MIKE HURST TALKS!by
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The year is 1962. Lights flood the small performance area at Quaglino’s, a night club in St James’, London. A few people sit in the audience, but they are shrouded in darkness. Mike Hurst, at the age of 18, has come for an audition and stands like a rabbit caught in the headlights waiting to do his song. He’s auditioning for The Springfields and he gets the job. It’s a big break. Within a year, The Springfields are cracking the USA charts, being the first British act to do so. They play the Carnegie Hall. Back home, The Island of Dreams peaks at number five in a British Pop Chart dominated by American artists. They are headlining everywhere, including the Royal Command Performance at the London Palladium, a show watched on TV by 23 million people. Suddenly, a teenager has more than he could have ever dreamed of. Everyone wants to know him. How was he going to handle it, and what was he going to do when the bubble burst?
51 top 40 singles and 25 gold and platinum albums later, I caught up with Mike to find out how he faced fame, fortune and failure. It is the story of one of the most underrated performers and record producers still working today. For a young man whose mother had put him on the stage at the age of four, and who, not long after appeared on the same bill as Max Miller and Sid Field in variety, life has turned full circle. Mike Hurst still produces records, runs training courses for young people who want to get into the music business and still has a passion for theatre, including pantomime, all of which benefit from having some of Mike’s friends along who just happen to be among the most prolific and highly rated session musicians of the last fifty years.
Mike Hurst’s story is compelling, not only because almost everyone in Twentieth Century popular music knows where he fits in, but also because his career spans half a century and is a cogent narrative of the radical changes in music and culture that took place. What took place was a transition in pop, which had its beginnings in stage variety, to a culture shock of rock and roll that absorbed and reflected massive changes; about attitudes, youth, identity, and so on. At the hypocentre of this period of rapid and profound change was the 1960’s London Scene. Everyone in the business knew everyone else. They played the same venues, relaxed at the same clubs and took comfort stops at the same terrible motorway services. In those early days of liminality and mohair suits, nobody suspected that within five years the world of popular music would change forever. As Hurst says of the variety acts like Anne Shelton and Russ Conway, “They all got blown away”. This is the story of an individual who made his mark during one of the most intensely creative periods of the last century.