Watching Georgie Fame playing, a well-known musical journalist once remarked, “I wonder if he cares a damn whether he is in the hit-parade or not?”
Looking at Georgie, lost in his playing, one could not help but agree with him, and I don’t think that it is very often that Georgie does think about the hit-parade. In fact the hit-parade has had a very peculiar reaction to Georgie.
Most people know that Georgie led Billy Fury’s first backing group before The Tornados. He then took up the organ and formed The Blue Flames, with whom he played for years at the Flamingo and other clubs, building up a tremendous following, but never making the charts.
Incidentally, unlike most groups, The Blue Flames have always been a rather anonymous group, they are never personally identified, although through the years the fans have got to know the names of some of the members especially the bongo drummer. In the course of its existence The Blue Flames have had a number of personnel changes which have gone unnoticed to many people.
Georgie also, from time to time, augments The Blue Flames with additional instruments of one sort or another as he experiments with new sound developments. When I saw them recently, Georgie had included two extra saxophones and a trumpet in his line up, whether they will stay, or how long they will stay depends, no doubt, on how satisfied Georgie is with the new sound he is getting.
When you come to think of it Georgie is himself something of an enigma, when you ask yourself why and how a lad from Lancashire with no particular musical traditions behind him, or anything to inspire him beyond the records he hears of American jazz musicians, should become one of the leaders of Rhythm and Blues music.
So a little time ago I asked him about himself — what sort of person he was. Georgie told me —
“At school I was actually much keener on sport than music. I was captain of the school rugger team. I was in the school athletics team, I was a keen ice-skater, a keen water-skier and I was also in the school swimming team. I would emphasize the word was, because from the time I got interested in music, and even more so, after I became a professional musician and entered show-business, sport went by the board simply because of lack of time. Nowadays, about the only thing I do still is swim.
“But I never regret it, or anything from the past. Sometimes I am asked if I ever regret going into show-business? — Do I remember school with affection and so on? — The truth is I never think about the past at all. To me yesterday is over and done with — it can’t ever be brought back, so you might as well forget it. I think only of today and the future — this is important because if you think right about the future, the past need never come to your attention again. If you go wrong by the future, of course, you may be forced to remember the past because the silly action you did then has consequences which are always forcing themselves on your attention.
“In some ways I’m really rather a lazy person. One of the pleasures that a big chart success brings you is the money to be able to employ a lot of people to do all the arranging of things for you… you know the day-to-day details of living and travelling. That way I can concentrate entirely on making music. Which is, after all, the thing I do best. I do try to put on a bit of an act sometimes — I mean I try and appear terribly business-like and tycoonish when I have to negotiate business—but it is all an act. I’d be just hopeless as a real businessman. One of my troubles is that I’m not really strong willed. Anybody can get me to do almost anything if they dangle the right bait in front of my nose.
“Do I have any interests outside of music? — Not really. I think I’ve read all the James Bond books, if that is a virtue, I never get time for more serious books. I’m hopeless at drawing or painting and I couldn’t make anything with my hands if I tried. Clothes? I like to be well dressed and I blush sometimes to think how scruffy I used to be when I first came into show-business — but I have no interest in clothes or fashion at all. It doesn’t give me hours of enjoyment deciding whether a button should be here or there, or whether the yellow tweed is better than the purple mohair, which it seems to give some people. Well dressed — yes, no more than that. No, apart from swimming I can’t really say I have any real interests outside making music.
“Girls? Marriage? In due course, I suppose. It always sounds so silly the way people in show-business say you never have the time. But it really is true — there is always something that needs your attention, and when you add that on to the time you need to practice and rehearse, I would vote for any political party that promised me a twenty-five hour day. You know you don’t get time for girls — you have to make time and in order to want to make time you’ve got to want to be with the girl pretty badly. So until you meet the right girl, the ideal girl, the one that has that super attraction—you just seem to miss out on girls, there just isn’t time.’’
Well that is something of Georgie Fame’s view of himself, prompted by some odd questions from me. I do know that whether Georgie hits the chart high-spots again or not — Georgie is still going to be around playing his kind of music to anybody who wants to listen to it.