When my dad met Paul Young in the 80s
Here’s the thing. I run an 80s (and 90s) music website. The music from those two decades has, in many ways, dominated my life. Yet I didn’t find out until about 35 years later that my dad met Paul Young in the 80s. How could this be?
When I say ‘met’, I’m talking about having a proper conversation with, even though it was away from the music scene and we had no mutual connections. Well, kind of, in a very loose way – but I’ll get to that later.
So how did this happen? What did he say? What was the 80s singer and guitarist actually like? All will be revealed if you read on…
Luton Town, 1985
A little bit of background, if you’ll allow me. My parents split up in 1984, when I was 10. Back then, I was the first in the class to experience such a life-changing event, although today my 8-year-old daughter has a number of classmates whose parents live in separate households.
Every cloud has its silver lining, though, and mine came in the form of a sibling. My dad met someone else at a holiday to Butlin’s and remarried pretty promptly. I gained a stepsister. They moved from Bedfordshire to Northumberland, and moved into our three bedroom semi. As I’d stayed with my dad after the split, I now had a full-time sibling, a stepsister three-and-a-half years my junior.
All was well – until my dad and his new wife decided to move to Luton. Aged just 11, I was given the choice between staying in Northumberland and moving in with my mum and her husband, or flying south.
I chose the latter. We moved into my stepmum’s sister’s place – which was vacant as they were running a pub in Bedford – while we sold our house in Northumberland and bought one in Luton.
It was some months before the four of us moved to our own place, a brand new home close to Luton airport. On a new build estate called Wigmore Park.
Ashcroft High School, 1986
Having completed about a term – or maybe it was just a half – at a high school on the other side of town, I opted to move to the comprehensive near our new home.
Known then as Ashcroft High School, it’s now called the Queen Elizabeth School. (With – in an odd twist of fate – an extremely similar uniform to that my daughter will, in a few years, wear at her high school here in Dorset. I’m not kidding – in purple and black, the PE kit is literally identical. Nothing like the grey uniform I first donned around the time 1985 gave way to 1986.)
Everyone knew, then, that Paul Young was the school’s most notable former pupil. The blue-eyed soulster was huge back then, having had recent chart success. Not least with his cover of Hall and Oates’ Everytime You Go Away in 1985. He also just made it onto the top 100 80s singles chart with Love of the Common People. At the time, he was without doubt one of pop’s hottest properties.
After moving onto Wigmore Park, we soon discovered that Paul’s parents lived on the street behind us – in one of the bigger detached homes, of course, as compared to our rather compact three bed semi. Until recently, that was as far as the connections went. As far as I knew, anyway…
None of us live in Luton any more; in fact my dad and I moved back to Northumberland in 1987, but that’s another story. We now live in Dorset, while he and his partner reside in Cumbria. So for his 70th birthday in 2021, we met up in Bath, staying at a lodge just outside the city.
On the second night we returned from the city after afternoon tea at the Pump Room and a wander around town. The fire was lit, the red wine was poured. The scene was set, yet I don’t know how the subject even came up. I just remember my dad suddenly mentioning that he’d met Paul Young during the 80s.
Prone to going into fine detail he may be, but my dad is not one for exaggeration. So my ears immediately pricked up. ‘Met him?’ I asked, ‘or saw him visiting his parents or something?’
‘Oh aye, met him properly like. In the pub.’
It turned out that he’d met him in a local hostelry I remembered well. When the four of us fancied a change of scene, we headed off in whichever was the family car at the time (either a blue Ford Sierra or a green Vauxhall Cavalier). A country lane or two later and we wound up in Tea Green, where our favourite family boozer was located. We were promptly ordered to take our took our Schweppes blackcurrant cordials outside into the beer garden, while the parents enjoyed a break within.
Tea Green, 1986 or 1987
So the story goes, my dad took a solo trip to the White Horse one Saturday. And just like that, found himself standing at the bar and trying not to stare into a very famous face.
It could have been awkward, I guess, or the encounter could have left my dad wishing he’d said something – anything. But somehow the wasn’t the case at all.
‘Hello,’ said an unmistakably Geordie accent, with a slight nod of the head.
‘Hello’ said Paul Young… not surprisingly in a slightly questioning manner. (Thinking, quite clearly, ‘who the fuck are you?)
‘It’s alright, you don’t know me…’ said my dad, ‘but obviously I know who you are.’
Nothing like a bit of upfront northern honesty, I always say (and I can see where I got that from). Anyway, that broke the ice. They chatted casually about this and that, as two men who find themselves at the bar often do. Paul spoke of his touring and recording plans, just as my dad filled him in on life at Lucas Aerospace by Luton airport.
The only sign that he was talking to anyone in any way out of the ordinary was that Paul has his driver on stand-by to pick him up a while later when he’d sunk a few pints.
That was it. They met, they exchanged pleasantries and a few stories, then they parted.
My dad’s verdict? A nice guy through and through, polite and fun to chat to for a while. Down-to-earth, apparently too – and there’s barely any higher praise available from a native Northumbrian than that.
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