Interview: Peter Sarstedt
You’re playing Nottingham on the penultimate night of the Solid Silver ’60s Show, a 56-date tour which has been on the road since February. Are you a veteran of these kinds of packages?
I wouldn’t say I’m a veteran – but it’s nice to be asked, that’s the main thing. We’ve got The Troggs and the Swinging Blue Jeans as the bands, and four solo artists – Mike Pender, Dave Berry, Brian Poole and myself – all being backed by Vanity Fare. Normally, I play solo. But this time I was offered the band – so I thought, yeah, why not? And it’s working out very well.
These men are heroes of the revolution – but they’re heroes of a certain kind, because they’ve been around for a long, long time. So they’re extremely experienced. They know what’s happening. They’ve seen it all before, so they’re very slick. They’ve got their act down immaculately, and the audience are in for a bit of a treat.
How long do they give you to perform on stage?
Each of the solo artists gets fifteen minutes, so it’s about four songs. The man says that he doesn’t want a long show – but it will be a two hour show anyway, plus an interval.
The other acts were linked more to the beat group explosion, but you come from a slightly different tradition. So perhaps you’re there to add a bit of contrast to the line-up.
I like to think so. But I was available, because I don’t do a lot of work. Not as many gigs as the others, who work every night as far as I know. So I hold back a bit, and therefore I’m a little bit of a surprise.
When did you start making music?
My older brother [early 1960s pop star Eden Kane] brought home a guitar in the late Fifties, when he first started. It was around 1957 or 1958, and I’ve been doing it since then, in various disguises. I started off as Pete Lincoln and the Sundowners. I had a band, and we used to play local dance halls. In fact, we used to play for Brian Poole and the Tremeloes.
Did you then have a period when you were doing a lot of busking?
I was travelling around Europe, because if I was going to be a writer, then I needed some experience, and this seemed like a good way. I did a bit of busking, as a street musician. I tried that in Paris, and also in Copenhagen, where I met my other half.
Was it in Copenhagen that you wrote your best known song, Where Do You Go To My Lovely?
Yes – I had recently come from Paris, so I knew a bit about Paris. It was a good night, so after a party I settled down and I wrote the song. I used to write maybe eight songs a day, so this was one of them. She’s an invented character; a mysterious European character.
The references in the song describe a world which does seem rather glamorous and desirable.
It is, but there is a bit of sardonic humour in there: “Where you keep your Rolling Stones records…” Luckily I know Mick Jagger, otherwise I wouldn’t put that in! So it is kind of a satire.
There’s affection in there, but also some cruelty as well, so it’s a blend of different emotions.
Yes, it adds a twist to the tale: “I know where you go to, my lovely”. So he knows. He knows her very well. But it is an invention, of course.
Two or three years later, the song became a huge hit. Did that success give you a taste of the high life which you were describing in the song?
Well, I fought against it, because I wanted to get back to the music. I wanted to write, and I needed the space. But suddenly I was a hit, and it didn’t suit me entirely. It seemed a distraction from the real work. My older brother, who was ideal for this kind of world, would have been happy with the situation. Whereas with me, I don’t know.
As you had witnessed your brother’s earlier success as a pop star, perhaps that left you under no illusions as to what success could bring for you.
I had some illusions of grandeur! But it didn’t work out, because I wanted to emulate the writers of the time.
Who were your heroes?
It was Bob Dylan. I thought he was marvellous, and I still do. He’s a wonderful writer, and he’s unsurpassed. But I wanted some of the things which he had, which was peace and quiet.
You then turned your back on some of the offers that were made to you – such as a prime time TV variety show with Clodagh Rodgers, of all people.
I thought that I was being taken lightly, because I didn’t feel that I was [an] accurate [choice] in any way. Although at the time, fame was a different matter. It wasn’t so much that you could make a fortune out of fame. You had to work at it. And nowadays of course, you can make a fortune out of fame. There seems to be that encouragement.
So you turned your back on the trappings of stardom, and continued to ply your own course in your own way.
Yes, I live quietly now. But I don’t have a manager, and I don’t have an agent – which is difficult, if you haven’t got a publicist. Then you’re on your own.
But you’ve been putting out albums fairly steadily ever since.
Yes, I’ve been working away, of course. I’m a workaholic. I still write. I have a nice house; everything’s fine.