying her shopping in and now we were planning her recording MY song!!!
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
dressed in a dark blue velvet track suit and a turban style headgear (See photo). She was full of smiles and greeted Martin like long lost friends, it was only then did Martin tell me he had engineered a Bassey track back in ’75 on a song called Good, Bad but Beautiful.
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)
THE DAME LETS RIP WITH 'WILD THING' .
HER MANAGEMENT TELL ME TO FUCK OFF BUT NOT IN THOSE EXACT WORDS:
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.