Generation on: Rebel Dean
It’s been a couple of years since The Beat magazine interviewed the rockin’ ‘n’ rollin’ singer/actor Rebel Dean, and boy has he been busy since then!
He is the performer who the mighty Darrel Higham was quoted as saying: “Rebel Dean – probably the most successful male Rock n’ Roll artiste in Britain today” and he has certainly been living up to that! TV shows,writing /directing and starring in rockin’ theatre shows, new albums, new videos, documentaries, headlining festivals and much more!
Rebel, probably best known as an actor for his six years as a Rock ‘n’ Roll porter on BBC Casualty in the 90s, Only Fools and Horses, Hollyoaks and other TV shows, starred in Rock ‘n’ Roll musicals, including The West End for legendary Bill Kenwright, The London Palladium and has toured the world, playing live to over 1,000,000 people.
So what’s been happening since we last spoke, Rebel?
Quite a bit! I have produced my own theatre touring Rock ‘n’ roll show, I have written 12 tracks for our new album for Foot Tapping Records, myself and the band have been headlining festivals like ‘The Americana’, I’ve been doing some more TV work and there is a documentary in the pipeline, among other things.
Great. So what drives you as a Rock ‘n’ roll performer?
Well, I’ve always been passionate about getting Rock ‘n’ Roll to the masses, if possible. The club circuit is good, but if we don’t enthuse ‘outsiders’, I think the scene is in danger of shrinking, and if in 10-20 years it didn’t exist, that would be very sad: a bit like Glenn Miller’s big band sound, once huge and then disappeared as a viable night out. So I try to reach as many people I can each time I do something for that reason.
Was it always Rock ‘n’ roll for you?
Oh yes, from a kid. When everyone else was into Punk, New wave, Ska, New romantic etc., I was the different kid in school who was into Elvis, Shaky, Eddie Cochran, Gene Vincent, Everly Brothers and Little Richard. But I never felt the need to ‘fit in’ anyway, which is a kind of Rock ‘n’ Roll attitude in itself. I did actually have a record deal when I was 23, and was encouraged to write and record a pop album which had two vinyl singles released from it, as an attempt to get noticed nationally. Although it was good, it wasn’t really me, so I soon returned to Rock ‘n’ Roll.
So what fired the passion in a young kid for Rock ‘n’ Roll?
My father had played Rock ‘n’ roll and Country records at home, (everything apart from Elvis, strangely). Anyway, I had some birthday money when I was a kid and I bought the “Elvis – Sun Sessions” album from Woolworths one sunny Saturday morning, which changed everything for me. It’s still, to this day, my ‘Desert Island Disc’, its so very beautiful, in every way. The innocence, the excitement, the guitar sound, the vocals, the sleeve notes, the artwork, the rawness, the fun, the echo. It’s all on the original “Sun Sessions” album.
Talking of albums, tell us about your latest album.
I’m very proud of the latest album “Rock ‘n’ Roll Gypsy”, especially as I wrote nine of the 12 songs myself. The massive European distributor ‘Bear Family Records’ reviewed it – “Tremendous steamhammer Rock ‘n’ Roll stuff and heart-melting ballads! No copy cat s**t! Great voice and top notch band!” To say it wasn’t ‘copy cat’ meant so much to me. I was very lucky that Imelda May’s full band with Darrel Higham on lead guitar recorded the whole album with me which, I think, gives it enormous class. BBC Radio’s Geoff Barker also commented: “One of the best Rock ‘n’ Roll albums in a very, very, long time.” So fantastic reviews.
Good stuff. Is there a new album in the pipeline?
Yes. I have been with Foot Tapping Records for about five years and we try to release an originals album every couple of years. I have written all 12 tracks for the new album, called “Millionaire”, which we are working on now, with my band “The Star Cats”. The title track “Millionaire” is not about being financially rich, it’s saying that if you have your health, family and good friends, you are like a millionaire. So it’s a kind of twist on the word really.
Who are the Star Cats and where do you perform?
The Star Cats are my five piece band: Steve Evans on drums, Sean Mc Bride on sax, Brad Jones on lead guitar, Cody Lee Smart on Keyboards and Alan Baker on Double bass. We perform mainly at Weekenders and Festivals, some clubs – all the usual places. We just love to perform, so we’ll go just about anywhere. Give us a call! Just a couple of dates for Rebel Dean and The Star Cats – headlining the “Retro Festival” at Newbury on Saturday, August 12, and we will perform at Hemsby’s “Dont Knock The Rock” Weekender on Sunday, October 15. Maybe see you there. You can find us on facebook too!
