“As was our family ritual on a Sunday afternoon after lunch my parents turned on the TV (an old black and white set) and they were showing Fred Astaire films as matinees. From the first moment I was spellbound, enchanted by the music, utterly captivated by the sets, the clothes, magnificent costumes and choreography, the style, the glamour and above all the songs and what they meant. Here was a world better than the one I lived in, a sweeter, more innocent world where the boy always got the girl when he courted her, sang to her and was charming enough! The world of Astaire and Rogers was a world of grace, beauty and romance. It was a 1930's world of chivalry and courtly love far removed from the world my contemporaries lived in, and a universe away from the music people I knew were listening to at the time or what was popular, music which I found frightening, ugly and crude. I feared the world of David Bowie and Led Zeppelin. It was a graceless world”.
“So my first ambition at aged fourteen was to become a tap dancer”, admits Jack. “I wasn’t very good”, he concedes, “I longed to copy the elegance and grace of Astaire, but I had two left feet. I knew I couldn’t do it. I just couldn’t keep up. So life, school, and more life caught up with me instead, and I shelved my romantic dream.”
“...Until four years later, when something big happened to me. One day my father gave me a record out of the blue. It was an old 45 RPM record with a yellow Reprise label. It bore the simple legend in black ink 'My Way'. I’d never heard of the song. I’d heard of Frank Sinatra of course. My mother hated him. She considered him “a bad singer” and worse “a nasty little man”. She liked Bing Crosby, Edith Piaf and Charles Aznavour and opera. Always opera. Try as I might I just couldn’t get on with opera or Piaf, though I did grow to like Aznavour."
"My Mother also listened to jazz. But Trad Jazz. She loved it. I hated it and instantly preferred “Modern Jazz” or “Cool Jazz” as it was sometimes called. Cool Jazz got me straightaway. Instantly. Like Astaire had, but more strongly now. I suppose I was older, it was a hormone thing, seriously hooked now on the music that would propel me into manhood and the great wide world. And into this swirling mass of character formation suddenly came Sinatra, BANG!"
"In an instant it seemed, an epiphany, Frank gave total form, an actuality, to the music I wanted to make and the man I wanted to be but wasn’t and never had been, but wanted desperately to aspire to nonetheless... and at age eighteen that ambition became cast in gold when I actually came face to face with this new hero, Sinatra himself! It was outside after a concert at The Royal Festival Hall in September 1978."
"Frank was in his limo, leaving. The interior was illuminated and as the car glided past, his sweeping gaze suddenly paused on me and he smiled right at me! It was like being smiled at by the most expensive angel on earth. Then he was gone into the night."
"After that I became fascinated by Sinatra, a fascination which remains to this day. I watched him on TV and practiced his songs in front of the mirror. Unlike my teenage peers I’d always resisted cigarettes, but now at nineteen I suddenly took up smoking with a vengeance, because Sinatra smoked. So did Bogart and Jack Hawkins, Niven, Burton, and all the other matinee idols I now wanted to copy in life. I aimed to become a halfway house between the American brashness and bravado of Sinatra and the deftly self effacing pure English class of Trevor Howard in ‘Brief Encounter’. But Sinatra… he was the compass mark, the star I pointed my ship at."
"Sinatra represented the confident man I wasn’t and wanted to become, cool, assured and classy in a working class way. I wanted to emulate him, copy his accent and his phrasing, the way he takes a breath but you never see it, the way he can dance but never does, the way he holds a woman but doesn’t hug her, the way he cocks his shoulders, the way he wears a hat, tilts his head, purses his lips before a great line, the way his eyes go hard when he’s angry, but melt when he’s singing of a girl in Denver. Above all he sang songs for broken hearted lovers, unlike anyone else ever had done, and better than anyone had done or ever has since. He was a master of drama as well as music, and his ballad and saloon albums which were always my favourites made grieving for a lost or unrequited love seem manly. His way of singing made sense to me of the qualms and traumas of life and relationships as I grew older. He has always been with me through the years and now I wear his music every day like a comfortable suit. Frank Sinatra has been a very good friend to me”.
Jack Valentine holds a Masters Degree in Fine Arts from Aberdeen University and is widely experienced in the field of corporate selling and business. When not performing and singing himself, Jack also runs his own successful niche entertainments agency ‘Prestige’ which helps other singers and artists like him get work. Married, he lives in Hextable, Kent and has two children. He lists his hobbies as history, reading, acting and drama. In his spare time he likes to visit art galleries, and lunch in expensive restaurants.