Singer Carol Decker Returning To The Limelight
The singer best known for China in Your Hand is returning to the limelight more than 25 years after her biggest chart-topper.
Pop enthusiasts will recognise T’Pau frontwoman Carol Decker by her famous fiery red mane and enviable figure. These days she is equally well known among Twitter users for her fiery temper after a very public spat with Gary Barlow in 2011 when X Factor contestant Amelia Lily took to the stage to perform Decker’s biggest hit China In Your Hand.
“He said live on TV that it was nice to hear that song sung in tune. He implied that I’d sung it out of tune. I was shell-shocked,” says Carol.
“I was nervous about Amelia singing it because I didn’t want her to do better than me. It was my song, it’s all I’ve got left. I wanted her to give a good performance but not eclipse me.
“I tweeted him asking, ‘What’s your problem?’ And in minutes my phone was ringing. X Factor asked me to go on Xtra Factor but Gary Barlow refused to face me. I had to hide from the tabloids the next day.
“I’m very conscious of the fact that his career is massive and mine isn’t any more. How I handled it was difficult because it can look like you’re trying to latch on to something to get attention.”
Twenty-five years ago T’Pau, the band Decker formed with then boyfriend Ronnie Rogers, sprang into public consciousness after Heart And Soul was used in a Pepe Jeans advert in the US. But it was their next song China In Your Hand that really caught people’s attention. An undeniably catchy Eighties pop anthem, it hit number one in 1987 and stayed there for five weeks.
Their debut album Bridge Of Spies also hit the top spot and went quadruple platinum. They enjoyed success for several years in Europe and America, touring the world at one time for 17 months non-stop but their star was on the wane by the Nineties. After their third album Promise failed to reach the dizzy heights of Bridge Of Spies they were dropped by Virgin Records and the band went their separate ways. Carol is now able to look back philosophically on the highs and inevitable lows of fame and fortune.
“When it was good it was brilliant but there was a lot going on. The strain of being in a successful band, then the inevitable clashes with the other band members who wanted an ever-increasing slice of the pie took their toll. Ronnie’s mum died of cancer while we were away followed by my dad, who died of a heart attack in 1990.
“The record sales started to slump and the band began bickering. Then we got dropped by the record company and everything just ground to a halt. We had nothing left to give each other.”
The breakdown of the band also coincided with the breakdown of Decker’s relationship with Ronnie Rogers. So what do you do when it seems things can’t get any worse? “Drink,” laughs Carol. “I’m Irish-Liverpudlian stock so it’s in our blood to reach for the bottle.
“Actually I sloped off to LA for a while to stay with friends and write songs for other people. I was very depressed for several years but I brought myself back from the brink. I had made some money but not tons. I won’t plead poverty but financially it’s as good as the deal you sign and we didn’t sign a very good deal. We wrote all the songs and royalties still trickle in now but a millionaire I’m not.”
Today Decker lives in Henley with her husband of 15 years Richard, executive chef for restaurant chain Bodeans, and their children Scarlett, 15, and Dylan, 11.
“We met in Primrose Hill when it was just becoming really trendy. I was 39 and he was going out with a 19-year-old waitress and I took him off her.
“He’s seven years younger than me but after 15 years together we’re still going strong.”
Eight years ago they upped sticks and swapped the bright lights of London for the lull of the Thames in Henley. “Scarlett was seven and Dylan was three and I just didn’t fancy city life any more. But how I missed the bars and all the parties.”
Carol was born in Merseyside but her family moved to Shropshire when she was seven. It was in Shrewsbury that Carol met Rogers. “He was in a local band called the Katz and I was in the Lazerz; Zs were very important back then. We were on the same bill, it was one of these hysterically titled young farmers’ balls.”
Carol explains: “They’re very popular in rural towns. They hosed down a cowshed and had a big Radio 1 DJ playing and put on local bands. I saw Ronnie and thought he was a fantastic singer, a really good frontman and I fancied the pants off him so I hunted him down.
“I was 22 and he was 21. I have a tendency to hunt men down and they don’t usually get away, just ask Richard,” she laughs, gesturing to her husband who’s obediently making a pot of coffee in their open-plan kitchen.
Decker and Rogers formed T’Pau, named after a Vulcan priestess in Star Trek, and wrote their first two albums from a damp flat in Shrewsbury. Next they got a record deal and moved to London where they remained until they split.
Rogers then moved to their recording studios in Monmouth, Wales, where he lives today. The pair have gigged intermittently but this year embarked on a hugely successful 25th anniversary tour.
“It was a 10-week, 28-date tour and Ronnie and I put a fantastic band together and stormed the Isle of White Festival.
“We surprised everyone and showed them that we weren’t just an old Eighties band. It was nice to shine outside of that bubble. We packed out the big top tent, it was a 45-minute set and the crowd knew all the big numbers. I was so proud and relieved.
“With all the well-known Eighties festivals you know that you’re going to be appreciated and you’re alongside people like Kim Wilde, Paul Young, Heaven 17, UB40 and Toyah. It’s like a pop star’s school trip.”
Such was their success that Decker is busy mixing a live album to be released in time for Christmas and they have one last London show scheduled in late November.
“I’m really excited and nervous,” admits Carol. “It’ll be our first London show in 15 years. The last one we did we packed out the Jazz Cafe in London, this time we are in Islington on November 23.”
“It’s great. Simon Cowell has chosen Heart And Soul to be used in the US version of X Factor,” says Decker with a smile.
T’Pau play Islington Assembly Hall on November 23.