He only wanted to rock and roll
By David Parker
Looking back over 60 years, Marty Wilde has many memories and achievements, not least of all his MBE which will be presented to him this month.
He is looking forward to the day, and he has had a new suit made, but he is taking his wife, Joyce, and two daughters, Kim and Roxanne.
“It’s a day for the ladies to wear their fancy hats and fine dresses,” Marty said, with a touch of mischief in his voice.
He was one of the original originals of rock and roll from the 1950s when pop music was becoming a worldwide phenomenon, of course. Now, in his late seventies, he is entitled to do fewer shows, so he chooses to perform less and keep the summer months clear. But he paces himself and averages three performances a week in the winter.
He starts a new Flying Music tour later this year with Eden Kane, Mike Berry and Mark Wynter – a repeat of last year’s successful concert series.
“I will only do so much each year and I like to keep fit to be able to put 101% into each show,” Marty said.
He’s come a long way from his roots in skiffle aged 15, when, even then, he aimed at becoming ‘professional’ and a rock and roll star. He had his own group, but was influenced by Bill Haley and Elvis Presley.
To stop the threat of the US Invasion, Marty was persuaded to put on suits and sing ballads and act nicely, even when the fans were screaming and fainting.
Other upcoming artists were turned into young posh stars, and the tragic talented Billy Fury was one of them, Marty remembers. He also worked closely with Joe Brown and they became solo artists and good friends, giving up their bands, to a large extent.
“It was a shame in a way, as I had more to offer, but I also did films and stage shows and tried to expand my act by doing other things in the industry. In many ways, I wish I’d stuck to rock and roll.”
Marty and Joe were a great team working together and they had a huge fan base worldwide.
“The one thing that links us is our phenomenal love of music: we love all types of music, even today’s songs. I did not want to be an actor – I wanted to write songs and I realised I could do it.”
On some of the hits he wrote, such as ‘Bad Boy’, he teamed up with songwriter Ronnie Scott. Remember ‘Love Me, Love My Dog’? (Pete Shelley).
Joe also has a talented musical family, daughter Sam and son Peter. Joe, who is two years younger than Marty, and like him, plays several instruments, was also awarded and MBE. He celebrates his 60 years in show business next year. Both were signed to Larry Parnes early in their careers.
Years later, Marty started writing with his son, Ricky, but he has four children, Kim (born 1960), Ricky (born 1961), Roxanne (born 1979) and Marty Jr (born 1983), who shares a love of golf with his father, and became a professional. All have the Wilde talent for music and songwriting. Remember ‘Kids In America’?
“Music is Nature’s gift to me. When The Beatles came along, times became difficult and we (the solo artists) felt we all needed to be with a band. But people kept coming back to rock and roll, and the ballads, so we never left it. I still have to do all the old stuff.
“Some of the music and the songs written today in the pure pop field are appalling, with repetitive lyrics. But there is some great music around among the bubblegum. I tell the writers they need to find new good chord sequences and new chords.
“I know I’m lucky – or fortunate – in my songwriting. It gave me independence and I could pick up and choose what work I wanted to do. In the early days, we all worked hard, and I still work hard. I get tired towards the end of tours, and years ago, I lost weight on tours, and my mother would tell me about it.
“These days, I don’t know why some of the (60s) artists and bands work so hard. I spend hours on the golf course and it suits my temper and my attitude to the game. I love it with a passion: it’s like loving someone, but it keeps smacking you in the backside.”
(Marty’s handicap is 17, he admits.)
He plays down his undoubted talent for music.
“Talent is not rare, and probably one million people don’t realise they have it. I climbed up the wall and looked over it and got over to the other side. Health plays a big part in our lives, especially at this point. I am a lucky guy, positive, dedicated but always hard-working,” he admitted.
But it was not all endless days of wall-to-wall fun and laughter. In the early days, Marty had a cold and lonely life and I described it in an article years ago as ‘The loneliness of the long-distance singer’. “It was like living in a goldfish bowl. We played to packed audiences going crazy, but when the curtains closed, there was total silence.
We’d be whisked back to a hotel, and while others went out on the town, we’d be left in our rooms with the loneliness,” he recalled.
Being a star was not always what it seemed, and Marty recalled on a tour seeing Michael Jackson’s parallel lifestyle.
“He was surrounded by people yet he was lonely,” Marty observed.
He has an impressive musical family but he says his fame did not give them any privileges.
“Joyce and I could guide them, but people would say: ‘your daughter had it easy because of your fame’. But Kim impressed people by being what she was and she was having to do the groundwork all on her own. We guided her pretty well to stay out of trouble and be nice to people, and to finalise her own complicated business deals. Now, she has a large catalogue and a phenomenal fan base all over the world.
“The same was said about Michael Jackson and his sister, but you can’t compare Kim and I with Michael and his sister.”
Would Marty like to go back into a recording studio?
“I don’t want to record rock and roll any more, but I would like to record something fresh and new. My voice hasn’t changed a great deal and I like to be versatile,” he said, and he likes writing songs.
Obviously, his hit songs earn him royalties but 60 years on, he observes, royalties could be drying up for some, as the 50-year royalty period runs out.
One aspect of being famous Marty found hard to grasp was the autograph hunters who did not want just one signed photo or programme, or something similar.
“It was the multi-signing that annoyed and upset me. One day, on a show with Joe, we must have signed 70 photos, and we discovered they were being sold on the web, so we refused to sign any more.”
Marty felt sorry for the genuine fans who just wanted a souvenir signing.
Watch out for dates for the Solid Gold Rock ‘n’ Roll Show. Marty Wilde, Eden Kane and Mike Berry. Mark Wynter, and The Wildcats.