Secret Affair – Behind Closed Doors

The official 40th anniversary tour starts (Covid-19 permitting) on October 23, and Stu Smith was given exclusive access to the band during one of their pre-official tour taster gigs…

Having arrived at The Flowerpot in Derby, Stu managed to sit down for a quick pint and a chat with Dave Cairns. “Tonight’s gig is a little bit special; firstly we’re debuting two songs, which we’ve never played live before. The official Behind Closed Doors tour starts later this year and we thought it would be a great opportunity to include these two tracks as a taster of what’s to come. Also we’re good friends with Alan and Lisa Woolley, who are celebrating their 25th anniversary delivering live music here at the Flowerpot, and we thought it would be a fitting tribute to them as well.” Having finished our drinks, Dave then headed off to complete the pre-gig sound checks with the rest of the band. In the meantime, the venue started to fill up with keen event-goers.

I wouldn’t have it any other way…

Along with the Behind Closed Doors material, the evening’s set-list included a blend of old and new tracks, which went down perfectly. Dave Cairns’ performance during New Dance was absolutely amazing and when Ian Page took to the keyboards for Life’s a Movie Too it was a performance delivered with passion, meaning and emotion. 

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My World took the crowd to another level and the gig closed with one of my personal favourites, I’m Not Free But I’m Cheap.

After the gig, I was fortunate enough to complete a Scootering magazine exclusive back-stage interview with Ian Page.

SC: The album Behind Closed Doors has been described as your vision for the band’s future; the idea being to make the album a showcase of both the band’s musical abilities and an expansion from your Mod-era influences. What would you say to that?

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Ian: That’s fair enough. It’s difficult to explain musically; in that yes, I did want to expand the band’s horizons; I wanted us to be playing songs that weren’t just to be played in a nightclub, songs that you could play at a festival or on a big stage; bigger, grandiose songs. I felt we were entitled to do it because The Who had demonstrated that they were still a band beloved by Mods, but the Quadrophenia album is packed full of expansive synthesisers, sound effects and dramatic moments as well as some incredibly brilliant rock; and if they could do it, I thought that we should be able to do it too. The original formula of the Secret Affair sound was to sandwich together a kind of rock-aggression with a Motown horn, soul and dance thing. In the Behind Closed Doors album we attempted to continue that but we didn’t do it with every song; some of them, though, are pretty unusual, I suppose.

SC: Are there any previously unknown quirky facts about the production and development of the Behind Closed Doors album that you’re willing to share with Scootering magazine’s readers?

Ian: Only Madmen Laugh is originally one of our New Hearts tracks. The madness sound effect that I used at the beginning of the song is myself and Dave Winthrop reading passages from William Burroughs’ book Junky overlapped, and overlapped and overlapped and then done backwards; all that breathing sound is actually coming from an old Ark 2600 synthesiser I found lying around. And the low bass note that comes in is actually backwards piano. The rain on Streetlife Parade is the sound of real rain; and it’s not from a sound effects record. I actually waited for it to rain! Something people probably don’t know about the song Take It or Leave It (because it was the B-side of Sound of Confusion and we’ve only just restored the song to our set, having never ever played it before) is that the lyrics are about the word ‘it’, which are a play on the phrase, ‘take it or leave it’, so instead of saying what should be taken and what should be left it’s about what ‘it’ is, which means no one knows what ‘it’ is. 

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Finally, My World features a 16-piece orchestra, and the song was recorded as part of our Glory Boys material, but it was deliberately held back for the Behind Closed Doors album because of its expansive experimental techniques.

SC: Tell me a bit more about the 16-piece orchestra used in My World?

Ian: We hired musician union members from the BBC. On the day I was a little bit late because I was touring the night before, so when I got there they were all set up and our engineer said to them: “Okay ladies and gentleman, here’s the arranger, he’s just going to talk you through what he’s done.” And they all laughed at me because I was only an 18-year-old boy; but afterwards the lead violinist said to me the most extraordinary thing, he said: “It’s very interesting; you’ve really done something very musical here.” To which I said: “Well, what did you think I was going to do?” He said: “Oh, I don’t know. I do apologise.” He sort of apologised but it was just such an extraordinary thing to say. (“You’ve really done something very musical here; but you’re pop musician trash” is, I suppose, what he meant!) He didn’t realise that I’d studied music theory since I was eight; anyway I just thought I’d throw that in; it probably wouldn’t happen nowadays, but that’s what it was like back in those days, the world was full of snobs. 

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For updates on the official Behind Closed Doors tour, keep checking:

Words and photos: Stu Smith

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