The cover of “You!” by Peter Godwin (Photo courtesy the artist)
Singer-songwriter Peter Godwin is best known for his new wave hit “Images of Heaven,” which continues to fascinate listeners, as shown in its recent power ranking in a Facebook poll called the ’80s Synthpop Singles World Cup 2020. Only weeks ago, Peter released a new single — “You!” — and Johnson Somerset, a regular collaborator, remixed it for release a few days ago.
In the ’70s, Peter began his career in the glam rock outfit Metro, which gained even more notoriety when David Bowie covered the band’s song “Criminal World” on his album Let’s Dance. After Metro, Peter took off on a solo career, although he became a master tunesmith for a variety of other artists, ranging from German synthpoppers Camouflage to fellow Englishman Steve Winwood.
Parklife DC’s Mickey McCarter phoned Peter at home in Nice, France, where he dedicated part of a relaxing evening reminiscing about his career and looking forward to the future.
(This interview has been edited for length and focus.)
Mickey McCarter: Have you been stuck at home? How has the pandemic affected your work?
Peter Godwin: Well, it’s interesting because I haven’t been doing a lot of live work. I’ve done some, but I haven’t done a lot. So if I had been, it would have affected me profoundly like it has done so many people. But because I didn’t have a lot that I had to cancel or a lot of things like that coming up, which is another story that we can get into, as in, for example, wanting to play in America, which is maybe worth talking about.
Actually, I was faced with a decision. Just before confinement, I shot a video with some Italian friends for my latest single, “You!” You may have seen it?
MM: Yes, indeed.
PG: I shot a video with this dancer [Virginie Roux], and it’s been quite a drama because I’ve been waiting for the dancer for months. So that was my choice, because she was somebody I met when I was rehearsing for the W-Fest ’80s festival in 2018. She was coming in after my rehearsals to do some teaching for dance. We had this feeling that we should do something together. But then she went off on a world tour. So I waited for her to come back, and then we prepared some things and improvised some and that’s how the video for “You!” was done. It was already shot, and we’d even done the edit, which we did long distance because the director and the editor came to Nice to shoot it.
We shot it very near where I live down by the sea. But the director and the editor went back to their home in Rimini, and they edited it from there. So we had the video, and we had the track ready, but I just had a moment’s hesitation. There was the very real thing that people are dying. So is it in poor taste to be promoting a single? “Here’s my new music.” On the other hand, of course, as soon as I thought about it a bit more, it became obvious that you can’t really just shut down everything that is joyful and positive for people in anticipation of the worst. You can only handle the worst the best you can.
And of course, the pandemic did affect me personally. I had a brother who’s a doctor in England who got very ill with it but survived, and his wife too. A couple of people that I hadn’t seen for many years, but that I know, died of it. So it affected me like it affected everybody else. But in another way, I thought, “Well, music is real soul food.” Music uplifts you. It gives you joy and strength and all kinds of positive energy that you need when the days are dark. So as soon as I thought about it, I thought, “No, it would be silly just to not put the music out.” So I’m glad that I did actually. And of course, people were putting music out in all kinds of ways, weren’t they?
Watch the official music video for “You!” by Peter Godwin on YouTube:
MM: I personally turn to music to cheer myself up. Your decision to release the single was brilliant. It’s what you should’ve done. People need music right now.
And, you, you’re a very clever lyricist, and you sometimes write these songs that have a bit of a gut punch to them. It’s a very alluring song and then you’re like, “Oh, wow. Boom!” And “You!” isn’t any exception. It’s a very sexy song, but it’s also very absorbing when you listen to it. I wanted to get some of your perspective on writing those lyrics.
PG: I want to say straight away that it’s very rewarding for me, Mickey, to hear you say that. What I mean by that is the fact that you’ve really listened. That’s not to say that there’s one way to hear any lyric, whether it’s my lyric or a Beatles lyric or a Bowie lyric. I’m not saying there is only ever one way to hear any lyric, but just the fact that people listen, that they go deep or that they pay attention is very rewarding when you’re trying to communicate. But that doesn’t mean you’re only going to communicate something simple. People often ask me about a favorite song of theirs.
