You’ll know the voice but not many people will recognise the face.
Steven Penny finds out more about multi-talented musician but unsung pop star Paul Carrack.
Get ready for something special next month when a familiar voice comes to the Theatre Royal at Norwich.
Millions of people are familiar with the voice and music of Paul Carrack but his face is barely recognised.
And the Sheffield-born 58-year-old insists that’s something he’s perfectly happy with.
“I’m happy being known as the voice behind…
“It’s a nice and easy way of life,” said Carrack, who is playing two dates in Norfolk next month.
“I just couldn’t cope with being a famous face. I’m very thin skinned and it only takes one unhappy-looking person in the audience to upset me.”
Carrack first came to public attention in 1975 when he led Ace to a UK No.20 and US top three hit with How Long.
He next registered on the nation’s conscious 21 years later when he hit the top of the charts as lead singer with Mike and the Mechanics on their US No.1 Living Years, which reached No 2 in the UK.
He registered several other hits with Genesis bass player Mike Rutherford’s occasional group.
But that is just a small part of a 40-year career, which has also seen him play on the biggest selling single of all time and involvement with groups including the Eagles, Roxy Music, The Smiths, Squeeze and The Pretenders, as well as with artists including Ringo Starr, Nick Lowe, B B King and Eric Clapton.
Carrack played the organ on Elton John’s double-A side Something About The Way You Look Tonight, twinned with Candle in the Wind 97, the tribute to Princess Diana.
The multi-talented musician has also played keyboards, strings and piano as well as singing and composing hits for a plethora of other artists.
Add a few movie soundtracks and performances with a variety of supergroups, including an appearance in front of a crowd of 250,000 to celebrate the fall of the Berlin Wall and it is incredible to think his face is barely known to the general public.
“I don’t sit by the phone waiting for famous people to ring me. If it happens I’ll do it but there’s far more to me than that,” said Carrack, who added modestly that he had been working with Clapton only a fortnight earlier on another project.
Despite insisting all his major ambitions are behind him, Carrack still has plenty of motivation.
“I just want to keep going and keep searching for that absolute great song I’m still trying to write.
“I’d like to eventually do a orchestral album, as well as a jazz one and a country one.”
As for the businesses big names, Carrack has ticked many off but his one remaining dream would be to perform with his idol Stevie Wonder.
“He’s the nearest I’ve got to a hero but the only way I’d be able to play with him is if I had my best ever day and he had one of his worst!
“I loved the Motown era. They played very simple songs with exceptional groove.”
Carrack is at his most creative in the studio where he tends to be a real one-man band but he enjoys touring just as much.
“It’s great to be on the road with a band. When I’m in the studio I end up playing every instrument,” he said.
“I swear every time I won’t do it again but then start messing about and recording bits and before I know it I’ve done the lot again. It’s a mad way to do it.”
Carrack is halfway through his current 39-date tour – with four in East Anglia.
“Luckily the first half of the tour finished before the bad weather struck,” said Carrack.
“The only dates we’ve lost were a couple in Brighouse, where I like to go after Christmas to keep in the swing of things.
“The first half of the tour has gone extremely well and I’m looking forward to more of the same.
“We played the Corn Exchange at Ipswich. I prefer the Regent but David Essex was there that night. The sound is better at the Regal but it was still a very good night.”
Carrack is especially looking forward to returning to Norwich after last year’s gig in the city.
“I feel I owe something to Norwich because last year I went there with flu,” he explained.
“I’d just about managed to last out the night before but after the first set at Norwich I had virtually no voice.
“We went out to tell the audience that I was willing to carry on as I was but offered them their money back if they wanted to leave then.
“No one went and in the end it was a great night. The rest of the band stepped forward to help out and we all thoroughly enjoyed ourselves and the audience loved it.
“I’m very grateful to the audience for being so understanding and I’m determined to give them the very best show this time.”
Carrack will be on the look-out for a couple of familiar faces in the Theatre Royal audience.
“As a teenager I went out to Germany and part of the group included Rita and Tina, who are from Norfolk way, so I’m looking forward to seeing them when I come to Norwich.
“It’s not a part of the country I know that well, although I’ve been to Carrow Road a few times to watch my team Sheffield Wednesday.”
On those occasions Carrack was watching the entertainment but one of his biggest dates as a performer was at the home of Scottish international football.
“We played at Hampden Park last summer as support for The Eagles but for me it’s all about the music rather than the production you have to put in for the bigger venues.
“I’m just as happy, if not more, playing the small places.”
And that down-to-earth, laid-back attitude comes through, not only in his soulful voice, but also in his decision making.
“I made a major change with the band that backs me on tour about 10 years ago,” said Carrack.
“I’d put out a solo album and tour with it, getting together a group of guys from the London circuit to play but it wasn’t ideal.
“They all had their own agendas and were looking to make a name for themselves.”
The band he’s now with are all from Carrack’s home city, apart from the trombone player from Leeds.
“They were together already and I’ve sort of grafted myself on to them. They just want to get out there and play.”
Carrack’s new album, I Know That Name, is out now, while an album of rock cover versions he recorded in 1993 as part of Spin 1ne 2wo is re-released on January 25.
Paul Carrack – Ipswich Corn Exchange (review)
Most artists playing live rely on cover versions to pad out their own repertoire.
So it was with Paul Carrack – songs from Ace, Squeeze and Mike and the Mechanics and even the Eagles had the capacity audience rocking.
But in this case, the voice sounded very familiar. Carrack was the singer behind hits for all those groups, and more beside over a four-decade career.
Despite such as extensive range of song writing and singing, Carrack is one of the rock world’s least known names, despite having also played with other such high-profile bands and artists as Roxy Music, Pretenders, The Smiths and Elton John.
This two-set concert allowed him to go through his incredible back catalogue, while introducing new songs from his present album I Know That Name.
With vocal support from band members Lindsay Dracass and Paul Copley, the audience was treated to a belting two hours of hits.
Living Years brought a tear to the eye, while Over My Shoulder had the audience rocking and How Long and Tempted sounded as good now as they did when he sang them for Ace and Squeeze respectively almost 30 years ago.
This feature and review first appeared in Take One newspaper