Happy Memorial Day and happy Monday, everybody. I hope everybody had a safe and happy weekend. Mine was pretty relaxed. Went through some more music that I’ll be reviewing later this week, and another season from another classic Nicktoon. And also, I finally managed to sit down at watch We Bought a Zoo. I’ll have a review of that movie alter this morning. But while you wait for that, I’ve got another treat for you this morning. As you’ll recall, I recently reviewed the new paperback edition of the bio on singer Matt Monro, “The Singer’s Singer.” Well, I am happy this morning to share an interview with the legendary singer’s daughter, Michele, who wrote her father’s bio. Michele shared her thoughts with me on taking on the duties of writing her father’s bio herself, life with her dad and more. That’s in this special bonus edition of Phil’s Picks. Read on!
RR – This bio is one of the most extensive that I’ve read to date. I’m
curious how long did it take just to gather all of the information for the
bio? How long did it end up taking to actually write your father’s story?
MM — This book was really a labour of love and was written for my son Max.
I suffered a near-fatal car crash a few years ago and it struck me
that if anything happened to me, my son wouldn’t know anything more
about his grandfather other than he was a great singer. It upset me
that he wouldn’t know his origin or roots or what Matt Monro had
contributed to the music business so as soon as I was able I started
the process. It took three years to do the research and interview more
than 200 people. A further year was spent actually writing the book
and a further year with publisher’s re-writes and edits.
RR – What led you to choose Titan Books to publish your dad’s bio? Were
there other publishing companies to which you had sent your manuscript?
MM — The fans had been begging for years for a book of some sort as there
had never been one written. I sent a synopsis by email to 10
publishing houses and I had replies from all of them within a week. In
fact one company actually sent me a contract without talking to me
first. The contract specified that the manuscript be delivered by a
certain date and be no more than 80,000 words. I rang them up, thanked
them for their interest and explained that 80,000 words was the size
of my index! I had no interest when I first started writing the book
of having it published so hadn’t bothered to find out any guidelines
or pointers. It turned out that all publishers aim for books between
80,000 – 10,000 words so to keep costs down. That was one of the main
reasons for going to Titan. They really loved Matt Monro’s music and
were passionate about doing the project correctly rather than worry
about every penny. My conditions were simple.
The title had to stay intact. My father was the singer’s singer and
there could be no other title for the book as far as I was concerned.
Secondly it had to come out in time for dad’s 25th anniversary (7
Lastly the manuscript couldn’t be butchered or hacked to death.
Titan were happy to meet my terms and have been true to their word the
whole way through. It was definitely the right choice.
RR – Your father’s work has been released many times over the years. Now,
with the release of his bio both in hardback and paperback, are you seeing
any type of resurgance in popularity of his music? If so, are you seeing
it in a particular audience or is it more spread out?
MM — My father’s popularity has been amazingly steadfast over the years
since he passed. The website I created – www.mattmonro.com- gains
about 5,000 hits a month and it has been excellent means of letting
the fans know what is imminent. It has also allowed them a voice as to
what they would like to see released. I have been doing radio
interviews over the years and have programmes running on hospital
radio so this has been brilliant at promoting whatever needed
highlighting. The book of course has made the public even more curious
as to who the man was behind the music and it has allowed Matt Monro
to gain a newer and younger fan base than before. The book has also
garnered interest from television programmes and that gets my message
across to even more people than before. I am passionate about keeping
my father’s legacy going as long as I can.
RR – In gathering the information for the book, it all had to have brought
back a flood of memories. Were there any moments included in the book that
were especially funny or emotional for you, in writing your father’s
MM — I was rather worried about writing the ending of the book thinking
that all the way through the process I would have it at the back of my
head that the end was nigh so to speak so I decided to write about his
passing first, thinking that would get me over the hardest moment but
it didn’t work out that way. Like any child there are a thousand
moments that you will always remember, some sweet, some bitter and
some that you don’t want to remember. The foreward was very hard to
write, those were the last few days of his life and as anyone who has
lost a loved one will tell you, it is impossible to put that grief
into words for there are no sentences that will adequately express the
pain you go through.
There are a multitude of moments that made me smile or made me laugh
out loud as certain memories flooded back but overall the journey was
an emotional one. I didn’t write a fairy tale and there could be no
happy ever after, you know the ending before you start and that makes
it hard. I also lost my mother shortly after the book was published.
