Tony Christie - My Story, My Music Songs of Praise


Tony Christie - My Story, My Music

In this special, Aled Jones interviews singer Tony Christie. Tony talks about his belief in angels and how his shyness has affected his career.


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Transcript


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Welcome to Christ Church, Spitalfields,

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in the East End of London, a place of worship for nearly 300 years.

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It's witnessed a variety of music

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from pop concerts to classical recitals.

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Now the Songs Of Praise team is setting up a stage

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for an artist with a rich and varied career.

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# Sha-la-la-la La-la-la-la... #

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Tony Christie has been having hits for almost 40 years.

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Famous for songs such as Is This the Way to Amarillo?

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and Avenues And Alleyways,

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Tony's been described as having

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one of Britain's most revered voices.

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'Tony has a timeless voice.'

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If he has a song that tells a story,

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there's no-one better, really.

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I think, actually, I heard him recently,

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and I think the older he gets, the better the voice is.

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In this week's special Songs Of Praise,

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Tony talks to me about his faith and how he believes angels guide him.

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He goes back to his first church and his musical roots.

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And he performs some favourite hymns and brand-new songs.

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Well, as you can see, we've got our congregation,

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we have our wonderful musicians -

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all that's missing is the man himself.

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Ladies and gentlemen, Mr Tony Christie!

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CHEERING AND APPLAUSE

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I think it's fair to say they love you.

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One of the world's greatest singers -

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this is going to be brilliant.

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Oh, thank you. I thought it was only me that said that! No?

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No, I think everyone agrees. Don't you?

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-CONGREGATION:

-Yes!

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What I'm really excited about is

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that you've chosen the music this evening.

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We're going to start with a great hymn -

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Praise, My Soul, The King Of Heaven.

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Why have you chosen that one?

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Because it makes me happy and makes me want to smile.

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Let's smile and sing, ladies and gentlemen.

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# Praise, my soul, the King of Heaven

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# To his feet thy tribute bring

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# Ransomed, healed

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# Restored, forgiven

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# Who like me his praise should sing

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# Praise him, praise him

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# Praise him, praise him

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# Praise the everlasting King

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APPLAUSE

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Well done.

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Well, this is a rare treat - an opportunity to chat to you.

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I know you're very private.

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What I've never understood is...

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how can someone so shy stand up in front of thousands of people?

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It's a thing I've had to fight all my life,

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to be honest with you, Aled.

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I mean, really, really, very badly shy.

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I think, in a way, it's held me back career-wise.

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The fact that I...I couldn't look people in the face.

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I couldn't be in a crowd.

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I couldn't bear to do autographs and all that kind of thing.

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Are you a different person when you're up there, then?

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Yeah, I'm two people.

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On stage, I'm a person called Tony Christie

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and when I get off the stage, then I become Tony Fitzgerald,

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which is my real name. It's just like acting, basically.

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-Is it still enjoyable for you, though, when you're on stage?

-I love it.

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Music...I mean, music is what I live for.

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It's in me, it's in my hard drive.

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I can't get away from it.

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All I ever wanted to do, even from being a little kid at school,

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I thought, "Well, what good is learning?

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"Maths, English - it's no good to me.

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"I'm going to be a singer when I'm a man."

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And so that's all I ever wanted to be - a singer.

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I know you sang recently in Lichfield Cathedral.

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That must have been a wonderful experience

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cos I know that both your grandsons were in the choir there,

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-weren't they?

-They were choristers there, yeah.

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So what was that like?

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A great friend of ours died, and they had a mass,

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there at the cathedral.

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And I said,

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"Can I...do you mind if I sing a song in the middle of the mass?"

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And they said, "No." You know? So...

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And I sang a Chopin piece called So Deep Is The Night

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-or Tristesse - the classical title...

-Mm-hm.

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..just my piano player and myself.

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And I stood there and sang it

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with tears rolling down my face.

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But that was a thrill, I mean, the huge cathedral. It was fantastic.

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And when you sing in a cathedral or a church,

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do you feel you have, through the music,

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-a connection with God?

-Oh, absolutely.

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Absolutely. You're standing... Any church you're walking in...

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Whenever my wife and I are away, anywhere, we always find a church,

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go and sit down.

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And it's like a miracle,

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because you walk through a church door, and it's peaceful,

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and you just...

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What we normally do is go to the altar

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and we get a candle and just light a candle for whatever

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and spend ten minutes just sitting peacefully, looking round.

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I think we should hear you perform some music again.

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And this is a nice link, really, because you've had so many

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great songwriters want to write music especially for you,

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and that's what we've got here now, isn't it?

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Yeah, I worked on an album in Nashville.

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About four or five of the songs were written for me

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-by Graham Gouldman from 10CC.

-Right.

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This one is almost like an anthem, basically.

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The words are very apt for singing in a church, actually.

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-Brilliant.

-I'd like to perform it for you.

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-You go and get yourself ready.

-Thank you.

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Well, I can't wait to hear this. Can you?

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With our band and string section,

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this is Tony Christie and You Are My Lifeline.

