'80s - Owen Paul McGee (2010)
'Bringing Back That Spark!'
Owen Paul is a Scottish singer, best known in the UK for his 1986 hit single, 'My Favourite Waste Of Time,' a cover version of a song that was originally written and recorded by American singer-songwriter Marshall Crenshaw.
As a youngster Paul was taken on as an apprentice with Celtic Football Club, but after hearing the Sex Pistols he decided to pursue a career in music. After releasing a couple of singles he had a fall-out with his record label resulting in him leaving the music industry for 15 years.
Now having reverted to his full name of Owen Paul McGee, he returned to the music scene in 2002 with the album, 'About Time.' Paul now sings lead vocals for Ex-Simple Minds and is currently preparing for a major tour with them.
I recently had the opportunity to speak with Owen Paul McGee about life back in the '80s, his record label arguments, washing his hair in a sink next to George Michael, and, of course ... penguins!
Taking it from the top, and you were taken on as an apprentice with Celtic Football Club, but then chose music after hearing a Sex Pistols song! What was so powerful about that one Sex Pistols song that swayed you away from playing football as a career - and which song was it? "The song was 'Anarchy in the UK' in 1976. It was the most incredible noise I had ever heard on the radio and like nothing else. I’d always loved music but this meant something to me that even now I find hard to explain. It was a kind of ‘I can do anything, f**k the rules,' kind of thing. But that really doesn’t cover it and I still feel the same today."
Do you regret giving up on the footballing apprenticeship? "No not at all. Physically I was never really cut out for it. I hated the training, but loved the playing. I had all the skills, but not the commitment. With music I love the training (rehearsals and so on) and the playing."
You first came to musical prominence in the UK in 1986 with your hit single, 'My Favourite Waste of Time' - a cover of the Marshall Crenshaw song. How did it come about that you chose that cover as your first single? "It was a complete accident. I had a studio booked to record new material, but the night before the session started I played a video documentary about Bette Midler and heard her sing the song for about 20 seconds. I became obsessed and played the video over and over into the early hours."
"The next morning I changed my recording schedule and decided to re-write some of the lyrics and add a new middle 8 to Marshall Crenshaw’s version. The whole song was recorded in a day. The rest is history."
Indeed, after the dust had settled on that hit single, and the subsequent lesser-charting singles that followed, it is told that you had a falling out with your record label at the time - resulting in you leaving the industry for 15 years! What happened back then that was so bad you felt you had to turn your back on music? "As soon as I handed the song over to my record company Sony, I knew I was going to have a problem. I had been signed to them as a rock act, but clearly ‘My Favourite Waste of Time’ is a pop thing. So I kind of shot myself in the foot."
"Sony never wanted another rock track from me and demanded more of the same. We were never going to see eye to eye on that. After fighting them on this issue for some time I gave up and decided that it was best that I left the music scene for a while."
Whilst in this 15 year hiatus period of your life, what did you replace music with? "I did a bit of production work to start off with and gradually phased out the music. I got myself more involved in the business side of the entertainment industry. I worked with Hard Rock, Planet Hollywood, Artist Management and a number of other projects."
Back in the day, you had a very embarrassing TV moment or two - one being the Pebble Mill mistimed mime debackle to 'My Favourite Waste of Time.' Due to a technician's mistake, you missed your cue, but having watched the video clip over and over (and over!), I was wondering what was going on in your head for that entire 30 seconds?! "The Pebble Mill thing actually helped make me famous because the public could put a face to the song and sales rocketed after that. It was as if I became human. I am human after all!"
"During rehearsals for Pebble Mill, I informed the technicians on the show that the monitors weren't working, and I couldn't always hear the track and therefore I couldn't mime. Sure enough during the live show the monitors didn't come on at all, and by the time they did there was no way I was going to join in!"
"So I completely ignored it much to their dismay ... and my managers! But hey, nearly thirty years later people still remember it and so it's done me no harm."
Watch that very same 'Pebble Mill mishap'
And the other was a food throwing fight that involved The Osbournes! Was that another incident that you can honestly laugh about now? "I laughed at them both then as I still do now. As for the Osbournes ... reality, my ass!!!! The whole thing was edited and re-shot! I know ... I was there!!"