It meant so much to her that a story was finally in print and would sit
in the British Library forever, she felt he deserved that, but in the
five years it took it never occurred to me that my mum wouldn’t be
here to share in the accolades that have followed. That was a bitter
pill to swallow.
RR – So many of the bios that I’ve read over the years have been written by
either friends of the subjects or someone that had no connection to said
individuals. So what was it that made you personally want to write your
father’s story, rather than have someone else do it?
MM — Several authors had approached my mum and I since my father passed
away but it never felt right. They were some that were only really
interested in dad’s alcoholism and the salacious moments that they
thought they could write about. Yes my father was an alcoholic but it
was a segment of his life, it didn’t define him as a person. There is
a huge difference between a drunk and an alcoholic and I didn’t want
them getting the two confused. About eight years ago, I was approached
again by an individual who wanted to write the book. I talked it over
with Steve Woof, the head of EMI, who I work closely with in bringing
out the albums and he told me “the only one who should consider
writing a book is you”. It made me stop and think but before I had
come to any conclusion I had the car crash. That crisis made my
RR – Reading through your dad’s bio, he worked with a who’s who of jazz and
pop of the time. Were there any that really stood out as favorites with
whom he liked to work?
MM — He adored working with his mentor Winnie Atwell. She had a certain
funk going on that he loved and of course Tony Bennett and Sammy Davis
rank highly on his list. He loved them as people and to him that was
important because they gave their music heart and soul. He would have
given his right arm to work with Sinatra but something always
conspired to get in the way. He actually had the opportunity of
signing with Reprise and he would have jumped at the chance had it not
been for his advisors. They read more into it that just an innocent
offer – had my father signed with the company they could in fact have
prevented him from recording at all. Some thought they wanted this so
Sinatra had no competition – but like so many rumours – they were
RR – Is there any one song that your father sang that you would say is your
favorite to this day?
MM — There are so many that my dad sing that I love but it really depends
on my mood. Sometimes when I’m down I want songs that reflect that
feeling but at other times I want to feel elated by the performance. I
particularly love the album ‘The Rare Monro’ purely because it is
songs that had never been released before and there are some stellar
moments in those 50 tracks. It actually took me five years to convince
the record company that it would sell even if ‘Born Free’ and ‘From
Russia With Love’ weren’t on it. Thankfully I was right and that has
spurned the follow-up “Matt Uncovered – The Rarer Monro’ which is due
out at the beginning of July. The one song that holds a special place
in my heart is ‘Michelle’. Dad had arranged for me to go to the
studios with him. It was my first time and I was hugely excited. I had
no idea what he was recording but at the given time George Martin
tapped his baton to gain silence from the orchestra, my dad held my
hand and started singing to me. It was actually that rendition that
was cut and pressed. Moments like that stay with you throughout your
RR – This bio is a great recollection of your dad’s life. For those who
have either never heard your dad’s music or don’t know about your dad, what
would you want audiences to know more than anything about your dad?
MM — The one word used more than any other to describe Matt Monro’s show
business image is professionalism. He gave his audience his best, he
gave his musicians respect, he possessed unmistakeable tone, flawless
diction, was subtly sparing in the use of grace notes and sang in the
accent of his speaking voice. He made a huge impact on the business
when talent and style still had a part to play. That he was surely one
of Britain’s greatest exports is not in question. His record career
alone must be a significant milestone in the annuls of the music
business. But go beyond the tabloid image and you find a staunch and
supportive friend, a man who cared deeply about other people, a humble
man with no ego who didn’t believe his own hype. But this is a man of
so many different parts, a meditative soul who was overwhelmed by his
own press and seemed genuinely surprised that people would want to
listen to him. He was the most wonderful husband and father who
cherished his family deeply. That he was sparing of the time he could
give them was unfortunate, but he was not sparing of the love he gave.
He was caught in the headlights of an industry that exuded magic, at
times torn between the two, but he made the right choices – his family
wouldn’t have wanted it any other way.
To really understand Matt Monro all you have to do is one simple thing
- listen – his voice is the clue to his humanity. Through his music
Matt lives on.
He is irreplaceable.
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