For example, “Images of Heaven.” People will often say, “What does it mean?” And I have to say, and I mean this and I would say the same about any song really, it is the song itself is the best expression of what I wanted to say. Anything I could say beyond that, even if I took 2,000 words to say it, would never be quite as complete as the song is. That’s because I like to work with what a song lyric, just like a poem as well, *can* be. It’s full of the ambiguity of language. So you can say more than one thing at the same time. I could easily give a clue, a headline to what “You!” might be about without destroying it for anyone. It’s about the paradox of romantic love.
In “You!,” the character is constantly contradicting himself. He’s talking about every time you said you’d saved me or her expecting to be saved, the way in which people look for solutions in love and often are disappointed and often are unreasonable in their demands. It’s fascinating to me and that’s why I sing about it. Although I don’t sit down and say, “I’ll write this song about the paradox of romantic love.”
I see that afterward. I realize afterward that it’s one of my themes. I also have themes like about what things seem to be and how people present themselves and how you get to know who they really are.
There’s a fairly recent ballad that I wrote with Johnson Somerset called “Disguise.” And then of course, years ago, I did the electro dance track, “Emotional Disguise.” A lot of it is about conflict in relationships, how we’re presented, how we look at the other person, how we assume, from the little we know, all sorts of the things that we really don’t know. And then when we find out, we’re almost angry that the person didn’t fulfill our fantasy or our expectations. I find that fascinating.
And it even goes all the way back to the very first single I ever released with my first band Metro, “Criminal World” — the one that Bowie covered later on Let’s Dance. And “Criminal World” is a satire on people, in a way, presenting a fake face — in that case of sexual ambiguity, androgyny, bisexuality. I wrote that song in the wake of Bowie and Ziggy Stardust and that period of extreme image and playing around with sexual types, which is funny because it’s very relevant today with challenges relating to transgender.
Watch Peter Godwin perform “Emotional Disguise” on PopTop in 1982 via YouTube:
PG: People are actually raising those questions yet again, but at that time it was almost like a fashion, and I found that quite interesting.
Hence, “the girls that like baby-faced boys, the boys that like baby-faced girls,” playing around with that and “you never told me of your other faces.” Some people play roles. Is that what you’re presenting or is that the truth? And that becomes interesting when you think about an artist, someone like me who expresses himself through his songs or an actor who expresses himself through a role. Some people may start to identify with the actor or the songwriter within their songs, when that may be misleading. It’s interesting, and I don’t calculate it, but when I look back on it and I look at things I’ve written about, I see that I like certain themes.
And perhaps they also go with certain musical atmospheres that I also like. So I write quite a lot of songs in a minor key, or if it’s in a major key like “Images of Heaven,” it goes to a minor version of that key at some point in the song. I like the dark to the light, playing with your emotions. Because life is all about equilibrium and disequilibrium and dark and light, and these shifting forces of happiness and sadness. It’s our emotional life, isn’t it?
MM: In “Images of Heaven,” when you sing, “You don’t exist,” that is the most gut wrenching lyric I can possibly think of at the moment. When you were talking about the interplay between light and dark, what a perfect example that song is in particular.
PG: Yeah, because there’s a key line in the song that not everybody immediately gets. When I put the record out, I got the record company to quote that line on the sleeve, and it’s “One cheap illusion can still be divine.”
I love ambiguity. In a way what I’m saying is that, okay, the protagonist in the song who’s singing this, he knows that he is being attracted to some idea of a woman that he will never find because she doesn’t really exist. She doesn’t exist with that combination of physicality and of attitude and character that he wishes would go with it — whatever he imagines, her sexual availability, her tenderness. He wraps up all of those things together with a visual that he sees from images in advertising.
So, in a way, he’s aware that he’s in love with an illusion, but in another way, it’s slightly more complicated, and that’s why I highlighted that line. He quite likes the illusion. He quite likes being in love with something impossible and yearning for something that may never be. That’s the perversity of love. And that’s the perversity of desire and of human beings in that they often get excited by yearning for things that are impossible. Of course, it can be expressed in things other than love, like why people climb a Himalaya, why they want to go to the moon. Yearnings are powerful, aren’t they?
