Paul Young looks back: ‘I look better now than I did in the 80s. I know how to pose’ | Family



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Paul Young in a suede jacket, white T-shirt and jeans, in 1986 and 2022
Paul Young in 1986 and 2022. Later portrait: Päl Hansen/The Guardian. Style: Andie Redman. Archival Portrait: Getty Images

Born in Luton in 1956, Paul Young is the heartthrob responsible for some of the biggest chart-topping hits of the 1980s. After the breakup of the new wave soul group the Q-Tips, Young went solo and provided the opening vocals on Band Aid’s Do They Know It’s Christmas? and releasing the transatlantic hit Every Time You Go Away and the million-selling duet with Zucchero, Senza una donna (Without a Woman). Paul Young and Go West tour the UK in May; he’s hitting the road this fall with The Essential 80s Tour featuring T’Pau and Hue And Cry.

This was one of those endless teen magazine photo shoots. I have a vague memory of the photographer who asked me to stand like this; it was a fairly form-fitting jacket made of stiff suede, so it was difficult to lift my arms up. The clothes were bought at Johnson’s on King’s Road, where Adam Ant got all his crazy suits. I would have styled my own hair too – I’m quite picky about that. Even today I have the right kind of product, so if it blows over, it goes back to its original place.

The 80s were quite an era of masculinity, but I was tame by comparison, especially when you consider a group like Def Leppard. The hair products it took to keep them and some of those American guys on the go were quite a few. I was probably a tempered version of that time, which reflects my personality. My fans would probably prefer that I was a little more subdued.

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I had stuttering growing up, almost from the start-To go. My brother always finished my sentences for me which was very frustrating. I got off school for speech therapy, but it didn’t do me much good. Then I discovered that there were singers who lost their stutter when they performed, and that tapping your legs helps too. I thought, I love music – if I do this for a living, maybe I can fix it and gain some confidence.

I was doing an internship as a milling worker at Vauxhall Motors with my father when I fell in love with performing. He persuaded me to complete the apprenticeship, as any parent would, because he was concerned about money. He said, “I hope you save some!” I thought: I can’t do that, if I make money, I have to spend it on microphones and this and that and that.

I was in a few groups before going solo: Kat Kool and the Kool Kats, Streetband, followed by the Q-Tips. We were a bit of a motley crew and stayed together for three years. Those early days were a wonderful thing: the crowds would dance frantically, we would play to this great sea of ​​people, then you would get up in the morning and wander around and be back to normal.

After the band dropped, I signed with CBS in 1982. My third single, Wherever I Lay My Hat, reached number 1 and I started selling out shows. The strategy of getting in and out of a gig got very technical. When I got my first security guy, I thought, Hey-hey! I have a guard. Would you believe it? By the time I realized it would be better to have one that stayed with me, and one that lasted, I didn’t think it was that funny anymore. Sometimes fans would wait at the entrance to the venue to get autographs, so it took an hour to get in. After the show, they followed the tour bus back to the hotel. When I arrived I would just be pushed into my room. I couldn’t go out for a drink at the hotel bar with my friends so the fun started to fade from the experience a bit.

I didn’t like being a heart beater I was always wary of losing my sense of identity. I was aware that you eventually become the persona people want you to be. I always thought, if I can’t enjoy it, is it worth doing? After being solo for about three years, it all got too lonely, so I said to my manager, “Can we stop for a minute?”

I came back in the late 80’s, but it was hard to ever really let go. I always had to be very sensible because I did it alone. I used to be jealous of bands like Duran Duran for being allowed to share the promo. Instead I did the show, came back at 1am and then got up at 5am to do breakfast TV in New York. I had no free time at all – I never even saw America when I toured there. After the album in 1987 I felt like I was making the wrong choices. I was trying to please the American label, and I was too influenced by other people’s opinions. Finally I took a break again. I just wanted to settle into my family life, with my wife and kids, and then start over. Get some grounding.

Today I feel much more comfortable doing solo tours. People often ask, “Aren’t you bored with playing?” In the 90s I was hesitant to go back to those early hits, but what helped was that I started a Tex-Mex band called Los Pacaminos – it gave me the chance to do all the things I can’t really do in my solo career. I grab a guitar in my hand and sit in the back. If I have an epitaph, I want to be seen that I’ve had an eclectic career – that I’ve tried many different styles of music and that I’ve quietly gone about my business. I never really repeated myself from album to album. I think that kept me going a little longer than some of the other stars of the era.

I like the way I look much better now than I did then. I know how to pose, which angles suit me best. Smiling helps as you get older. When you start to go gray, try a few different things to stop the process. You dye your hair brown, but then the white hairs start to grow back, and it looks unreal. I got to a point where I had to bite and now I don’t even mind growing a white beard. As for the jeans? I don’t think I’ll be wearing them anytime soon. Faded denim does not look good on an aging person.

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