Watlington, 14th July
Chatting to Mike Hurst before his performance, I commented that Dusty Springfield’s Look of Love, composed by Burt Bacharach, was the most hauntingly beautiful version of the song I had ever heard.
Mike was a 60s singer, songwriter and guitarist, well known in The Springfields, alongside Dusty and Tom Springfield. As a record producer he created 51 top 40 hits and 25 platinum albums.
He originally auditioned for Jack Good‘s television show Oh Boy! and was greatly encouraged by singer Eddie Cochran. His mother answered an advertisement in The Stage on his behalf and he won an audition to join The Springfields. The songs Breakaway, Island of Dreams and Say I Won’t Be There were huge hits in the UK. The success of Silver Threads and Golden Needles meant they became the first UK vocal group to make the USA top 20. They were also named top British group by readers of NME.
Mike is a compelling story teller who began his evening to help Macmillan Cancer Support with the 17th century folk song The Ballad of Barbara Allen followed by Sumer Is Icumen In, a traditional medieval song from the 13th century.
With an honest and humorous style he quickly sped through musical history and intrigued his audience through personal memories. There were some fascinating tales of success, but also of the ones that got away.
Mike produced Marc Bolan‘s first recording session, The Wizard, at Decca and his story included an amusing impersonation of Marc that took you back to the artists early days of psychedelic folk before he found fame through the genre of glam rock.
He discovered Cat Stevens at Hammersmith College, signed him to the new Deram record label and produced his first five hit singles including Matthew and Son. The tale of his fight to gain recognition for this talented singer-songwriter, despite huge opposition, was very moving. Cat Stevens was destined to become one of the most important figures in the world of music.
He also acknowledged the contribution of many other fine musicians. Irving Berlin, one of the greatest songwriters in American history. George Gershwin, composer and pianist, whose melodies are extensively known. Louis Armstrong, jazz trumpeter and singer from New Orleans. Singer Frank Sinatra from the word of jazz, swing and big band. Pioneering American jazz and blues musician Louis Jordan and Hank Williams, one of the most significant country music artists.
Mike concluded the evening by playing various classic songs. Blue Suede Shoes by cultural icon Elvis Presley. Singing The Blues made well known by Guy Mitchell. Yellow Rose of Texas, the traditional folk song. Travellin’ Light, Cliff Richard’s last single of the 50′s. Peggy Sue by rock and roll pioneer Buddy Holly. For What It’s Worth, written by Stephen Stills. Ticket To Ride by The Beatles. Psychedelic Fire by Arthur Brown. The folk rock Mighty Quinn by Manfred Mann.
Mike’s evening was stimulating and very exhausting. There was really no time to digest one story before you were leaping to the next. At the same time you were worrying you might miss some fascinating fact if you didn’t keep up. Cat Stevens once said the words of the songs speak for themselves, so perhaps I’ve said more than is necessary.