Watch the official music video for “Images of Heaven” by Peter Godwin on YouTube:
MM: You’re talking about a lot of things that, as we were saying, with sexuality and stuff, and these things prove to be timeless to the human condition, right?
PG: Don’t they? Yeah, it reminds me of Game of Thrones.
When the series first started up, I got a bit hooked watching it. And I thought, What is it about this series? It has quite a lot of sexuality. It’s quite realistic, if I can say that, for a fantasy series. What is it about the series that’s interesting me? Oh my goodness, it’s beautifully shot and the stories are interesting, but it’s mainly the characters. The characters, and they’re mixed. Good people can do bad things. Bad people can do good things.
Shakespeare writes about all these things. And that was the turn of the 16th and the 17th century, and yet those stories are just as relevant today. No wonder the plays still get watched and people still do versions of them. They’re to do with the human condition, aren’t they? And so, it’s funny that these same kind of themes occur in something like Game of Thrones. It’s populist entertainment, but then again, so was Shakespeare. Our culture has made Shakespeare somehow something refined and for the highly educated. But his plays were actually written for ordinary people. In fact, it was written very cleverly, I would say, for all stations of life, because he had to please audiences that could be composed of the richest to the poorest. At the Globe Theater in London, he had to please the Queen of England if she asked to see one of his plays. He wrote in a very broad way to make his living.
Game of Thrones obviously is a Home Box Office big value series trying to get a big audience. But yet, they didn’t entirely dumb it down. They kept some quite interesting themes.
Anyway, that’s a bit of a digression. It interests me a little bit. But it came from what you were saying about how the themes of songwriting, as in literature, as in film, as in any kind of storytelling, and songwriting is a kind of storytelling. You’re telling a story.
There are some songs that I remember from when I was very young because they captured an emotion that I really recognized. I’ll give you an example. “Here, There, and Everywhere” written by Paul McCartney, as a Beatles song. It’s almost about the condition of being in love. He talks about it as if someone is speaking, but she doesn’t know he’s there. She’s so lost, and they’re so lost in each other, this dreamy couple, this moment of probably adolescent, infatuated, in-loveness, that the world is kind of irrelevant. They’re lost in each other’s eyes. They’re drowning, but in a nice way.
And it really is kind of clever that you can write about a song that allows you to do that. You can just capture a moment. It’s like a haiku poem can paint a scene in a few syllables. And you can do that in songs.
I love the freedom of songwriting, and I have tried occasionally to see if I could write a script or write something longer, and I’ve never been happy with it. I think I’m destined to always write songs.
MM: Is it fair to say that you enjoy writing more than performing?
PG: No, I don’t think so, but I don’t have a burning need to perform whatever the circumstances. There are some people I know that if there was nowhere to perform, they would still get up in the local pub wherever they were. They’d still have to get up, and try and get the audience to listen. And that’s not my case. If I want to do a concert, I want it to be an event. It has got to be a pleasure for all concerned, including me.
I like the idea of doing an event. When I did the W-Fest in 2018, I thought, “This is perfect.” Because I knew a lot of people would come. There were about 30,000 people passing through the festival. And they all seemed to know the songs. When I got up on stage, they were dancing and moving, and singing along. That was definitely an audience that knew me.
That kind of event was great, and I would happily do a series of gigs like that in America. I would even do smaller places in America. The problem with America, as you may well know — and in fact some recent pronouncements by President Trump make me feel that it might be even more difficult than it’s been so far — is the work visa issue. When Americans come to play in London, for example, it’s very easy. It’s very low cost, and there’s very little argument about it. They get to come and play. As long as they’re coming to play, and then they’re going to go home again, and it’s not some trick for them to go and live there.
But the other way around, it’s quite difficult for people of UK origin or European origin even to go to America.
Peter Godwin at W-Festival in 2018. (Photo courtesy Six Degrees Entertainment)
MM: When is the last time you played in the United States?
