Donald's Encyclopedia of Popular Music

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REA, Chris

(b 4 March '51, Middlesbrough UK) Guitarist, songwriter, pop/rock singer. Began playing guitar '70, joined Magdelane '73, with name change to the Beautiful Losers named by a pop paper as best newcomers '75 but nothing happened, signed to Magnet as a solo. He was a good enough guitarist to guest on The Hank Marvin Guitar Syndicate '77, had a good voice and soon proved an appealing songwriter. Debut album Whatever Happened to Benny Santini? '78 was a reference to the new name Magnet had wanted to give him, with hit 'Fool (If You Think It's Over)'. The single reached no. 12 USA (on UA)/top 30 UK (covered by Elkie Brooks '82 for a top 20). The album, with help from Rod Argent and others, prod. by Gus Dudgeon, reached top 60 USA. Deltics '79 also prod. by Dudgeon; Rea prod. his own Tennis '80; both charted UK but not USA. He concentrated on songwriting and touring; Chris Rea '82 incl. 'Loving You'; Water Sign '83 made him a bigger hit in Eire and on the Continent than at home, followed by Wired To The Moon '84, Shamrock '85, On The Beach '86; he steadily climbed the UK charts until his self-produced Dancing With Strangers '87 reached no. 2, kept from the top only by Michael Jackson's Bad (which was being heavily promoted by CBS). But New Lights From Old Windows '87, a hits collection, was his second to chart in the USA, barely making the top 100 albums. He bought a racing car '88 but was dismayed by the cost: 'The difference between lapping in 1.82 minutes and 1.81 minutes was ... 60,000 in a more powerful engine.' The Road To Hell was written in four days in a burst of energy, his harder lyrical content and mature style making it his best yet; it didn't quite make the top 100 in the USA but entered the UK at no. 1, its hit title track inspired by sitting in a traffic jam on the M25 London ring road. Rea's heartfelt rockaballad love songs were welcome spots of sincerity on TV's Top Of The Pops, but Auberge '91 was over-produced (by Jon Kelly), the first minute or so consisting of atmospheric sounds and some fans got tired of waiting for the music to start. It was his last chart album in the USA. God's Great Banana Skin '92 and Expresso Logic '93 did well at home. He also duetted with Elton John on 'If You Were Me' on the latter's Duets album. Struck down by blanket peritonitis in France '94 after a minor operation, he may never tour again: 'We just don't know what two hours of singing would do to my diaphragm ... It has been cut open six times now.' But he was uncomfortable with Top Of The Pops anyway and turned to film, writing and scoring a 'musical fantasy' La Passione about a boy who becomes a racing driver (album on East-West '96, crooning assisted by Shirley Bassey on two tracks), and working on a comedy about the last English village 'in classic Ealing style'. (Interview by Mick Brown in the Daily Telegraph.) The Blue Cape '98 was a new album.