0.00 – 0.23
Wayne: G’day and welcome to Wayne’s Wonder World. This podcast will be mainly about musician’s entertainers and pretty much anyone else that I find interesting. Hope you enjoy the podcast please head to Wayneswonderwold.com and please feel free to follow me on my Facebook page Wayne’s Wonder World.
0.23 – 02.13
Wayne: Tony Macaulay welcome to Wayne’s Wonder World. Who are you?
Tony: I’m a compulsive creative I suppose that’s the most accurate term. I’m only ever really happy when I’m making something, creating something, repairing something, rebuilding something. Extends to my hobbies and my career and everything else. I’m a fundament- I suppose I’m best known as a song writer through the 60’s and 70’s. I don’t know how many hits I had in Australia but I think I had 38 top 20 hits in the UK and about 24 including albums in the states. And I sold 52 million cds or records in my day. And I won 9 british Academy awards and quite a few other things and pieces. I composed for the queen for 3 years did all the huge royal events and so on. Subsequent to that I did a lot of theatre. I had a hit on the west end which went on just for innumerable production especially in the States and Germany. And became writer in residence to a theatre here in Orlando about 5 years ago for a long period. I’ve written a number of successful novels, I then though thriller writing at Brighton University. One of my students in one of the most successful writers of historical fiction in England, he’s had about 6 number 1 books. I love painting on oils, carpentry, history. I could go on.
02.13 – 03.54
Wayne: Wow, I do have a few questions for you Tony so thank you for that introduction. It’s always a really hard question when someone asks “Who are you?” and to encapsulate that in such a short amount of time. So I thank you for that Tony. So we’ll just move onto our second question. Which is at what age did music first interest you.
Tony: My mother who is a successful classical pianist tried to get me to play the piano and got a note from my piano teacher when I was about 8 saying we’re sending back you 5 shillings because Tony has absolute no musical talent what so ever.
Wayne: That’s a bit sharp haha.
Tony: I once interviewed Paul Simon from BBC radio show. Simon and Garfunkel and I asked him why he got involved in music and he said to get girls, and I thought that was a wonderful answer. I think around puberty a lot of boys who never would have thought about being involved in music suddenly realized that if you were in a band you do much better with women. And so Buddy Holly was my friend and I always worshipped Buddy Holly and the Everly brothers and a lot of the people of that era. Not Presley myself particularly though I wrote for Presley and met Presley and so on the rest of it. I never said Presley that much haha. And we got involved, you know we formed a band. Not a very good one. I’m still in charge of all the people of it, I’ve known them since I was about 14 or 15 and it started from there.
03.54 – 05.15
Wayne: Ah very interesting. Can you describe for me your music style?
Tony: Unlike a lot of people when you listen to the top 40 radio you’re influenced heavily by that. I was very mainstream in my approach. I started taking real interest in it in the late 50’s, writers like Goffin and King, Barryman and Cynthia Weil. People of that sort. But the two schools that really really affected me in a positive way were Burt Bacharach and Hal Davis. His songs were extraordinarily melodic and very challenging from a harmonic point of view and very interesting. They weren’t songs you danced to they were songs you listened to. The other end of the scale the Holland Dozier Hollands who created the Motown catalogue largely. Their songs were more rhythmic than anything though they had very strong tunes. So in a sense my early songs combined those two styles into one to some extent. I wanted to write very melodic songs but I also wanted songs that you could dance to. Because when you are trying to launch unknown bands particularly that was always a very necessary thing. And so it sort of grew from that.
05.15 – 08.55
Wayne: Ah ok. I guess with the music side of things when you were starting out was there any one sort of key person that inspired you that you are sort of looking up to?
Tony: Well not an artist particularly no because I never thought of it that way round. I had artists that I liked but I mean in those days most artists did not write their own material and I was more interested in who the writers were and who the producers were. Even though I had worked with a lot of people some of the big names of my generation in some form or another I never, I always preferred you know certain records they had made but that doesn’t mean I liked the rest of their catalogue particularly it was just that one record. So I mean I like records rather than artists or writers.
Wayne: Ah fair enough. Very interesting. With the music career that you started out with what was your first job?
