Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Michele Monro Talks with the Cafe about "The Singer's Singer: The Life and Music of Matt Monro" (Part 2)

Freddie Garrity, Matt Monro, and
Dusty Springfield.
This is the second part of our interview with Michele Monro, daughter of British singer Matt Monro. Michele sat down recently to chat with the Cafe about her new biography of her father, who recorded classic hits likes "My Kind of Girl" and sang on the soundtracks to films like Born Free and From Russia With Love.

Cafe:  Matt Monro obviously enjoyed his only major acting role in George Montgomery's film Satan's Harvest. What other film roles was he offered?

An adventure film
co-starring Matt Monro.
Michele:  George Montgomery persuaded Matt to take his first film role giving him license to pick any role he wanted. The singer chose a character that had four or five lines but without Matt’s knowledge George completely re-wrote the role so that his friend would have a much meatier part. Matt loved the camaraderie on the shoot; the South African locations were stunning and he was eager to repeat the experience. George immediately asked Matt to take on a Western role the following year, which was to be shot in the Philippines. Sadly the country suffered from civil unrest and the movie was put on hold. In the meantime Matt was besieged with parts, one in Carry on Henry VIII which he couldn’t envision himself doing and countless offers for singing bus driver roles. They didn’t appeal. Sadly Matt never got the opportunity of making another movie.

Cafe:  One of our favorite Matt Monro albums is These Years. But Matt wasn't pleased with most of his hastily-produced U.S. albums with Capitol, was he?

Michele:  All but one of the tracks on These Years were recorded in a single day. The album was thrown together without the care that was taken in Matt’s English recordings. The process was rushed and Matt was forced into singing over backing tracks for a lot of the songs. Recording five albums over a six-month period is exhausting by anyone’s standards. Capitol insisted that albums were a big market in the States, but it just seemed to Matt that the record company was rushing headlong into projects without much thought.  As far as he was concerned, the English way might have been slower but it was more professional and the end product proved the worth of spending the extra time on an album. The mindset was completely different in America--they felt that if an album took two days rather than one, they were losing money.

Cafe:  Bee Gee Maurice Gibb played a key part in getting your father to  enter rehab for alcoholism. You wrote that your father never had another  drink. Did he stay in touch with Maurice Gibb?

Michele:  My father was extremely strong-minded and once he put his mind to something, that was that. He was lucky that he could apply that same mental process after leaving the rehabilitation clinic. Not only did he never touch alcohol again but he never needed the support of an AA group either. Maurice became dad’s sponsor and was instrumental in getting the singer to face his demons. Their friendship carried on but like all show business friendships, hook-ups were difficult as they were reliant on the performers being in the same city at the same time and that didn’t happen very often. But out of sight didn’t mean out of mind and they spoke to each other often over the years. Indeed, Maurice Gibbs gave this quote: "The inimitable vocal style of Matt Monro will never be forgotten. My memories of Matt will remain with me always. Not only a wonderful voice, but a wonderful man."

Cafe:  What was Matt's favorite recording? What's your  favorite?

My father always used to sing "My Funny Valentine" when my mum was in the audience. It was their song and it was a tragedy that he never came to record it--or that is what I thought. A chance remark from a fan in  Hong Kong led me to contact Mood Media asking if they held any Matt Monro tracks in their archives.  A list arrived of thirteen tracks. On that list was "My Funny Valentine." The date the email came was 14 February 2011!

Draft cover from the upcoming album.
It took another eleven months until I actually got listening copies of those thirteen recordings; it was one of the most frustrating periods in my life. Even though I told the company it was a possibility that I would include the tracks on the new release Matt Uncovered: The Rarer Monro, which is due out on 28 July 2012, they couldn’t be hurried as they were in the middle of transferring their archives to digital media and Dad’s tracks were among thousands of tapes that were in line for treatment.  When I finally received the disc, I wept when I heard them, for every one of those songs was pristine and even though there were a couple on the list that Dad had recorded later in his career, they turned out to be completely different arrangements. I couldn’t believe that they were nearly sixty years old. They sounded as if they had been recorded yesterday and it was a wondrously exciting moment. As I listened to each track on the disc, I was in awe of the perfection of each performance and as the tune came to an end I held my breath in hope that the next in the play list would be as good. Each of these unexpected gifts were as wonderful as the last but I have to say that "My Funny Valentine" would have been enough. I feel that the other twelve were an extra bonus. This is the sort of thing that doesn't happen every day and it makes the new album even more special in that I am able to share it with the fans. I can’t think of anything more tragic had they been left undiscovered, just a list within someone’s computer document.

The one song that does hold a special place in my heart is "Michelle." Dad had arranged for me to go to the studios with him. It was my first time and I was hugely excited. I had no idea what he was recording but at the given time George Martin tapped his baton to gain silence from the orchestra, my dad held my hand and started singing to me. It was actually that rendition that was cut and pressed. Moments like that stay with you throughout your life.

Cafe:  Your 788-page biography is exceedingly well-researched and thorough. What inspired you to write it and how long did it take?

Michele:  This book was really a labour of love and was written for my son Max. I suffered a near-fatal car crash a few years ago and it struck me that if anything happened to me, my son wouldn't know anything more about his grandfather other than he was a great singer. It upset me that he wouldn't know his origin or roots or what Matt Monro had contributed to the music business so as soon as I was able I started the process. It took three years to do the research and interview more than 200 people. A further year was spent actually writing the book and a further year with publisher re-writes and edits.

Black & white photo is from The Singer’s Singer: The Life and Music of Matt Monro © 2012 Michele Monro. Titan Books provided a review copy to the Classic Film & TV Cafe.


  1. Rick, this is a wonderful interview! I have always loved Matt Monro's, beautiful voice and I would have loved to have heard his version of "My Funny Valentine".

    I really enjoyed reading about Monro's, friendship with singer, Bee Gee Maurice Gibb.

    I can't wait to read the book, it sounds fascinating!

  2. I enjoyed this interview immensely. The thought of those newly discovered tracks is thrilling.

  3. What an exciting conclusion to this interview! It was very touching to read about Maurice Gibbs loving support and encouragement to help Matt Monro deal with alcoholism. And I cannot imagine the thrill hearing one's father sing a namesake song to you. Best of all was learning about the unknown 13 recordings that were found, including the gem "My Funny Valentine." Thanks to Michele for sharing with the Cafe and to Rick for setting the interview in motion. Bravo!

  4. I agree with toto2 on what a thrill it must have been for Michele to be there when her Dad recorded The Beatles song with her name. And finding that "lost" recording of "My Funny Valentine" was just kismet. Excellent!