Barry Manilow on Gary Barlow and his love affair with the British public ahead of Wembley Arena gig

This Is Local London: Barry Manilow is coming to the Wembley Arena Barry Manilow is coming to the Wembley Arena

What are your earliest memories of visiting the UK?

My manager had booked me for two nights at the London Palladium in 1978. By then I had already had ten hit singles! Ten! My record career and my performing career had exploded in the U.S. and all of my advisors thought it was time to see if anyone outside of the U.S. was interested in me. I was totally convinced that nobody would buy tickets for those two nights.

I had never been to England; I had no friends or relatives there! I thought my advisors were all crazy. But those two nights sold out so quickly, we added two more nights and then two more until two nights had turned into six nights of sold out shows at the Palladium.

When I arrived in London, I was greeted at the airport by a huge crowd of fans that had to be controlled by police and security.

I was "gob-smacked"! I will never forget those shows. The British audience welcomed me like an old friend.

It was the beginning of a love affair I’ve had with the British public that has lasted until this day.

Was the music scene in the UK very different to that in the US in the 1970’s when you had your first hit?

The music scene in both the US and the UK were filled with rock’n’roll and dance music.  Here are some of the hits during that time: "Play That Funky Music White Boy", "Boogie Fever" and "Afternoon Delight".

"Mandy" seemed to have no place on a chart with those songs. But the public loved "Mandy".

Who were your musical influences as a child growing up?

I never paid much attention to singers or performers when I was growing up. I was much more fascinated with the orchestrators, arrangers and musicians. Nelson Riddle, Don Costa and George Martin (who produced the Beatles) were my heroes.

My dream was to become a composer or an arranger or a producer. Never dreamed about singing or performing.

Do you have a memorable UK concert that really stands out over the years?

Of course that would be the Concert at Blenheim Palace. My brilliant manager, Garry Kief, somehow convinced the Duke of Marlborough to allow us to stage a concert on the grounds of the Palace.
It had never been done, but the Duke had listened to my music and said, "Yes. I think he’s a nice fellow making some nice music. His fans are probably nice too." He expected a few hundred people to attend the concert. Frankly, so did I.
50,000 people showed up! It was a night I’ll never forget. And, I’ll bet, nether will the Duke!

Are there any British artists that you would have liked to have collaborated with?
Elton. George Michael. Sting. Lulu. Paul McCartney.

You have recently performed with Gary Barlow at Children in Need Rocks, when did you first meet Gary?
His group, Take That, recorded a great rendition of my song "Could It Be Magic". I met him backstage at one of my concerts during the time the record was exploding. We stayed friends ever since.

Are you still touring as much as you have done in the past?
I’ve stopped those long, month-long tours. I do one-nighters, but no more long tours.

What can we expect from the UK 2014 tour?
I’m planning on singing as many of the hits as I can.

Your musical, ‘Harmony’ opened this year in Atlanta that must have been an emotional moment for you as it has been a long time in the making?
Mounting a Broadway musical is a monumental undertaking. We’ve had a lot of bad luck over the years. But finally, the show opened in Atlanta to rave reviews.
Bruce Sussman (my co-author) and I never stopped believing in our show.

Is there a chance that ‘Harmony’ will transfer to the West End?
As of now, there are no plans for "Harmony" to come to Britain.

Apparently you are working on a new album for Spring 2014, is it a concept album like ‘Here at The Mayflower’ or is it a collection of new songs?
I’m working on two new albums. One is little the other is big.
The little one is a romantic album of my favorite standards from the Great American Songbook. But these songs have not been sung by very many people. They’re "non-standard Standards".
It’s the most intimate album I’ve ever made. Just me playing piano, bass and singing. That’s it.
If you liked "When October Goes", you’ll love this album.

What were your memories from the day when you were inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame? It must have been a huge honour?
Yes, it was a huge honor. Mainly because the only reason I began recording albums was to promote my songwriting.
Joining the ranks of talented songwriters who have been chosen for the Songwriters Hall of Fame was one of the highlights of my career.

You did a Christmas album a few years ago; do you have a favourite Christmas song?
I love the Christmas season because it seems that it’s the only time of the year that people stop hollering at each other!
The Christmas standards were written by some of the great songwriters of the 1940’. Irving Berlin was the top of the pyramid. All of his Christmas songs are wonderful. "White Christmas", "Happy Holiday" and many more.
But one of my favorites is a song that takes place during a romantic break-up during the Christmas holidays. It’s called "River" and it was written by the great
Joni Mitchell. Not exactly your typical Christmas song, but a wonderful song nevertheless.


Finally, if you could have a dinner party with ten musicians/recording artists, alive or dead, who would they be? 

Harold Arlen, Irving Berlin, Jerome Kern, Harry Warren, Johnny Mercer, Leonard Bernstein, Nelson Riddle, Frank Sinatra, Judy Garland. 

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