Tony: Ha well, it was a lovely remark on my act but I occasionally performed for charity nad things. I trained as a civil engineer and the only job I could get was in sewage treatment design. A critic who hated my stuff said “song writer Tony Macaulay used to be a sewage engineer instead of shoveling it he writes it.” I started I realized quite quickly when I started taking songs from a music publisher that the only chance to get your songs recorded really was to become a producer. Then you can wear both hats and one of the big ones in England at the time was Tony Hatch he was kind of the, he was the first british songwriter, producer who also wrote the songs for all his acts. So I sort of modelled, it was my dream to become him. The fact that I replaced him at Pye Records was never in my mind as a possibility and so I thought if you were on the inside of the music business looking out you were sort of much better chance and of course that’s exactly, I got a job as a plugger, and I didn’t even know what a plugger was until I had the job for 2 weeks. But it meant I was in the business and I went and drank at the music business pub, mixed with music business people. So consequently when I took a couple of years, about a year or 18 months when I heard there was a job going as a record producer and in those days with one or two exceptions nearly all of the record producers were in house for four major record companies of the day. So there were only about a dozen record producers in the whole industry. There were a few independents who were making it but really so I blagged my way into a job at Pye Records and after about 6 months I had been writing songs for a while but I didn’t think my songs were good enough really. Anyway in the end out of desperation I recorded a couple of my own songs and they both went to number one. At the same time one knocked the other one off number one.
Wayne: I guess that’s a good thing?
Tony: In retrospect it was a stupid thing, at the time it caused a lot of interest in the music business because no one had ever done that before.
08.55 – 11.47
Wayne: Goodness. As you mentioned a few moments before you have sold more than 52 million copies of the songs you’ve worked on worldwide. Where do the ideas come from to write such catchy tunes?
Tony: Um good question. I don’t think anybody could answer that accurately. I always networked very heavily so that I was writing with most of the other hit song writers of the day. Especially if they were producers because if two of us got together that doubled the possibility that we could write more. There is always looking out for titles and I remember knocking over a cup of beer in a pub and the barman’s name was Susan and I said “Sorry Susan” which turned into a hit for the Hollies. All the time you are looking for lines, lines come up in conversation. Also when you’ve done it you have a particular act, a particular style you switch your technique to emulate that style and that automatic example when Roger Greenway decided to resurrect the drifters who’d been successful in the late 50’s. Anyway 10 years later, more like 20 years later he decided to pull them back again. So obviously you know we had those Saturday night type songs you know all about parties and come down and join the part so obviously that tremendously influenced what we did. For them every song had to be danceable too, had to have a- you know joyous freedom kind of 50’s feel about it. The New Seekers again you know it’s very white, very English, very American. Which is contrary to everything I ever wrote, had a very strong black undertone to it. Because that’s what I loved you know. I can go on forever but right for Andy Williams playing Campbell, Donna Summer blah blah blah and whoever. Elvis particularly you know you always walked around the house making Elvis noises to yourself all day. You’re thinking of you know. If you know I used to watch top of the pops, and then switch it off and then you get a sense of what was in the charts. You know your brain starts to absorb the exact detail of what the public are responding to that particular point in time. Very affected by the market. I mean I’m very affected by the artists that I wrote for coming up with something that absolutely fitted the you know the mold.
11.47 – 13.40
Wayne: Wow that’s very interesting Tony. I’ve got my next question here which is something that may be sort of interesting for you and that is with some of your songs that you’ve written it may amaze you that some are quite popular at the moment on TikTok so I’m not.
Tony: Yeah yeah I know.
Wayne: One of them is the Love Grows Where Rosemary Goes.
Wayne: Does it amaze you that these songs can blow up so long later and give it attention on social media?
Tony: Yeah I mean every 3 or 4 days I get a license for a film or a major TV thing or a commercial or of something of the catalog so no I’m absolutely thrilled if the songs get played all the time. We have the oldie stations on there every you know just a couple of times a day, three times a day. Songs on and it’s extraordinary. You know we were always very gratified and some of the songs it took a few hours or a day to write you know and here they are all these years later still being playing a lot. It’s nice.
