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John Dawson Read:
"I thought we would be second!"

John Dawson Read

For this interview we turn our attention to a composer. John Dawson Read was one half of the team, along with Chris Gunning that composed the entry For Only A Day performed by Unity in A Song For Europe 1981. The group Unity included Sue Glover as lead singer who was an experienced backing vocalist as part of Sunny & Sue and had previously appeared in the Eurovision Song Contest, backing Lulu in 1969 and also Joy Fleming in 1975. The other group members were, Astra Sheriden, Lyndey Brill, Annabel Lanyon, Lisa Maxwell and Tracy Bickle. Annabel Lanyon would return to A Song For Europe in 1985 as a soloist, and Lisa Maxwell would go onto make a successful career as an actress, appearing in programmes such as The Bill. Unity's song came in eighth and last place in the competition, but nevertheless managed to achieve some modest success later in another international competition!

Firstly, could you provide some background information about yourself, how you got into song writing, and how you came to meet up with Chris Gunning?

John Dawson Read: "I got into song writing through a friend of mine who suffered from Muscular Dystrophy, but he had two old Revox tape machines in his bedroom and he liked recording, so I wrote some songs for him to record. I worked on a local paper with a guy named Guy Fletcher who left to follow a career in music... years later I approached him with my songs, he became my producer and we released two albums on Chrysalis, the first in 1975 was entitled A Friend of Mine Is Going Blind it was dedicated to my friend who started it all. This album did well in America, staying 17 weeks in the billboard charts. The second album was entitled Read On and also did well in America. Chris Gunning was the musical arranger for both albums and was responsible for some wonderful string arrangements. Guy Fletcher is now Guy Fletcher OBE for his services to music and his career is very well documented, and was responsible for Power To All Our Friends which Cliff Richard sung in the 1973 Eurovision Song Contest as well as other entries in A Song For Europe"

Which have been your most successful songs?

"A Friend of Mine Is Going Blind was No.1 in a few states of America. Cliff Richard recorded Such is the Mystery from my second album and I have had several other songs covered by such Eurovision artists as Nana Mouskouri and Clodagh Rodgers, as well as Michael Johnson and Mary O'Hara."

Moving onto For Only A Day. How had the collaboration come about? Had you previously tried to enter A Song For Europe and was it always planned to enter it as a potential A Song For Europe song?

" I hadn't tried to enter the contest before. I think it was Chris who thought it would be a good idea to see if we could write a song for Europe.... so we did!"

Presumably there had been a demo recorded for the song, who recorded this?

"I'm a bit vague about this, I think I may have done the very first vocal myself, but I am not too sure."

How did you choose Sue Glover as your lead singer?

I think either Chris or Guy knew Susie ... they were both far deeper into the music business than I was."

According to some press articles at the time, the original plan was to use schoolchildren, but the BBC wouldn't allow this, was that true?

That is true! Originally my daughter Zoe was going to sing but the powers that be said no, she was too young and not an Equity member. So we had very little time. Funnily enough, if my memory serves me right, Jay Aston and Cheryl Baker were both possibilities for Unity but they both looked a bit too mature - so they went on to Bucks Fizz - the right choice by any measure!"

Who came up with the concept of the lead singer with juveniles and the costumes?

"I can't remember the name of the lady who came up with that idea, i.e. the costumes, but she was was a music professional.... but it was our idea to have children singing the chorus."

What did you think of the other songs, and what did you think of the chances of For Only A Day?

"I thought Bucks Fizz would win.... but I thought we would be second!"

Unfortunately, as if you need reminding, your song came last. How did you feel about the result?

"For me, I was a winner.... we were in the top eight out of hundreds of songs submitted for this competition. We were being considered to represent the United Kingdom in a National Song Competition and that was good enough for me. In later years I went on to represent England myself for the first Istanbul Song Festival for which I won Gold, The Polish Sopot Song Festival in which I was second I believe, and The Cavan International Song Festival in Ireland in 1986 in which I was voted 'UK Composer of the Year' by Basca - so I think I was brain-washed by Song for Europe."

Did Unity ever record the song for commercial release?

"No, but it was taken up as the Miss World song for a couple of years, where all the Miss World contestants sang the song ... " If the world was filled with laughter", which was always my preferred title. I'd like to think they heard it on A Song For Europe and considered it good for Miss World. I still think it is a very good song!"

After A Song For Europe 1981, did you and Chris try to submit any more songs for the contest?

"No, that was it. But never say never.... we may try again one day!"

Career wise, how has that developed since A Song For Europe?

"I started a Marketing Consultancy which I ran for many many years and forgot about song writing. Then a cover of one of my songs appeared on the internet and it sparked a whole new phase in my life. I released a new CD called 'Now, Where Were We...?' in 2005 which is doing very well through my website www.johndawsonread.com and www.myspace.com/johndawsonread and am now writing again and feeling very optimistic about the future."

Have you watched A Song For Europe or the Eurovision Song Contest since? If so what do you think of the contest nowadays, and why do you think the United Kingdom has done so badly in recent times?

"Just write proper songs, from the heart, not from the How to write songs for Song for Europe easy learning guide."

What is your main memory of A Song For Europe 1981 and how would sum up the whole experience?

"Brilliant. Loved it...and would do it again tomorrow!"

songs4europe.com would like to thank John for his time on this interview

songs4europe.com would like to thank John for his time on this interview