• Text size      
  • Send this article to a friend
  • Print this article

Blast from the past

My chums from Glasgow University and I were what would now be termed "early adopters" of Dexy's Midnight Runners.

I wanted to be JB, the group's tenor saxophonist, and my best friend's sister started going out with the keyboard player, Andy.

Andy Leek's career with Dexy's was brief. He left to pursue a solo career after their second single, and first hit, Geno, releasing his own debut, Move on in your Maserati, in a sleeve decorated with press cuttings about his departure, shortly thereafter. He was, however, involved with his old band-mates in what became the most notorious episode in the Dexy's story, helping Kevin "Al" Archer, who had later left the group, with the new music he was making. Archer made the mistake of letting Kevin Rowland hear the demos and the Dexy's frontman blatantly copied the whole sound for the Too-Rye-Ay album and Come on Aileen mega-hit – a sin to which Rowland has subsequently confessed.

Andy Leek, however, had his own direction to follow, one that brought him into the orbit of many of the pop luminaries of the day, and he had already released one solo album, Midnight Music, when he landed a management deal and a recording contract with Atlantic Records in New York. Asked who he would like to produce the next album, Leek aimed high, sending demos of seven songs to Beatles producer George Martin. Martin responded with enthusiasm and Say Something was recorded at Air Studios in London, much of it live and in digital clarity (then a new thing) with players including guitarists Clem Clemson and Steve Howe, Scot Peter Vettesse (now a highly successful pop producer) on keyboards, Jamie Talbot among the saxophones and the London Community Gospel Choir on backing vocals.

In the way of the music industry, however, subsequent events made the album another great lost classic. A disillusioned Leek formed a covers band that made a good living doing party gigs – his list of clients included Rory Bremner, Tim Rice and Princess Anne – and his own song-writing took a back seat. A couple of decades passed before he received a call out of the blue from someone at the management company, who had found the master-tapes of the disc in storage in the attic: would he like them back?

After "baking" to refix the glue that holds the digital information, Leek took the tapes to a local studio near his Lichfield home and began remixing the recordings, preserving all the arrangements that he and Martin had created together, but dispensing with some of the post-production audio clutter that was fashionable at the time. The result is the reissue today of an album of that contains a batch of pop songs that led the Beatles producer to say: "When I heard Andy, I knew he was someone I could not ignore. The immediate attractions were a great voice and superb songs, but as we began to work together, I realised more and more what a great talent I was dealing with."

There is little on Say Something that sounds anything like Dexy's Midnight Runners in any of their incarnations. Leek's writing is much more in the mainstream pop vein – it is more instructive to know that in the early 1980s he worked with Abba's Frida Lyngstad, writing her biggest solo hit Twist in the Dark and recording his own version of Dancing Queen. Songs like the title track, Golden Doors, and the slightly edgy album opener What's the Problem? are instantly memorable and have the shape and structure of classic pop writing. Leek calls it "an album for all times and all tastes" and is still justifiably proud of it.

"I hope it is an example of where classical meets pop. George Martin was there every step of its creation. I worked with him on the arrangements at the piano in his home while his wife brought us tea and cakes," he says.

Leek admits that until the huge package of tapes turned up at his mother's home, he'd given up on his songwriting and even the corporate gigs. Restoring and remixing the record has been months of work and "cost a fortune", but the end result has been to revive his enthusiasm for music.

"I've been inspired by my long absence and started writing again, perhaps as many as 50 songs over the last four years, while I have been working on Say Something. A new album Waking Up The World will be out next year, with 16 new songs."

And it turns out the old band-mates still speak, despite all that passed between them.

"Dexy's was a very short part of my career and I'm not really interested in what other people are doing, because I've got my own voice. But we have to let bygones be bygones, and hopefully we can all be friends now," he says.

It turns out that Andy Leek is still in touch with my mate's sister, come to that.

Andy Leek's Say Something Deluxe Edition is released today, through Matchbox Recordings.

Kevin Rowland of Dexy's Midnight Runners speaks to Graeme Thomson in tomorrow's Herald.

Contextual targeting label: 
Arts and Entertainment

Commenting & Moderation

We moderate all comments on HeraldScotland on either a pre-moderated or post-moderated basis.
If you're a relatively new user then your comments will be reviewed before publication and if we know you well and trust you then your comments will be subject to moderation only if other users or the moderators believe you've broken the rules

Moderation is undertaken full-time 9am-6pm on weekdays, and on a part-time basis outwith those hours. Please be patient if your posts are not approved instantly.

115568