Pop legend Shakin’ Stevens is coming to the Cambridge Corn Exchange
Less than three weeks shy of his 69th birthday, Shakin’ Stevens is still going strong. His most recent release, the 10-track Echoes of Our Times – a record that blends blues, roots, Americana and classic rock – came out last September and is a look back at his life and family history.
Born Michael Barratt in Cardiff on March 4, 1948, Shaky – as he is commonly known – was the youngest of 11 children.
As a teenager in the mid-1960s, he formed his first rock and roll band with school friends and became its vocalist and frontman.
The Cambridge Corn Exchange will play host to the UK’s biggest-selling singles artist of the 1980s – who, it has to be said, looks very good for his age – on May 27 for what will be the penultimate date of his biggest ever UK tour.
Shaky has started rehearsing for the gigs and is planning to perform all of the songs on Echoes of Our Times, as well as some of his hits, lesser-known album tracks and tunes he’s never performed live before.
“The majority of the tracks came from researching the family,” he said of the new album, his 12th studio effort. “I had ancestors down in Cornwall. There are stories about my dad, who was in the First World War, and my uncle – he was in the First World War as well. So the stories came from that.
“Behind Those Secrets and Lies is about families – families have always got secrets and lies. We found Methodist preachers in the family – hence Spread the Word. The Fire in Her Blood is about Florence Jessie, my grandmother, who was in the Salvation Army, and I’ve still got family members in the Salvation Army today – and so on.”
Proceeds from his 2015 Christmas single, Echoes of Merry Christmas Everyone, were donated to the Salvation Army UK.
Shaky doesn’t get back to Wales as much as he used to, though there are two Welsh stops on the upcoming 34-date tour (in Cardiff and Llandudno).
Of his return to Cambridge, he said: “I haven’t done the Corn Exchange for a while so it will be nice to go back. The last time I was on tour was about five years ago, but I’ve been doing live dates in other places and concentrating on albums and things.”
A follow-up to Echoes of Our Times is in the pipeline. Shaky said: “We’ve started already with ideas and there’s still a lot of researching to do on the family – never a quiet moment.”
A look at the list of Shaky’s charted singles, both in the UK and abroad, makes for impressive reading. From Marie Marie in 1980 to The Best Christmas Of Them All in 1990, he racked up 25 top 20 hits on the UK singles chart, including the number ones This Ole House, Green Door, Oh Julie and Merry Christmas Everyone.
“I like Turning Away [a number 15 hit in 1986] – I think that’s a really good track,” said Shaky when asked which of the older material he enjoys singing live, “and Radio [number 37 in 1992], I guess – that was my last single with the label.”
The fact that Shakin’ Stevens is the top-selling singles artist in the UK from 1980 to 1990 is a pretty impressive feat.
“Yes, it is,” he agreed, “but I worked my way up. For me to have my first hit, it took me a long time. I started when I left school but it didn’t come overnight.”
Shakin’ Stevens will appear at the Cambridge Corn Exchange on Saturday, May 27. This is a 14+ event Tickets: £37.75/£25.25. Box office: 01223 357851 or cambridgelivetrust.co.uk