So, it appears that our Gary Barlow has gone from mere pop royalty to now actually hanging out with royalty as part of his day job!
This week marks the release of Sing, the Official Diamond Jubilee song co-written by Gary Barlow and Lord Andrew Lloyd Webber. The two British musical icons were approached by Buckingham Palace to write a commemorative song for the forthcoming Diamond Jubilee celebrations. The song was to bring together the sound of the Queen’s Commonwealth.
No pressure, then!
Gary travelled around the Commonwealth countries of Australia, Kenya, Jamaica and the Solomon Islands, his main criteria was to recruit undiscovered musicians who showed a real passion for music. Recording most artists locally on a laptop, including the UK’s very own Military Wives Choir, before the final elements were recorded and mixed at the legendary Abbey Road Studios. Sing even features a cameo appearance from Prince Harry on tambourine!
Gary’s journey has been tracked in a fantastic new BBC documentary Gary Barlow: On Her Majesty’s Service which will air on BBC One this Bank Holiday weekend. The documentary begins 35 years ago in Gary’s back garden in Cheshire with wonderful original footage of the Barlow family themselves throwing a party for the Silver Jubilee way back in 1977.
OfficialCharts.com caught up with Gary to hear what it felt like to, er, demo a new tune to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II…
Basically we’ve been planning the [Diamond Jubilee] concert itself that’s happening on the 4th June for about 18 months now, so I’ve been in and out of the Palace a lot, and through my meetings there it kept coming up all the time – an original piece of music for the Diamond Jubilee. What could that be? Can we do that?
I didn’t know what it was to be honest. I actually kept batting it away because I thought I’ve got enough to do. Then one day I had this thought about getting musicians from the Commonwealth and actually initially I thought it was going to be an instrumental piece of music. I thought that might be the best way of getting round it, to have this instrumental piece which features all these musicians.
And then I thought, well, no. That just doesn’t represent me really, because I write pop songs and they’ve got melody and lyrics to it. And so when I hooked up with Andrew Lloyd Webber, I was hopeful we were gonna get something half decent. I think if you were to say our two names and play that song, I don’t think you’d expect that to have come from it, and so I was very excited when I left his house.
And then the journey began really.
The record changed on a daily basis as we were travelling, it’s like nothing I’ve ever been a part of before, but there does come a point where you have to go,'Right, STOP! Stop recording people now, because we can’t change it anymore.' And we did stop. About a week later we took it to play it to the Queen.
It was actually an exercise for YouTube to be honest. We had a limit of about four or five days in each country and for anyone who knows how expensive it is to film and take crews abroad, it wasn’t a cheap do that’s for sure!
We tried to make sure we had at least two items we were going to each country for, literally stuff we found on YouTube. Interesting things, things we knew would look good on TV but we knew we could also apply to the song itself.
Sometimes we didn’t know what we were gonna get until we landed, and often we landed in places and discovered better stuff than we researched., it wasn’t planned a lot of it.
Don’t give away one of my best things from the Jubliee concert! Ha, I’m joking.
I’ve never done anything like this before. I’ve recorded hundreds of records, but never done anything where you’ve collected a number of different players. Even the music side of it, there’s an incredible amount of hours of recording that comes down to a 3.5minute piece of music, as there was with the film itself.
I found it really motivating, incredibly different. It sort of brings out a new side of you. You’re trying to look for things you can use. If you think of Jamaica, when you listen to that song, it doesn’t represent Jamaican music at all, but somehow we made a flavour fit in our record. It was really an exercise in trying to find the best in people, and trying to bring out the best in people.
I did say in the film and I’ll say it again, that actually it wasn’t even a musical achievement for me at the end of the film. I just loved meeting the people. There’s few times that I’m able to go abroad or in this country and actually enjoy meeting people. I often spend most of my time avoiding people to be honest! The fact I can go and shake people’s hands and meet them and discover about their lives, I really enjoyed it. I wouldn’t do it again, like, but I really enjoyed it. Ha.
Well, this is the amazing thing. We came back and my first words were 'Guys, we’ve got to fly some of these people in!'
So, for instance, the Slum Drummers and the Children’s African Choir, they’re coming over for the concert, they’ve never been on a plane before! They’re going to meet the Queen, they’re gonna meet Sir Paul McCartney and Sir Elton John, and it’s gonna be incredible.
Within that also lies a different message, that we’ve changed a few people’s lives while we’ve done this as well, which is gorgeous.
You mean the bit we lost on the editing floor? Ha ha. It’s a bit of an odd situation. I’ve only met the Queen a couple of times (er, that’s a couple more times than we have, Mr B!), it’s never quite what you think it’s going to be.
It’s very relaxing, she obviously meets people all day every day and I think she was really excited. If you think of her day and what it involves, I think it was a little bit of fun for fifteen minutes, to be honest. It was her seeing some music and looking at some people from her Commonwealth and I felt like it was a bit of a break for her more than anything else. So yeah, luckily it turned out alright. We are told she is officially 'delighted' with the song. You can use that quote!
It was incredibly easy. It was one of those situations where I actually brought the chorus with me, and Andrew had the verse already and we just sort of threaded two songs into one, and then that was pretty much a day doing that.
Then we just emailed and emailed about the story of the song and what it should say and all the rest of it. I really enjoyed him, really had a great time.
It’s interesting because I don’t really travel much anymore, as [Chairman of Universal Music UK] David Joseph will know, ‘cause he’s always trying to get us to places and we go 'Arr, we can’t be bothered', because we’ve all got kids and stuff now and it’s very difficult to travel as a band and so this is really the first time I’ve travelled in years really. I must say, when I left Australia, I had pretty much a case full of music. There’s some amazing music in Australia and I’m already thinking of the next Take That record with flavours of this music on it.
I’ve really discovered a lot of stuff when I was in Sydney, so it does have an influence on your definitely, travel does. I think musically when you travel you can’t help but listen to the music. You’ve got it on in the van, especially where we were, we’ve been with musicians every day so it does have an effect on you, definitely.
Gary Barlow: On Her Majesty’s Service will be shown on BBC1 on June 3 at 7.30pm. Sing will be performed live at The Diamond Jubilee Concert on June 4.
In a choir of your own? Then get involved! The sheet music for Sing is available for a free download here. You can also download an instrumental version of it here, also for free. Andrew and Gary want schools, colleges, amateur choirs and street-party goers to learn the song and give it a bash this weekend to celebrate along with them!Back