’80s heartthrob Shakin’ Stevens talks returning to music after major health scare

Nov 28, 2020
Shakin' Stevens is back in business with his new 266 track anthology. Source: Getty.

You only get one life, and if you want to live long, you have to take care of it. That’s the lesson that rock’n’roll star Shakin’ Stevens, also known as Shaky, had to learn the hard way after suffering a serious heart attack in 2010 that forced the music machine to take a short break from his career.

“It was a very worrying moment at the particular time,” he said. “And if I hadn’t gone to hospital when I did …

“Myself and my partner said [to the doctors], ‘When are you going to do the operation?’, and they basically said, ‘We’ll have to do it now because it can’t wait’.”

Thankfully the operation was a success, and although he was never a big drinker or smoker in the past, Shaky, 72, has now given it all up, with music remaining his only vice. But despite the health scare, the Cardiff-born performer, who’s real name is Michael Barratt, has refused to slow things down, adding that touring and working on his 19-disc anthology has taken up most of his time recently.

The book-pack Fire In The Blood, complete with 266 tracks, a rare poster and some signatures, celebrates Shaky’s powerful career, which has spanned four decades. He’s birthed a number of iconic tunes, including ‘Oh Julie’, ‘Give Me Your Heart Tonight’ and ‘This Ole House’, the last of which is one of Shaky’s favourites.

“I guess ‘This Ole House’ was the one that opened it up for me, really, and of course the first one before that was ‘Marie, Marie’. It was ‘Marie, Marie’ that opened it up in Europe, and ‘This Ole House’ opened it up in the rest of the countries … but my favourite, I don’t have a definitive one. It’s difficult to pick the best out of so many tracks.”

Before becoming the UK’s number one singles chart performer of the 1980s, Shaky said music was in his blood from an early age. As a kid, he performed in a number of bands, including The Denims, who were avid school performers, and the more professional, Shakin’ Stevens and the Sunsets, who made it big enough to hit international stages before running their course and disbanding.

However, it wasn’t just his musical prowess that he took from his youth, Shaky even got his now iconic stage name from a friend in the playground as a young boy. “There was a guy, Steven Vanderwalker, and we used to mess around in the street, play games and stuff like that. We were playing a game of rounders and he use to hold his bat like a guitar and say ‘Shakin’ Stevens’ and I thought that was a whacky name. He loves me to tell the story, and that’s really how it happened.”

Nowadays, with Covid affecting his touring plans and even more severely affecting his home in the UK, Shaky and his partner Sue spend most of their time gardening together and trying to get some fresh air to avoid going “crackers” by staying inside all day in isolation.

“We obviously go up the road to get some food and stuff like that. We wear our masks, and everybody’s really just got to be careful. You know, it’s a terrible thing. We’re all – the majority – waiting for it to go [away]. It’s amazing how much you miss your freedom. Definitely feeling it.”

However, not even a global pandemic and national lockdown could stop Shaky from creating music. In fact, the singer has already started his next album, which he and his team are “very pleased with” despite the difficulties they’ve faced because of coronavirus restrictions.

“It’s difficult to kind of work with a band in a small space and sing with masks on … but we’ll work it out. I think there’s only two studios that are available, so we’ll get around it somehow, but obviously we don’t want to try and put ourselves in danger or anything like that.”

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