Still the one and only. . .; CHESNEY HAWKES' 10 YEARS IN THE MUSICAL WILDERNESS MADE HIM A MUCH BETTER PERSON.(Features)
Wales On Sunday (Cardiff, Wales); 1/13/2002
THE world of pop music is a pretty fickle business - one minute you're knocking back the champagne and counting the gold discs, the next you're hurtling towards the bargain bin.
Nobody knows this more than Chesney Hawkes. Back in February 1991 the floppy haired teenager rocketed to the top of the charts with his debut single The One And Only.
The track, taken from the movie Buddy's Song which starred Hawkes and Roger Daltrey, stayed at No 1 for five weeks. He was the boy of the moment.
Just four months later it was a very different story. His follow up single I'm A Man Not A Boy peaked at No 27. By the end of the year he was yesterday's news.
Now, after a 40 date tour of student unions and nightclubs, an older and wiser Hawkes is making a new bid for chart success with his single Stay Away Baby Jane. An album follows later in the year.
Hawkes, now 30, says: "Originally a promoter came and asked if I fancied doing a few student gigs. I was a little nervous. I thought they wouldn't know who I was and, worse still, not care.
"The first gig was in Lincoln. It sold out. I had knickers thrown on stage and people were chanting my name. I can't remember having a reaction like that - even in '91.
"That mini tour led to a bigger one. I think I have just been adopted by students."
Hawkes admits he has experienced the ecstatic highs and unbelievable lows of the music industry.
"I was 19. The One And Only was my first record. It went to No 1 and I was this big star. I thought that was what happened when you released records.
"Of course that is not normal. It's a great record and I'm still really proud of it but I think it was a bit of a fluke.
"At the time it was like living in the eye of the storm. I used to be woken up in the morning not knowing where I was going. I'd be told I was off to Greece that morning and in the afternoon it would be Italy.
"I never got the chance to step back and appreciate what was happening to me. But that madness only lasted for a year.
"It was all a bit of a blur. When I see old films of it I look like a cartoon character. It's not me - it's a different person.
"I have good memories. I got to travel. My brother was in the band and I had good people around me.
"When it all ended I think I coped pretty well.
Initially I felt I had been unfairly treated and was quite depressed. That didn't last long. It was people like my family who felt it more when the knives came out.
"I put up barriers. It seemed like water off a duck's back but that was my way of coping. I saw how ruthless people could be - I wouldn't want my son to do it.
"But in the last 10 years I've experienced normal life. I'm married with a baby and feel pretty well balanced."
Like other pop has-beens Hawkes, son of Chip Hawkes of 60s chart-toppers the Tremeloes, has been offered the chance to branch out into musicals in London's West End. It would have enabled him to pay off his mortgage but Hawkes declined all offers - with one notable exception.
Back in 1995 he appeared in an early version of the musical MacGregor's Trap at Edinburgh's Festival Fringe. The show is now being developed by producer Bill Kenwright.
"I don't normally like musicals but it was great.
It was a rock musical like Tommy and felt like a good fun thing to do."
Hawkes may not have had hits in the past 10 years but he has been busy writing music for others. He collaborated with Tricky on his Mission Accomplished EP and has written songs for Nik Kershaw, Caprice and girl band Hepburn.
He has written two tracks on A1's forthcoming album and teamed up with Paul Marazzi from the band as a songwriting partnership.
"My connection with Paul has gone further and we are working on other songwriting projects, " says Hawkes. "People are coming to us and asking for songs. Hopefully we are going to have some stuff on Dannii Minogue's new album."
So why did Hawkes decide to stick his own head above the ramparts again and release a single of his own?
"I have never stopped playing live in London. We played everywhere from little clubs to pubs in front of two men and their dog. I feel like I have paid my dues the wrong way round.
"When I first started I was playing arenas and then I went back to my roots.
"I had a catalogue-songs and then I met my record label. They liked my music and were willing to give me creative control so I thought I'd give it a go.
"I'm really proud of the single. I knew it was going to be a hard slog.
People have so many preconceptions about me. I always knew it was going to be a slightly uphill battle.
"During the tour I was quietly confident. Now that it is here I'm not so sure. It is so out of my hands and I just don't know."
Chesney Hawkes single Stay Away Baby Jane is out now.
COPYRIGHT 2002 MGN Ltd.
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