Saturday, 13 August 2022

Why it's still all about the music

FOR record producer and performer Mike Hurst, hearing one of the tracks he helped to create still gives him a buzz

FOR record producer and performer Mike Hurst, hearing one of the tracks he helped to create still gives him a buzz.

After more than 50 years, Hurst is brimming with enthusiasm for the business which made him a household name in the Sixties and continues to enthrall him.

The list of hits he produced include Showaddywaddy?s Under The Moon of Love and Manfred Mann?s The Mighty Quinn.

While many could forgive him for resting on his laurels and hanging up his Gibson guitar, Hurst is keen to continue doing what he loves, as he prepares to play his annual acoustic concert in Henley.

In recent years the gig has been a ?one-man show? with Hurst playing his favourite tracks as well as requests shouted out from the audience.

He said: ?I am singing things that take the audience back to places they have forgotten about, it is great fun. A one-man show is very vulnerable because I have nothing to fall back on, it is only you on stage.

?Comics have the same thing, but they have the advantage of pulling the audience in. Singers cannot do that, you rise and fall on the songs. But the audience like that, they like the vulnerability.?

Of course, Hurst is no stranger to entertaining crowds. A two-year stint as part of the chart-topping trio the Springfields shot him to stardom at the tender age of 19.

When brother and sister Dusty and Tom Springfield decided to break up the group in 1963, Hurst toured with a rock band.

Eventually he became a successful record producer, releasing a number of hits in the Sixties, Seventies, and Eighties and working with the likes of Cat Stevens, Showaddywaddy and Manfred Mann.

He said: ?I always said I will go on doing this until I know I cannot do it any more, I cannot sing or play guitar properly. Or when people do not want you any more. But I intend to keep going until then. It is what I have always done.

?I could be classified as the most boring person in the world because all I really know and love is the music, so after 53 years who can give it up? It is what I do. It is everything to me.?

Hurst admits the Springfields called it a day at the right time. The Beatles were in the ascendency and acts like theirs just could not compete.

He explained: ?If we had continued we would have become a cabaret act; in other words a three-piece Val Doonican. It sounds rude about Val Doonican, but we could not have competed with Liverpool and the Beatles.?

Hurst remembers those days vividly and with a smile.

?For a young boy, I was 19 years old, going to America, recording in Nashville, meeting all the top names in the early Sixties in America. My memories of touring in this country and Europe are a kind of a blur, so much happening and so much going on. They were just great times.?

Nowadays, as well as touring with the reformed Springfields ? the trio perform around 12 gigs a year as a three-part harmony group putting their country-folk twist on songs ? Hurst stands in front of a very different audience. He lectures on the school circuit, talking about the history of pop music over the last 500 years.

?Did you know the music capital of the world should be Reading?? he asks.

It?s all down to the monks who wrote a folk song, Summer Is A-Coming In, which has become the oldest song, still sung in old English, in its original form.

It?s clear Hurst has a passion for his subject, songwriting in particular.

?Today?s popular music is all about the visuals. It is not really about the audience so much. It all began with MTV in the early Eighties. Now, with The Voice and The X Factor, people seem to be more interested in the voices of the performers than they are the songs and therein lies the problem.

?There are more young people around with fantastic voices, but the songs that they sing are not generally going to be around in 40 or 50 years? time. They are instant.

?Bruno Mars? song, Uptown Funk, it is a great dance record, he is fantastic. I love the video but could you see someone sitting down at a piano and playing it? It is impossible because it is a piece of recorded music, it is not a song.?

Hurst has met an impressive number of people in the music business and beyond, but was not one to name-drop. I managed to coax out of him the name of the person he most admired ? Hollywood actor Fred Astaire.

The chance meeting came while Hurst was recording. Knowing Hurst was a fan, the stage manager nonchalantly enquired if he would like to meet Astaire. Thinking he was joking, Hurst turned to find the film star in front of him.

?I was completely flabbergasted. He shook my hand and I looked at him and I said ?Mr Astaire my mother took me to see all your movies. You know the one thing I loved more than anything else, is the way you walk.?

He said ?thank you son?, and I asked him, ?could you walk down the bar and back again?? and he knew exactly what I was talking about.?

While Fred Astaire may have walked the walk, it is clear that after a lifetime in music and recording with the stars, Hurst can absolutely talk the talk.

• See Mike Hurst perform at the Kenton Theatre on Saturday, February 21. Box office (01491) 575698

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