B A Robertson

B A Robertson


BA 2004


Metro ****

“The Scottish Springsteen is back”

“Honest, Self-deprecating, but rightly proud of his musical achievements, Robertson even includes a sing-a-long of We Have A Dream, the 1982 Scottish World Cup anthem, and a moving rendition of The Living Years, a song he wrote about the loss of his father”

“An account of a nose-holding competitions round at Rod Stewart's house and a brief mention of showering with Burt Bacharach.”

“Anyone … who liked music and has a sense of humour will have a great time at Robertson's show”

Daily Mail

“The songs speak volumes for his talent”

“Once Glasgow wakes up to the fact that it has a greatly gifted forgotten son knocking 'em dead in Edinburgh, there's likely to be a stampede across Scotland for tickets”

The Scotsman ****

“This intimate show - just Robertson, a piano, some wry observations and anecdotes - is a journey through his career… His rendition of the Mike and the Mechanics' hit, The Living Years, all the more touching when you know this intensely personal message from a son to his dead father is Robertson's own story.”

“The man who wrote the best football song ever”


“BA Robertson his career in song writing and the friends he knows well enough to hold noses with. Don't ask, just go.”

“What's special about BA's songwriting is the surprises he plants in the songs, the delight he has in words and their sounds and how he fits them to the music. He's a singing poet in my book”

One4Review ****

“Superb show by a fantastically talented man and yes he is still full of sex appeal!”

Edinburgh Evening News

“A performance built on a lifetime of hits.”

The Daily Record

“He is the forgotten Scots music legend”


More than 20 years after his million-selling single Bang Bang, BA Robertson is back performing in Scotland

He is the forgotten Scots music legend who was part of showbiz royalty, enjoying chart-topping hits and rubbing shoulders with Hollywood's biggest stars.

Glasgow-born singer BA Robertson hung out with Tom Hanks, Billy Connolly, Rod Stewart and Disney boss Jeffrey Katzenberg at the height of his fame. But he disappeared from view, retiring from the public eye in the mid-Eighties, after his father died.

Now the reclusive musical genius is heading back to Scotland for the first time in 23 years, but says he has no regrets about turning his back on fame for the sake of his family.

He revealed: 'I stopped performing when my father died. Like a lot of Scots blokes of my generation, I'd spent a lot of my life trying to prove to my dad that I was good enough to be his son. 'The date of his death and my son, Rory, being born were just weeks apart. I went to America where I had a great time.

There was no big plan to stop and there is no big plan to start again.' BA moved his family to Los Angeles in 1988, where he became neighbours with his old pal Billy Connolly. He currently lives with his wife Karen and two kids, in Ireland. BA recalled: 'I didn't have any success until the late 1970s. I met Billy Connolly because we had the same manager.

'Billy was very good to me when I started and very encouraging.

'Ironically, he and I both finished up in Los Angeles and the kids were in the same class at school. I turned up at a PTA meeting and Billy came up to me and said, 'What you f***ing doin' here?' 'I spent a lot of time watching his act. To me, he is still the funniest man in the world.'

While Billy built on his comedic legend, BA accidentally became the most connected Brit in Hollywood - after scooping a producer job at Disney.

He was invited to set up offices at the Walt Disney Studio, by studio bosses Bill Mechanic, and Jeffrey Katzenberg after pitching a film idea to them.

Soon he became a Hollywood player. He laughed: 'I pitched Michael Eisner in his office. People just don't get to pitch Michael Eisner or to walk in off the street. 'I didn't know what I was doing. But I just went in and was what Hollywood folk call 'being good in a room'.

'They put me on the lot immediately. 'My life was high powered. Somebody said I was the most connected Brit in Hollywood and it did look like that.

THE 53-year-old added: 'I took Tim Rice to meet Michael Eisner and that's how he and Elton John got to work on the Disney soundtracks.

'I had my parking space between Tom Hanks and Bette Midler. Tom no doubt forgot about me, but we used to stand in the lunch queue together. 'I made Simply Mad About The Mouse for Disney and did some music for Baywatch 'I had two lives. I was a writer and a performer and I stopped performing.

For my family it was that simple. It gave me an opportunity for my children to grow up in a calmer environment.' Fed up with appearing on TV, he concentrated on song writing and again everything fell into place.

The stars he has written for reads like a who's who of the entertainment world. Burt Bacharach, Bond maestro John Barry, Harry Connick Jnr, Michael Crawford, Billy Joel and more recently Blur's Alex James, all sat down with BA for help with their song writing.

He also penned more than 20 international hits for other artists, including Carrie for Cliff Richard.

He has now decided to tell his life story at this year's Edinburgh Festival. Turned raconteur, he will sing a selection of the 300 songs he's had published, interspersing them with anecdotes about his life.

