Leo Sayer possesses one of the most distinctive and celebrated voices in modern popular music.
Leo Sayer's remarkable career has spanned almost four full decades and some 15 albums. Along the way, Leo has created a long string of iconic international chart-toppers. Classic songs for the ages. From his first worldwide hit in 1973 with "The Show Must Go On", right through to the dance remix of "Thunder In My Heart", which topped the UK charts as recently as 2006. Plus a dozen other major hits in between - some of the most enduring and beloved popular songs of all time.
Now, coinciding with the great artist's 60th birthday, Universal Music Australia is proud to present Leo Sayer's all-new, first locally-recorded studio album - DON'T WAIT UNTIL TOMORROW.
DON'T WAIT UNTIL TOMORROW is Leo Sayer as no-one has ever heard him before.
DON'T WAIT UNTIL TOMORROW is Leo revisiting a selection of milestone songs from across his career. Not just the hits but a dozen of the singer/songwriter's most important tunes, deconstructed and recreated in an entirely new, emotion-packed musical environment. Classic songs including "One Man Band", "Orchard Road", "You Make Me Feel Like Dancing", "Long Tall Glasses" and many more, all reinterpreted and reborn.
DON'T WAIT UNTIL TOMORROW is Leo Sayer stripped back, his songs stripped bare, but definitely not unplugged.
"I never did like the concept of 'unplugged'," Leo explains. "I still love the richness of an atmosphere. If you're going to record something, then record it properly. Why should you record a little if you want to get a lot? So the idea came to find a setting for the songs."
By Leo's own description, DON'T WAIT UNTIL TOMORROW is like a musical autobiography that almost defies genre. A lot of the songs have something of a jazzy feel, backed by an upright bass and moody guitar, a little bit of electric piano and sax. But it's not quite jazz.
Also throughout the album, there are constant flourishes of lush, big, rich strings that sound like they've come straight out of a symphony, but you'd never call DON'T WAIT UNTIL TOMORROW a classical album. Or a lounge album. Or easy-listening either.
"It's not quite any of those but it's all of them," says Leo. "The idea was: 'Let's find the setting that brings out the voice in the words.' That's what it's really all about. I'm a troubadour. These are troubadour songs. I'm just a storyteller who happens to find that the best way to tell his stories is not in books or paintings, but in songs.
"What I love about the setting of this record is that it's so naked, so honest. The songs cannot be anything else but honest. You can't pull punches when you're in this kind of setting."
The recording of DON'T WAIT UNTIL TOMORROW was actually the brainchild of another music icon, Garth Porter, one-time member of Aussie supergroup Sherbet and, in more recent decades, a celebrated record producer [most notably for his work with country superstar and recently anointed Australian of the year, Lee Kernaghan].
It was, most appropriately, during the recent national Countdown Arena Tour that Leo and Garth renewed a friendship which dated back to the original Countdown TV show of the 1970s, back when both of them were young, bonafide, satin-wearing pop stars, making young girls swoon.
"Garth came up with the plan," Leo recalls. "He said, 'Why don't you take the songs and delve into the beauty of the lyrics. We can take all the shouts and the screams and the trying-to-make-a-pop-record out of it and just perform the songs'."
"We wanted to take every song on a journey, arrangement-wise and even genre-wise, move them into different areas. So that 'One Man Band' becomes a swing song, 'Orchard Road' almost becomes like a jazz ballad. Every single chord has changed, every voicing has changed.
"A song like 'The Show Must Go On', we've slowed it right down. It's no longer this frenetic: 'I've got to tell my story before I die in three minutes time!!!' It's 35 years later, so those lyrics take on a whole other meaning. I'm no longer someone at the start of their career, but I still hate show business," Leo says with a big laugh. "And I still want to get out, I still feel as though I've got tomatoes thrown at me at the gig, I still feel as if I'm starting out, I still feel I've got something to prove."
Since relocating his life to Sydney in 2005, Leo's career hasn't slowed down in the slightest. In fact, quite the opposite. He and his local band have performed over 100 live shows in Australia alone. Leo is also regularly invited to be the star attraction at gala and high-profile public events. He's also still constantly flying around the world, performing shows back in his old country in the UK and countless other territories, where those timeless hits have made him an eternal star, including the US where Leo was a repeated chart-topper throughout the 1970s and 1980s.
"I am still of an international mind," says the celebrated singer/songwriter. "In a lot of ways, my speed and my motivation is very Australian - I'm going to be come a citizen next year - but my mindset is still European, a little bit American maybe as well."
For the recording of DON'T WAIT UNTIL TOMORROW, Garth Porter convinced Leo to temporarily replace his regular live outfit with a supergroup of local and international session musos, who could help completely reinvent his famous songs. Strings come courtesy of the world famous American arranger William Motzing [who lives in Australia] and were recorded by the famed former Beatles' engineer Richard Lush [another long-time Aussie immigrant].
