Monday, January 12, 2009

Climie Fisher Rise To The Occasion

Vocalist and songwriter Simon Climie had worked in the music biz since the age of seventeen. His father had been the editor for the U.K. version of ‘Mad Magazine’, but a career in wacky, irreverent comic book humour wasn’t for son Simon. Instead he picked up a guitar, attempted to pick up a piano (but wisely put it back down again), and started writing songs. Climie relocated to London to begin his career as a session musician. Along the way he played in several local bands, honing his craft, initially as a guitarist and keyboardist, but over time he found his true vocation as a vocalist. Eventually Simon Climie came to the notice of talent scouts for the Chrysalis label, and was signed up as a songwriter and session vocalist/kayboardist. In 1983 Nashville based songwriter Denis Morgan found himself attending an Everly Brothers’ concert in London. Following the show he wound up at Stringfellows Club, and it was there that he met up with Simon Climie. It would be a meeting that would yield a string of hits for the Climie/Morgan song writing partnership. Climie continued to work with other songwriters, including on the 1985 top 20 hit ‘Invincible’ by Pat Benatar, and songs recorded by the likes of Smokey Robinson, Leo Sayer, and Nick Lowe (see future Rockpile post). He also struck up a solid working partnership with producer Steve Lillywhite, who often used Climie for vocal, keyboard, and arranging work on productions, including a 1984 solo album from ABBA’s Frida (‘Shine’).

But it was Climie’s work with Morgan that produced the biggest result. They penned a song called ‘I Knew You Were Waiting (For Me)’, and initially pitched it to Tina Turner, Aretha Franklin, and Arista Records supremo Clive Davis. Climie recorded a demo version as a solo effort, but soon after hearing it, Clive Davis opted to have the song recorded as a duet. Aretha Franklin was joined (on record) by George Michael, and in 1987 ‘I Knew You Were Waiting (For Me)’ rocketed to the peak of the U.S. and Australian charts.

The session work eventually led Climie to a chance encounter with Rob Fisher during the mid 80s. Fisher was still with Naked Eyes (officially) at the time, but had begun doing session work on the side. Both he and Climie happened to be working at EMI’s Abbey Road studios at the same time, and were booked to work on the same session (working on Scritti Politti’s ‘Cupid & Psyche 85’ LP - see Dec ’08 post). Afterwards, Climie and Fisher wound up in the bar talking over old Beatles’ songs, and lamenting about the state of popular music. With Naked Eyes on indefinite sabbatical, Fisher was looking for a vocalist to work with, whilst Climie was keen to find someone to both write and record with. It took a year or so for the pair to wind up their other commitments, but in 1986 they began work in earnest on their debut album for EMI. Denis Morgan came on board to co-write several of the album’s tracks, whilst Steve Lillywhite and Stephen Hague shared production duties. In September ‘87 the first single ‘Love Changes (Everything)’ was released in the U.K., initially to little fanfare (#67). Whilst the feel good, synth/pop track failed to attract much attention at home, it did begin to make inroads into European markets. Over the course of late ‘87, early ‘88, ‘Love Changes (Everything)’ made a foray into the top 10 in several European countries, including Germany (#7), and Switzerland (#8). Meanwhile, the second single ‘Rise To The Occasion’ was released and debuted on the U.K. charts late in ‘87. It lived up to its name, and became Climie Fisher’s breakthrough hit at home (#10) in early ‘88.

Encouraged by the European sales for ‘Love Changes (Everything)’, and the success at home of ‘Rise To The Occasion’, Climie Fisher remixed ‘Love Changes (Everything)’ for another assault on the British charts. In early ‘88 the song received a much warmer reception in chilly Britain, and soared to #2 second time around, backed by your archetypal late 80s black and white promo video. Both songs had been lifted from Climie Fisher’s debut set ‘Everything’. The album was overflowing with 80s style synth-pop numbers, laced with a generous amount of ‘blue-eyed’ soul, and a dash of R&B. The formula had worked for a number of British acts during the second half of the 80s, assisting them to make inroads into the U.S. market - think Danny Wilson, The Kane Gang, The Blow Monkeys (see previous posts), and Johnny Hates Jazz, Curiosity Killed The Cat, Wet Wet Wet (see future posts). The remixed ‘Love Changes (Everything)’ became Climie Fisher’s sole U.S. hit during the first half of ‘88, when it peaked at #23, a position one better than here in Australia.

I can recall a hip-hop remix of ‘Rise To The Occasion’ was released during ‘88, but I had purchased the original mix on vinyl 45 earlier in the year, in addition to ‘Love Changes (Everything)’. The remixed ‘Rise To The Occasion’ surged to the top of the South African charts, and rose to the top 20 in Germany, Sweden and Austria. Single number three ‘This Is Me’ (UK#22 - featuring backing vocals by Kirsty McColl) continued a solid run of chart success for Climie Fisher at home, and helped sustain sales for the album ‘Everything’ (UK#14/ US#120), which spawned one final hit single later in ‘88 with ‘I Won’t Bleed For You’ (UK#35).

During the second half of ‘88 Simon Climie and Rob Fisher returned to the recording studio to begin work on their second album. The single ‘Love Like A River’ (produced by Julian Mendelsohn) was released in the interim, and flowed steadily up the British charts before becoming becalmed at #22 early in ‘89. Climie Fisher’s sophomore album ‘Coming In For The Kill’, had been recorded over the course of almost a year, across New York, Los Angeles and London. Denis Morgan once again proved a key collaborator in the song writing stakes, with the legendary Lamont Dozier penning the title track. ‘Coming In For The Kill’ notched up respectable sales in the U.K. (#35) during 1989, but was missing that killer track to sustain Climie Fisher’s pop profile. It spawned just one minor hit single, with ‘Facts Of Love’ scratching around at #50 on the British charts late in ‘89, whilst the follow up singles ‘Fire On The Ocean’, and ‘It’s Not Supposed To Be That Way’ signalled the end of Climie Fisher’s dream run on the charts. The duo were still penning songs for other artists during this period, and contributed the track ‘When Love Turns To Blue’ for Dusty Springfield. A U.K. and European tour over the course of late ‘89-early ‘90, proved somewhat of a farewell jaunt for Climie Fisher, and the duo pulled up stumps soon after (sorry, I’m watching the cricket while I write this).

Rob Fisher continued to write/produce, and do session work for other artists, and established his own recording studios called ‘The Stone Room’ during the 90s. He had penned some new material for work on an album when, sadly, he died in August 1999 as a result of complications from stomach surgery. Simon Climie recorded a solo album in 1992, titled ‘Soul Inspiration’, which yielded a minor U.K. hit with the title track (#60). Climie then focussed on production duties during the mid 90s, and worked for artists such as Eternal (‘Power Of A Woman’), MN8 (‘Freaky’), and Louise (‘Naked’). He then embarked on a producing/writing partnership with Eric Clapton, firstly under the pseudonym TDF, which was an acronym for ‘Totally Dysfunctional Family’, and resulted in the 1997 album ‘Retail Therapy’. Simon Climie then played a key role in Clapton’s critically acclaimed 1998 album ‘Pilgrim’. More recently he worked on the 2006 Eric Clapton/J.J. Cale album ‘Road To Escondido’, produced the 2005 Cream reunion performance at Royal Albert Hall, and produced the ‘Motown’ series of albums for Michael McDonald.

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