You came back to the music scene in 2002 with the aptly-titled CD, About Time - but had a name change along the way! Why revert to your full name now of Owen Paul McGee? Are you trying to distance yourself from your youthful past, perhaps? "I actually stole the surname Paul from my brother, it’s his first name. My real name is Owen McGee and I wanted to make an album with that name, but everyone around me said I should retain the Paul bit. So I stuck it in the middle."
For 10 years you ran a West End theatre in London's Leicester Square as well as a successful Ballroom and Latin Dancing Club! Wow, do you still run them both, and what made you get into them in the first place? "I originally got involved with the theatre and ballroom and Latin dancing club, with one of my best friends, but sadly after ten years our lease wasn’t renewed as the building owners wanted to do something else."
You are now also the lead singer for the band Ex-Simple Minds - performing in the same band as Derek Forbes and your older brother, Brian McGee! How is it touring, after all these years, with your brother? "I’ve actually worked lots of times in the studio with Brian, so I’m used to him. Working with Derek (Scotland’s recently voted greatest Bass Player) now that’s a different story! But truly, its great playing live with them and singing the fantastic songs that they wrote and recorded together, including such mega hits as ‘Alive and Kicking’ and ‘Don’t You Forget About Me.’ My personal favourite is 'New Gold Dream 81 82 83 84'."
Fun Five - OK, it's now time to fire off some quick questions - to allow those that think they know Owen Paul to perhaps think again!
a) Can you remember your very first TOTP appearance? What year was it and at what level of nervousness were you at that whole day? "It was in 1986 and no I wasn’t nervous at all. I’m not the nervous type. It was somewhat surreal, as Top of the Pops was a show that I watched religiously as a youth. Having my hair washed in the sink next to George Michael in the make-up department was strange to say the least!"
b) If you could change one moment in your musical history, which would it be - and how would you have it end up today? "'My Favourite Waste of Time' would have been my fifth hit coming after four rock anthems!"
c) Do you have a recurring nightmare or dream - and if so, how does it usually end? "With all my teeth falling out!!!!!!!!"
d) What is your sweetest, guiltiest pleasure (food wise!) late at night? "American New York Cheese Cake. Can’t beat it! Otherwise I’m not a dessert person."
e) If you could meet any deceased celebrity, who would it be - and what would be the first question you would ask them? "Oscar Wilde – I’d ask him ‘Why didn’t you use your full name?’ (Check it on Google!)"
OK, I don't know if you're a Taggart (TV) fan, but I am - and wanted to know if you prefer the old school version - with the late (great) Mark McManus or this new version with the less aggressive Alex Norton? Also, if it isn't Taggart, what other shows do you like and maybe miss when away from home? "Taggart without Taggart just doesn’t make sense to me. They should have made a new programme. As for T.V. Shows, I miss Question Time when I am a way even though you can get most things online now. My favourite T.V. show is the original 'Police Squad' episodes with Leslie Nielsen. Better than the 'Naked Gun' movies and hard to beat."
It has been told to us you are "currently working on a project"! OK, as we're not called Exclusive Magazine for nothing, what is this mysterious new project you are working on - and does it have a working title at this time, perhaps? "Forgive me, but I will tell you about the new project in time. But for now I’m more than happy to be going on tour in 2010 with Ex-Simple Minds."
If asked to record one for charity, what '80s (and possibly cheesy!) pop/rock song would you love to cover today...and why? "I would record ‘I Want That Man’ by Debbie Harry for lonely gay men everywhere!. But seriously, I don’t do charity records."
Lastly, and throwing you a journalistic curve ball, Exclusive Magazine loves Penguins (the flightless bird, not the chocolate bar!) ... do you? "I think Penguins are hilarious! My sister’s favourite film is 'Happy Feet,' but then again my sister has only recently been ‘sectioned’!"
Interviewed by: Russell A. Trunk
So, if you would like to win a SIGNED copy of an Owen Paul McGee CD, and you think you know all there is to know about the man himself, just answer this easy question: After touring and recording with Mike and the Mechanics, Owen had a spell with a Scottish supergroup, named ... what?! [Clue He hadn't joined Ex-Simple Minds at that stage!]
Send us your answers and if you're correct you'll be in the running to win one of these wonderful SIGNED CDs! Just send us an e:mail here before July 1st with your answer and the subject title CONTEST: OWEN PAUL MCGEE SIGNED CDs to: firstname.lastname@example.org