LOS ANGELES, Calif. — Paul Carrack is the voice you have heard in major hit records for decades but never really quite knew who it was. From Ace to Squeeze to Mike and the Mechanics to Roger Waters, Paul Carrack’s rich, distinctive voice has been the soundtrack for much of the 1970’s and 80’s. A great songwriter with a voice as powerful as Paul Rogers, Carrack has had his share of measurable success. But he remains something less than a household name, except to those who recognize a great vocalist.
The BBC dubbed Paul Carrack “The man with the Golden Voice.” Both live and on record, Carrack remains one of the distinctive giants of rock vocals. The fact that his hits were scattered across two decades and four bands is one of the reasons his vocals are always eerily familiar. Here is a stroll down some of his greatest Carrack hits you may remember.
Paul Carrack: “How Long” with Ace
Carrack first caught the public eye in 1974 with the huge single hit in America “How Long,” recorded with the band Ace. Written by Carrack, the song reached #3 on the Billboard charts and first introduced us to his distinctive singing voice.
Paul Carrack: “Tempted” with Squeeze
In 1981 Glenn Tilbrook recruited Carrack to join Squeeze to replace Jools Hollands on keyboards. Squeeze, then the darlings of the rock press, hadn’t had a breakthrough hit at that point. Tilbrook and Chris Difford were supposed to be the new Lennon & McCartney. Their breakthrough hit emerged from their acclaimed album, East Side Story. But that hit proved to be “Tempted,” a vocal sung by Paul Carrack.
“Tempted” was an instant classic. Carrack’s vocal proved utterly mesmerizing. Although the song peaked at only #49 in America, Carrack’s voice soon became indelibly linked with Squeeze’s one big hit.
Paul Carrack: Mike and the Mechanics
From 1985 to 1989, Paul Carrack appeared as the vocalist on two huge hits for yet another band, Mike and the Mechanics, the side band of Mike Rutherford from Genesis. One of those hits, “Silent Running,” reached #1 in America for 5 weeks in March of 1986. And once again, it was Carrack’s uniquely distinctive voice, by now one of the most underrated in rock, that carried the song.
Mike and the Mechanics: “The Living Years”
Carrack’s vocal skills burst forth again in 1989 when “The Living Years” rose to become a number one hit in America for Mike and The Mechanics. From the outset, Carrack’s rich baritone is instantly recognizable.
Roger Waters and “The Wall”: A legendary performance unfolds in Berlin
In 1986 Carrack joined forces with Pink Floyd’s Roger Waters and his new band when they were recording and releasing “Radio KAOS”and touring America. Then, seemingly coming from nowhere in 1989, the Berlin Wall fell. As a long-running joke, Waters vowed he would perform the Pink Floyd classic, “The Wall,” only when the border between East and West was gone. Like everyone else, he likely never expected this to happen. But now, a sudden turn in world events had called his bluff.
On July 21st, 1990, 8 months after the Berlin Wall fell, Roger Waters mounted one of the largest and most important concerts ever performed in the history of rock. With 350,000 eager fans in attendance, he staged an epic performance of Pink Floyd’s “The Wall” in the former No Man’s Land between East and West Berlin. The clip below illustrates how the concert began.
Roger Waters: The Wall, Live in Berlin, with an all star cast
Waters asked Paul Carrack to become part of an all star cast in this memorable concert happening. This massive, live event included Van Morrison, The Band, the Scorpions, and many other notable rock figures of the day. “The Wall” concert itself will be the subject of a future column. As for now, we can listen to Paul Carrack’s fantastic performance with Waters in “Hey You.”
At the end of this historic Berlin concert, Waters introduced an entirely new song in addition to the already existing songs “The Wall.” That song, “The Tide is Turning,” was a decidedly hopeful number, reflecting the international optimism that arose after the fall of the Berlin Wall. Unsurprisingly, the song’s standout vocal performance that capped that memorably historic day in 1990 was performed by Paul Carrack.
Now, fast-forward to 2020. The tireless Paul Carrack continues to tour and perform, working as a session musician as well. He is currently traveling with his “20/20” tour of England. Fans can discover or rediscover many of his his epic songs and appearances via YouTube video.
Along with Paul Rogers, Carrack remains one of the greatest vocalists in rock history. If he hasn’t enjoyed the massive acclaim he deserved throughout his long career, that career certainly stands out as one that has left its mark. A monumental talent, universally admired by his peers and fans alike, Paul Carrack remains the distinctive voice you’ve heard all your life, but didn’t know who it was.
— Headline image: Paul Carrack had his first hit in 1974 with his band Ace before going on to work with Squeeze,
Mike and the Mechanics and many other acts. 2020 studio photo: Peter Macdiarmid.
Photo and caption courtesy of Paul Carrack’s official website.