Record vote never beaten

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Apr 2019 Record vote never beaten

Breakfast with: Nicky Stevens – Brotherhood of Man

By Ian Woolley, Retro Nights

With the 64th Eurovision Song Contest looming, I thought it was time to look back some 43 years to the UK’s biggest success story of the competition.

The group who won by the biggest voting margin ever has a record that stands to this day.

The story begins in 1969, when record producer and songwriter Tony Hiller used session singers to record his songs, including Tony Burrows.

They achieved success with the single ‘United We Stand’, on which Tony sang lead, and it became a worldwide hit. In 1973, a four piece was assembled with songwriters Lee Sheridan and Martin Lee. They were joined by a successful Welsh singer called Nicky Stevens.

Nicky said: “When Tony (Hiller) rang me up to see if I’d like to join the band, I liked the sound of it, as I love harmonies.”

“We all had other jobs when we met up to record a few tracks. Martin (Lee) was with a dance band, Lee (Sheriden) was in a band at the Top Rank in Bristol, at the time, and I was travelling all over the world singing.

“When we decided to go out on the road finally, we needed another singer. Martin had heard Sandra (Stevens) singing with Joe Loss and asked her to join us after flying through the audition. We rehearsed for three months and choreographed before going out on the road a year later in 1973.”

Performing all over Europe for the next three years, they had a few big hits in various countries’ charts with ‘Lady’ and ‘Kiss Me Kiss Your Baby’ – the latter became a million-seller written by Barry Blue. This happened in the Autumn before the Eurovision Song Contest in 1976.

I asked Nicky: “When we were chosen to represent the UK for the contest, we felt lucky it was being held in Holland, as we had several hits there. We felt we had many fans there.”

At the contest itself, the band surprised everybody by picking up a record number of votes (164) beating Catherine Ferry, representing France, into second place.

The record-winning total still stands to this day in the contest. The song ‘Save Your Kisses For Me’ was the biggest-selling Eurovision song of all time selling a phenomenal five million records worldwide, topping the charts in 33 countries. It also gave Nicky Stevens the unique distinction of being the only Welsh person to date to win the Eurovision.

The hits just kept on coming, with two more chart toppers ‘Angelo’ and ‘Figaro’ and were regularly in the charts for the rest of the era (97 weeks in total). As co writers of most of their songs, Martin and Lee won three Ivor Novello awards between them.

“Lee also did all the musical arrangements on all of our recordings,” said Nicky. At their height, they sometimes had to perform in three countries in the same day, using a private jet.

I asked Nicky to explain why the band have lasted so long together, with its original band members.

“We don’t see a lot of each other between our working commitments, but I occasionally visit Martin and Sandra when they are in the States, and Lee has a very busy family life. We are lucky in that we never fall out, and if we do have the occasional disagreement, it’s soon settled very amicably.”

Nicky has lived in Dorset for the past 19 years and is still actively involved in the music scene.

“I do voice coaching at a performance academy and hold private singing lessons in between talks of the band, and currently, I’m in the process of forming my own choir.”

All this, in between regular performances around the country with the other three, keeps her very busy.

Nicky left me with a funny story of her time in Wales back in their heyday.

“I had a brother who was in a band called The Press who were gigging at many clubs up the valleys at the time. One night, we were performing at the Double Diamond Club in Caerphilly, not too far away, and before we went on stage, we nipped up to see his band play. “After we had left, the club chairman announced to the audience: “Well, we’ve been very surprised tonight as we’ve had a celebrity come and visit – Nicky Stevens of the Brotherhood Of Man, and her brother is the bass player in our resident band,” he announced.

A woman in the audi­ence shouted out: “Yes, and Tom Jones is my father” to roars of laughter from the floor!

Having just appeared on the back of a ‘We Love The 70s’ Butlins Skegness weekend, all four origi­nal members are once again back on stage on Friday, April 26, for the Charity Retro Night in Highcliffe, Dorset. They are joined by former Radio 1 DJ Mike Reid bring­ing back the time, music-ally, when the band was the ‘toast’ of Europe.

Who knows if we’ll ever have another winner but one thing is for sure, Brother-hood of Man will be around for a long time yet to remind us of the perfect pop song.

That’s something to savour.