Marti Pellow: 20 years on, he still feels it in his fingers
The Wet Wet Wet singer, currently playing Che Guevara in the musical Evita, recalls the the summer of 1994, when love (and then loathing) was all around the charts
Marti Pellow: ‘What a classy pop song [Love Is All Around] – it never ceases to amaze me.’ Photograph: Gareth Cattermole/Getty Images
Marti Pellow in Chicago
Marti Pellow as Che Guevara in Evita
In the summer of 1994, Marti Pellow’s toes ruled the airwaves. It was the year that Wet Wet Wet topped the charts for 15 straight weeks with their version of The Troggs’ Love Is All Around. Turn on the radio or tune in to Top of the Pops (it was still on back then), and there would be Pellow, a perma-grin in his voice, intoning: “I feel it in my fingers / I feel it in my toes / Love is all around me / And so the feeling grows.”
It had been only three years since Bryan Adams ruined our summer with Everything I Do (I Do it for You), which topped the UK charts for 16 weeks; now a Scottish pop combo had hijacked the No 1 slot and made everyone’s toes curl, although they mercifully bowed out after 15 weeks, just one week short of breaking the Canadian rocker’s record run at the top.
Twenty years after hogging the No 1 slot for nearly four months, Marti Pellow is back in the spotlight, but this time he’ll be singing some different classics. He’s playing the role of Che Guevara in Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Evita, which comes to the Bord Gáis Energy Theatre in Dublin on February 10th. Pellow is no stranger to musical theatre – in recent years he has enjoyed successful runs in Blood Brothers, Jekyll & Hyde and War of the Worlds. It’s a second act for a singer who was written off as a 1980s pop has-been, and a second chance for the reformed drug addict to prove he still has the musical power.
“We’ve had a career that has had highs and lows, goods and bads. That’s what it’s all about. You have all those things that happened to you, good bad or indifferent, and that’s what makes you the man you are today. And I still have a long way to go. So bring it on,” he says.
When the hits dried up for Wet Wet Wet following their biggest hit in summer 1994, Pellow went spectacularly off the rails, sinking into a mire of booze and drugs. When he eventually got clean, he found a new focus in musical theatre.
“I think I’ve got balance in my career, and I enjoy the luxury of having a fan base that enjoys me going out and trying different things. And I think it’s about me having a sense of connection as a singer-songwriter with my music, and still enjoying it and having a passion for what I do.”
Reunion, reunion, reunion
In recent years, Pellow has mended fences with his old bandmates in Wet Wet Wet, and they went back on tour to celebrate their 30th anniversary, opening with shows in Dublin and Belfast in December.
“It was great to go out and sing with my buddies, my mates, you know? And that tour was very much about us celebrating our body of work over the last 30 years. It was about entertaining and not educating – putting proper smiles on people’s faces.”
Of course, they played their biggest hit, Love Is All Around, which for Pellow had an added poignancy because its composer, Troggs singer Reg Presley, died late last year.