Singer Mary Hopkin issues new album

by Robin Turner, Western Mail

THE Welsh singing star who once knocked the Beatles off the number one spot in the charts, has released a rare new album in time for Christmas.

Recollections is a collection of 11 songs originally recorded by Swansea Valley-born Mary Hopkin between 1970 and 1986.

But the singer revealed yesterday the tapes containing the old songs nearly landed her in hospital.

She said: "There were about 30 hefty two-inch tapes weighing heavily on my mind, and also on my bedroom ceiling.

"They had been gathering dust in my loft for many years and one morning I woke up to an ominous creaking sound as a huge crack appeared in the ceiling.

"So, with some prodding from my daughter, Jessica, we decided to release them from their dusty boxes before the ceiling fell in."

Ms Hopkin shot to fame in 1968 with Those Were The Days, recorded on the Beatles' Apple label.

When she later married top record producer Tony Visconti, who guided Marc Bolan and David Bowie's early careers - she soared to celebrity status.

Her first solo public performance had been at the age of four, singing a hymn in the local church hall in Pontardawe where she grew up.

She also sang in rugby clubs and choirs, but got her big break on the X Factor of the 1960s, Opportunity Knocks.

After getting rave reviews on the show, Paul McCartney - alerted to Mary's "beautiful voice" by the '60s model Twiggy - had her sign for the Beatles' Apple Records and she went on whirlwind tours of the US, Canada and Europe.

Ironically, she knocked the Beatles off the number one spot in 1968 with Those Were The Days.

But after having two children she decided to drop out of the public eye and, after a divorce from Visconti, now lives in the south of France, rarely doing interviews.

However, she has continued to write and collaborate with other singers.

Her new album has been put together at Space Studios in Cardiff, where she bases her recording work and record label, Mary Hopkin Music.

She set up the label in 2005 to release material entirely on her own terms - recording in the studio only, without having to do tours, personal appearances or interviews.

It is run by her daughter, Jessica Morgan, 32, who owns Space Studios with her partner, Chris Thomas.

Ms Morgan is following in her famous mother's footsteps as a singer songwriter in her own right doing session work and individual concerts.

When in Wales, Ms Hopkin writes and records with her son, Morgan Visconti, and Jessica.

Music industry publicist Judy Totton, who represents singers Joe Brown and Welshman Andy Fairweather Low, said of Recollections: "Mary has that exquisite, distinctive voice which made her such a star.

"That voice really stands out on this new collection of old songs and will be a must for fans of Mary Hopkin."

Pat Richmond of Cardiff, who runs a Mary Hopkin fan site, said: "I've heard the album, it gets better and better with each play."