By MIKE CHAIKEN
Paul Young was one of the faces of British pop music in the 1980s.
His hits such as “Every Time You Go Away” and the album from which it came, “The Secrets of Association,” paved the way for stardom in the U.S. He was a staple on MTV. He sang on the charity track, “Do They Know It’s Christmas” from Band-Aid. He then performed for the world as part of Live Aid.
Eventually, Young pulled away from the trappings of pop stardom and formed a Tex Mex band Los Pacaminos, which still continues to this day.
But, in 2016, he returned to his soul roots with the album, “Good Thing”—albeit in a more mature manner than his teen idol days.
On Sunday, June 10, Paul Young comes to the area in a sold out performance at Daryl’s House in Pawling, N.Y.
The Observer caught up with Young via email to speak about his solo career, Los Pacominos, and his tour in the U.S.?
Observer: Your career has two prominent dimensions—your days as a top pop star in the 1980s and then your ongoing gig with Los Pacaminos. After your pop days, why did Los Pacaminos work for you as an antidote to being a “heart throb?”
Young: After about eight years of being a heartthrob, I hankered for just being a band member again, a little like when I was in my soul band before the solo career. So I chose musicians who were happy to share the singing duties. Also, it gave me a chance to play guitar, sing harmonies, write songs within certain parameters; and Tex-Mex is a very happy music. I’m so overlooking inwards and being morose.
Observer: Why was it important for you in the initial days of Los Pacominos to step away from the spotlight?
Young: I’ve always tried to include my musicians even when solo, I don’t mind sharing the spotlight at all. I guess I’m happy being a team player. And basically, it’s nice to get away from the “Hey, everybody look at me” syndrome of being a solo pop star.
Observer: Given your soul pop credentials at the time, the Tex Mex sound of Los Pacominos was a surprise to many. When did you first fall in love with Tex Mex music and what artists did you admire that inspired you to give it a go?
Young: Ry Cooder’s “Chicken Skin” period enlightened me to Flaco Jimenez. Ry also had a Bajo Sexto player, and I was intrigued to find out more. It seemed to work alongside the soulful vocals from Bobby King and Willie Green Jr. so I didn’t see it as a big departure. I found the Texas Tornados, got into Conjunto, Mariachi, Banda and other musical styles; in fact I have a fascination about Mexico in general. Their food, history—danger— it’s an exciting place. After that, I’ve carried my musical journey into South America and Cuba too; so many great musical artists.
Observer: Of course, for many Americans, your music of the 1980s, such as “Everytime You Go Away,” serves as their strongest memories of you. When you look back on those days, what memories stand out most?
Young: It was manic: the camaraderie, we always were tight with each other. My drummer Mark (Pinder) is even in the Pacaminos, as was Matt Irving (keys) until his untimely death a couple of years ago. Live Aid, Band Aid, Freddie Mercury AIDS Concert, all great memories. And I’m still friends with Midge, of course. (Editor’s note: Midge Ure, one of the organizers of Live Aid was on tour with Young up until June 8 when Ure was slated to return to the U.K.)
Oh, and I must be one of the few that love a tour bus, so touring wasn’t a chore for me at all. Unfortunately, I seldom had that chance back in the ‘80’s as they were always flying me ahead to do press and promo, but I relished the chance to get back on the bus.
Observer: In your initial days, including your stint with the Q-Tips, found you offering up your interpretation of soul music. What was it about that sound that you found attractive? As a younger Paul Young, what soul artists did you admire and why?
Young: I was in a rock band first, but when the guitar player went on honeymoon the rest of us formed a soul band and I loved it. That became the nucleus of The Q-Tips. But I found a much bigger release of emotion singing that kind of stuff than I did with rock music. I always bought varied and eclectic records from a young age. I didn’t see any segregation in it. But the soul artists that bit me first were Otis Redding— the first and still sings straight to my heart— Joe Tex, Marvin Gaye, followed by Sam Cooke, Johnnie Taylor, William Bell, and Junior Walker — his sax phrasing was like a vocal in itself.
Observer: Your last recorded effort, 2016’s “Good Thing” found you returning to soul music—but in a more organic way than the 1980s. What did you like about recording this music in a way that was more reflective of the soul artists of the 1960s and 1970s?
Young: Well, I’ve been direction-less for a while, because for me it’s been hard to pin down what a Paul Young style is. So getting back to my roots or early influences seemed like a good idea, and rooting through for more rare choices was fun. We actually started with a lot of programmed stuff, then started to replace it with real playing by the producer/engineer James Hallawell, but then we decided it would be better to cherry pick the players; so this was almost recorded three times over. Now though, it’s given me time to look at what I’ve recorded over the last few years, and when I put it all together —different projects with different producers— it sounds like a PY album, Which I realize now is a mixture of originals, covers, and obscure covers with arrangements specific to each song and making sure there is a coherency. I’d say that was the thread for my first two and most successful albums.
Observer: You’re going to be touring America. What can fans expect from Paul Young this time? Will it focus on your 1980s memories? Or will you try to expose fans to what Paul Young’s sound is in 2018?
Young: I will always focus on the 80’s, because that’s how come I’m here today. I’ll put some new ones in and the odd album track, but the hits are the hits for a reason; everyone likes them.
Observer: What do you like about the opportunity to be able to play for American audiences?
Young: I was in the U.S. last year on a package tour with Howard Jones, Modern English, and others, but scarily I realized the last time I played in the U.S. was 25 years before. So it’s back to the treadmill for me, time to re-establish myself.
American audiences seem to be more about enjoying the occasion and less of an, “Okay, impress me” attitude than anywhere else in the world. And these days I feel the same: I’m just enjoying the moment.
Paul Young performs in a sold-out show on Sunday, June 10 at 7 p.m. at Daryl’s House, 130 Route 22, Pawling, N.Y. For more information, go to www.darylshouseclub.com or paul-young.com/