Sixties songwriter, guitarist and sound engineer Robin Mayhew has written a song for the London 2012 Olympic Games, and is inviting school children to sing it at synchronised events around the country this summer.
He has assembled teenage quartet Stadia to head up the event, and they have already recorded a version of the song, Refuse to Lose. Schools and colleges around the UK can apply to take part in the mass sing-a-thon on 20 July. For more information, visit the Refuse to Lose event site here.
Robin started out in early rock n’ roll band The Presidents, who formed in South London in 1959 and continued to play together until 1965. He played rhythm guitar and sang, appearing alongside bands including The Who, The Rolling Stones and The Animals.
In the early 70s he worked as a sound engineer for David Bowie on his Ziggy Stardust tour, before heading out on the road with Lou Reed, Mott the Hoople, David Essex, Blondie, and The Stranglers. Then, during the punk explosion, he produced The Vibrators’ album Pure Mania.
M caught up with Robin to find out more about his ambitious Olympics project…
Which particular aspects of the Olympics have inspired your piece of music?
For most people in an Olympics host country it is a once in a lifetime experience so it’s vital to gain as much as possible from the event. When I hear about young people with little direction in their lives, the discipline of all the athletes in the Games inspires me to make everybody aware that they too must have direction. The dedication, perseverance and tenacity needed to achieve that coveted Gold Medal is paramount, and emphasises the fact that if anyone is going to achieve a dream they too must have discipline and a true goal to aim for and pursue. My piece of music is like a one-song-musical, giving inspiration and a guide to anyone who sings it.
How does it compare with other song you’ve written?
This is a bit of a one off with its musical-style quality and direct instruction format. Other songs I have written are more about life experiences and the fun and observations that life throws up. I haven’t got into writing love songs as there are simply so many of them but no doubt I will get to one eventually!
How did you start work on Refuse to Lose? Did you write the lyrics or music first?
The lyric came first. I gathered all the phrases and words which I felt would be useful to a young person thinking about their future target and wondering how to achieve it. The music came magically and I couldn’t believe how quickly it all fitted together. It just all melted into the song and I could hear straight away how the arrangement would be.
What inspired you to write four vocal parts?
It was definitely ABBA. I have always loved the song Knowing Me Knowing You. The first time I heard it I just loved the way the four voices worked through the chorus, especially the way that the boys and girls sung different structures not just harmonies. So, four voices it had to be. In the chorus of Refuse to Lose I have tried to do just that same counterpart shape and I’m delighted when people tell me how infectious it makes it.
How did you find the Stadia singers?
It wasn’t easy to find the four singers. I firstly got the Chichester and Bognor Observer to do an article advertising the fact that I was looking for four singers – two boys and two girls around 18 to 20 years old. Well, I got one response from a man aged 38 and that was that! I also put adverts up in the local music colleges but nothing came of it. I really couldn’t believe that this part of the project could be so frustrating with all the X Factor fever around at the time. Then an old friend suggested I try a music teacher called Rebecca Cooke. At almost the same time I met a guy at a gig in support of my old bass player, Tony Busson from The Presidents, who said he knew a great singer named Kit Bradshaw. I contacted Rebecca and she invited me to come that week to audition four girl singers. I got hold of Kit who said he was definitely up for it and by chance got a call from a girl who said she had heard I was looking for singers and put me in touch with Sam O’Hanlon. I went to see the girls at Rebecca’s and they were all very good but Adelle Tracey and Gabbie Bird were outstanding. I arranged a full meeting at Ford Lane Recording Studio with all four to discuss the project and to listen to the demo that I had put together and they all loved it. We did another article with the Chichester and Bognor Observer asking for a name for the band and from the eventual short list the four singers chose Stadia.
Can you tell me about your plan for the 20 July 2012? Which schools and colleges will take part?
The Refuse to Lose synchronized event will involve as many schools and colleges as I can get all performing at the same time. Any number of singers can take part and it involves learning and performing the song and its dance routine simultaneously around the UK. It will take place at 20 minutes past 12 on 20 July 2012 at different locations all over the country. Other organisations such as Stagecoach will be organising performances too. There will be other performances earlier in Scotland and Northern Ireland as the schools there break up in June so their date is set for the 29 June 2012.
What kind of relationship does music and sport have in this country, do you think?
I suppose the only thing that really comes to mind is a football crowd singing their club song. Apart from that, I can think of very little else, other than the signature tunes to football, tennis and cricket on TV.
Do you think the Olympics will change that, with all the cultural activity that’s planned to commemorate the event?
I’d love to think so but I can’t say I’ve heard of any broadcast programme yet featuring new music written with the Olympics in mind.
Read our Going for Gold feature on British music at the Olympic Games 2012 here.
To hear from David Arnold, songwriter, film composer and music director for the Olympics closing ceremony, click here.