HE HAS sung for Squeeze, Mike & the Mechanics, and Roger Waters, and played keyboards or piano with everyone from The Pretenders to Elton John, so picking a highlight from Paul Carrack’s career is a tough one.
“I’d have to say it was playing Madison Square Garden in New York with Eric Clapton last year,” he eventually decides.
But he quickly admits that the band most people ask him about is The Smiths…
“I’ve been asked about it so many times. I played keyboards on several tracks of their first album but I was only there for a couple of hours so there’s not much to say,” says the singer who made his name as the singer with Ace on their massive hit How Long in the mid-1970s.
“Even my son Jack, who plays in my band, came home from college one day and said ‘ere Dad, did you play with The Smiths?’ I went up in his estimation overnight!”
According to Record Collector, Carrack’s vocal talent should have made him a bigger name than Elton John – but he laughs at the suggestion.
“You’re joking, obviously! Sir Elton is one of the all-time greats. I have actually played organ on a couple of his tracks and that’s enough for me – it looks good on the CV.”
His voice – alongside his keyboard and songwriting talent – has still served him well, but Paul explains he fell into singing almost by accident.
“The first time I sang on a record was with Ace when I sang lead on How Long,” he recalls; the hit single reached the UK Chart Top 20 and No3 in the US in 1974. “I’d always fancied singing but, up until that point, all the bands I’d been in had a good looking bloke up the front. Luckily, in Ace we were all ugly so it was OK!”
Later, Paul spent time working with Squeeze: singing on the hit Tempted, among others. But he says he’s personally never been tempted to bring politics into music, as Squeeze recently did when they changed the lyrics to Cradle To Grave while playing in front of David Cameron.
“I am interested in politics to some extent but my music works more on an emotional level than an intellectual one, if it works at all,” says a modest Paul, who adds that one big name he never worked with is David Bowie, who passed away this month.
“I never had the pleasure of working with him,” says Paul. “But obviously he made an incredible contribution to pop culture and I can understand why he meant so much to so many of his fans.
“I wasn’t particularly familiar with his vast cannon of work but there’s no denying great records like Rebel Rebel, Fame, and Young Americans.
“I totally respect the fact he was a real, fearless innovator with great integrity.”
As for the future, Paul is on tour in the UK until the end of March, and then heads off to Japan to play in Eric Clapton’s band again – in what should prove yet another Carrack highlight.
“My plan is to keep trying to make good music and enjoy the many blessings heaped upon me,” he concludes.
Paul Carrack will play at G Live in Guildford on Monday 15 February.