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Antony Markey:
"I'm still grateful to A Song For Europe"

Antony Markey 1

Antony Markey was one of the members of the group Ritzy, that took part in A Song For Europe 1983, finishing in seventh position with the song Keeping Our Love Alive composed by Guy Fletcher and Doug Flett. He was joined onstage by fellow group members, Claire Burt, Terry John Wood, Elisa Kern, Kriss White and Wendy Florence. Unfortunately for Antony, Terry Wogan incorrectly announced his name as Antony Murray on the big night!

Antony Markey left school in 1978, and started work as a medical research technician in the Hammersmith Hospital in London, developing a new heart lung machine, and had three research papers published, while studying for a qualification in Physiology & Pharmacology. He was however regularly auditioning for all kinds of things, having always sung in shows and bands. The band he was fronting at the time was the same band that Michael Nolan of Bucks Fizz had previously fronted before Antony, so when he had the opportunity to turn professional, he was hoping for the same success that Mike had achieved a few years earlier. He hadn't tried to enter A Song For Europe prior to 1983, as he had been only concerned with graduating and singing semi-pro in bands.

Ritzy were specially formed for A Song For Europe by Guy Fletcher and Doug Flett. So how had they all met?

Anthony Markey: "We all auditioned separately. Terry was an actor, Kriss a male model, Elisa a dancer, fresh from Arts Ed School. Wendy was also an actress, but Claire was actually a last minute substitution, when the producers had no sixth person. I was part time at the Sylvia Young Theatre, and asked Sylvia if she had anyone suitable? Initially her daughter, Frances Ruffelle, (who would go onto represent the United Kingdom in 1994 contest with Lonely Symphony) was interested, but then Claire, who I already knew from Sylvia's, came in on the project. I can remember my audition was at Wigmore Hall, in February of 1983 I think, and was video recorded, and I sang the Billy Joel song My Life."

What had it been like to work for the established song writing team of Guy Fletcher and Doug Flett, who had previous Eurovision experience with Power To All Our Friends?

They were responsible for the whole thing, from auditioning us, and writing the song. They also produced us, and had us costumed and choreographed. We all went to Guy Fletcher's farmhouse, where he had his studio, and we recorded the A & B sides in the old 7" vinyl days. The B side was Lucky In Love a fifties homage to be-bop. It was recorded on the Chrysalis label in early 1983 prior to the television show..although the pressing was subsequently deleted a few days after we lost! It was though a great experience working with both Flett and Fletcher, and they encouraged us all. At the time I don't think any ofus really knew quite how big they were in the record industry, but I had been a huge Cliff Richard fan for many years and I knew they had written, not only Power To All Our Friends, but a track on what was Cliff's latest album at the time (Baby You're Dynamite).

Antony Markey 2 Photo (c) www.brianaris.com

On the costumes, the concept I believe was to recreate the Brotherhood Of Man look, though this time with three guys and three girls. We were all to wear white suits and coloured waistcoats. the girls would coordinate with our colours. Flett & Fletcher had a costume designer, choreographer, stylist and hairdresser to do everything for us. The guys went to Carnaby Street and had suits made to measure. Each one slightly different according to the look they wanted. I was the double breasted Tux suit. Kriss the casual single breasted and Terry the cowboy look. The girls were a little more wacky, with Claire matching me in a stylish red evening gown. Wendy as a kind of Little Beau Peep and Elisa as a more way out design with her natural red curly hair ragged. We appeared in The Sun and were tipped to win."

So how much time then did they have to rehearse and prepare the song, and when they got to the BBC TV Theatre how much rehearsal time did they have to work with the orchestra?

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"We only had the technical run and then the band call at the Shepherds Bush Theatre. Up to that point we had only rehearsed to the backing track on cassette tape before that. It was un-nerving working to the full orchestra, and more difficult than any of us thought, at that early stage in our careers. We never saw any musicians as they were in a separate booth off camera. We could only hear them through the studio monitors. Unfortunately, way back in 1983 there were no readily available radio mics. This limited our choreography and there was no option to have six hand held mics with leads as we would have got caught up in them. The BBC went with three mics on stands. However, this meant that as we were all different heights, some of us were stooping and some were stretching to reach a mic."