Wayne: It definitely sounds like a nice thing to have, you know have another generation so many years later to pick up on a certain song or a certain tune. You know see the modern sort of meaning to it I guess.
13.40 – 17.37
Wayne: That’s awesome. Just touching on that regarding the request for the you know different licenses that movies or TV ads may want one thing I’ve been learning along the way speaking to musicians is that it’s always important to wherever you can hold on to your publishing rights because once those are gone they are gone forever aren’t they.
Tony: yes I mean it’s still as you probably know very much it’s still a very popular thing to sell these rights. I never met a writer yet that didn’t regret doing so. You know the best vicissitudes of life sometimes you know it’s divorce or something you want to try and get some money back in the bank but it’s a mistake. Always in my view, I agree with you.
Wayne: Yeah it’s very interesting. Of course there’s one song which I’d say a lot of the younger people would probably know and that’s Build Me Up Buttercup.
Wayne: What could you tell me about that song?
Tony: I was recording The Foundations I mean a friend of mine I’ve known from the first day I was in the business was Mike Darbo who was the lead in Manfred Mann lived a few streets away from me in a very elegant townhouse with his model wife. I went down there with my current girlfriend. They went in the kitchen to talk and Mike said “I’ve got the beginnings of a tune it’s got a stupid title but we can fix that.” By the time dinner was served we had most of it done. I originally was going to call it with a girl group which would have been a huge flop I mean calling a boy buttercup would have been a bit strange. Anyway thank goodness they turned it down and I recorded it with foundations I pretty much knew right from the beginning it was going to be a hit. I mean we’d had a couple of big hits with that band already. Therefore we’ve had a number one in America with it so it when it went number one in America there was an expectation to do extremely well. On the day of the recording I you know experimented with build me up baby I love you to get rid of the buttercup you know but somehow I could never come up with anything better. Now of course all these years on there were things about it but it was a kind of- it gave it an identity that was unique. Part of the problem is the world “”Up” only rhymes with cup or a couple of other things. That was an issue rhyming and so but had a very very long long life it was obviously being the fact that it’s the last three minutes 45 seconds of the film Something About Mary did it no harm. Of course then thousands of people did videos and wedding videos including my own family to that song. All things mimming along you know. It has a- there’s an inquiry about every three or four days of something you know TV show, commercial or movie. So that has a perpetual life. It’s one of about 8 songs that crop up all the time. Most of the others are on the radio some point or other.
17.37 – 22.14
Wayne: That’s very interesting. So I guess you know depending if maybe like a blockbuster movie uses one of your songs that then makes this perpetual sort of thing again doesn’t it with people seeing it worldwide and you know doing their things on youtube and then maybe sparking more ideas or interest to you know get the licenses to use that song and I guess it’s you know it’s only good for the composer isn’t it.
Tony: Yeah there’s about 8 major movies that are on television all the time that have my songs and some of them have a coupling you know. That’s been very very fortunate.
Wayne: Hey also just one more thing I just recalled Tony that when I was doing research regarding that song on TikTok at the moment Love Grows where Rosemary Goes. I believe in the past few weeks that’s reached the American Billboard top 200 I believe.
Tony: Yes apparently so, I’ve not been following it that closely.
Wayne: Fair enough I guess these things are always popping up it’s hard to keep up with it all.
Tony: Hahaha no I mean I was very aware that it was a huge success on TikTok. I know it went in the top 100 at one point. I don’t know how far it went.
Wayne: That’s crazy. Moving along to something a bit different now, I believe that you’re involved in a landmark court case in the 1970’s can you talk to me a bit about this?
