Ronnie Harwood's biography - chapter 6Shakin' Stevens, The Christmas Album & Beyond

Ronnie had first met 'Shaky' (Shakin' Stevens) at the London Apollo, Victoria, in May 1981.
It was a brief meeting. Ronnie was introduced to Shaky by DJ Mike Reed. "I don't think Shaky knew what day it was", Ronnie recalled, "he was kept so busy. His life was very hectic then."

That night Shakin' Stevens was handed his second Gold Record, for Ronnie's 'You Drive Me Crazy', by Maurice Oberstein of CBS / Epic Records.

"I remember Shaky was wearing a pink casual top," remembers Ronnie, fondly. "He looked great." It wasn't until sometime in 1986 that Ronnie got Shaky's phone number, after Ronnie's son Martyn had pestered his father to call the singer.

"I'd always felt Shaky would be too busy to talk," explained Ronnie, "but I eventually called Roger McKew, Shaky's guitar player. Roger had been doing some gigs with me in the Ronnie Harwood Band."

Roger was unsure whether to give out Shaky's number, but he gave it to Ronnie and that first call was made.

"We talked for a good hour," Ronnie recalls fondly. "We found we had so much in common. It was then that we arranged to play some golf at Wentworth, Shaky's golf club. We played several times after that meeting and became close friends.

Shakin Stevens 'My Cutie Cutie' written by Ronnie Harwood"It was one day after a game of golf that Shaky asked me back to his place for the first time. We would frequently go for an evening meal, curry being one of our favourite foods."

It was during of one of these evenings that Shaky told Ronnie that his next single would be a song Ronnie had written at the same time as 'You Drive Me Crazy', called 'My Cutie Cutie'. The track was taken from the Shakin' Stevens album on Telstar, 'There Are Two Kinds of Music...' Rock 'N' Roll'. 'My Cutie Cutie' charted in October 1990 but fell well short of the dizzy heights of 'You Drive Me Crazy'.

shakin-stevens-ill-be-home-this-christmasIt was at that local curry house that Shaky said to Ronnie that he had a song in mind. Epic Records had asked Shaky if he would be interested in doing a Christmas album. He wasn't sure at first but gave it some serious thought and then agreed. But instead of doing a predictable Christmas album full of covers of the classic Christmas songs, Shaky wanted to include new material and make a unique rock 'n' roll Christmas album.

Shaky asked Ronnie if he would co-write some songs with him for the Christmas album. The first song they came up with was 'I'll be home this Christmas', later released as a single from the album 'Merry Christmas Everyone' in late November 1991. Together they wrote another two tracks for the album, 'It's Gonna Be a Lonely Christmas' and 'Sure Won't Seem Like Christmas'.

Shaky arranged for other writers to write with himself and Ronnie. They co-wrote with Gordon Campbell, writer of 'Because I Love You', and with Gary Sulsh and Stuart Leathwood, writers of 'A Love Worth Waiting For'.

Along with Gary Sulsh and Stuart Leathwood, Shaky and Ronnie co-wrote 'Calling You', which featured on a German release on the Arcade label as the B side of 'I Can Help', a Billy Swan cover, in 1994.

Shaky and Ronnie also wrote with Brian Hodgson, bass player with Hogan's Heroes featuring guitarist Albert Lee. Lee played on Shaky's first album on Epic, 'Take One', released in 1980, from which the single 'Hot Dog' was released the same year. Brian Hodgson co-wrote 'Shooting Gallery', a song Shaky had released in 1979.

Shaky and Ronnie worked hard writing and recording demos. Around this time, Shaky was sorting out management problems and, in 1993, he decided to stop touring and recording in order to sort out the issues that had piled up.

At this time Ronnie also started co-writing with Tony Hiller, who he first met in Nashville in 1984 at Shoney's Inn, along with songwriter Roger Greenaway.

"Our first song was an idea I had while in Nashville," Ronnie recalled, "a song originally titled 'Home is My Old Pontoon'. I approached Tony with it and Tony came up with the new title, 'Dreams'. We completed and demoed the song, which was recorded at Terry Bradford's studio near Birmingham.

"We played the track to head of Ritz Records, Mick Clerkin, who gave it to one of his artists, Danny Kerwin. Kerwin recorded the song but it was never released." Joe Dolan, who had a top ten hit with 'Make Me An Island' in 1969, went on to record and release 'Dreams' in 1995.

Shaky, Tony Hiller and Ronnie continued to co-write. Ronnie had the idea of a song in the form of a melody which he had titled 'Count On Me'. He approached Tony with it and, along with Shaky, they wrote the song which was renamed 'Talk To Me'. The song was recorded by Shakin' Stevens at Metropolis studio and featured Dave Gilmour (Pink Floyd) on lead guitar and Guy Fletcher (Dire Straights) playing Hammond organ, but the track was never released.

"Talk to Me, and another track I co-wrote with Shaky called 'Why', are two of several songs that as a writer I hope will get their chance to shine," Ronnie told me. 'Talk to me' was later recorded by Johnny Rey (aka Johnny Red) and featured as the title track on Rey's album released on Ronnie's own Georgia Records label in October 2008.

Colin GoldWhile he had been appearing at venues in Europe, it was not until the late 90s that Shaky started touring again in the UK. In 2005, at one of Shaky's concerts at the Shepherds Bush Empire in West London, Tom Barrett, Shakin' Stevens' Personal Assistant and driver, introduced Ronnie to Colin Gold. Colin performs as Billy Fury with the band members of the Tornados, Billy Fury's backing band.

Colin had wanted to meet Ronnie to talk about songs of his that would suit Colin's style and they arranged a meeting. This has led to recordings of Ronnie's songs 'Always in My Heart' and 'My Little Heaven', amongst others.

In 2006 came the release of the album 'Always in My Heart' by 'Florida Sun featuring Ronnie Harwood', with tracks recorded at Eddie Songs Studio in Hendon (London), The Old Barn in Croydon (London) and Sweet Georgia Browns in Hornsey Road (North London). The album was produced by Ronnie, apart from three tracks taken from the original 1987 Florida Sun album, which were produced by his good friend Carlo Little.

Ronnie Harwood in Sweet Georgia Browns London Studio"The album 'Always in My Heart' is a collection of songs I've written and co-written with friends," said Ronnie. "They bring back wonderful memories for me."

The title track was written while Ronnie was holidaying in L'Estartit, Gerona, in Spain. The odd one out - the one track not co-wriiten by Ronnie - is a song he heard on the radio while in Nashville titled 'Your Memory', co-written by Charles Quillen and John Arther Schweers. He liked it so much that he decided to record the song and include it amongst his own favourites.

"'Dreams' I co-wrote with Tony Hiller, a friend I admire very much in the music game. 'Must Be My Love For You' I co-wrote with Ian Summers," Ronnie added, "late one night at Dorset Square in London while waiting for the wheel clamp on my Ford Cortina to be removed." For Ronnie inspiration can be found anywhere, anytime it seems! He and Ian certainly made the most of the enforced delay that night.

Meanwhile around this time, a song co-written by Ronnie and Shaky back in 1994, called 'How Could It Be Like That', which was produced as a demo, was only released over a decade later on Shakin' Stevens' 2007 album 'Now Listen' on Sony BMG.more

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