by Ann Giles
Why are so many British singers forced abroad? Audiences in Britain seem too cool to like almost anything, with the possible exception of television talent shows. In fact, why do people love these programmes, while sneering quietly at former favourites?
40 years ago I liked Tony Christie, but lost touch with what he was doing until the Peter Kay Amarillo success a few years ago. Seriously uncool, I found a secondhand greatest hits CD, which soon became popular with my teenager. Hence our shared enthusiasm recently, when we discovered Tony Christie was coming to our local theatre the following evening. We quickly bought some concert tickets (well, not that quickly, seeing as the volunteer ticket seller couldn’t quite cope with her computer, but...).
The theatre was only half full. Those who were there did dance and clap and stamp by the end, but Tony was saying how for many years he lived and toured only on the continent, as people here knew him to be dead! Had it not been for that unexpected Amarillo hit, he’d most likely still be ‘dead’.
Perhaps I wouldn’t have given it any more thought, had Tony’s fate not reminded me too much of that of my all time favourite, Roger Whittaker. 25 years ago Roger used to sing at the theatre round the corner from us. Hearing the best ever singer in concert a five minute walk away from home is a real luxury. Roger returned several times, until the theatre was flattened to make way for a school car park. (We need a perspective of what’s important here.)
Then he stopped coming. Hardly surprising, as even the loveliest of car parks makes for an unattractive concert venue. My next concert was in Copenhagen. The Danes love Roger. After which I bought tickets for a concert in Ireland. They like him too. Roger did venture back to Britain briefly, but no closer to Manchester than Bradford or Wales.
And that was it, so we turned to his German concerts. The first one, in Hannover, got the whole family jumping, singing and generally feeling great. The Germans love their singers and they know how to have a good time. They sing and dance in the aisles unlike the British fans.
So it was back to Germany for Roger’s next tour, and the next again. That was this May, and maybe it really was his last last tour. I’ve lost count, but believe it was Roger’s third farewell tour. Saying goodbye this time he looked as though it really was goodbye and not Auf Wiedersehen.
He sings in German, and he chats in German. And they love him for it, which explains the many tours. The usually elderly audiences might hobble in, but they dance on the way out. The women on our train sang and wriggled as they disembarked.
I interviewed Roger in Cologne two years ago. He didn’t say so explicitly, but I believe he’s disappointed in his ‘home’ audience. And I often think about that. Where are the fans? Why do great stars have to find a loving fan base elsewhere?
However, having said that, should Roger ever tour again, I would rather fly to Germany than walk five minutes. ‘Ein Bißchen Aroma..!’