Shakin’ Stevens, one of the greatest hitmakers in UK chart history and a major national and international star for forty years, has celebrated his incredible catalogue with a nineteen disc anthology collection Fire In The Blood and the definitive two CD/ two LP singles collection Singled Out including tracks I Need You Now and Wild At Heart.
The nineteen disc anthology book pack Fire In The Blood, augments his body of studio work with rare treasures and live treats. This awesome overview will be complemented by the Singled Out collection on three CD, two LP and digital versions. The three CD edition is the first ever to include Shaky’s entire solo singles output, and the two LP format is personally curated by Shaky himself. His liner notes provide revealing personal insights into the background of key songs. Also making its debut on the two formats is the brand new single Wild At Heart (Neros Single Version).
The twenty six tracks on the two LP version of Singled Out are all hand-picked by Stevens himself, and the packaging will include a card enabling fans to download all fifty four tracks on the three CD edition. The singles collection encapsulates all Stevens’ singles releases as a solo artist, offering many sought-after rarities such as Never and his seemingly endless glory years at the chart summit. These include four signature UK bestsellers, This Ole House, Green Door, Oh Julie and of course the perennial Merry Christmas Everyone. Hi Fi Way spoke to Shakin’ Stevens about this anthology.
Shakin’ Stevens answers…
Hi Rob, this terrible virus isn’t very nice is it? It’s hard work, not very nice at all…
How are you navigating your way through this crisis?
Keeping our distance and things like that. The live shows are out already, the music side of things is not too good. There’s only two studios open in the UK, it is difficult for everybody. As for going out, singing and performing it isn’t easy and all seems a bit flat because of the damage of what this virus is doing. We can’t wait for it to go like everyone else.
A nineteen disc anthology is a massive undertaking, has it been a long time in the making pulling it together?
We started this back in January 2020 would you believe, or just after Christmas, it was a big project. I remember calling them box sets but they have called this a book pack. There’s nineteen CD’s on there, two hundred and sixty six tracks, first solo album with Track Records, my first live concert from 2019 and another concerts from 1980 at BBC 1 in London. There’s also Singled Out which is three CD’s with fifty four tracks plus twenty six tracks on the double vinyl. It’s a career retrospective of my solo career and I think it is a good time for it to happen. We had been on it a long time and I think it is a good thing for fans to have.
Did you find you got nostalgic going back right to the beginning of your career?
It was great to hear them again especially some of those remasters. Normally we would be in the studio as they are getting done so they had to send them by post and then I would listen to the tracks all the way through, all two hundred and sixty six tracks. It was very enjoyable, lots of good memories and I was very pleased with it. I did a box set a good few years ago but there’s a lot more in this one and there’s a rare poster it, it goes on and on really. It is a great thing and the timing is very good for what is happening now.
Did you come across many songs that you had forgotten about or had not played in a long time?
Kind of, it was nice to hear the ones recorded live, the very early ones and the ones I did with Track Records. Track Records had people such as Jimi Hendrix, Johnny & The Heartbreakers and The Who. I came way after that! It was really good to sit down and say well, hmm, that’s still standing up. I’m really pleased and now that they have been digitally remastered as well they are more punchy and hard hitting. I think we’ve captured what we needed.
Looking back can you believe how prolific as an artist you are?
I have my favourites and there are some I thought could have been done differently. Overall, when you look at the times they were recorded from the first album to Take One! up to Now Listen which was my bridge album and Echoes Of Our Time was a move on. We had an idea a few years ago to bring out a six CD pack because I recorded you could hear blues, country blues and they had a style to them that weren’t all pop, pop, pop!
How did gospel I Need You Now come about?
I listened to it again and thought it would be nice given that there’s a few that haven’t been released before and I Need You Now was one of those tracks to include it. I was really pleased with the video and the song was perfect for this time of year with COVID and I think people can relate to it. Wild At Heart was a similar thing, that will be the next release, again that has a country feel to it. It’s about women who do what they want to do in their own way.
Is it pleasing to see that generational shift in your fan base?
It is great, with this anthology it will open their eyes a bit and see all the different styles. It is great to see the younger generation still there and picking this up. This and Echoes Of Our Time has bought in a new audience that is in to that bluesy type of music. It’s all good!
When you look at your career what are some of the highlights that stick out for you?
There was one highlight I wasn’t aware of which was having a hit before I was with the Epic label and that song was called Somebody Touched Me. I didn’t realise but it was a hit in Australia. That was a big, big surprise to me actually. The first hit I had Marie, Marie opened things up in Europe and This Ole House opened things up internationally. In Australia it did very well and everyone really took to it. It was the first video I ever did, the director said lets find a house, sing the song and move around. The people you see in the video were brought in because it farm land and they were neighbours. Looking back people don’t know that.
Do you feel optimistic about touring internationally this year? Maybe in Australia at some point?
I would love to come back to Australia, we’ve talked about it, it hasn’t fallen in to place so we will need to wait and see what happens. I intend to keep touring, it is in my blood since a very young age and all I want to do is perform. I don’t see any way of me retiring because I feel I have a lot more to offer and in fact we have started the new album. We were getting through it then comes COVID which put the blocks on that but it is there to finish up when we can. Touring this is on the cards.
Interview By Rob Lyon