Pop star Howard Jones looks back on his career in a gig coming up at Chequer Mead, East Grinstead, on Thursday, February 4, promising The Songs, The Piano & The Stories.
“It’s me and my piano and quite a lot of chat and stories, just talking,” Howard explains.
“I will play the big hits from the radio and also delve into the catalogue of 30 years of playing songs, so there will be some more personal intimate material as well. But when I do sit down to do the big hits, I will be taking a different approach. The arrangements have changed.”
Howard first burst onto the scene in 1983 with his very English song-writing, offering a mix of pioneering synthesizers and thought-provoking lyrics.
His first single New Song challenged listeners to see both sides and ‘throw off your mental chains’. Alongside New Song, the first two albums, Humans Lib and Dream into Action, brought Howard a string of hits including ‘Things Can Only Get Better’, ‘What is Love?’ and ‘No One Is To Blame’.
It was a great time to be active in the business, with all the energy of youth.
“When you start out, you are fearless. I think you are much more spontaneous and much more in the moment, and then as you get older, you start to get a bit more cautious because you start to reflect about the impact of what you are doing. But then I think you start to get more fearless again. Now in the later part of the career, the fearlessness comes back and you are able to say what you really want to say.”
Looking back on those heady chart days, Howard admits there was an awful lot of paddling under the surface simply to stay afloat: “I started learning when I was seven and I started in a band when I was 14, and I didn’t get signed until I was 28.”
His success might have seemed sudden to the rest of us, but in fact, it was anything but: “I started the idea of the one-man show, and I did 300 gigs a year for three years.”
It was never a question of giving up, though: “I just thought there was nothing else I wanted to do and that I would just keep fighting to get there. Everything was orientated towards getting signed.
“But I don’t think anything can prepare you for what happens when it does happen. The amount of attention and the amount of pressure, you just couldn’t predict. You just think it must be great to be famous and to be on TV, but there are a lot of other things that come with it. I couldn’t go anywhere without causing a virtual riot. That was quite difficult for me. I think people can have empathy for what you are going through, but they can’t ever actually really know what it is like. I just thought it was about making music and about making records, and you just tried to get good gigs, and all that side of it was just fabulous. But being chased down the street all the time, that was difficult. It is nice to be appreciated, but the position I am in now is great, to be able to do good work that I want to do with enough people interested to come along and listen.”
Looking back, though, Howard certainly discerns an element of good timing in all those hits: “Electronic music was just coming in, but with a pop sensibility. I had very optimistic lyrical content, and the fashion side of it was just completely me. I had been working in a factory and dreaming. I was thinking ‘How can I make it happen?’ and it did. I think it just shows you, never to give up on your dreams, always to try to do what you want to do. Just don’t give up.”
Call the box office on 01342 302000 or visit www.chequermead.org.uk.
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