Saturday, 4th of October
The British rock group, SMOKIE, will be touring South-Africa in October as part of their world tour. They will also visit countries such as Russia, Germany, Turkey, Finland, India, Australia and Romania. This World Tour is also a celebration of SMOKIE’s thirty years in the entertainment industry.
SMOKIE will be performing at Carnival City’s Big Top Arena on Saturday, 4th of October.
SUPERSTERRE winner Kobus Muller will do the warm-up act.
To book your seat, please visit your nearest Computicket outlet, or visit them on the internet at www.computicket.com. Alternatively, phone them on 083 915 8000. Group of more than 10 people qualifies for discounted prices. Please phone Cecile on 011 815 3000 in this regard, or visit www.lefra.co.za.
After two very successful cover albums, Smokie has returned to song-writing on their new studio album “On the Wire”. According to bass player Terry Uttley, a founder and member of almost 30 years, Smokie has never been in better shape than now. For the first time in many years, Smokie has released a studio album with their own material. The album, “On the Wire”, marks the beginning of a strong new period for the band, which refuses to sit back and stop developing despite almost 30 years in the business. “We continue to grow with this album. After two albums of cover versions it was very important for us to start writing again as we are still very ambitious. In fact, 11 of the 14 songs on the new album were written by us and we are quite satisfied”, says Uttley.
As the only original band member out of the 5 current members, he has been on board since the beginning, in 1975, when Smokie still called themselves Smokey and released the debut album “Pass It Around”. He has experienced both the ups and the downs, but for the most part, it has been good – a long row of number one hits, full stadiums and three generations of enthusiastic fans.
Perhaps Smokie is best compared to Brazil’s national football team – regardless of the substitutions on the team, Brazil continues to play the best football in the world. In the same way, throughout the years, Smokie has experienced a row of substitutions without damaging the team, and today Smokie seems to have the strongest team ever: Mike Craft (lead vocals, guitar), Terry Uttley (backing vocals, bass), Mick McConnell (backing vocals, lead guitar), Martin Bullard (keyboard) and Steve Pinnell (drums and percussion).
“Smokie is not a team of stars. We are a band. Smokie is a sound and not dependent on one person, which is often the case on the pop scene. Our strength is our teamwork and I’m not afraid to say that our current composition is the best one ever. Smokie has simply never been better than it is today”, Uttley continues.
This statement is remarkable when looking back on Smokie’s career, as there have indeed been many excellent musicians and superstars in the band over the years. It all started in West Yorkshire, England, in the beginning of the 70s. Terry Uttley joined forces with his musical friends Chris Norman and Alan Silson at St. Bedes Grammar School in Bradford, forming the band “The Yen”, which was later, renamed “The Sphynx”. The conditions were quite primitive – with a four-stringed guitar substituting as a bass – but this didn’t discourage the band. However, despite numerous name changes along the way, nothing happened until the night in Cheshire when Bill Hurley discovered the band.
Bill provided the band with crucial contacts – the people who created the signature sound of British radio pop in the 1970s, Nicky Chinn and Mike Chapman. The first hit for Smokey (they changed their name to Smokie after a controversy with the people behind American singer Smokey Robinson) came in 1975 with the hit “Pass it Around”. It was banned by several radio stations as the title was thought to encourage smoking pot.
The new band, Smokie, was unstoppable. Hit after hit was released, with songs like “Livin’ Next Door to Alice”, “Don’t Play Your Rock ‘n’ Roll to Me” and “If You Think You Know How to Love Me” founding the characteristic Smokie sound with close guitars and sharp vocals. The songs on the new Smokie album have the potential of becoming equally popular among fans throughout the world. “On The Wire” contains many of the smash hit features which over the years have become synonymous with Smokie.
“Our sound is like the recipe for Kentucky Fried Chicken – it’s a secret! But it’s true that the vocal harmonies are our trade mark”, says lead singer Mike Craft. On the new album one can, among other things, enjoy the vocals on the first single, “Over You”, as well as the beautiful ballad “Home is Where You Are”. Also, the delightfully rocking songs “Ain’t Gonna Rain” and “Love on a Wire” can really carry one away.
Mike Craft says about the selection of the 14 brand new songs: “We must have listened to a thousand songs. But in most cases our own material was better than what was offered to us by other songwriters. We did, however, decide to work on Ole Boskovs’ song and fit it to our style. It might be somewhat atypical, but we have played it live many times and it is already very popular and a real party song!”
According to the band members many fans have already heard some of the new songs at concerts during the past year. The new songs were written way back in December 2002, but Smokie has spent much time in the studio perfecting the recordings.
The history of the band has been both dramatic and unique. The original lead singer, Chris Norman, was quick to have ambitions about a solo career after a successful duet with Suzy Quatro, “Stumblin’ In” in 1978. And just as Smokie’s success peaked – after five years on the road and on the hit list – the band decided to split up. The decision to get back together, taken in 1986, was also a quick one. Initially Chris Norman was the lead singer once again, but he left again shortly after, and was replaced by a new lead singer, Alan Barton.
Smokie managed to reboot their career. What probably led to success the second time around was the album “Celebration” from 1994 containing among others “Can’t Cry Hard Enough”, which turned out to have a very tragic meaning for Smokie. In March 1995, Smokie was involved in a traffic accident on their way to the airport in Düsseldorf and while Alan Silson and Terry Uttley were badly injured, Alan Barton’s injuries were so severe that he died after 5 days of struggling in intensive care.
For a long time, Smokie considered giving up, but due to heavy support from dedicated fans as well as from the media, Smokie began searching for a replacement and so, a good friend of the band, Mike Craft, was chosen to give voice to Smokie’s very characteristic vocal sound ever since. With Mike on the team, Smokie has added new chapters to their success story, the latest being the retrospective box set “The Hit Box” which through 10 CDs tells their whole story with music.
After almost 30 years, one might fear that Smokie is burned out – that the group would want to rest on its laurels and just play the old hits over and over again, but “On the Wire” proves the opposite: Smokie is in great shape! The band is also earning a reputation of being perhaps the hardest working band in the business, with 260 days on tour last year, necessitating 178 flights from country to country with their tireless manager John Wagstaff.
“Actually it is more and more fun to play when you get older, for the simple reason that you get better over the years”, says keyboard player Martin Bullard.
“It is a passion”, says veteran Terry Uttley. “When I was a child, I thought that if only I was a pop star, I could sleep late every day. As if! We get up early almost every morning and I hate early flights more than anything else. Some days are hard, but everything is easier when you love what you’re doing.”
Drummer Steve Pinnell says it in plain English on behalf of everyone in the band, which seems to be growing even more popular as time goes by: “I love this life! I can’t imagine doing anything else!”
GUEST ARTIST – KOBUS MULLER
SUPERSTERRE (SABC2) winner, Kobus Muller will perform as guest artist and warm up act for SMOKIE at all the shows. This talented 22 year old singer just released his debut album which already received Gold status. He wrote five songs on the CD himself and also performed duets with Nicholis Louw and Patricia Lewis. Kobus is very excited to perform with SMOKIE. “I grew up with the music of SMOKIE and it is such an honour to be part of their world tour here in South Africa. I am sure I am going to enjoy it tremendously and I am also prepared to learn a lot of this super popular group that has been around for 30 years!,” Kobus said.