PG: I did do one gig in Texas a few years back — seven or eight years ago. The gig was wonderful. It was in a big club for hundreds of people or a thousand people that came. And people actually came to this gig in Texas from all over the States. I had people coming in from San Diego, New Orleans, all sorts of places. It was very encouraging and enjoyable to connect with people like that.
I also did a personal appearance in another club the night before. That was really just to give people a chance to meet me. It’s interesting because you meet people of all different ages, backgrounds, life journeys. It’s not just one stereotype kind of person that likes your music. And it’s nice to know that your music touches people’s lives.
I haven’t really been to America very much at all in recent years. I’ve got some things I’m looking into with some tours. I’m trying to find a way to get a first step — to get in the door and get a first visa. Then hopefully, future visas will be a little more easy.
Going back to the question of do I prefer live performance or recording? I do love both. I do love getting up on stage and performing. I love it. And I certainly love to do it with such an appreciative audience as I seem to have in America. I met so many great people that have really connected to what I’ve done, and that’s a great compliment. And you want to share a moment with those people, you know? And there’s something irreplaceable about a live moment. There’s nothing quite like it.
At the same time, there’s something in another way irreplaceable about a considered piece of work, or work that you captured in a studio where you make all sorts of decisions. Sometimes, it’s just as it happened at the time. Others, you take that and then you add something to it a bit later, and it becomes magical then. There are many ways it can happen when you record and capture a song.
I love that process, too. I love just getting it right. I’m quite perfectionist to whatever vision I may have. I’d always have an idea before I start. I hear it in my head the record I want to make. It was even like that with “Images of Heaven.” I could hear the whole thing in my head when it came to me, and I wrote it down in about 20 minutes. I’m that kind of writer. I’m not Leonard Cohen, who wrote 300 amazing lyrics for the same song, and then, 20 years later decided to release one version of it.
Watch Metro with Peter Godwin perform “Criminal World” for Hits a GoGo in 1977 via YouTube:
MM: Going back to the beginning, and going back to Metro a bit, I saw that “America in My Head” got some some Facebook love in the Synthpop World Cup. It’s interesting that that was the last single from the band?
PG: Yeah, that was the last single. There’s no lyrical significance to that. I wasn’t planning to leave for America or something like that. No, it was just that I felt that the band experience had gone as far as it could. It’s a very hard thing to describe with hindsight. You make these decisions. I felt like having a go at trying to do something by myself where I would be — how can I put it — unfettered? I’d be able to do what I like. And I had a few very distinctive ideas that not everybody in the band would have gone along with.
I did actually try a couple of the songs that later I did by myself with them, and they weren’t quite into it. So, one of those was “Images of Heaven,” and the other was “Baby’s in the Mountains.” Both of them I tried with the band in rehearsal just like that, and it wasn’t going the way I wanted it to go, I suppose.
The funny thing is later on when I finally recorded the final version of “Baby’s in the Mountains,” it’s got some amazing guitar by Metro guitarist Sean Lyons on it. And Images of Heaven,” when I recorded that, it has, again, some amazing guitar and guitar synths by Colin Wight, the other guitar player in Metro. So, I still worked with them. I still found ways. And we’re still friends and in touch all these years later.
But yeah, that was the transition from “America in My Head.” And I was coming through with songs that I had a very distinct idea of what I wanted to try with them, and it seemed easier to try them on my own. It was sort of an experiment. You don’t always plan far ahead in those moments.
MM: I do understand that entirely.
PG: It’s often an instinctive thing.
MM: Sometimes, people want to move on, they want to grow, they go different directions, but I just I always thought that Metro was quite a bit ahead of its time.
PG: I don’t want to sound too pretentious about it, and say, “Oh, we were ahead of our time in that way.” But I think you’re right honestly. I think that we were. We were pointing at something that would soon become very fashionable.
One of the ideas of Metro that I had very early on, and we’re talking about when we were writing all those songs for the first album when Duncan [Browne] and I first got together, and my feeling was that we should do music that was metropolitan, Metro. We made city music because we were city boys. We were living in London, a big cosmopolitan city.
