When Paul Young died of a heart attack in July 2000, it came as a bolt from the blue for his family and friends.
"He was fit as a fiddle," says Pat, his 63-year-old widow. "You can see when you look at Mike and the Mechanics videos how fit he was. He never complained of anything. He’d done a Mike And The Mechanics tour, and he had just come home from Switzerland with the SAS Band, said he had indigestion, and that was it."
Paul and Pat had been childhood sweethearts who met, aged 14, at Altrincham ice rink, married at 17 and had three children together. As she speaks about Paul, the sense of loss is still evident 11 years on.
When Young died aged 53, his musical legacy was a string of albums with well-regarded Manchester band Sad Café in the 1970s and 1980s, and another substantial body of work from the late 1980s and 1990s as one of the front men of Mike Rutherford’s band Mike And The Mechanics. The Genesis guitarist described Young as ‘one of the best rock voices of his generation’.
But there were other, unreleased recordings Young had crafted at the home studio he built in the basement of 63 Hale Road, Hale, the one-time family home which now boasts a blue plaque. "He worked through the night," recalls Pat, who now lives in rural Cheshire. "I’d be in bed sleeping and he would have other musicians in."
Among the musicians who visited was Alistair Gordon, who lived nearby in Hale. He recalls that Young assembled 30 original songs, one co-written with Mike Rutherford, and that he and Paul were working on material for a Paul Young solo album right up until two weeks before his death. Several record labels were interested in the work, but then it all came to a shuddering halt.
"I knew he had songs down there. It was all on DAT (Digital Audio Tape)," says Pat. "I locked the door to the studio. I didn’t go down there. It hurt too much. Time slipped by, and three years after Paul passed away, Alistair asked me whether I had thought of doing an album. I said no, I’m not ready. Then after nine years, Alistair came back, and then other people were asking.
"We got the DAT tapes out and dampness had set in. We had to have them ‘baked’ to take the dampness out. We were frightened they may be destroyed, but they survived it."
Gordon secured financial backing for the project, and the idea was hatched to involve all the original members of Sad Café in recording an album using Young’s tapes as the foundation.
"This, for me, was a pleasurable yet daunting task, as all the original members now lived all over the planet and hadn’t spoken or worked together for over 20 years," says Gordon. "I then began tracking them all down, one by one. It was like recruiting the Magnificent Seven."
Paul Young had been a stalwart of the Manchester music scene right back to the beat era. Growing up in Benchill, Wythenshawe, he had been a choirboy from the age of five, and when he met Pat aged 14, he was already in a band called Johnny Dark And The Midnights. Other bands, including the Teenbeats and Toggery Five, named after a Stockport clothes shop, followed.
But it was with Sad Café that Young finally tasted chart success, in particular their top ten single Every Day Hurts in 1979. But despite critical acclaim, the Sad Café story had an unhappy ending, mired in debt. When
Mike Rutherford called to ask Young to audition for Mike And The Mechanics in the mid-1980s, Pat recalls, he had to borrow the £20 train fare to London from her father.
"A week later, he was told he had the job," she says. "Our lives changed completely. It was chauffeur-driven cars, top hotels. Mike Rutherford is a gentleman."
On the new album, Rutherford plays guitar on the song Your Shoes, which he wrote with Young. There are contributions from former Sad Café members drummer Dave Irving, bassist Des Tong, keyboard player Victor Emerson, guitarists Ashley Mulford, Ian Stewart and Mike Hehir. Also on the album are 10cc’s Graham Gouldman and Eric Stewart, and Mike And The Mechanics singer Paul Carrack, who duets with his old pal Young on Grace Of God.
"They were over the moon. They loved Paul," says Pat of the coming together of the various Sad Café members. "All of a sudden we’ve all become friends. The album has brought out so many nice feelings."
© Machester Evening News, by Paul Taylor
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John Fletcher Wednesday, 11 May 2011 15:21 Comment Link Report
This is great news about the new album. Paul and I grew up together and were good friends through our early years including joining the Choir at St Lukes and I have always enjoyed his music as he "grew" through his various bands. Paul was a singer's singer and I felt that he did not get the true credit his voice and unquestionable passion for music deserved and I hope that this album brings as much pleasure as his previous work. He will survive us all through his music and I am off to buy this album! Thanks, John