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# I've been going down a rocky road

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# It was taking me away

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# I was never good in stormy seas

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# So I began to pray

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# Help me find a brand-new day

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# All I needed was a helping hand

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# Guiding me through thick and thin

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# You took me to the promised land

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# I knew you'd let me in

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# You are my lifeline

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# You are my soul

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# You are my angel

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# Let the angels take control

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# I was thinking as the sun came up

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# 'Bout all my crazy schemes

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# Now I'm sipping from a loving cup

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# It's time to live our dreams

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# You are my lifeline

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# You are my soul

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# You are my angel

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# Let the angels take control

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# From the outside looking in

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# Are the planets all in line?

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# For my world was in a spin

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# I was running out of time

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# Running out of time

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# You are my lifeline

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# You are my soul

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# You are my angel

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# Let the angels take control

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# You are my lifeline

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-# You are my soul

-# You are my soul

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# You are my angel

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# Let the angels take control

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# Mm-mm-mm-mm. #

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CHEERING AND APPLAUSE

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MUSIC: "Avenues And Alleyways" by Tony Christie

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Tony has come back to the Yorkshire village of Denaby

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to show us his childhood church.

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It's a place where he found his voice.

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Wow.

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This brings back a lot of memories! HE CHUCKLES

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I was the product of a Catholic father

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and a Protestant mum.

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So I was actually baptised here when I was a baby,

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about 70 years ago.

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I sort of drifted into religion

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because a lot of my friends were members of the parish of this church.

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And we used to have this glee club.

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We used to go and sing different places.

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And they said, "Do you fancy singing in our church choir?

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"Do you know, we could do with a good voice to augment the choir."

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So that's what I did.

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They're much steeper than I remember, those stairs.

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Oh, here we are.

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I used to sit at the back.

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This really brings back memories - standing up here.

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To hear the organs start and then when the choir started - bang!

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I was in...literally, in Heaven.

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And of course, because we were at the back of the church,

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we were out of sight, basically.

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So we could wear our normal clothes, you know.

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And in those days, I'd be 16, 17

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and I'd be wearing my Italian suit,

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you know, which was all the rage in those days.

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They're smart, they're still smart.

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HE LAUGHS You see, I'm back in fashion already!

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-Ah, Jim!

-Nice to see you again, mate.

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-Jim Beachill worked with Tony when they were teenagers.

-'Tony was...

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'I knew he was singing in the choir at the time and, you know,'

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he used to sing in the office.

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It could be annoying,

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but you could tell very easily he was a very good singer.

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-Thank you.

-He was good-looking, he's got jet black hair.

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Wherever we went, the girls liked him, and this kind of stuff.

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He was a brilliant guy.

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We had some great nights out together.

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Amazing. It could be Coronation Street, that. Couldn't it?

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-I know.

-I mean, really is.

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To bring back memories for the two old friends,

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Jim has brought with him home movies

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of the church's Whitsun processions from the early '60s.

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These processions used to be the highlight

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of several people's year.

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Do you know, I know that face, that guy there. I know his face.

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-So that statue is THAT statue?

-Yeah, that's the one.

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-Is that right?

-Yeah.

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Great time in my life and I wouldn't swap it for the world.

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The mates were fantastic.

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Just one of those happy memories that will stay with me for ever.

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# Amazing Grace

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# How sweet the sound

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# That saved

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# A wretch like me

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# I once was lost

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# But now I'm found

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# Was blind

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# But now I see. #

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The good old days.

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And now, a favourite hymn of Tony's

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that reflects his Irish roots.

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His real name IS Tony Fitzgerald, after all.

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It's called I Cannot Tell.

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Well, Tony, there's one to tick off the list.

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Sing a hymn with Tony Christie - tick. Done it!

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-That was brilliant.

-Thank you.

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It's an interesting choice, as well,

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because there is a mention of angels in it.

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And I know that angels, guardian angels,

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they play a massive role in your life, don't they?

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They do because my wife and I have believed this

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very, very strongly for a long, long time.

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And whenever we've had any problems or troubles

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and we desperately need help, we pray to angels.

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We have at least five different archangels in the house.

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If we pray for well-being it's always to the archangel Michael.

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If we lose anything, like car keys, and you can't find them,

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-St Anthony is the one that finds lost property.

-Right!

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THEY LAUGH

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And of course to the man who is the boss of them all, of course -

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the big boss. We pray to him as well.

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What do these guardian angels do, then?

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Do they help you when you're on stage, singing?

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They can be with you, as they're probably with you now.

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Mine is probably standing with me now, and yours is.

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And if you want some help, you've got to say, "Can you help me?"

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One of the most memorable things was

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I was at the Albert Hall, at the end of a very long tour.

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We came to this song which had a big, big note at the end

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and I thought, "I'm never going to make the note and even reach it."

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And during the song, I just started saying, "Please, angels, come on.

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"Please, I'm nearly finished, now. Just get me through this song,

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"and then I'm finished."

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And, my God, I did - I hit that note.

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I hit that note better than I've ever hit it.

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And it just came. And that was the angels, definitely.

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Do you think that the path you're following

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in your career and your life, do you think it's God's path for you?