At the same time, we would travelers. We were cosmopolitan in the sense that we liked to travel. And especially in Europe. Europe was like our backyard. And like a lot of English people, I used to go on holidays to countries in Europe, to Spain, or Italy, or to Greece. And then as a young university student, I’d spend the holidays hitchhiking around the Middle East, and Turkey, and Greece, and all over the place.
When I wrote a song called “Paris,” it was partly about Paris but not only. And also when I wrote “Flame” on that first album, it’s about me falling in love with this French girl that I later split with. Then, I wrote a song called “Baby’s in the Mountains.” So, she got a couple of interesting songs out of me.
I wrote “Flame” in Paris on Christmas Day. “I see flames upon the Seine.” It was about when we were standing on a bridge, and looking down, and some lights in a restaurant looked like the river was on fire. It was literally an image taken from life.
So, I liked traveling in Europe, and I’m not that unusual in that, but my generation was one of the first generations to travel in that way, you know? I was really enjoying that, and I wanted to reflect that in Metro. And it comes through.
Later, you think the same when hear Ultravox — say, “New Europeans.” And “Vienna.” It became their thing I would say, but not their only thing. They were drawing on musical sounds that came from Europe, like Kraftwerk and other German bands. That influenced the way that European-ism became fashionable. We were trying to be different. We weren’t trying to follow any trend.
Watch the official music video for “Baby’s in the Mountains” by Peter Godwin on YouTube:
MM: That’s outstanding. My first love in music — I was totally an MTV kid when the Second British Invasion really ruled MTV — and all those great bands, Duran Duran and Ultravox, and yourself, were all getting this airplay over here. There was this sense of wonder and this sense of sophistication that came with all of that music. It was extraordinary. So it had a huge impact on me as a young man, and to hear you talk about it, and writing those songs, and being in that element, and thinking about it, well, I hope that you know your own life experiences left a big impression on folks, and we were able to hear that.
PG: I’m pretty happy for you to share that with me, Mickey, I appreciate it. People say such things to me over the years, especially since social media came along and allowed ordinary people to kind of have a low-key way to connect with you if you felt like connecting, you know? And I remember, years ago now, a young woman came through. But anyway, the whole point was that she was telling me about how she was putting it all together because she knew about Metro, and she knew about my solo stuff, and she said how it changed her life. And of course I was curious to see what she meant, you know?
And so I probed her a little bit, and she’d actually grown up in a really small town somewhere, I think in the Midwest, but really isolated, and suddenly she’s listening to music that’s talking about all kinds of atmospheres and places and other countries, and moods and themes and subjects that she hadn’t really thought of before, because they weren’t really part of her day-to-day culture. Yet, she had a yearning for it, and suddenly this music helped her escape and see other horizons beyond the white picket fence.
PG: I’d never really considered that potential scenario.
What you were saying about the Second British Invasion at MTV, that was a really interesting moment because MTV was so new, and some people had big budgets to do their videos. Some like “Images of Heaven,” for example, were done on a real tiny shoestring. But it didn’t matter, because they still kind of delivered something that people hadn’t seen before, and people enjoyed to see some kind of extra narrative twist on the atmosphere of the song. It’s just another way of experiencing it. I remember at the time, a lot of people said, “Videos are a bad thing, because they’re limiting you on how you enjoy the record. They’re making you see the record in a certain way.” For a long time, Bruce Springsteen didn’t want to do videos because of that, and then eventually backed down and he did “Born in the USA,” and it became a hugely successful record of course, but also video, even though it’s basically just a live video.
But it captures obviously something about him, and from then on he would do videos. Then, these British acts are coming out there, and they’ve got these little stories, it was part of it, wasn’t it? There was a lot of style, because fashion and style often goes with music. It was displayed in the videos, so you got to see what the acts were like and what their world was like, or at least what they were choosing to present.
It was hard to break through in America in those days. You’d go with your record, I was with Polygram in America, and you’d go to Polygram and you’d want to get it on the radio all over America, you want everybody to hear it. But [some] radio stations and MTV, they made it possible for British music to be heard. Otherwise, it wouldn’t have. A lot of the big radio stations really didn’t want it.
