Reflections on a career that spans 45 years
PHIL Coulter has won around 23 Platinum Discs, 39 Gold Discs, 52 Silver Discs, two Grand Prix Eurovision awards, five Ivor Novello Awards (which includes Songwriter of the Year), three American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers awards, a Grammy Nomination, a Meteor Award, a National Entertainment Award and a Rose d’or d’Antibes.
HOwever, fans of his work will know that he has a private side to him that very rarely sees light, but once in a while the artist pens a song that is deeply emotive and very personal.
Invariably these are the mega-hits that stand the test of time.
Top of the list is the world-famous ‘Town I loved So Well’ , but not far behind it is the moving ‘Scorn Not His Simplicity’.
Sitting in the City Hotel, in advance of his forthcoming nine-date tour of Northern Ireland, Phil Coulter is in philosophical mood as he admits both songs are very personal and have been born out of personal experience.
“They are very different. They have a different process and have a very different approach from writing a pop song like ‘Puppet on a String’ or ‘Congratulations’ or ‘Back Home’ for the England World Cup Squad or songs for the Bay City Rollers. They are commercial and you set about writing those songs specifically to enter the charts... and the celebratory thing? My associates in the music business all pull my leg about being ‘the Anthem Man’ because there is ‘Ireland’s Call’ there is ‘Home From the Sea’ which is the anthem for the Lifeboats and ‘The Town I loved So Well’ is the anthem for here...so the ongoing gag in my circle of friends is that.
“Every so often somebody in Dublin talks about it’s time we had a new national anthem and the press always call me and say are you going to write it...” he says with an impish glint in his eye.
Writing emotive songs is a totally different kettle of fish for the man, who works hard at preserving his privacy and protecting his family from the industry.
“I made this point to somebody not so long ago, that it is a very different process. You sit down to write, say ‘Puppet on a String’...right... that’s a Eurovision Song Contest song, so what you do is get your head into what the Eurovision is all about. You listen to all the winners, you know? You calculate the thing and try and tick those boxes...”
It was a different story with ‘Scorn Not His Simplicity’... possibly one of the most personal songs Phil has ever written.
“Scorn Not His Simplicity was an emotional thing because my first son was born with Downs Syndrome and that obviously planted the seed, but it was many months later, in fact, when I wrestled with the whole thing, that I completed the song, and in the process, of course, you are stripping back layers of yourself, you know?
“You are letting people into your innermost feelings and your own emotions and your own personal experiences, and I am not a very public kind of person. There are some people in the entertainment business who love living their lives in public , more so now with Twitter and Facebook, and that. Now there is no privacy whatsoever, but I am not one of those.
“So with this type of song you are exposing bits of yourself. ‘Scorn Not’ was the first of those types of songs. And, I suppose, having confronted that, I think it probably helped me to come to terms with the fact that it had happened. I have vivid, vivid memories of that period and I know very well that one thing I learned through that was that women have got a much greater capacity to cope with something like that than men. We were both in our early 20’s and my wife [Geraldine] came to terms with that and was much stronger... to be totally honest I sort of pretended it never happened.
“So, I think the whole process of sitting down and writing the song certainly would have been part of that process of coming to terms of it,” he said.
Turning to the question of how others have treated his music over the decades, Phil admits there have been times when he has been horrified by the cover versions some people have released of his music.
“Without naming names, that certainly has happened where you cringe and go ‘There should be a low against this’,” he says.
“The thing is, if you are a professional song writer, your job is to have those songs performed and recorded, so, ultimately, while you might cringe from a personal point of view, at the end of the day you have to come to terms with the fact that there is somebody who is at least paying you the compliment of at least singing your song or recording your song. So you just kind of bite the bullet.
“I have never been tempted, you know, to write to somebody and say ‘How dare you do that’. But what I have done is I have stopped people recording... most recently there was a version of ‘Scorn Not His Simplicity’ in which they changed the words,” he said with intensity, adding: “Well, I won’t have that. I won’t have anybody change even a syllable of that song. I mean, if somebody wanted to change a few words in a song like ‘Shang-a-lang’ be my guest if it is going to sell records, but somebody taking the liberty of re-writing even a line of ‘Scorn Not His Simplicity’, no. I’m afraid I had to get very strong about that, get an injunction, and get the song withdrawn.”
Phil’s tour will see him performing for almost 10 nights straight and he describes it as a tour os ‘highs and lows’.
He describes it as a “retrospective” musical experience, and he has unearthed some great footage including Sandie Shaw singing ‘Puppet on a String’ barefoot and in black and white. Cliff Richard, however, is in full colour. There is also footage of the Bay City Rollers.
Phil will be on stage in the Millennium Forum on Sunday, April 29 for those who want to catch his only ‘home town’ appearance.
Search for a job
Search for a car
Search for a house
Weather for Londonderry
Wednesday 22 May 2013
Temperature: 6 C to 13 C
Wind Speed: 23 mph
Wind direction: West
Temperature: 6 C to 9 C
Wind Speed: 28 mph
Wind direction: North