The one and only!
He’s played the East Midlands many times over the years, but his next show will be part of an 80s weekender at Butlins in Skegness. Chesney Hawkes, who now lives in Los Angeles, tells HELEN BARNES about singing on glaciers – and THAT song
You’re back in the UK next month for a series of Butlins dates. These 80s music weekenders seem to have a really strong line-up of real acts, not tribute bands…
Yes, I LOVE Butlins! I’ve worked for Butlins for ten-plus years now. It’s an institution. You do these weekenders and they have amazing artists on, but also they’re incredibly professional with the sound, the staging and everything. The crowds are always fantastic – it’s like one massive fancy dress party, where people leave their inhibitions at the door and just go crazy.
So, you’d recommend it then to music lovers, as a nice, safe environment to have a good time?
Oh absolutely! Yeah, they definitely look after their punters and if you’re up for a good laugh as well as great music, then that’s the place to go. It’s an amazing venue to play at. Possibly over the years it’s had the reputation of being a bit of a cheesy venue, but I think that’s all changed now – their brand is so much stronger, the weekends speak for themselves really, they’re always totally packed and we all enjoy them.
A bit different from the event you have at Cattow’s Farm, in Leicester, later in the year then?
Yeah, that’s a new one for me. I’ve headlined the festival there a few times, but then they came up with an idea of “a weekend with Chesney”. It will be a much smaller group of people and I will be doing lots of fun things over the weekend – I’ll be serving breakfast, having a question and answers session, a little acoustic gig, I will even be doing a little DJ set at one point too!
Where’s the strangest place you’ve performed?
On a glacier in Iceland. We all went up on a snowmobile and you could hardly see what was going on as it was snowing so badly.
Speaking of ice, didn’t you once fracture your ankle when you were due to appear on Dancing On Ice a few years ago?
Yeah… my wife says no more reality shows in case I break another bone or something. I did this show called The Games (Channel 4, 2005) where I trained like an Olympic athlete. We did ski jumping, sumo wrestling, all sorts of crazy things as well as 100m sprint, cycling etc. I ripped all the cartilage out of my hip in a water ski jumping accident. I am a bit accident prone.
If you were to attempt a Guinness World Record, what would you go for?
I have actually. It was at a charity event and we tried to get the most people playing air guitar at the same time. It was at Portsmouth Football Club and I think we would have got the record, but on the day it absolutely p***** it down with rain, so a lot didn’t turn up.
Apart from air guitar and obviously music in general, what else are you good at then?
I’m a skate boarder… I wouldn’t say I’m particularly amazing, I’m not like my namesake, Tony Hawkes, I’m more into long boards nowadays. My wife tells me off as I’m always coming home with either skateboards or guitars.
When was the last time you were starstruck?
I’m a massive fan of Ben Folds, I have been for ages. I’ve met many people over the years and never really got starstruck – Paul McCartney, George Harrison, Lady Diana – but then I was on this aeroplane in the States, going to Chicago, and Ben was sitting opposite me. My wife was with me, saying “what are you going all silly for?”. I suppose you just don’t know how you’re going to react, but I just revere him as a musician and songwriter.
Do you get recognised when you’re out and about?
Well I do a little, both here and in England. Here they know the music, in England it depends if I’ve dyed my hair or not.
When I told a friend I was interviewing you today about your 80s gig at Butlins, she said you were 90s, not 80s….which decade would you say you fit into?
Everyone always says I’m 80s, but I’m actually 90s. I’m happy that I’m confused with the 80s as it gives me loads more gigs. I play at both. The One And Only was 1991, but I think my connection with the 80s is probably Nik Kershaw, who wrote the song.
Do you prefer performing more now or back then?
I think more now because I can do things on my own terms. Back then it was fun, don’t get me wrong, but in the eye of the storm it was so crazy I never really got a chance to sit back and really enjoy what was happening to me.
You often joke about having just one big hit (The One And Only was number 1 in the UK music charts for five weeks and reached number 10 in the US) – if you could swap The One And Only for another song that you’d always be singing instead, what would it be?
That’s a question I’ve never actually been asked before! To be honest with you, I wouldn’t swap it. Nik (Kershaw) and I always say it’s a song with wings and for whatever reason it just had that extra bit of fairy dust attached to it. It’s really held its own in the test of time and I think it still stands up as a great record, so really, I wouldn’t swap it for anything else.
What’s the most common question you get asked?
Do you get sick of singing The One And Only? And the answer is no. Although, there was a time when I didn’t play it for about seven years – after all the craziness I threw down the gauntlet and said “right, I’m never gonna play that song again!”
Have you turned down any opportunities that you wish you hadn’t?
I was once offered Joseph And the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat after Jason Donovan, for big money, etc, but I don’t regret it.
Any great memories from time you’ve spent in Nottingham?
I’ve played a lot in Nottingham over the years. I had an amazing week there when I stayed we toured with the musical theatre production Can’t Smile Without You – I remember having a really lovely time as I stayed with friends and they took me around Nottingham. I do have a soft spot for for the city.
Chesney Hawkes will be appearing at Butlins Absolute 80s Weekender, Skegness, Friday, February 1 - Monday, February 4. Prices from £87 per person for three nights. Headliners also include Sister Sledge Live ft. Kathy Sledge, Go West, T’Pau, Wendy James from Transvision Vamp, Aswad, Curiosity Killed The Cat, Sonia, Mai Tai, Pat Sharp (DJ Set), Jive Bunny and Black Lace. Tickets are available from bigweekends.com or by calling 0330 102 5295.
■ A Weekend with Chesney Hawkes, The one and only... (With special guest Pat Sharp) at Cattow’s Farm, Normanton Lane, Heather, LE67 2TD is limited to no more that 500 people and takes place from Friday, May 31, to Monday, June 3. Prices £138.63-£345.72. Tickets are available through eventbrite.co.uk
Chesney in 1998
Chesney on stage last year