MM: It is certainly true that Americans love guitars. But what is fascinating is that when the synthesizer became widely available, there was so much creativity around it. I always compare it to how we all have these high-end cameras in our iPhones now, and so day-to-day photography has gotten much more sophisticated, because that device has become widely available.
PG: Absolutely, yeah.
MM: When the synthesizer became widely available, it had a huge impact and so many people did so many wonderfully creative songs. Synth players are still my favorite musicians, personally.
PG: Well, you know also, when you think about it it was a culmination of synths and drum machines. Because suddenly, you could be a kid who is 15 years old in his family home in the bedroom, a bit like Gary Numan was actually. You got your drum machine, so you don’t need a drummer and a big hall to be able to play and rehearse, and you’ve got your synthesizer. If you’ve got some way to record your voice, some little recording device, suddenly you are independent. You don’t even need a band, you can be the band, and you can put all your creative ideas even into the programming of the drums, you can make them as futuristic and machine-like as you wish. You’re right, it was incredibly liberating, and in fact it was true punk, if I might say that.
Because the punk thing was about refreshing the idea of the rock and roll, so rock and roll suddenly should be short songs, not long, developed, endless guitar solos and et cetera. Punk was the idea of reviving the core of rock and roll, going back to the ’50s and the ’60s, and not having to play that well but with a great attitude, which you could say was true of a lot of the early ’60s British bands. Punk took that on.
But then you got The Human League coming along with “Being Boiled.” You’ve got the simplest elements of music, but still you can play riffs, you can play basic things, you can create drum patterns which are hypnotic. I think that too is quite “punk.”
Before even the linndrum, which is on a lot of that ’80s music, and which I used as well, you had the Roland 828. Roland was responsible for a lot of the sound of the ’80s. I used Jupiter 4, Jupiter 8, 808 — and Roland drum machines. And now when I revisit those sounds, it’s incredible how distinctive they are and how they evoke that time. I agree with you, that it was a kind of liberating thing, and suddenly everybody could be a music maker, and was kind of set free. I played a Moog on the first Metro album.
And there’s synthesizers even on the other two Metro albums. The Beatles used a mini-Moog on Abbey Road, it’s all over it. I don’t know if you knew that.
MM: I did not.
PG: Abbey Road is one of the first synth records in my opinion. “Here comes the sun, do do do do,” that sound there, that’s all Moog. If you go on YouTube and you do a little search, you’ll find John Lennon talking about it. It’s quite a revelation, really. So I had the same attitude to the Beatles in some ways about synthesizers, that’s to say, when they came along, I thought, “Wow, it’s fascinating to have some extra sounds to play with, and express yourself with.”
That synth is almost like an orchestral sound, or could be. But at the same time it was just a way to express yourself, and I remember on “Images of Heaven,” for example, Colin had already started with “America in My Head” on that last Metro album, creating some guitar synth sounds. He was using an Electro Harmonix guitar synthesizer that Electro Harmonix had actually developed for him, it was a one-off, and he used that on “Images of Heaven,” and what a lot of people think is a synthesizer is actually guitar combined with a synthesizer pedal, one of the first.
A lot of people have nostalgia about the ’80s synthesizer sound. But my latest single, “You!”, is not synth-driven, although there are synths in there. It’s more guitar-driven, but with a central sound on the guitars. People now get nostalgic about the synthesizer from that time, and they feel like the people that made synthesizer music should make the same music with the same sounds. And I feel like for some people, not for all people, they want me to remake “Images of Heaven” for the rest of my life.
I did a good job the first time, and I don’t see much point in doing a sort of “Images of Heaven” Mark II, really. I’m not talking about remixes, I’m talking about repeating that style for me — even bands that were really into synths, like Depeche Mode, they moved on, they evolved. Yes, they still used synths as part of their sound, but guitar as well. Think of the difference between “Just Can’t Get Enough” and then “Personal Jesus” or something like that. It’s quite a big difference, isn’t it?
