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Albert Hammond, The Duchess, York, May 13
WHO wrote It Never Rains In Southern California? Little Arrows? The Air That I Breathe? When I Need You? Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now? I Don’t Wanna Live Without Your Love? Don’t Turn Around? To All The Girls I’ve Loved Before? Not forgetting One Moment In Time, the 1998 Olympic Games theme song?
The answer is Albert Hammond, who, truth be told, is less well known in rock and pop circles these days than his son, Albert Hammond Jr, guitarist in the American garage band The Strokes Indeed Albert senior has not toured Britain since 1973, the year of his sole solo British hit, The Free Electric Band, which reached number 19 that summer.
But wait, who’s this playing a seated show at The Duchess in York on Sunday with a new album called Legend in his hand? Albert Hammond!
What has kept you away, Albert?
“If I say the English weather? No! What happened was that I carried on touring and I became huge in the Latin market, Singapore, Malaysia, and I never toured England again,” says the Gibraltarian-British singer, songwriter and producer, who was born in London on May 18, 1944, but has long lived in the USA.
“Then my son was born in 1980 and I wouldn’t have been able to give time to my children if I toured, so I stayed home from then on, but I still had a career.
“I sold thousands and thousands of records, I wrote many, many songs from the 1960s to 1980, and I still did that afterwards, except that I was at home.”
He was not a house husband; instead he wrote songs at home.
“But I always went to a studio to record. In those days I never used a drum machine. I’d make demos and demos went out to artists who I thought a song would be great for,” says Albert.
“I wasn’t a songwriter for hire, though. I would always write them for me but I would have someone in mind, or in the case of NBC asking me to write a song to represent the USA at the Seoul Olympics, in my mind I thought, what iconic artist could I write this for? The only one was dead and that was Elvis!
“So I wrote it based on that, and Whitney Houston only came along after I sent it to producer Clive Davis. When she sang it, it brought tears to my eyes.”
Once a song is written, Albert becomes “the audience, the spectator, even though I wrote it”. “It’s like a child: you take care of it and then one day it’s gone,” he says.
Talking of children, it was Albert junior’s success that prompted Albert senior’s return to the English stage.
“The reason for coming back to England now was basically that my son is in a famous band, The Strokes, and every time I see him on stage – and I’ve done that for ten years – I think, ‘hey, I would love to do that, maybe even open my guitar case and open a show for them’, but I never did that,” says Albert.
“I thought I should do it myself before I got too old, so I released an album last year [Legend] and I’ve been on the road since then and I’ve really enjoyed it.”
You may not know Albert worked on Welsh soul singer Duffy’s second album, Endlessly, the one that Adele blew away.
“There were some incredible songs on there but sometimes you hit a period of bad luck. When the manager left her, there was no one to represent her to the record company,” he says.
“It still sold a couple of million, but now she’s back trying to build her career again.”
Albert never had such a high profile but has sustained a career over five decades.
“Cat Stevens, Elton John and I all started around the same time and I’m still around, stronger than ever, with a catalogue that people think, ‘Did he write that?’ – and sometimes even I think, ‘Did I write that?’ “It’s my wife who tells me what I wrote!”
Albert Hammond plays The Duchess, York, on Sunday, supported by Lotte Mullan. Doors open at 7.30pm; please note this will be a seated show with seating unreserved. Box office: 0844 477 1000.