Tony: Yes. The music publishers of the day almost universally involved with a practice called double dipping and it meant that when you went to them they said look “We’ll take 30% of the song if we were to publish it” but if you go to a foreign publisher American probably we’ve got them to do a deal with the publishers you’ll only get 25%. Crooked thing of course is that they own the publishers in America too. So they weren’t operating at arm’s length with each other they were publishing with themselves which is fraud. Anyway because the whole industry were doing it and they’ve been doing it for years I was told that you know I had no chance of overturning it. So after seven years of going through the various courts ending up in the supreme court in England we got that reversed. Also my contract was for 10 years as was my recording contract now you can’t have any contract longer than 3 years because the court case now there has to be mutuality of obligations so for every clause whether the “writer must” there must be clauses saying the “publisher must” whereas originally the publisher was on there with no obligation to do anything. He put his song in the draw and forget about it, a point made by the judge at the time. That was a very long arduous business. I did not get my songs back but I got my freedom from the publisher. I was able to sign you know agreements with other people and then subsequently everyone you can think of from Paul McCartney, Elton John everybody you could think of went to their publishers and said you know “If you want me to stay you have to change the deal.” That caused an absolute upheaval now but I was talking with the president of the British Academy of Song Writer’s about a month ago and he was unaware of the case. It’s so long ago now that you know he’s kind of forgotten. Also the significance of music publishers completely evaporated I mean people- the whole industry has become so diverse and the idea of someone taking 50% of your song to do absolutely nothing with it you know nearly all artists write their own material or have material in-house. The idea of having anybody run around and try and fix your songs with outside artists is completely out of the arc. It’s a kind of irrelevant issue I guess largely.
Wayne: It’s quite interesting though Tony because back then I guess you- you’re the one that started this change and so many musicians you know benefited from your case being the landmark I guess. Being the first to actually do something about it so that’s amazing I think.
Tony: Yeah the British Academy have me a Novella award although it was sort of a lifetime achievement award I got it much earlier than most people. Particularly because they reckon the case has you know improved a lot songwriters which was nice.
22.14 – 24.30
Wayne: Just touching on what you said a bit before about I guess these days musicians as long as they have a catchy tune they can you know publish their own music really. So I guess-
Tony: Exactly. For that it’s registered with performing around society you know then you’re going to get and you have some mechanism you know to collect your money.
Wayne: I guess days of the publishers are really sort of dying aren’t they?
Tony: Well they should have done anyway it was all nonsense I mean if you go back to the turn of the 1900’s when before the 1890’s I mean the only way a song could be disseminated publicly was for someone to go down to the music shop and buy the sheet music and play it on a piano. Therefore to have someone actually publish your song physically in paper form was vital but as the record issue became more and more important the only function a publisher really had was of importance to get the song to the act. In England it was utterly utterly corrupt I mean half of the people that we think of going back to those days and I can give you names who are meant to have written their songs did nothing of the sort they bought the song for five pounds off some impoverished writer who never saw another penny and put their own name on it. All that of course has been largely stamped out I think. Many many many years ago. The time I came into the industry when you know a lot of the acts had in-house writing or began to write for their own songs a publisher was completely unnecessary. Then the other course big aspect of it all was that they saw they published said “yes but we protect your copyright” well then when itunes and that and all these other delivery systems came along and the writers got no royalties I mean even that wasn’t true. Course everything’s been updated somewhat now but uh no I think in my day I think a lot of publishers were crooks, no other words for it.
24.30 – 28.42
Wayne: Can we move on to talk about what you mentioned a bit before about your musicals, how many musicals have you produced?
Tony: About six? But I did two in the very early 70’s when I was sort of Freddie Beanstalk who was the head of Motown Publishing and Elvis Presley’s Publishing was a friend of mine. Funny, having badmouthed Publishers of the day he was a friend. He didn’t publish any of my songs we just used that together. He thought I should be a musical theater and I wanted to do that very much. And he got me involved with one of the big theatres in London. I did a couple of shows for them, it was a great learning curve. Then in 1980 when my pop career was sort of winding down really all I wanted to do was seattle by that time I’d had 12 years of doing nothing else for pop music I kind of thought I really covered the waterfront it was repeating myself. Then I was commissioned by the company that owned half of the theatres in Western London. Writing music for them which won quite a few awards. That was then picked up in America and has been- was on for about 20 odd years somewhere. I got commissioned to do other shows from that. There’s a theatre here near Orlando which is brilliantly funded, I raised a lot of the money for them. They’ve done all my- not only done- they’ve commissioned three other shows so I had huge fun with that. I wrote plays, the music and the lyrics. Some of them had lots, some of them had quite a few hits. Which were you know adapted for the project. Of course being Florida with all these theme parks here there was a wealth of acting talent. People with lots of performing arts schools. You’ve got you the great talent of tomorrow appearing in your shows. Of course being this big retirement area there’s massive funding for theatres in this area. Across the whole of America they take their musicals very seriously. They invented the bloody thing and they’re entitled to it. I love working here, I’ve worked here for you know more than 50 years. I’m pretty much retired now. I have the most marvelous time here.