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Yeah. I think everybody has a...

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Everybody's life - this is my belief - is mapped out for them.

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And that I am doing exactly wh... what God put me on the earth to do.

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I've tried doing other things, it never works.

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I always finish up doing singing.

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I'm glad that he's moved you in the direction of music and singing.

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I'm sure we all are, aren't we?

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And you're going to perform All Is Said And Done, next.

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What's the story behind this?

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It's a Graham Gouldman song, of 10CC,

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and he said that he wrote the song...

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he pictured me singing this to my wife.

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-So...

-That's fantastic.

-I think it's absolutely beautiful.

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Go and get yourself ready by that mic, where you belong.

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-Where I belong!

-Take your guardian angel.

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-I'll take my mic, as well.

-And your mic, yeah - both.

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Ladies and gentlemen, please put your hands together

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for the one and only Tony Christie, singing All Is Said And Done.

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# The stars begin to fade

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# Day has just begun

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# To be with you

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# Is all I need

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# When all is said and done

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# I remember where we've been

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# I think of where we're going

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# The search for love It drives us on

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# When all is said and done

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# Look towards the inspiration of tomorrow

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# Leave behind the pain of yesterday

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# No regrets about the time we may have lost

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# It's all so far away

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# The lessons we have learned

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# The only thing that matters

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# It's love rules all under the sun

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# When all is said and done

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# Sailing away in a dream

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# Floating along on a bubble

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# Looking around as the world passes by

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# Dipping your toe in the stream

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# The story without end

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# The journey still ongoing

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# It's love that makes the world go round

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# When all is said and done

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# All is said and done

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# Mm-mm-mm-mm. #

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CHEERING AND APPLAUSE

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Oh, wasn't that great?

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While Tony takes a well-earned break,

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it's the congregation's turn to stretch their vocal cords.

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Next is a hymn that encourages us all to do just that.

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Alleluya, Sing To Jesus.

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Over the years, Tony has acquired some famous fans.

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Back in 1976, when Tim Rice

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and Andrew Lloyd Webber recorded the concept album for a brand-new

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musical, Evita, it was Tony they turned to.

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When we wanted someone to sing on the record, the part of Magaldi,

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who is the tango singer, he seemed to be an obvious choice.

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And he was terrific.

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He came in and he sang On This Night Of A Thousand Stars

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and if he has a song that tells a story, there's no-one better really.

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Graham Gouldman of 10CC has co-written songs for Tony,

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including two we've heard today.

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I can sing, but I've not got a real voice.

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It's kind of old school, in a way.

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His voice, he's got one of those sort of classic voices.

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He's a real singer.

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Maybe he's not been given as much credit as he's due,

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but in a way, like Tom Jones, I suppose, he's been rediscovered.

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Actually, I heard him recently.

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I think the older he gets, the better the voice is.

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Right, it's time for that song. CHEERING

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Particularly with Is This The Way To Amarillo?

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Probably he doesn't realise how much people like the song.

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But the audience love it.

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# When the day is dawning... #

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In 2005, at Peter Kay's suggestion, Amarillo became the official

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Comic Relief single, with extraordinary results.

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Is This The Way To Amarillo? was

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a ground-breaking experience for us at Comic Relief

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because it went kind of ballistic, really

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and raised over £2 million for the charity, which is unprecedented.

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It helped us buy malaria nets, to deliver inoculations

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and to do wonderful things right across Africa and here in the UK.

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# Dreaming dreams... #

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We can't thank Tony enough for what he did

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by giving us permission to use Amarillo.

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I think Tony has been underrated over the years,

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although now, 40 or so years after he got going, he's regarded

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as pretty cool and is recognised as the great singer he is.

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Tony, it's been an absolute delight spending time with you

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-and singing with you. I hope you've enjoyed it.

-It's been fantastic.

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We're going to end with one of your favourite hymns, How Great Thou Art.

0:29:440:29:47

Why do you love it so much?

0:29:470:29:49

Well, I sang it at my father's funeral 13 years ago

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-and I'd like to sing it again for him, if I can.

-Of course you can.

0:29:530:29:58

Ladies and gentlemen, Tony Christie.

0:29:580:30:00

APPLAUSE

0:30:000:30:03

Next week, David and Connie face

0:33:130:33:15

climbing the mighty Forth Road suspension bridge,

0:33:150:33:18

as it celebrates its 50th anniversary. It's a Scottish special

0:33:180:33:22

as the country enjoys one of its most important years to date.

0:33:220:33:25

Connie gives the bagpipes all her puff

0:33:250:33:28

and it's a veritable feast of music from Dunfermline Abbey,

0:33:280:33:31

Dunblane Cathedral and beyond.

0:33:310:33:33

In a special programme, Aled Jones interviews singer Tony Christie. Tony talks about his belief in angels and how his shyness has affected his career. Tony goes back to the Yorkshire church where he was a chorister - and sings there once again. He leads the congregation in some popular hymns including Lord for the Years, Praise My Soul and How Great Thou Art. Sir Tim Rice pays tribute to Tony's enduring appeal.


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