Watch the official music video for “America in My Head” by Metro on YouTube:
MM: I’ve chatted with Thomas Dolby, and his example is probably one of the most prominent of what you mean. His label just wanted him to be this mad scientist character with a synthesizer, and he wanted to explore all these different styles, like zydeco and other stuff, and he went on to do that.
PG: I always wanted to have that same freedom that an artist like David Bowie has, where his voice holds it together — his style, his attitude, his lyrics. If he wants to play around with sounds and styles, he will do, and he did do, over and over again, and very creatively and beautifully. In their brief career, the Beatles were always doing that, especially the second half of their career. Bowie came from that tradition, and I do as well. I want that freedom as an artist.
To tell you a funny story about Thomas Dolby, just a quick one: He was one of the people I auditioned for Metro. I auditioned Thomas Dolby, and it was because I was trying to decide whether I wanted to get another guitar player, which I eventually did, or a keyboard player. And he came along with a… I think it was Fender Rhodes, an electric piano.
I just didn’t really think it was adding very much, and I decided not to use him. So that would have been just after the first Metro album, when I was creating the second Metro lineup with Sean Lyons, and we were auditioning guitar players, bass players, drummers. Another drummer that came along was Richard Burgess, from Landscape, and producer of Spandau Ballet. He came along to audition as a drummer, but he was with a more of a kind of a rock band at the time and his style didn’t feel quite right. I’m actually still friends with Richard, and we got to know each other really well years after that.
But going back to Thomas Dolby, three or four years after I auditioned him, he got to be the guest reviewer for an English pop magazine called Smash Hits. It was one of the most popular magazines in terms of readership at the time, and it had a particularly young following. Anyway, he got to be the guest reviewer of the singles of that week, and guess what one of the singles was? It was “Images of Heaven!” And he actually said in his review, I’ve got it somewhere, “Well actually, PG once turned me down for a job in his band Metro, so I should give this a really bad review. But I actually rather like it.” He was very nice.
And I saw him after that, I saw him in New York when I used to go back and forth to New York quite often, and I bumped into to him out in a nightclub somewhere. What a really nice guy.
I met so many good people in my years in the music business, and particularly in those days. You know, I used to sort of travel all over Europe a lot doing TV shows, and I’d always bump into all these people that I knew from bands that had all hung out in the same nightclubs in London — bands like Ultravox, people like Midge Ure. I actually met Midge Ure when I was doing my first ever TV show in Germany. It was a show called Hits a GoGo.
Midge Ure was with a band called Slik, and he was doing a Slik hit, and we were playing “Criminal World,” and that’s when we first met, and that’s how we got to know each other. It’s funny. Midge actually got me into my first solo record. It was produced by Midge, I don’t know if you know that.
MM: Now, that I certainly did not know. What a pleasant surprise to learn that fact. But it really fits.
PG: Yeah. The first solo record I put out was called Torch Songs for the Heroine, which came out in America on a mini-album with “Images of Heaven.” And Midge really liked the song, and he decided to produce it for me. He introduced me to Polygram, or Polydor in the UK, and that’s how I got with them — with him producing it.
MM: That’s great. You know, Midge was in DC fairly recently, he’s been coming back to America every year and a half or so, after being away for quite some time.
PG: According to him, he had quite a lot of trouble to get going in America, despite all the success that he has had, and his involvement in Live Aid as one of the two people that set that up. It’s incredible to me that it was so difficult for him to get going, but I know now he goes there quite often.
MM: His story may be inspiring. Perhaps you would follow in his footsteps.
PG: Well, I hope so. The last time I saw him in person, I was at W-Fest. I had to play the next day, so I came early enough to see him play. We were backstage, and he couldn’t see me. I crept up behind him and started busting into his conversation he was having with this woman, and he got a real shock, because he didn’t know that I was there.
We go way back. I mean, we were friends and hung out a lot when he was living in London. But when people then move on with their lives, and they change countries and they change towns, and you don’t always keep up the same kind of relationship. It happens in all walks of life.
MM: That’s terrific. Hey, if you don’t mind my asking, what inspired your move to France? You were in England for so long…
PG: And then, vroom.