Wayne: That’s fantastic.
Tony: I love America, they are so enthusiastic.
Wayne: That’s awesome Tony. Very interesting. Can I just ask you what was the last musical that you had the opportunity to produce?
Tony: Last music was 5 or 6 years ago called “Sherlock in Love” I wrote the play is basically Jack the Ripper reappears and Sherlock Holmes goes hunting for him and on the way falls in love with the local with big musical star of the day. They did me proud I mean they built this marvelous set which was the creepy back streets of East London. I built amount of costumes- yeah. Of course you know we had a big orchestra here in England if you play the west end you get 8 musicians we had 18 you know. With real strings believe it or not. Anyway so, but I having as I executive produced the thing I cast it, wrote the play, the music, the lyrics. It absolutely knocked the hell out of me, I loved every minute of it but I thought I can’t do this again it takes- it took me a couple of 18 months to 2 years to write each one of them. 18 months. And I didn’t have any more good ideas. I just everything haha. Everything I wanted to say I’d said pretty much.
Wayne: I’m sure there’s a few more still up there.
28.41 – 32.30
Wayne: Fantastic Tony now this is an interesting question I’ve got for you now. Who would be the most interesting person that you’ve ever met and why?
Tony: Right. That’s a question and a half. Interesting person I’ve ever met… can we come back to that? I’m going to need to think about that. I mean interesting at what level I mean you mean intellectually? Do you mean… how would you define interesting?
Wayne: I guess for me anyone who’s interesting is maybe say peculiar or maybe someone that does certain things a bit quirky you know some that they’ll sort take it by surprise almost. I don’t know it’s an interesting question because everyone just has different thoughts what it sort of means for them and who they’ve encountered.
Tony: I’m very interested in a lot of things. I mean English history, I’m quite a good amateur historian, I’m interested in art I have 2 big art collections in England and America. I’m very interested in painting, in carpentry. Different people who you meet you’re interested in them for different reasons if you’re with me. I mean for example the writer who has had so much success who was a member of my postgraduate student group. One of the years I did he had a phd in history. Already and wanted to write historical fiction so if I want to talk about history he’s a very interesting guy to talk to. Then there’s other people that you know about art and so on so no one person I’ve ever met you know is sort of interested in the whole package. If you talk I can tell about the two most charismatic people I ever met which will be interesting from a historical point of view. Paul McCartney I think I’ve always thought was incredibly charismatic. I meant I got quite freidnly with him at one point particularly with his first wife. We were quite good friends we’d walk our dogs together in London. At the end of the day when he just had a house in London. I always thought whenever I was sitting with him I was always sitting with one of the greatest most famous faces of all time. Most people however famous they are worked with just about everybody in my generation after 10 minutes they’re just anybody else with the same problems as anyone else. With McCartney that was never true. I was all sitting there thinking you know Christ that’s Paul McCartnry. The other person who was incredibly charismatic was Presely. He was six two and had more big, big boots that made him about six four six five. He was just this icon his famous face you know he wasn’t particularly interesting or when I got talking to him on one of the few occasions I was alone with him he said “Oh you’re from Britain” I said “Yeah Britain” and he said “Am I still big there?” I mean he was one of the most ill-informed people I was ever around. But in terms of people who are one- at one step removed from the rest of us those two unquestionably were. I’ve also met 3 presidents and they seemed dead ordinary to me. American presidents. Those two figures tower above the others in terms of fame.
Wayne: They do definitely sound interesting to me Tony as well.
Tony: Interesting because they are historical figures more than the people themselves if you’re with me.
32.30 – 35.10
Wayne: Of course fantastic. How do you measure your success?
