Cheryl Baker interview: The 60 year old star who won the Eurovision Song Contest in 1981 is in the middle of a 6 month ‘Happy Days The Musical’ theatre tour discusses what how she is fortunate to still be offered work more than 20 years after her last hit record.
When asked whether Great Britain can win the Eurovision Song Contest again, the English television presenter and singer said:” We might have a better chance this year with Eurovision this year because we are putting in a young unknown singer. I think what we’ve done wrong in recent years, especially in the last two years with Bonnie and Engelbert Humperdinck …oh what a disaster! That was an embarrassment. You only have to look and see what type of songs are doing really well in Eurovision and they are not that kind of song anymore. Our more recent entries have been the kind of song that you would put in from the 70’s, 60’s or the 50’s, you know let’s get with it!! Euphoria won back in 2012 with a fantastic song. That is the kind of thing we should be putting in.”
The star went on to say “You can’t blame politics anymore every year for getting ‘Nul points’. You have to have a decent singer and a decent song. “Terry Wogan is a great loss now because he doesn’t do it anymore. He was right when he handed in his notice on air during Eurovision. I love Graham Norton, I think he’s brilliant but I really miss Terry.” “Terry and Eurovision were the perfect pairing”.
Cheryl was surprised that “The Land of Make Believe” had knocked ‘Don’t You Want Me” of the top of the charts back in 1982 as “The song took ages to get into the charts, it took weeks and weeks and weeks though it ended up staying in the charts for 16 weeks which is phenomenal- that’s 4 months!”.
At that time in the eighties, people would release singles every three months and so when ‘Don’t You Want Me Baby’ was No.1 whenever they released a single we always seem to so ‘Top Of The Pops’ with them and so we became really friendly with them. Suzanne and Mike have a really great friendship though I was thrilled to knock them off the number 1 slot! (Laughs), but equally I felt a bit gutted as they are so nice.
“Happy Days is the new must see musical of 2014” – MarkMeets
What advice would you give to any band who wants to be in music for the long-haul?
“That’s hard. The thing is you don’t have to like the people you are working with so if you really want to be in it for the long-haul then you have to put up with differences of personality and opinion.
“You just have to put up with it”. Unfortunately like most bans including Bucks Fizz if you don’t put up with it then you have to ship out! You have to move on and do other things. The best way for longevity is ‘Put up and shut up’.
You are playing Mrs Cunningham in tour in Happy Days, do you relate to the character?
“I remember watching Happy Days religiously every Saturday, it started in 1974 and ended finished in 1984. I knew those characters so well because we loved it, it was escapism back then because we had nothing like it then back in the UK. We didn’t have those kind of Diners, I saw Ed’s Easy Diner in Norwich the other day, though we never had that kind of thing or Malt shops where you could go and get milkshakes, we had greasy spoons really didn’t we! I can relate to her as it was a magical time with the family thing. The house that the Cunningham’s lived in I used to think ‘I would love to live in a house like that’.
“I used to watch Marion Cunningham and she was the homemaker and everyone looked to her for advice, even the Fonz (she was the only person who could call him Arthur). She was a very warm and lovely character and so I was thrilled when I was asked to be Mrs Cunningham. I was quite overawed actually though I’m not like her. I want to work, I could not be at home, I’m not a home builder. I love my home and children but I like going out and doing stuff and being as able as my husband is at working and making happen whereas Marion is the heart of the show but she really wants to break out and show that there is another side of her, well I do that all the time. ”
Cheryl also revealed that she still auditions for work, even though she has 20 hit records including three number ones to her name. “I auditioned for ‘Happy Days’, I had a phone call from my agent who said they are auditioning for Marion Cunningham. They had already done auditions for weeks or months and they said they are closing auditions on Friday and this was on a Wednesday. I jumped at it as a I really fancied playing the character so I headed to London for 10am and when I walked in they were all smiles. It was then I discovered that the director was in the Buck Fizz fan club, which was a bonus! I sang for them, read for them and did the American accent and later on that day I was told that I had the job. There was series called ‘Sound of the musicals’ and it showed the progress of trying to get a show on the road and they were filming my audition and they filmed the reaction of the producer, director, choreographer and MD who all said “She’s perfect”. She said “It’s so nice to see that cos you obviously don’t see that and I jumped at it when I was offered the job”.
Cheryl was asked whether she was worried that the show included 21 original songs even if the TV show is well known: “The great thing about this show is that Paul Williams wrote all the songs and I was a big fan of him before I knew he’d written all the songs for the show. Is an Emmy and Grammy winning songwriter who is just brilliant. So I wasn’t concerned about the songs at all. It’s no much nice to have a musical with original songs rather than just a ‘Jukebox musical’ which would be the easy way out playing 50’s music; I suppose it’s nice for the audience as they would recognise it but equally I hope they will recognise our stuff eventually if they hear it enough.
On being a runner-up to Joe McElderry on ‘Pop Star To Opera Star’, she said: “I said to Joe on the very first day, you will win this competition. There was no way that I was going to win it, I didn’t even expect to be runner-up but he was always going to win it. Joe has a huge following, people love him but that is not the reason he won.
“Joe won because he has got the most fantastic voice; he is just a brilliant singer so I don’t begrudge him. Also, I’ve been there and done it and I’ve got lots more T-shirts than he’ll ever have. 60 year old Cheryl admitted “I’m so long in the tooth and his career is still blossoming so I want him to be successful in whatever he does.”
“Cheryl Baker’s so incredibily versailite as an singer and actress. Her American accent took me by suprise, there REALLY is no end to her talent.” – Mark Boardman
You have said before, you don’t do panto?
Yeah, I don’t do panto anymore. I have turned down so many offers for years and years. The first one I ever did was 87/88 and that was at the London Palladium and I hated that. Barbara Windsor who was also on the bill said “It’s because it’s the west end and they are taking it too seriously, do a provincial one”. I did lots of local pantos actually after that and that are a lot more fun but they come at Christmas. My mum and dad got married on xmas day and so Christmas has always been a lot more special to me than just being Christmas especially when I had my kids I thought ‘How can I be entertaining other people’s children when mine are at home’, It was then I made the decision not to do pantomime though it’s a bank raid if you are one of the main stars because they pay a of money. There is one artist who can do a pantomime with her husband and then not have to work for the rest of the year. I now put my lifestyle first and I want to be there. I do now go along to panto and think “Thank goodness I’m not on that stage.”
“It might go to the West end who knows” she added though in the meantime there are “Fizz gigs coming up” I still work with Mike and Jay, we call ourselves ‘Cheryl, Mike and jay, formerly of Bucks Fizz’ because we don’t own the name Bucks Fizz any more.
Cheryl Baker is currently starring as Mrs Cunningham in the UK Tour of new musical Happy Days which tours the UK until July 2014. TICKETS https://happydaysthemusical.co.uk
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