De Burgh, Chris
Chris de Burgh
Irish singer and songwriter Chris de Burgh was a classic example of an artist who was massively popular throughout the world but remained relatively unknown in two of the largest musical markets in the world, the United States and England. While this scenario would be an extremely daunting and vexing situation for many other artists, de Burgh actually relished it and actively sought to follow his musical muse far from the pop paparazzi of England and America’s all encompassing entertainment monolith. His global chart smash hit, “Lady in Red,” was de Burgh’s only entrant into the higher echelons of the British and American pop charts. This was fine by de Burgh as he explained to Billboard ’s Ken Stewart, “you have to go in for the big picture. I’ve always been one to jump over England as an important record market. I think it’s been overrated as a source of talent, certainly new talent. And it’s difficult to break into England unless you’re prepared to play the game English bands play.”
De Burgh was born October 15, 1948, in Argentina. His parents were British citizens who traveled around quite
Signed with A&M Records in 1974; released Beyond These Castle Walls, 1975; Spanish Train and other Stories, 1975; At the Ende of a Perfect Day, 1977; Crusader, 1979, Live in South Africa, 1979; Eastern Wind, 1980; Best Moves, 1981; Get Away, c. 1982, Man on the Line, c. 1983; licensed to Telstar and released Very Best of Chris de Burgh, 1984; Into the Light (includes “Lady in Red”), 1986; Flying Colours, 1988; Spark to a Flame, c. 1989; High on Emotion, c. 1991; Power of Ten, 1992; This Way Up, 1994; Beautiful Dreams, 1995; Love Songs, 1997
Awards: Canadian platinum certification for Spanish Train and Other Stories, 1975; Canadian gold certification for Beautiful Derams, 1995.
Address: Record company —A&M, 595 Madison Ave., New York, NY 10022.
a bit when de Burgh was growing up. Their frequent moves were due to the nature of de Burgh’s father’s work. After Argentina, the family’s rich and colorful travel itinerary included moves to Malta, Nigeria, Zaire, and finally to Ireland around 1961. When the family moved to the Emerald Isle, de Burgh’s parents purchased a decrepit castle that they decided to turn into a bed and breakfast. De Burgh related to Lyn Cockburn of the Calgary Sun that “the family was broke but there was something stupidly romantic about buying a tumbled down 12th century Irish castle.” From the age of 14 and continuing on for the next seven years, de Burgh entertained the guests who stayed at the castle by singing and playing the guitar. He remarked to Cock-burn that, “[the early 1960s] was the time of the Beatles and Dylan and everybody banged away at a guitar, so it was natural for me to start singing. Great way to meet girls.”
Despite the more than ample practice he received entertaining guests at his parents’ bed and breakfast, de Burgh did not initially intend to become a musician. Instead, he chose to attend college and enrolled at Trinity College in Dublin, where he pursued studies in both English and French. It was only after he graduated with his degree from Trinity, that he began to contemplate a career in music in order to pay the bills. De Burgh then set off for London where there was a greater possibility to obtain a recording contract and attempted to pursue a successful musical career.
In the autumn of 1972, de Burgh was invited to a party in London, where an influential recording publisher was also invited to attend. De Burgh had the opportunity to meet and perform for Doug Flett. Flett, along with his partner Guy Fletcher, was the owner of Egg Productions. Flett was impressed with what he saw and heard and scheduled de Burgh to meet with his partner, Fletcher. Fletcher was also impressed with de Burgh and offered him a publishing contract with Egg. Hungry for success, de Burgh signed on to Egg. From then on, Egg owned all of de Burgh’s songs and he was forced to take on numerous odd jobs in order to try to make ends meet. De Burgh’s deal with Egg was not that lucrative and the stress and strain from his outside jobs took a toll on him. He was not able to write much and when he did, his songs were disjointed at best.
A sabbatical at his family’s castle in I reland provided de Burgh with relaxation and renewed his song writing process. De Burgh began to write for himself in the spring of 1974, after moving back to Ireland. After his self imposed hiatus, de Burgh returned to London and showed Egg the demo tapes he had been working on in Ireland. Egg Productions liked the material and were impressed enough that they called up the head of A&M’s Artists & Repertoire (A&R) department to sing the praises of de Burgh’s work. The head of the A&R department at A&M decided to check out de Burgh, and he, too, was impressed with de Burgh’s work. A&M offered Egg a contract so they could have de Burgh on their roster.
