Carmelo Luggeri was brought in by Elton John’s management company to produce a couple of tracks for a Kiki Dee best-of. The two have been working together pretty much ever since.
“It has been a couple of decades now,” says Kiki who is looking forward to playing The Empire Hall, Graffham with Carmelo on Saturday, April 28 at 8pm (doors 7.30pm; tickets 01243 783185).
“I think it was just the right time. I had done quite a lot of West End shows. I did Blood Brothers for years, and this was just a chance to get back to basics. Steve Brown (her manager at the time) said ‘There are a lot of people doing bands. Why don’t you go out acoustically?’ He persuaded us to do a 30-minute opening set for Vanessa Mae who was 17 at the time, and there was me middle-aged! We found it difficult at first, but it was good fun.
“I think in an acoustic show you can play a lot of different genres and make it work. If you are working with a full band, I don’t think you could do such an eclectic mix. You can do a Frank Sinatra song, a Kate Bush song, a Kiki Dee song…You can do anything with just voice and guitar.
“And I think there is just a certain musical simpatico between us. We work very well together. I have written with quite a few other people, and you never know what the result is going to be, but it has been great when you have just got that chemistry… a bit like the chemistry I had with Elton John.”
It was with Elton that she scored the massive number-one hit Don’t Go Breaking My Heart in the long, drought summer of 1976.
“I still get a bit nervous before I perform. There was also that, but I have not got the commercial validation now. We are doing something now that a lot of people might not expect. I am not doing the obvious. You have always got to be moving forward. You might have made an album ten years ago, but you know that people at a gig might not have heard it.”
Instead, it is all about the connection: “We played a lovely theatre in Oldham a couple of weeks ago, and we just knew it was going to be one of those nights. The audience were raked upwards, and I just find that that set-up works very well. As soon as I walked on, I knew it was going to be good.”
And it’s a chance to do some interesting covers, Kate Bush’s Running Up That Hill, for instance: “We do it very differently to the original. That’s the good thing when there are just two of you. You can try all sorts of different things and see if they work.”
Don’t Go Breaking My Heart inevitably remains a staple: “But we slow it down. We do it more acoustically. You get some people wanting something closer to the original, but I sing all the parts, and I think it is a more mature version of the song.”
So what made it such a massive song in the first place?
“I think it was a bit of everything. It was summer. It was a very well put together single. Elton was hot. I had had a couple of hits before it, and it was a good record. It made a lot of people very happy… and it still makes a lot of people very happy.”
For other stories by Phil, see: https://www.chichester.co.uk/author/Phil.Hewitt2