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When Shaky ruled the charts

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James McLaren James McLaren | 08:24 UK time, Tuesday, 8 May 2012

It's not all about Merry Christmas Everyone, you know.

Shakin' Stevens, born Michael Barrett in 1948, was a colossus of 1980s music and tonight a documentary takes an in-depth look at his life and career.

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Shakin' Stevens (10.35pm, BBC One Wales) looks at the man who holds the distinction of being the most successful UK singles chart performer of a decade (beating Michael Jackson, Duran Duran and Madonna) - an honour shared with The Beatles (1960s) and Elton John (1970s).

He charted no fewer than 30 top 30 hit singles in 10 years and, to date, has cumulatively spent nearly nine years in the UK charts. But despite his incredible UK and international achievements, this is the first biographical documentary on his life and career.

Shaky started on the road to stardom in 1968 with the formation of Shakin' Stevens And The Sunsets. Fame and fortune were slightly less than forthcoming, although the band stayed together for a decade and released a couple of albums. They were even voted Best Live Band in a 1972 NME poll.

The Sunsets lasted until 1977, when Shaky was offered the lead in Elvis, an award-winning West End musical. "It was terrific to be earning money while paying tribute to the King," he said.

And it was a formative experience. The show ran for 19 months, during which time he recorded a hit single, Justine, and an album - titled Shakin' Stevens.

The turning point came in the 1980s. He signed to Epic, releasing the Take One album and the single Hot Dog, which reached number 24 in the charts. Marie Marie followed, but it wasn't until 1981's This Ole House single that Shaky truly arrived. It was a number one smash, and made the singer an internationally-recognised face.

This Ole House was followed up by smashes including Green Door, Oh Julie and Shirley. Other notable releases include 1984's A Rockin' Good Way (a duet with Bonnie Tyler), and 1985's Merry Christmas Everyone - which was delayed from the previous year so it wouldn't clash with Band Aid's Do They Know It's Christmas?.

Towards the end of the 80s, the hits may have been fewer and further between, but Shaky was still a top international live draw. And by the end of the decade he'd had more number ones than any other Welsh artist, and had scored 30 top 30 hits.

He carried on touring until 1995, when he decided to retire from the live circuit. But in 1999 he completed a tour of the UK and Europe, and performed at the launch of the Welsh Assembly in May. At the turn of the new millennium he performed an open-air concert in front of a home crowd in Cardiff, and has since performed to sell-out audiences in the UK and Europe.

In May 2005 Shaky won the ITV comeback show Hit Me Baby One More Time, where he performed This Ole House and a cover of Pink's Trouble, beating competition from the likes of Tiffany, Shalamar and Chesney Hawkes. His victory coincided with the release of The Collection, a CD and DVD best-of.

Fans were rewarded for their loyalty again with the announcement of a new single and album, both titled Now Listen, released in 2007.

What are your memories of Shakin' Stevens? Feel free to comment! If you want to have your say, on this or any other BBC blog, you will need to sign in to your BBC iD account. If you don't have a BBC iD account, you can register here - it'll allow you to contribute to a range of BBC sites and services using a single login.

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  • Comment number 1.

    why is it only showing on BBC1 Wales (OBVIOUSLY I KNOW HE'S WELSH) A lot of people in England And Scotland bought his records and voted for him on Baby Hit Me One More Time.... my first memory of him was 1980 (i was 8yrs) and hearing Hot Dog then making it the first record i ever bought after that i bought every single and every album and my copy of Take One was a not for sale gold stamped DJ Copy....unfortunately i spend some time on the streets in my late teens and most of my stuff was stolen from my dads garage but an ex-girlfriend had rescued my box of singles tho some were damaged by her friends children...he meant a lot to me as my home life was very unstable mum and dad split up every 4-5 months over a 4 year period (1980-1984) and she'd run from Surrey to her mum in Somerset taking us kids back and forth then she finally left him and shacked up with a soldier in Berkshire who she left within 6 months and dragged us back to Somerset. There she met a guy who didn't want the responsibility of a teenage boy (he was fine about my 2 younger sisters???) so after 7 months i was sent to my nan in Middlesex temporarily then to my dad in Surrey. Shaky was always there and was my escape and to some extent i feel his music protected and elongated my innocence to the harsh realities going on around me. I became an adult when I should of not before time. for that i'm thankful.....

  • Comment number 2.

    I hope this gets a UK-wide showing at some point.

  • Comment number 3.

    Just discovered that it should be possible to watch on the I-Player in England, Scotland and N Ireland. Also through Sky (Channel 972) or Virgin Cable (Channel 864).


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