'There's (Still) A Party Going On!'
For those not in the know, Racey are a British pop group, formed in 1976 in Weston-super-Mare, Somerset, England, by Richard Gower. They achieved success in the late 1970s and early 1980s, with hits such as 'Lay Your Love on Me' and 'Some Girls'.
The eventual members of Racey came from all around, but when Racey was first formed they began their career by playing in pubs and clubs in the West of England. By the autumn of 1976 they performed their first professional shows and were booked to play a one-month residency at the night club JOMFRUBURET, Copenhagen, Denmark; which ended up being a six month contract!
After returning to the UK, they were spotted by famous record producer MICKIE MOST whilst playing at the Three Queens Pub in Weston-Super-Mare. Despite the fact that 1977 was the height of punk rock boom and clean-cut bands were considered unfashionable, Mickie Most was impressed by the bands live performance and original songs and signed them to his RAK label.
After a successful batch of hit singles climbed the UK Charts, the bands first album SMASH AND GRAB was released in 1980 and sold over 1,000,000 copies. Reaching No. 1 in Australia, New Zealand, Germany, and many other European countries it reached the accolade of Treble Platinum status in Australia, where it remains one of the best selling albums of all time. Racey eventually earned 35 Gold, Silver and Platinum sales awards.
I recently caught up with the original lead singer, Richard Gower and we discussed everything from the massive hits, to the old 7" single covers, to what he's up to now, and, of course ... penguins!
The original line-up of RACEY was yourself, Phil Fursdon, Pete Miller and Clive Wilson and after early success in your local pub circuit, it's when you met Mickey Most that fortunes changed drastically for you. So, knowing that the band you formed was then called Alive 'n Kicking, why was the band subsequently named RACEY soon thereafter? "The band I formed and named was Alive-n-Kicking, but yes, the record company owner/producer Mickie Most originally thought a name change from Alive-n-Kicking to Blue Band was a possibility. But we then thought we may be considered to be a Blues-type band. Hence he finally suggested Racey which was somewhat accepted by the group."
Meeting Mickey Most was fortuitous, for sure, but is it true that it only came to be because a fan of the band decided to put together a demo tape, track him down, and then hand it to him (well, his wife actually) personally? "Yes, this story is a correct happening. The friend was a neighbour of mine named Steve Matthews. It was Steve who actually handed the demonstration recordings to Mickie Most`s wife Chrissie at their home address."
RACEY's first ever single was 'Baby It's You,' which was actually penned by Smokie members Chris Norman and Peter Spencer (1978). How did they come to work with you as it seems rather random in hindsight! "'Baby It`s You' had already been recorded by Smokie themselves, who were also on the RAK Label. Mickie Most felt there was still potential in the song as a single release, but it did not come to fruition as a hit record."
Your first actual hit single was your second release, the brilliant 'Lay Your Love On Me,' peaking at #3 on the UK Singles Chart in late 1978. Now all over TOTP, doing promotional pop in's on radio and TV shows and such, what was it like for RACEY at that time - and, in reflection, what would you have done differently? "It was a very hectic, exciting, apprehensive and interesting time. I suppose it was meant to be! What would I have done differently? Learned to dance," he gently laughs, a smile creeping onto his lips.
The also-brilliant 'Some Girls' was the third single and RACEY was well and truly known throughout the UK and beyond. Funnily enough, that song was originally written for Blondie, but given to you. Funnily enough, listening to it now, I can actually see Debbie Harry singing it herself! "Yes, I think Debbie Harry would have made a great version of `Some Boy`s Will, Some Boy`s Won't'! Although I`m not sure how many boy`s wouldn't have with the fabulous Debbie Harry!!!"
The only album the original RACEY released was the great debut SMASH AND GRAB in 1979. What can you tell us about the making of that album, the tracks that were chosen? "The songs on Smash-n-Grab were picked by the producer Mickie Most from the best that was on offer from the group itself, and other writers that were possibly on the same page as ourselves. Incidentally, all the group songs were written by myself. Uncannily, my other compositions were recorded by Hot Chocolate, Suzi Quatro, Smokie, Kandidate, and so on. Also, Racey did actually release another album The Latest and Greatest on the CMC label Denmark. CMC was eventually purchased by EMI, at that time."
Sadly, the original RACEY line-up formally split in 1985 - but, in all honesty here and now, why? "Clive Wilson departed due to difficulties with abilities in recording and live performance areas.
When the Racey recording royalties dried up Phillip Fursdon felt he had no other option than to go back to his previous profession, which was a shame as he had a lot to offer."
"Sadly, the loss of Peter Miller was a tragedy for such a young man. Peter probably had the best vocal ability in the band, but the Pop Genre unfortunately did not suit his voice. But he was still a very good vocalist, nonetheless."
RACEY has since existed as two different groups - one featuring yourself, the other featuring Phil Fursdon and (until his passing in 2003), Pete Miller. Has it ever been discussed internally by you and any other original RACEY band mates if the original band could ever come back together again, perhaps? "A reunion for Racey? No. This would not at all be possible. To do this without Peter would not be right."
Having searched for a RACEY website, I found the one for the other guys, but not you. Does your version of RACEY have its own website, perhaps? "Yes, the official RACEY website is www.raceyweb.com. Please make sure people, the fans are aware, thank you."
Looking back at a few TOTP performances from you guys, it's clear that you, in particular, were very, well, shall we say energetic up there on stage! You couldn't seem to stop dancing, moving your arms around, happily kicking balloons if they drifted your way from the audience. It looks like you, personally, were having the time of your life. Is that about right? "Yes, it was definitely fun while it lasted!"
Taking some of the singles you released, please expand a little on them and the times spent surrounding their recording and such:
'LAY YOUR LOVE ON ME' - "I was not sure we were heading in the direction I`d hoped with this song. As at the inception of the band we never perceived ourselves as a pop / rock 'n' roll group!"
'SOME GIRLS' - "After `Lay Your Love On Me` was a hit I was caught up in the heady excitement! Onward and upward, as they say."
'BOY OH BOY' - "MISTAKE! We should have gone with 'Kitty'! Oh, Mickie! As the world now knows it!"
'SUCH A NIGHT' - "This release should have been the single 'Shame' instead. Much more in keeping with Racey, but it was not meant to be!"
When you look at the 7" single covers for these two hits what can you tell us about that exact photo shoot for them both?
'SUCH A NIGHT' - "Funny ... really funny!"
'SOME GIRLS' - "Nice new suits ... and we looked good!"
So, what does your version of RACEY have in store for audiences here in 2016? Any UK/US tours on the books - given that we are here in Motown (Detroit) USA? "I now spend all my time in the studio looking for that "lost chord"," he laughs. No, I currently have no plans to tour at the moment, unless the offer is right and I could enjoy the happening."
Will your RACEY ever record an album of new material - and given that the other RACEY still exist also, how would that work re: you both promoting a "new RACEY album band name wise"? "Not impossible. And, for the record, Phil Fursdon could not release any album using the name Racey as it is illegal to do so. He has no right to the name because he willingly departed Racey on his own wishes."
Finally, and yes we ask everyone this, we here at Exclusive Magazine LOVE Penguins (the birds)! So, we were wondering if you did also and if you had any stories (soft toy or real) about one yourself, perhaps? "No stories about penguins, other than the fact that I do go to a place called Coles Bay in the Southern Hemisphere where penguins are abundant, and amazing to watch. Talk about speed swimming! Superb creatures ... and, of course, are only in the Southern Hemisphere," he smiles, one last time.
Interviewed by: Russell A. Trunk