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Interview with Chris Norman | The voice of Smokie

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Chris Norman was destined for show business after coming from a family with connections reaching back two generations. His Grandparents toured their own concert party around England during the First World War and their daughter Pat (Chris’s mother) joined a dance troupe when she left school. Pip Norman, (Chris’s Dad) was part of a dancing/comedy act called ‘The Four Jokers’ and worked all over Europe in the 1930s/40s and had a British Royal Variety Performance to their credit.Famed for fronting huge 70’s hit band Smokie, Chris Norman has gone on to carve a successful solo career since leaving the band in 1986, when his first single ‘Midnight Lady’ became a massive hit throughout Europe including holding the German No.1 slot for 6 weeks!

 

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Chris, thanks for taking the time to answer our questions. Is it true that your first instrument was a guitar that you got at age 7? What kind of music was playing at your house back then?

Yeah, I did get my first guitar when I was about 7, but I didn't start playing then because it wasn't very good, I only started playing when I was 13. But at age 7 the things I would listen to was stuff like Cliff Richard & the Shadows and Elvis Presley who were the big thing for me then, also Buddy Holly, Little Richard and Lonnie Donegan. My mom and dad would listen to Frank Sinatra, Judy Garland, those kind of records.

 

Tell us about your first steps in the music industry in the early 60s. What were your influences at the time, and what were your first dreams and aspirations as a young artist?

The first steps in the 60s for me was just me and Alan Stilson really. We both got a guitar at around the same time in 1963 and we both started to meet up and play, show each other chords and we learned to sing together and play together. Our influences back then were basically the Beatles and the Rolling stones and the rest of that 60s thing. Our dreams and aspirations at that point were to become like them, we always wanted to be the next Beatles really

 

 

There's a story going around that in the 70s you went through a serious health scare regarding your vocal chords that resulted in a change of your singing voice.

No, in the 70s I didn't go through a health scare regarding my vocal chords. I've read that story too and it just isn't true. Someone made that up somehow. My singing voice, changed because of all the years I sang in smokey clubs and screaming and trying to sound like Little Richard I guess.

 

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After you met the famous composers Nicky Chinn and Mike Chapman you became Smokey. It’s been documented that you were advised to change your image and your attire into a more ‘leathery’ way. You famously declined and kept your jeans on! What were your thoughts then, and now, regarding the importance of image and looks In the music business?

We were advised to change our name, not the image, we weren't advised to wear leather. We were dressed at the time in, kind of, T-shirts and denim shirts and jeans and that was cool for them. It was ourselves as we went further along, we started to wear more fancy clothes like velvet trousers and satin shirts. The image was important to us, it was a thing, but we were never prepared to go crazy and shave our heads or something (laughs).

 

 

What was it like to release your first album (1975s Pass It Around) and start touring it?

In 1975 we had our first album Pass It Around and we were touring it. It was great because we were doing our own stuff whereas before we were doing mainly covers. But it was difficult also because in the beginning nobody knew the songs from the album and we were doing shows and people didn't know the tracks. And even today, if you play songs from the new album people will get bored quickly. So we needed to have a succesful album and some hits before it was easy to play on stage.

 

In the next few years you became quite successful and had a long number of hits. How did that affect you both personally and as a band?

When we started to have hits along the next years, and we had a lot, it sort of affected us personally and as a band because suddenly we were considered to be famous and, say, rock stars. We got all the attention from the press and we loved it. In the beginning we thought it was great, obviously it was best to be a famous band than not. Overall it was great, we got to travel the world, and had a great time. Personally I loved it, and as band I thing we loved it, we were like a bunch of brothers going out and having fun.

 

 

You also have a very successful solo career. Looking back now, after all these years, would you change anything? What would you choose as your finest moment?

Yeah, in my solo career I would change a couple things I guess. When I did Stumbling In with Suzie Quatro, my first song outside Smokie, we were offered to go to the USA a lot of times, but I was busy with Smokie at the same time so I declined those offers, and now I think it is a regret, I should have gone to America and make more of that situation. My finest moment? I thing just being lucky enough to meet the guys at Smokie and then having our first hit, that a was a very fine moment, I guess that would have been probably the finest moment of all.

 

 

Today, and with a fresh album in your bag, how do you approach music and rock’n’roll?

I now approach music and rock’n’roll kind of the same way as I always have. I did go over different changes through my career in the last 20-30 years but i've come back to sort of what I was in the beginning,. I like it to sound like a band, like guitars and drums and bass. I write how I feel like without trying to be in fashion, trying to make it sound like I want it to sound.

 

 

What are your plans for 2019?

In 2019 I'm touring the UK and other places and I'm currently talking to a new record label about an album and as we speak I have many new songs for the next recording but it won't be for a while I think.

 

 

Would you like to send a message to your Greek fans?

I'd like to say hi to all the Greek fans, thank you for liking me and I hope you continue to do so!!

 

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Facebook Page: Chris Norman

 

 

Chris Mouskos , Stamatis Bourdos , Marios Rigopoulos

Black Velvet Radio

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