So it’s true, this happened, it was a real thing that actually happened, for real, honestly, no word of a lie, it actually happened. Truth be known I get asked more questions about this brief bit of work than pretty much anything else I’ve done in my highly glamorous and illustrious career.
I, for a time, played guitar with Australian heartthrob/actor/singer Jason Donavan. And what’s more I enjoyed it a great deal.
This bizarre union came from some session work I had been doing. Some friends of mine had been writing songs that they had been trying to place to artists, my job was to go in and sing them and add all the guitar parts. It so happened that one of these songs took the fancy of Jason (yeah I know, first name terms eh) and he came up to Yorkshire to record his vocal where mine had previously been. As a result I was invited to come and help out. The other reason he was up norf was to do a personal appearance at the opening of Robin Hood airport at some posh hotel. After we met and chatted for a while he asked if I could play guitar for him in his set.
He asked if I knew any of his songs and I was entirely un embarrassed to admit that I knew quite a few. We ended up playing Sealed with a kiss (complete with gaffer-taped on key change at the end) Everyday (absolute beauty of a minor third key change into the chorus) and Nothing can divide us (truly a stock Aiken and waterman classic).
The thing that’s interesting about his biggest songs (the ones that were s,a,w anyway) is that they are incredibly complex harmonically; their key centres shift all over the place and there are some pretty juicy chords on display. There is an understanding from many people that ‘teen pop’ is incredibly easy to write compared with more credible acts, when the truth is there is more harmonic invention and theoretical trickery going on then in pretty much all of the Oasis or Coldplay back catalogue put together. Anyway as a result getting reacquainted with these tunes and trying to make them fly on just acoustic guitar and vocals was a thoroughly enjoyable challenge. Just watch the quite frankly terrible video for the song "Everyday"; harmony fans will notice that the verse is in A major and the chorus shifts beautifully to C major creating an awesome resolution. remember getting the chorus of this son stuck in my head as a teenager and that bit of harmonic trickery is why.
Jason is quite simply a lovely man. Not at all starry, and in the times I hung out with him, possessed a lovely sense of humility - despite having topped the charts a number of times in a number of countries would always defer to my musicianship. He was realistic about how lucky he was to be able to make music (something he clearly loved) but was also aware that despite being a good performer with a decent voice, he was not a natural musician.
We did around about 8 or 9 gigs together over the period of a year or so which culminated in the last one; a massive gig at the London Astoria when it hosted G-A-Y. Jason had just come out of the jungle thingy “I’m a celebrity get me out of here” and as a result his profile had taken quite a bump (I personally think his increased popularity was entirely down to my acoustic guitar arrangements). We were even joined on stage by his fellow jungler David Gest who came on and sang with us on one occasion. It was a pretty crazy night and it was featured on the TV show “This is David Gest” - I have searched YouTube but can’t find the bit with me in unfortunately. See below for a photo with my legs in, and the bottom corner of my guitar whilst something else weird goes on…
Shortly after this he started a U.K. tour with a full band which I couldn’t commit to alas, and so ended our exciting union. Still, it was very much a feather in my cap for a while; it certainly allowed me to see a bit of a different side of the business we call show as people’s reactions to him when they saw him were bizarre - it was a nice change for me, but to live your life that way must be strange. I am not impressed by celebrity and don’t really follow anything that’s going on. At one of the gigs backstage I met a nice young lad who was impressed by my guitar playing and we got into a nice chat about songwriting; I do teach it after all, and was giving him lots of advice about different ways to approach some new songs he was working on - half an our later I was told by someone else that he was out McFly.
Anyway, this was a few years ago now and soon after the gig at G-A-Y Jason got a tour with a full band of which i was alas not part. The musical director had his own guy and since then Jason has done a lot more theatre stuff. Bottom line it was a bizarre, but thoroughly enjoyable little job.