Belfast Telegraph

Sunday Life

Wet Wet Wet singer Marti Pellow is keen to bury false stories

By John McGurk

Wet Wet Wet lead singer Marti Pellow is a firm believer in his music uniting people in perfect “harmony”— and exorcising the ghosts of loyalist sectarianism hanging over their name.

The Scotsman -- back in Northern Ireland for the band's Greatest Hits show in late 2013 -- also totally dismissed a lingering urban folk myth story about loyalist killer Michael Stone being his hero.

Pellow -- regarded by many as one of the UK's finest ever soul and pop singers -- is back in Northern Ireland not once but twice this year!

There's a leading role in the acclaimed revival of the hit musical Evita at Belfast's Grand Opera House in September, as well as the 'Wet's' first Odyssey Arena show for six years in December.

With various solo concert visits to Belfast in the 2000s, it's clear that the 48-year old Glaswegian loves Northern Ireland.

But in a 2013 interview with this newspaper's associate editor David O'Dornan, Marti's bandmate, Graeme Clark revealed that Wet Wet Wet had banned Belfast from its tour schedule for nearly 20 years after ugly scenes of loyalist sectarianism at a King's Hall show in 1989.

Pellow, in particular, was at the receiving end of false and ridiculous stories -- including one alleging that he had praised Milltown Cemetery killer Michael Stone as a hero in a totally fictitious TV interview with Terry Wogan.

Speaking to Sunday Life last week, it's clear that Pellow is careful to the point of being cagey about the controversy -- struggling for the appropriate words to articulate his feelings.

First of all, he labelled our inquiry about the reason for Wet Wet Wet's long absence from Belfast as "a much loaded question".

"It is a hard one to pass comment on. I remember my time in Belfast very fondly. I am sorry Graeme maybe felt that way", he added. But the 48-year old voice which brought Wet Wet Wet an astonishing 26 hit singles and a trio of chart-toppers was keen to stress that he has no truck with sectarianism.

Reflecting on that 1989 concert where sections of the crowd waved Union Jacks and wore Rangers soccer shirts, he said: "But you know at that time in Belfast history, maybe that is how they rolled.

"It has never been about that for us because you know that a good 90 per cent of that audience was about the music and that is what we are about."

And the Wet Wet Wet man who spent 15 weeks at the top of the UK singles chart in 1994 with Love Is All Around dismissed the cruel 'Marti and Michael Stone' urban folk myth.

"I wouldn't... I mean that's got nothing... I don't know about that kind of stuff.

"I don't subscribe to that kind of stuff. It is about people having a good time and being at peace with each other.

"That is the message I have always grown up to respect and that answers that question."

He laughed out loud when it was suggested that he had been tainted with these ridiculous tall tales because of his lifelong support for Celtic's 'Old Firm' rivals Rangers.

But he emphasised just how different the peace and harmony loving Marti Pellow is to the man depicted in those vicious slurs: "Maybe there is a small fraction of people who focus on that and that is the way they look at it. But I am powerless over that.

"I just do my own thing because I don't see in colours and I don't see in religion. I just see people.

"You are either a good person or a bad person and that's how I roll. That's how I was raised."

Wet Wet Wet -- a band of childhood friends who became global chart stars -- performed a huge open air show in 2012 in their native Glasgow last year to mark the 25th anniversary of their first hit, Wishing I Was Lucky.

And that sowed the seeds for their upcoming Greatest Hits tour, which kicks off in Dublin's O2 Arena and Belfast's Odyssey Arena on December 5 and 6.

Said Marti: "Last year we did that gig in Glasgow and we just enjoyed it that much we thought, 'do you know what? Let's do a wee bit more of this'.

"Our last tour was in 2007 for a new album. But this will be a retrospective where we can actually go back and look at the body of work."

Unlike the likes of Madonna who disappointed many of her fans with drastically different live versions of her hits in concert, Marti pledged that their classic cuts "don't need fixing!".

"I don't think you should go anywhere near the stage if that is your attitude," he said.

"I don't think you should do that. I think it is about familiarity and these songs are what they are. They ain't broke. So they don't need fixing. You are dealing with people's memories here."

And Marti wants some special local input into their Greatest Hits show.

"Will there be audience participation? If it is anything to do with me, definitely. I'm not going to be singing all night. I'll be saying to Belfast, 'you need to help me out!", he laughed.

Marti's new Riverdance

Wet Wet Wet mainman Marti Pellow is aiming to create a Riverdance style musical -- for Scotland!

For the workaholic pop star who has become a leading light in the world of West End musicals revealed to Sunday Life that he has composed the songs for a new show. And if Marti has his way, his new musical will do for Scottish culture what Riverdance did for Irish music and dancing.

Helping him in his quest to become a successful Lord of the Song and Dance writing world is renowned Irish musician, composer and U2, Kate Bush and The Corrs collaborator, Fiachra Trench. He revealed: "I am writing a musical at the moment. I have been working on that for a while.

"It is based on Rabbie Burns poem, A Parcel Of Rogues which touches on the unification of Scotland and England and how it came about."

Added Marti, who will star as Che Guevara (inset) in Evita at Belfast's Grand Opera House in September: "I have been working closely in Dublin with a good friend of mine, Fiachra Trench.

"I think it would be nice to have something which embraced our Scottish culture the way that you would say that people embraced Riverdance. The score is completed."

Pellow's mum made such a difference

Nearly ten years after her tragically premature death, Marti poignantly remembered his mum, Margaret McLachlan as the woman who played a "big big part" in his life.

Marti told Sunday Life: "I would like to think that she played a big big part in what I did in my life.

"I think that every man if you are blessed to come from a loving family has that and I had that. They raise you well and you listen to what they say and you can get ahead of the game.

"She was always saying to me 'you are going to be this' and 'you are doing to go to that' and 'this is going to happen'.

"Once she said 'you are going to go to Broadway' and I said 'do you think so, mammy?'. She said 'yes' and that is exactly what happened. She was quite special."

Wet Wet Wet split acrimoniously in 1999 as Marti recovered from his booze and drugs problems. But Marti's mum always hoped that the band would get back together again.

And they did -- ironically after meeting at Margaret's funeral in October 2003. And Marti sees the extraordinarily poignant effect that his 66-year-old mum has had on his life -- even after her death.

Said Marti: "When she passed away, all of the boys (Wet Wet Wet band mates Graeme Clark, Neil Mitchell and Tommy Cunningham) came to the funeral. Let me tell you, that meant so much to me and my family.

"So when you get your friends back like that, sooner or later, somebody is going to want to sing and somebody is going to want to play."

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