Where did the unusual frilly shirt image start?
It was first used on the video for the “Rebellion” album where I played a romantic, retro, ‘hammer horror’-styled gypsy. When we did the “Rock ‘n’ Roll Gypsy” album, I used it for the album cover, so it made sense to continue with it for the stage show, to stand out from the crowd. I’m not a Gypsy by the way, I have friends that are, but I just wanted to create my own style. I didn’t mean for it to be, but it’s really a cross between Eddie Cochran and Johnny Kidd, two stars I admire greatly. I was advised by my agent Paul Barrett to wear peg pants and a bowling shirt, to fit in back at the start, but as I said earlier, I never really fitted in!
Tell us about the theatre tour?
Well, as I’ve been starring in highly-successful theatre touring shows since 1998 around the world, the time came to write, direct, produce and star in one myself – again, taking Rock ‘n’ Roll flavoured music to the masses. It’s called “Whole Lotta Shakin’ – Tribute to the 80s Legend” and is basically charts the rise to stardom in the 70s of Shakin’ Stevens and his 80s hits of which there are about 40 or so. It’s quite nostalgic in its own way, as most of us who grew up in the 80s are now in our 50s. For more info:www.wholelottashakin.co.uk
It must be successful as I hear it has won an award.
Yes, that was quite unexpected. The show is in its third year and we were notified recently that we have been voted No.1 Winner ‘Best tribute show in Britain’ by the ‘National Tribute Awards 2017’. It’s notoriously difficult to get nominated for this award as the requirements are so tough. An enormous amount of work goes into organising a touring show, so we were very pleased to be officially acknowledged as one of the best!
Why do a musical about Shaky?
I think the time is right, the major hits were all in the 80s which is 30-plus years ago and it’s kind of nostalgic for people to re-live their youth sometimes. I wrote the show in 2000 when I starred in “Elvis the Musical” for Bill Kenwright. There were musicals about Buddy Holly, Roy Orbison, Elvis etc., but none for our homegrown Shaky. No matter what anyone thinks, he introduced Rock ‘n’ Roll-flavoured music to a generation that otherwise would probably have never heard it. Not only that, but he is still having hits and has just finished a highly successful tour himself, so why not pay tribute to a British icon and his massive back catalogue of hits, especially as I’ve always been a big fan?
So, you mentioned a documentary and TV work?
Yes, I had some Channel 5 producers call me and said they were interested in filming a documentary about a performer and his home life and they’d chosen me. They had seen my website www.rebeldean.com and thought it would make a great story. For all those people who don’t know me or what I do, it would reach out to a whole new audience, so I am pleased to be in talks about that! As for TV work, my acting agent is often sending me little bits and pieces. In the past year I have appeared in – ‘Father Brown’, ‘Ordinary Lies’ (five episodes), ‘Decline and Fall’ with David Suchet, a new series called ‘Will’ and ‘Agatha Raisin’. So, busy, busy!!
Your first album “Rebellion” for Foot Tapping records is still doing well isn’t it?
Yes, that album is quite amazing. I think it’s because we made 12 professional videos (one for each of the 12 songs I’d written) and then included the special guests – The Jets, Darrel Higham, Charlie Gracie, Slim Jim Phantom, Linda Gail Lewis and backed largely by the great sounding Red Alert band, so we had created something that was not just an ordinary album. That’s why people are still constantly interested in it. This week, it again reached No.1 in the Reverb nation Official Charts! Quite spectacular considering it was released four years ago. It is also available on 36 download sites worldwide too! Thanks to www.foottapping records.co.uk
Do you ever get time to relax?
Ha, ha, not much! I have a pool room at home so friends come around and shoot pool. I spend time with my family whenever I can, and we watch films and things.
We have a five-year-old girl and a 13-year-old boy, who are just realising why people sometimes ask Daddy for an autograph, a photo, or show us a tattoo of my face on their arm etc. They keep my feet firmly on the ground, and chilling with them away from the ‘music and the madness’ is just the best.
To find out more about Rebel Dean go to www.rebeldean.com