When the contract between Egg and A&M was signed, de Burgh began work on his debut album. Beyond These Castle Wallswas released by A&M in early 1975 and was a smash hit in Brazil where it stayed at number one for 30 weeks. De Burgh’s follow up album, Spanish Trains and Other Stories was released later that year. Spanish Trains and Other Stories was even more successful than its predecessor, as it gave de Burgh his first platinum record in Canada. Commenting on his Canadian success, de Burgh told Cockburn, “I view myself as a storyteller and Canada was one of the key places where I realized I did have a style and it was the storytelling thing.”
At the End of a Perfect Day was released in 1977 and was followed two years later by Crusader. De Burgh also released Live in South Africa that same year. The album chronicled his successful tour of the country. Eastern Wind was released the next year and de Burgh’s first greatest hits package, Best Moves, followed in 1981. The early 1980s saw numerous de Burgh albums released in relatively short succession. Get A way followed 1981’s Best Moves. Get Away was the first whole album of new material from de Burgh since the 1980 release, Eastern Wind. Man on the Line was de Burgh’s next release. In 1984, Telstar released the Very Best of Chris de Burgh.
Arguably, the most famous and familiar album of de Burgh’s career to date, Into the Light, was released in 1986. Into the Light brought both de Burgh and his music into the collective pop musical consciousness of both England and the United States, which were probably the only two nations on the globe that had not yet fallen in love with de Burgh’s charms. Into the Light contained the worldwide smash hit ballad, “Lady in Red.” “Lady in Red” eventually climbed up to number one in the United Kingdom and number two in the United States. According to Dave Doohan of theSurfshak web site, the song “Lady in Red” was inspired by a fleeting glance de Burgh had of his wife in a crowded club. At first he failed to recognize her as his wife and, “as a result, he realized that often people never quite appreciate that the most important person in their lives is taken for granted, and, how after a while, you fail to notice the things that brought you together.” In commenting to Cockburn about the success of “Lady in Red” de Burgh stated that “it has opened a lot of doors for me … the only stigma is that I wish the biggest song I’d done was a rock-oriented song rather than a ballad.”
The follow up to the highly successful Into the Light was 1988’s Flying Colours. Another greatest hits album was released not long after this and was entitled Spark to a Flame. High on Emotion was released in the early 1990s and it showcased material from de Burgh’s most recent Irish concerts. Power of Ten was released in 1992. In two years time, deBurgh released This Way Up, which was the first de Burgh album released in America since 1988’s Flying Colours. When asked about his lack of success in America by the Edmonton Sun’s Mike Ross, de Burgh noted, “America wasn’t a country I wanted to pursue, because it meant doing three years there, being away from the family—and I’m not that mad about making money.”
In 1995, de Burgh released Beautiful Dreams, which went gold in Canada. Two years later saw the release of Love Songs which was a compilation of de Burgh’s best known romantic tunes and a few new ones. It was also the first album to be released in the United States since 1994’s This Way Up.
De Burgh was very committed to giving his very best to his fans. According to the Surfshak web site, de Burgh was driven by the twin forces of pleasing both himself and his fans. He remarked, “I’m glad that people appear to take my music to their hearts and the knowledge of that makes it very interesting for me when I come to write my songs. I know that I can’t let myself down and, apart from that—I can’t let anybody else down.”
Beyond These Castle Walls, A&M, 1975.
Spanish Train and Other Stories, A&M, 1975.
At the End of a Perfect Day, A&M, 1977.
Crusader, A&M, 1979.
Live in South Africa, A&M, 1979.
Eastern Wind, A&M, 1980.
Best Moves, A&M, 1981.
Get Away, A&M, c. 1982.
Man on the Line, A&M, c. 1983.
Very Best of Chris de Burgh, Telstar, 1984.
Into the Light (includes “Lady in Red”), A&M, 1986.
Flying Colours, A&M, 1988.
Spark to a Flame, A&M, c.1989.
High on Emotion, A&M, c.1991.
Power of Ten, A&M, 1992.
This Way Up, A&M, 1994.
Beautiful Dreams, A&M, 1995.
Love Songs, A&M, 1997.
Billboard, October 5, 1991.
Calgary Sun, September 13, 1996.
Edmonton Sun, September 12, 1996.
Ottawa Sun, September 27, 1996.
“Chris de Burgh,” http://www.crl.com/jderouen/cdeb/html (February 24, 1998).
“Chris de Burgh,” http://www.surfshak.co.uk/cdeb/cdebbio.html (January 22, 1998).
—Mary Alice Adams
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