Wales on Sunday April 23rd 2000
Helen Morgan Speaks exclusively to Mary Hopkin

 

Why I Chose To Sing Again Sixties folk icon
Mary breaks her silence for new band

A Welsh rock 'n' roll band have pulled off the impossible - they've persuaded '60s pop icon Mary hopkin to sing again. The solitary songbird soard to fame in the late '60s when she appeared on the talent show Opportunity Knocks. But despite signing to the Beatles record label and rocketing to number one with Paul McCartney produced classic, Those were the days, Mary became dissillusioned with the rock and roll lifestyle. At the age of just 21 the Pontardawe born pop star turned her back on fame, moved to England and brought up her family.

But the reclusive singer is now back, returning to duet with up-and-coming Aberystwyth rockers the Crocketts.

Speaking exclusively to Wales on Sunday Mary has broken her silence after years spent away from the limelight. "Owen Cash the bands drummer sent me a tape of their music and I loved it," revealed Mary, who is 50 next week. "Originaly, I was going to work on a really gutsy track of theirs and as I always get typecast as a sweet folky singer I would have preferred that one. I actually like to write strong rocky stuff in my studio in Henley

The song that appears on the Album is Chicken vs Macho, a cute little song which is very sweet and feminine." But even with talk of it being released as a single, publicity shy Mary is reluctant to being drawn into promoting the song.

"I really love writing and singing but I dont' like performing. In fact I am thinking of putting some of my music on a website.
"The Crocketts do not need my help to promote them they will make it on their own and do very well" said Mary, "In fact I am prbably not very good for their image!"

The Crocketts album the "Great Brain Robbery" has been critically acclaimed and persuading Mary to break her silence is something the bands drummer Owen will always treasure. "We were astonished when Mary got back to us because of her reclusive reputation," he said.

"But we felt we had an outside chance because Mary's a friend of the family, her Mam lives in the same street as my grandmother and we met her briefly when we recorded our first album in Henley on Thames. But because she is so quiet and our music so loud we thought her involvement was a real long shot - about 75 - 1!"

Chicken Vs Macho was recorded in former Kinks star Ray Davies' studio Konk, and Owen has fond memories of the session. "Mary came in to sing her part last October" he said. "She was brilliant to work with. We were waiting for her in the studio with a bottle of wine and chocolate and in she strolled with a bag of fish and chips - we thought this is priceless!" "she still has an amazing voice and she's lovely too."

"She was in with us for an afternoon and it took her around two hours to record her part. She is a real professional.

And Mary and the boys were exceptionally pleased with the fruits of their collaboration. "I think the finished song sounds like the theme to the Littlest Hobo!" laughed Owen.

The Crockets also spent time relaxing with Mary, "It was a pleasure talking to her, we spent time catching up on what was happening in Brynawel road, Pontardawe, and we talked generally about the music industry."

"We would love to work with her again in any capacity, but we would'nt want to inflict on her the same pressures that turned her off the industry in the first place," said Owen.

"Having Mary sing on the track has benefitted the song immensely. We feel privileged that such a legendary singer has graced our album."

Bust - Up with McCartney Forced me to quit scene'

Opportunity came knocking to Mary in 1968. Just 6 weeks after leaving school, Paul McCartney sent a limousine to Mary's house in Pontardawe and whisked her off to London.

The 18 year old signed to the Beatles' Record Label Apple, and became their first star when Those Were The Days became number one in 13 different countries and sold more than 8 million copies.

But after three years, eight chart entries, a TV series, and an appearance in the Eurovison Song Contest, Mary retired at the age of 21.

And now a new S4C documentary reveals the real reason she quit the music scene - because she had a bust up with McCartney. She said "Paul wanted me to go down the commercial route. He was the most commercial minded of them. If I had been allowed to progress, I'd have gone more down the folk path. "I felt it was running away with me. I'd become other peoples property. I knew I was not happy in showbiz and I had to get out."

Mary feared being controlled by record companies determined to change her image. "I'd get offers but I was not prepared to give 100 per cent. I was worried the manipulation would start again." After quitting, Mary became a full time mum, bringing up her two children Jess and Morgan.

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