The end result of all this collaboration makes for a breathtaking musical journey. DON'T WAIT UNTIL TOMORROW finds Leo Sayer in very fine voice and this new recording is set to instantly earn its place up alongside the finest work of his incredible career.
It's an emotional, celebratory, revealing and often surprising ride, filled with moments that feel so familiar and many other moments that are completely new. "It's a little bit like driving a different car, but going to the same place," Leo says with one of his trademark smiles.
DON'T WAIT UNTIL TOMORROW is an adventurous and beautiful new recording from one of the greats of modern popular music and will no doubt bring much joy to Leo's fans everywhere, old and new.
LEO SAYER DON'T WAIT UNTIL TOMORROW OUT NOW
TRACK BY TRACK "The Show Must Go On"
"'The Show Must Go On' in 1973 was the first UK hit for me as an artist. People already knew of me as a writer because of 'Giving It All Away' by Roger Daltrey, for writing that. But this was the first cut from my first album [1973's Silverbird]. I was appearing as the white-faced clown, the Pierrot, and this was an instant hit. It wasn't an official number one in the UK but it topped the NME and Melody Maker charts and they meant more than the radio charts back then. What the song is about is pretty evident. It's all about playing a terrible, terrible showcase gig for record company reps and having everything thrown at you. You're playing to a crowd that doesn't want to know you and it is a total failure and so you come out of it thinking, 'Screw this, screw showbiz, I don't want to do this!' When I got to America for the first time, a band called Three Dog Night had a hit number one record with a cover version of the song. They were dressed up as clowns and instead of singing the line 'I won't let the show go on', they sang 'I must let the show go on.' It was all very weird and wonderfully ironic."
"When I Need You"
"'When I Need You' was a song that I recorded when I went to America to work with [producer] Richard Perry who, almost to my distaste, didn't want me to sing any of my own songs. He liked the singer, and he liked the voice. So I had to hunt around and find some songs that, as a songwriter, I could feel as if I'd written them and could sing them with authority. I was far away from my wife at the time, Janice, I was trying to phone her on the transatlantic phone lines, which in 1976 were so inefficient. You would be trying to say the simplest thing, like I love you and I miss you, and it would all go pear-shaped. And so I found this song and it was by Carole Bayer Sager and Albert Hammond. It was a great song but what touched me were the lyrics because it was everything I wanted to say to Janice back in England. I recited the lyrics to her and she just cried on the phone. I put the phone down and it was like: 'I've got to record this song.' It's the ultimate ballad of long-distance love and I think it's something every musician would feel because you're often away from home. It's become one of those classic wedding songs. It's beautiful and it's a unique song and I still love singing it.'
"One Man Band"
"When I first started writing songs with David Courtney, I used to pick up notes from poems I'd written as a kid and just experiences that I'd written down. 'One Man Band' was an experience I'd written down, but not as a kid. I was hanging out with a load of folk musicians, busking on the streets, playing harmonica, and I was in Ladbroke Grove [in Notting Hill, London] and walking across the street to go up to a pub called Finches where all the old folkies used to play - John Renbourn, Roy Harper, Donovan, all those guys. They all used to go and sing and play outside the pub on a Sunday, just to get some beer money. That's where the folk scene was all happening in 1967. And as I walked across the road in my own little world, I got run over by a cab, pitched up into the air, I must have gone up 10 feet, and landed on the pavement. And the bloody cabbie goes, 'You alright?' I was like, 'Um, yeah?' with a groan. And he says, 'Good!' and was gone and left me there. And I wrote all this in my journal and I picked up the book years later. So the song is the description of that event I wrote seven years after the incident."
"You Make Me Feel Like Dancing"
"'You Make Me Feel Like Dancing' came out of a jam session. Again, it was about the time of 'When I Need You', 1976 and I was recording in America with Richard Perry. And even though it wasn't the plan, I still wanted to write my own stuff, or at least not make covers the basis of the record [1976's Endless Flight]. I was listening to lots of soul, I was loving being in the States, me and Richard were trying to find a middle ground. I was working with a very funky band, these amazing musicians, the best, and I was talking about this song by Shirley & Company-"Shame, Shame, Shame - shame on you, 'cause you can't dance too!' Everyone started playing the groove and it eventually turned into: 'You've got a cute way of talkin'
' We jammed for about half-an-hour and I thought: why isn't Richard stopping us? And he was recording it and he was convinced it was going to be a monster. He called me in about a week later and said, 'We've got to finish this.' He said, 'I've got a guy called Vini Poncia who's great.' He'd co-written with Ringo Starr on his first solo stuff, which Richard had produced. So Vini comes down, and he says, 'I've got a bad back, I can only give you 20 minutes, maybe only five minutes. I've got to go to my chiropractor.' So he put a little alarm clock on top of the piano. We played on the piano for a sec, and I started singing: 'You make me feel like dancing," and he said, 'That will do!' And I never saw him again. His five minutes earned him 50 per cent of the song. He did very well. But I don't mind because thank God for him, he found the hook."
