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Ghost Canyon

NEW! Billy Ocean [2017] NEW! Billy Ocean [2017]

'Can We Go 'round Again: The Billy Ocean Story'

For those not in the know, although shame on you if that's truly the case after all these decades in the musical spotlight, Billy Ocean [born Leslie Sebastian Charles] is a Trinidadian-born British recording artist who had a string of R&B international pop hits in the 1970s and 1980s.

In point of fact, he was actually the most popular British R&B singer-songwriter of the early to mid-1980s.

After scoring his first four UK Top 20 successes, seven years passed before he accumulated a series of transatlantic successes, including three US number ones.

In 1985, Ocean won the Grammy Award for Best Male R&B Vocal Performance for his worldwide hit, 'Caribbean Queen', and in 1987 was nominated for the Brit Award for Best British Male Artist.

Still touring and recording to this very day, last summer in Europe he released a unique 2CD collection entitled Here You Are: The Best Of. Celebrating his long and illustrious career, which has seen him become a Grammy award winner with worldwide sales of over 30 million, the album included his classic hits along with some newly-recorded ones.

Now released here in the US on July 21st, 2017 via Legacy Recordings as a special single disc edition, it features 10 brand new Billy Ocean performances along with five classic original hits. This new single disc set features a personally curated selection of tracks covered by the man himself, chosen for their influence on him both musically and in his personal life.

I was lucky enough to get some time one-on-one with the great man, and I first wondered just when Leslie Sebastian Charles (aka Les Charles) had first become Billy Ocean, what had prompted it, and why "Billy Ocean"? "Back in the '70s I was doing a lot of session work for producers who kept on giving me different names. So I decided I wanted my own. In Trinidad I supported our local soccer team (Ocean 11) so I tried lots of first names and Billy just sounded right."

You had a string of massive international pop hits in the '70s and '80s, even becoming the most popular British R&B singer-songwriter of the early to mid-'80s. In reflection, what was that decade long time period really like for you - and do you have any regrets about choices made music wise, perhaps? "It was very exciting. Hard work and fun all at the same time. When you are that busy time just flies past. I have no regrets about the music because it made my life what it is today."

Having had two #2 hits in the late '70s - Love Really Hurts and Red Light - it took the renaming of your song European Queen (#82) to Caribbean Queen (#6) in 1984 for you to be back in the Top 10! Whose idea was it though? "It was Clive Caulder, Head of Jive Records that came up with the idea. And boy, didn't it work!"

In 1985 you appeared (via JFK Stadium in Philadelphia) at Live Aid and sang both Caribbean Queen and Loverboy, but how did all that come to be? "It was a great honour to play Live Aid. I Met Bob Geldof after the event and he told me he had tracked me down through my label."

OK, bringing you bang up to date, and you released a brand new 2CD set in England late last year and have just released a single disc version of it here in the US. So, why did we get the single disc version - what are you hiding from us?! "I would have liked to put out the same version in the US, but Sony said it could not be done that way in the States. But with modern technology these days, if anyone wants the double album anywhere in the world, they can get it."

The album is chock full of songs that inspired you throughout your career and is a mighty fine album, if I may say so. But I'm sure you could have chosen to cover way more than both editions of the new album showcase. So were there some songs that were actually recorded, but that never made the album, but that we could still get to hear, perhaps? "Ha, ha, ha," he laughs. "That you will have to wait and see!"

Here on the single disc version we also get five of your biggest hits from the '80s, but as they are the original recordings, I was wondering if it had crossed your mind to re-record them for the new release "I have been asked many times to re-record some of my songs, but I just don't think they need it. They were right for that time and must be good as they are still popular on radio today."

Taking a few of your hits songs aside for a moment, please tell us (in just a few words) what was going on in your life when it came to writing / recording them:

Love Really Hurts Without You (1977) - "I was just trying to get started."

Caribbean Queen (1984) - "I had just had a short break and, as you know changed the title. I actually did three different versions: European Queen, Caribbean Queen and African Queen."

Suddenly (1985) - "I just felt great."

When The Going Gets Tough (1986) "We were finishing off an album when we got a call to see if we could come up with a song for the movie. Would you believe we actually wrote this song and recorded it in one day!"

You took a lot of time off from live performances, but have come back in the past few years to do the '80s Retro Tours. So why were you away from both recording and playing live for so long - and what brought you back to both? "I decided to take a break and to spend time with my family. I have three children and had spent the best part of 10 years on the road for promo and live shows. Five years turning into 18."

"Then in 2007, I decided to go out and play a few shows. I mostly play my own shows, but in the summer I do festivals now."

Do you have an current plans for the future, perhaps? Within music or even outside of music? "I am working on a new album for 2018."

Finally, what's the one thing about you that you feel a lot of people don't know, but that they should know (after all these years)? "They already know enough," he laughs, "but when I am off the road, my garden is where you will find me."

Interviewed by: Russell A. Trunk

Check out a BRAND NEW review of Billy's New CD!

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