Chris Norman comes from a show business family going back two generations.
His Grandparents toured their own concert party around England during the First World War and their daughter Pat (Chris’s mother) joined a dance troupe when she left school. Pip Norman, (Chris’s Dad) was part of a dancing/comedy act called ‘The Four Jokers’ and worked all over Europe in the 1930s/40s and had a British Royal Variety Performance to their credit.
Chris was born in Redcar, Yorkshire, on 25th October 1950, his parents didn’t intend that he should pursue a stage career, but when he was just 3 years old, he decided to walk on stage and join the finale line up for the show in which his parents were appearing.
He got his first guitar at the age of seven and his early musical influences were Elvis Presley, Little Richard, Buddy Holly and Lonnie Donegan. Later the 60’s beat groups, in particular The Beatles, and the folk singer Bob Dylan, were a huge influence on Chris.
Approaching his twelfth birthday, Chris started at St. Bede’s Grammar School , Bradford where he met Alan Silson and Terry Uttley the future members of Smokie.
As teenagers, Chris and Alan began meeting up and spending nearly all their spare time learning new songs on their guitars. They managed to persuade Terry to join them and along with a drummer friend called Ron Kelly, they formed their first band. The Yen, Long side down were just some of a variety of names they called themselves before settling on ‘The Elizabethans’.
In 1968 ‘The Elizabethans’ had turned professional via a stint at Butlins holiday camp Skegness. Another name change was inevitable though and during the next seven years Chris and the band gained much experience playing around the country, they performed many live radio broadcasts and they managed to gain a recording contract with first RCA and then Decca records, they released three singles under their new name of ‘Kindness’.
During this period the band played many different styles and venues and at one time had a period as backing group to Peter Noone who as Herman had just left the Hermits. Their style was becoming a mixture of listening to acts such as, the Small faces, Free, the Beatles and others.
When Ron Kelly left the group in 1973, Pete Spencer was asked to take over on drums and the group which was to become ‘Smokie’, was complete.
By 1974 the boys had developed their own sound reflecting their close three part harmonies and Chris’s distinctive vocal sound wrapped up in a guitar rock sound, a sort of mixture between Crosby, Stills & Nash and Creedence Clearwater Revival. The band changed their name to ‘Smokie’ and their first album ‘Pass it Around’ was released in 1975 on Micky Most’s RAK records.
Smokie had started as an album orientated rock act and their many live experiences had given Chris and Smokie a good grounding in all the tricks of the Rock’n Roll trade. Chris remembers: “We weren’t so much interested in pop singles at first. That’s why the back cover of our first LP PASS IT AROUND was designed in a way that made us look kind of folk/rocky instead of a Glamrock band.”
Nevertheless, by the summer of that year they had their first hit single with ‘If you think you know how to love me’. This was followed by a string of 14 hit singles including ‘Living next door to Alice’, ‘I’ll meet you at Midnight’, ‘Lay back in the arms of Someone’, etc. Plus the very successful duet with Suzi Quatro, ‘Stumblin’ In’ which gave Chris his first taste of success outside the group.
Their album sales grew accordingly and they had many hit albums such as, ‘Changing All The Time’, ‘Midnight Cafe’, ‘Bright Lights and Back Alleys’ and ‘the Montreux Album’ among others.
By now Chris and the group were enjoying huge success touring all over the world and selling out Arena gigs but by 1982, Chris decided to spend more time writing and working in the studio.
Chris together with Pete Spencer, now concentrated on songs for other artists including hits for Kevin Keegan and the England football team’s hit ‘This Time’. He also worked with such names as ‘Agnetha’ from Abba, on her solo album, ‘Donovan’ and the Heavy Metal Kids and later produced songs with Cynthia Lennon..
In 1985 ‘Smokie’ got back together to play a charity show in aid of the Bradford F.C. fire disaster and decided to go back on the road. Tours of Germany and Australia followed but in the latter part of 1985, Chris recorded a project for a German TV movie ‘Tatort,’ and decided to once again concentrate on his solo career.
Chris’s solo career took off in 1986 with the song, ‘Midnight Lady’, which was a massive hit throughout Europe holding the number one spot in Germany for six weeks. Other single and albums hits followed.
Chris was surprised in 1994 when he was awarded ‘International video Star of the Year’ by CMT Europe for the videos ‘Jealous Heart’, ‘The Growing Years’ and ‘Red Hot Screaming Love’. That same year Chris formed a new band and went on tour for the first time in six years. Over the next 10 years Chris and his band continued to tour extensively all over the world, and he produced many solo albums.
2004 was a particularly busy year for Chris. With both a top ten single in Germany with ‘Amazing’ and top 30 album ‘Breakaway’. That same year he was given the Radio award for ‘best voice male’ in Germany which Chris was thrilled about.
2005 saw Chris at number 5 in the DVD chart in Germany with a live double DVD called ‘An Acoustic Evening with Chris Norman’. One DVD featuring Chris and band performing a 1½ hour unplugged set for an invited audience and the other a live electric concert in front of 50,000 people in Vienna.
Although Chris and his six piece band were busy touring throughout Europe as well as gigs in Russia and the US he has still managed to find time to write and record a new studio album every two years or so over the last few years and in 2009 he released a history album of his career so far called “Chris Norman, The Hits! – from his Smokie and Solo Years”. The Double album incl. one CD with 16 Smokie hits and one CD with 19 solo tracks, including 5 brand new songs. He then recorded an album named ‘Time Traveller’, doing his own arrangements of some of his favourite songs from the 60s, 70s, 80s and 90s. And 2013 saw the release of Chris’s first studio album of new songs for 6 years, “There and Back”.
Before Christmas last year Chris decided to take some time off touring and spent the next five months writing and recording for his next album.
Chris says: “I had been thinking and coming up with ideas for songs for about a year, so over Christmas & New Year I decided to try and work on those ideas and finish them off. Every day I went into my little room where I write and worked on songs, I would go in like going to a real job after breakfast and stay in there until 8 or 9pm sometimes as long as 1am if I was into something.
I decided not to follow any kind of style and just worked on any song I came up with no matter what direction, I took no notice if it was rock or country or whatever, the only thing I went by was if it was a good song and I felt it suited my voice.
I ended up with 14 songs which I recorded, 12 of which will be my new album ‘Crossover’ the title seemed appropriate because of the variety of styles of the songs which keep crossing over from one genre to another. There is also a bonus track (‘Forty Years On’) which is a remix of a song I wrote for the 40 year anniversary Smokie album. I also wrote a Christmas song with my friend and guitarist Geoff Carline which is planned for release in December.
The first song on the album is also the first single release called ‘Waiting’ and I’m very happy with the song and the video I made to accompany it.”
The new album ‘Crossover’ and single ‘Waiting’ will be released on 18th September 2015, followed by a 20 date tour of Germany in November. More tours are planned for other countries to follow.
Catalogue Numbers: CD – SOLO7
Download Album – SOLODB7