"Raining In My Heart"
"I always loved Buddy Holly. The third album I did with Richard Perry in '79, just called Leo Sayer, was a bit more of an introspective album. I was working with Lindsay Buckingham from Fleetwood Mac and Waddy Waddell and when I mentioned 'Raining In My Heart', Waddy goes, 'Wow!' and started playing this lap-steal. Waddy has remained a friend to this day."
"'Orchard Road' is a weird one. The narrative is out of an experience that is not something you'd want to write home about. Halfway through my marriage, I fell in love with a young girl - it's a bit Chuck Berry, this - and left my wife for her. I realised my mistake almost immediately and one night I drove my car to the house where my wife was living, got on the phone with a pocket full of coins, and stayed on the phone all the way through the night until I persuaded her to let me come back. It took some doing. A few years later [in 1983] I was working with Alan Tarney with whom I'd recorded 'More Than I Can Say'. One day, while we were working in the studio and he'd just taken delivery of a new Fairlight synthesiser, Alan began playing this Bach-like music. It was then that I felt almost possessed by a ghost - something compelled me to go up to the microphone and say, 'Alan, roll the f**king tape!' And out came 'Orchard Road'. Nothing written on paper - just the recollection of the story."
"Tell Me Just One More Time"
"'Tell Me Just One More Time' was a song I wrote with Tom Snow. It was kind of an obscure song - it was B-side we wrote for 'Thunder In My Heart'. But Jennifer Warnes picked it up and did a really cooky little version of it. It's one of those uniquely catchy songs. It was a little song, she picked it up. It's just a direct song, straight off the lip, as it were. A simple song and I'm really proud of the groove we got happening on this new version. The musicians just loved playing it."
"Giving It All Away"
"'Giving It All Away' is my favourite song that I've ever written. It was basically about a period of time where I was waiting to make it. I had my manager Adam Faith, who was a big talker, saying I was going to be a millionaire and the most famous artist in the world, but every day it was 'Hold on, hold on!' And another month would pass and I'd still have no money and I'd be going to his mansion to play him more songs. I'd be working with Dave Courtney and both of them were telling me to be patient and I couldn't be patient. So I wrote this song as me handing in my notice - I couldn't do it anymore. It was so frustrating. I was livid as hell so I wrote the song very angry. It's a fantastic little song and Roger Daltrey heard it and loved it and released it as his debut solo single outside The Who and had a huge hit with it."
"Can't Stop Loving You"
"'Can't Stop Loving You', a lovely guy called Billy Nicholls wrote that. It's a very enigmatic and descriptive song, of a time, of a place. A beautiful song and an amazing, simple lyric. Such a beautiful melody. His dad was a commissionaire at the BBC, and when the song went to number four on the British charts, his dad lined up all the commissionaires and all the staff of the BBC as I came in to do Top Of The Pops, and they all saluted. And I cried, it was so moving."
"Thunder In My Heart"
"It's about an amazing night of sex. That's how it's written. It's about where a small boy gets to realise all his dreams, based on a true event, but I'm not allowed to say what. It's all there in the song. It's all written about passion. It's pure poetic passion. It's Dante's Inferno in a love song. And when I sang it in the studio, it was probably one of the best vocal performances in my life. It was a fantastic vocal on that record and that's why I think it was a hit all over again when Meck remixed it all those years later. A night of passion made a song of passion and a performance of passion. This version is yet another re-interpretation of that passion. "
"Long Tall Glasses"
"'Long Tall Glasses' lyrically was about me playing in America for the first time and everyone telling me I was great. And you know that way Americans have of saying it: 'You're fantastic!!!!' I was performing as the white-faced clown and I was very insecure. I was going into the heartland of all the music that turned me on. And they were like: 'You're terrific! You don't need the clown make-up - just stand up there and sing.' And I was like: 'No, I need this gimmick to hide behind or else you'd never listen to me.' So I didn't believe them. I was getting standing ovations everywhere and I was thinking, 'It must be some sort of hype - it can't be this easy.' And after a while I was like, 'Yeah, maybe I can dance!' And I never could dance - I've always had two left feet. So 'Long Tall Glasses' was all about waking up one day and going: 'Okay, if you say I can dance, I can dance.' It's about coming of age, of finding confidence."
"Don't Wait Until Tomorrow"
"'Don't Wait Until Tomorrow', written with Alan Tarney, with whom I did 'Orchard Road' and 'More Than I Can Say'. We did a version with another producer and it was on an album called Have You Ever Been In Love , but it was always one of those obscure songs. We wrote it as a single because we thought its philosophy, the statement of it, was really strong. The image of falling apart in a small town, that if you don't break out, you ain't gonna get anywhere. It's the story of both of our lives, we both felt that very much. We wrote the lyric together. It's all about seizing the time. So I think it's a relevant song for a guy who feels like he's still mentally 25, even though he's 60. I don't feel like 60 at all. I have no concept of my age, so I think it's a timely song. There's a lot of playing with time on this album."