Tony: Happiness. Easily. I’ve been married to the same lovely woman for 20 years we’ve got 2 beautiful beach French homes full of art. We’ve got lovely children. Lots and lots of friends, most importantly we’ve both got good health largely. We’re comfortably off and therefore every morning I wake up and think about what we’re gonna do today. We’ve got going out to dinner friends the next 3 nights. So happiness is how you measure success. Happiness is a different thing for every person. I mean I’ve got more than in my life than I could ever dream that I would ever would have. That is a great deal to be you know- my mother never counted her blessings the glass was always half empty. My glass is always half full you know it’s a bad day when I get depressed occasionally something has happened because that’s just not me you know. I spent my entire life doing something I’d have paid to do. Therefore you can never look back even though there are certain reversals of fortune. Some of which you stumble into by your own stupidity or ignorance or a combination of both I think in general if you could they say a man who can monetize his hobby lives the best life and I think that’s probably true.
Wayne: I think so too.
Tony: In some ways from the age of about 21 I’ve never done a day’s work. It’s kept me very you know as you say the longevity of the catalog does give me satisfaction. Sometime sit amuses me when my wife says such and such a songs on the radio. And I think how strange that is to go “Oh yeah” you know most people would be thrilled to have a song on the radio. I saw this happen. Even now I’m quite certain that’s how success should be noted.
Wayne: I guess because you’ve heard these songs thousands of times it does get old doesn’t it.
Tony: And yet the reverse if Sarah’s got an oldie station on and I don’t hear one of my in a couple of hours I get quite irritated and quite upset. Oh my god they’re not playing my stuff anymore. So I mean the corollary to that argument is quite a powerful one.
35.10 – End
Wayne: Goodness Tony that was a very good answer there. Could you share something with me that not many people may not know about you?
Tony: People that don’t know me just think of me as the man of Build Me Up Buttercup or one of the other songs. As I’ve said to you now I apparently take me off to art galleries and museums, old castles and things right from the early age I’ve always been interested in history and art. Music carp and I’ve got a lot of other interests put it that way. I’m most happy writing novels or musicals or doing something other than pop music.
Wayne: Do you have any hobbies that you enjoy that you have not mentioned?
Tony: Trying to think. I try to keep my mind very alert. I knew 980 years of British History from the Norman conquest with all the key dates and pretty much every major event from memory. I see that all the time and read a lot. I always love restoring old furniture and old artworks and old statues and things like that. I’ve gradually over the years learned all the techniques to do that. That’s great passion.
Wayne: Well this pretty much concludes the interview. But one final question is there one final thing you’d like to mention today? Anything at all.
Tony: Sorry I’m using an ice cream and a coke my wife’s just dumped on me. Can you give me something more specific?
Wayne: Maybe some words of advice for a young musician trying to write that next big song or any tips?
Tony: I can. I have many faults but one of them is I’m very good with creative criticism. Constructive criticism not when someone says that’s a piece of crap. When I’m working on a big project you can miss a lot of things and they all help you to get- when someone says “This needs fixing” immediately my attentions on it. Obviously it depends on who’s saying it. But sometimes it can be an audience member that says something and you think gee they’re absolutely right about that. One of the ways you get good at something is by listening to what other people say and extracting from it the gems of information. That can really help. I think when you are writing songs the more you get it. The more people get an opportunity to hear something when you’re working on it when it’s not too late you can still change it. The more you absorb other peoples opinons constructively. Obviously criticism is something you know if you get a good review of a project then there’s a line that says “I really think you should get rid of this character or I think the show should have this in it” you tend to take that more seriously than someone who just flagged the whole project off. So obviously the way people pitch their criticism is crucial. Having said that I think listening to other people’s view rather than saying well what do they know you can end up with a song you really like that never sees the light of day. Unfortunately if you’re going to compete in a commercial market to some extent more people that like your song the better it is. You know and if somebody says I think that song is rubbish you can say at least a million other people disagree with you because they went out and bought it.
Wayne: that’s a fantastic piece of advice there Tony. And I would just like to say thank you for your time today and thanks for being on Wayne’s Wonder World.
Tony: A pleasure good to speak to you.
Wayne: Hope you enjoyed the podcast. Please head to www.wayneswonderworld.com and please feel free to follow me on my Facebook page which is Wayne’s Wonder World.