Did you think you had a chance of winning with Keeping Our Love Alive? What did you think of any of the other entries and in particular the winning song of Sweet Dreams?

"Initially we all thought we had a winning song. Unfortunately, since it was a live show, and in those days we were not allowed to release the song beforehand so no one had heard any of the songs prior to the show, and on the night it showed that we were not six singers. the harmonies were loose, and pitch a problem for some of the group. I didn't particularly think I'm Never Giving Up was a good winner, BUT as soon as I heard the other songs, I realised we were NOT going to win. My actual favourite was Love On Your Mind by Audio, and still think the song, the middle eight and routine were a winner. I believe Tim Clark, one of the singers, appeared in A Song For Europe the following year, (in the group First Division). I never thought I'm Never Giving Up was a winning SONG, but the routine and camera work and the cute girls and outfits that were more in keeping with the fashion at the time, were an absolute winner as soon as I saw the dress run. During the voting we all knew we had blown it. I remember thinking that Carrie (Grant) of Sweet Dreams would make it big, and of course she is now huge as a vocal coach on shows like Fame Academy."

Had he gone onto watch the Eurovision Song Contest in 1983, and thinking of what might have been?

"Well I was actually working on a gig on the night of the show, but I recorded it and thought it would have been nice to have won and gone onto bigger things. Ritzy split directly after the show! There were never any plans for us to be a going concern within the Flett/Fletcher camp. We were never going to make it as a six piece group outside of the competition, as one only wanted to dance, two or three only wanted to act and Kriss just wanted the fame of being a model on a magazine. I am still the only one pursuing a career in music, although I never tried again for A Song for Europe."

Had he watched either A Song For Europe or the Eurovision Song Contest since, and what were his impressions of the songs taking part now?

"I watched the first few years after, but the fun is not there nowadays. It has become merely a political statement with the Balkan states inter voting etc. We sometimes come up with a good or great song, like Katrina's Love Shine A Light, but the gimmick has overtaken the meaning of the competition. The only way to get back, would maybe to have a phone poll or similar, but not as a money making $5 a minute idea. I honestly believe it has no relevance or place today and Europe now contains Serbia, Poland, Bulgaria etc. The musical heritage of these countries are so wide and varied, we share little with them, so do not understand their music when it comes to voting. Look at the Finnish entries".

You mentioned that Ritzy had split up after the contest, so how did your career develop afterwards, and have you kept in touch with any of your fellow group members?

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"Well I spent 1983 auditioning and looking for an Equity card. In 1984 I did Summer Season in Cornwall. This convinced me that I would not go back to regular jobs, and in January 1985 I accepted a singing job in Newcastle Upon Tyne. I worked with two girls in a Cabaret Show that took me around Europe, Middle East and Iceland, as well as the United Kingdom. Then I formed a double act with my (now) wife, Christine, called 'Inseparable'. We toured the world on cruise ships until 2005, when I moved to the Cruise Director position on ships, a position I still hold. Having worked for many cruise lines, I spent many years a session singer in studios, and now have my own recording studio at home. In 1999 I went back to university and graduated as a High School Science Teacher, but have never practiced. My wife and I ran a touring theatre company (Side By Side Productions) for a few years before heading back to sea. So I am still singing and entertaining, and still, 26 years later, am grateful to A Song For Europe for pointing me in the right direction. I lost touch with most of the group within a year or two, but stayed friends with Elisa who taught dance for a while, and is now a successful mother. Also Claire Burt, who is still a much sought after actress in the West End. Facebook has helped us find each other again. I am on www.tonymarkey.com and www.inseparable.org.

Finally, what are your fondest memories of A Song For Europe 1983, how would you sum up the whole experience?

"Wow. I thoroughly enjoyed each segment of the entire experience, and have nothing but fond memories of it all. My happiest days were actually in the recording studio when we all had to work so closely together, to learn the harmonies etc. All egos disappeared and we just got on with the job."

Many thanks to Tony Markey for the above interview. All photos (c) Antony Markey except where stated.


Ritzy at A Song for Europe 1983