PG: What brought me here? Okay. It’s a combination of things to be honest. One, was that ever since, literally, I was about 14 years old, and I first really saw the Mediterranean and the Adriatic and the southern part of Europe, I just loved it. And I don’t know if it was something stirring in my blood because of my European origins and my Greek-Italian side. A lot of people who are just British all the way through love the Mediterranean.
So I was selling my flat, I was going to come here and buy somewhere, and it took a little while. I was researching the place. I’d already decided to come. But my personal decision was based on I’d had enough of London, even after all those years. I’ve lived through some fantastic, exciting times in London, had no disappointments, honestly, and I had a wonderful life as a musician working in London.
I’d always had an attraction to the climate and the light and the smells of the South of France, but not just South of France, especially the whole Mediterranean coast. I just loved that southern European feeling. And I’d always said to myself, “One day I should try and live there. I should try it.” It just really attracted me.
And the first time I went to Nice, I was actually on a tour of France where I was doing 23 towns in 23 days — with four days in Paris. And Nice was one of the towns. And I didn’t even play in Nice honestly. I just had a lunch with the local record store and a little chat. And I remember it was January, and I was sitting there in a t-shirt and the sun was shining. I was thinking, “This is beautiful.” So I didn’t really know Nice at all, and I knew the South of France a little bit, but not a lot. I just was attracted to that whole feeling. And I went for Nice, because I wanted a town. Because I’d lived in a big town all my life and I didn’t want to go and live in a village. I needed a place where there were restaurants and bars and clubs and things happening. And Nice was one of the few places that fit the bill.
It wouldn’t be too romantic to say, I honestly wanted a new adventure. I really did. I thought, “Now’s the time. Don’t wait. You’ve waited long enough. You’ve had London, it’s been great. Do something new.” And I really am happy I made this move. I love it here.
I enjoyed that feeling of being an artist, a writer alone in a new town with a new language and finding surprises around every corner, and it was very energizing. I wrote “You!” since I’ve been here, for example. And I recorded it here with a guy that I met here — Garbo Dastorg, a guitar player — and he produced it as well. It was a relationship that came from my move — just a recommendation from a friend that knew him as a musician in Nice.
It’s something about coming to a new country; it opened me up. And in fact, it takes me back again to David Bowie, really. Bowie moved to a fresh location quite often in his life, didn’t he? He went to Berlin when he was getting too full of cocaine and unreality in America, a certain time in his life. And then he moved to Berlin and completely changed his frame of reference, and started making very exciting music. I wasn’t copying David Bowie, don’t get me wrong. It’s not a strange move for an artist, sometimes, to change towns.
MM: No, no. I understand entirely. Since you mentioned “You!,” I did want to ask, are you going to write more songs? Is there going to be an album?
PG: I’ve already got some other things that I’m working on. There are more songs and they will come out one-by-one. In fact, the remix that Johnson Somerset did of “You!” is released [July 3]. I’m going to put the album out that we did together, the Nuevo album, properly, on all the digital platforms as well this year.
I’m going to do new tracks and put them out. I’ve got two new tracks in a collaboration with some Italian friends of mine… One of them is called “La Plage,” and it’s half in French, and half in English. And the other is called “Mirage,” because it had a kind of Arabic feeling to it, to my ears. They are already recorded and coming out on a CD along with a book, so stay tuned. They’re going to be on all the digital platforms. And then they will be easier to find because they will have my name on them — “featuring Peter Godwin.” So people will be able to find them. They’re two really interesting songs. I like them both.
I’ve got a song that I’m going to cover, but I won’t say what that is just yet. I’ve never really done covers. I once did a Georg Kajanus song, “Over 21,” on the Correspondence album. That was it. Now there’s a famous song I’m going to cover, but I won’t say until I’ve done it. I’m also going to cover a song by Garbo Dastorg called “A Fatal Smile,” and it’s a beautiful song. I’m in the middle of recording that. So there will be more music — that’s for sure. And it will slowly build up. I don’t know whether it will end up as an album, but it will at least be lots of tracks.