But he denies he is taking baby steps towards a fully-fledged comeback with his Edinburgh shows. As he relaxed in his Spanish holiday home, BA joked: 'It's been 23 years since I was in Scotland. Some wag said that I was delighted to be invited back and I am coming every 23 years whether people want me to or not.

'I don't really know why I am doing it. If you look back and analyse things you make them seem more significant than they were.

'There are a lot of things I did that I didn't mean to do and I'll be talking about some of them and my family.

'I had a simple upbringing. It was a strict family. It was bizarre back then to want to be in showbiz from a background of Sandyhills in Glasgow.

'I hope the show will be fun. There will be a certain poignancy because I am coming back home. (The Daily Record) Jul 19 2004


BA Robertson achieved fame as a songwriter not as a singer. He tells Tom Lappin why he's so nervous.

It is a name that has slipped between the cracks of contemporary culture and disappeared into the void of memory. Mention BA Robertson in Scotland - a couple of decades after he made a graceful exit from the stage of popular consciousness - and the most you will get is a snatch of that not-quite-a-novelty hit Bang Bang, or perhaps a wry grimace about the World Cup song.

The Glaswegian Robertson's exile from fame coincided with his most sustained period of success, wealth and influence. His memorable face - a surreal hybrid of Bruce Springsteen and Leo Sayer - that carried the tunes, became just a songwriter's name.

Springsteen told us that “everything that dies someday comes back”, and Robertson will be at the Edinburgh Fringe this month to play his first concerts in Scotland for 23 years. He does so with a reticence that verges on the comical.

“I was equivocal about doing it,” he says. “I'm nervous about doing it and I'm not convinced I want to do it as a career. It's a high-wire act. Suppose I forget all the chords or the words? It's pretty dangerous and I suppose that is quite exciting.”

Unlike Altered Images, T'Pau, the Human League or other contemporaries still making a living on the retro circuit, Robertson's name is rarely cited. His records never made it to CD and there is no greatest hits compilation. When I suggest he burns a few of his own and sells them after the Edinburgh gigs, he seems shocked by the notion that there might be a demand.

“When I was preparing the songs for these shows, I had to dig around for record decks to play the albums. I was a bit surprised by what I heard,” he says. “I'm not Paul Simon or Cole Porter, but when I looked back at the diligence of the work and the recording process, I was surprised that it wasn't more haphazard. My memory was that I had been really cavalier with the process, but the recordings were more measured than I expected. The draughtsmanship was better than I thought.”

Once Robertson got out of the spotlight and drifted inside the machinery of the pop music industry, he realised that he wanted the validation of being a timeless songwriter rather than a mercurial personality.

“When I was younger I wanted to be famous, I needed to be famous,” he says. “Now artists are never content but I've lost that need to be affirmed by other people. If you want to be famous, you're looking for love really aren't you?”

Instead he went to Hollywood hoping for posterity. He quickly found the opportunity to work with two of his three boyhood heroes, Burt Bacharach and John Barry (the third was Brian Wilson).

A series of fortuitous meetings led Robertson to a job and a production office in the Disney studios. He spent nine years in California. Looking back, there's an obvious streak of LA in him as he recalls a flurry of encounters with the great and powerful. “It's a pretty tough town,” he recalls. “Just beneath the surface there's a lot of hard decisions going on. I probably wasn't tough enough for it. I was too much of an artist to cross over that line.”

When it was time for his children to start school, Robertson and his wife Karen could not face seeing them grow up in Beverly Hills, so they went to live in Dublin.

Cynics might raise a sardonic eyebrow at attaching the description artist to the man who wrote Cliff Richard's hit Wired for Sound, but Robertson spent enough time in America to develop the habit of looking at the bottom line when estimating the success of his work. Despite his reticence, give him a little encouragement and he'll quote you Billboard chapter and verse.

“Silent Running was the biggest rock song of 1986. Bigger than Sledgehammer, bigger than whatever U2 had out,” he says. “It is relatively unknown here but was a big, big song in America. The Living Years was number one, it won four Grammies. In the BMI catalogue, I think there are only 18 songs written by British writers performed more than the Living Years and the majority of them are by Elton John.”

The Living Years, recorded by the somewhat pompous but American friendly Mike and the Mechanics, was a deeply personal song about the death of his father just before the birth of Robertson's son. He is obviously proud that such an intimate lyric could have such universal reach.

Robertson admits he's lost touch with Glasgow and doesn't feel the pull of the exile. In LA his only real nod to his roots was a friendship with north London's most famous Scotsman, a man Robertson calls “Roderick David Stewart”.

“I'm the Robert Louis Stevenson kind of Scotsman,” says Robertson. “I've gone and probably won't come back. I love being Scottish - that feeling of being set apart - but I couldn't do the professional Scotsman thing.”

He meant to perform at the fringe one summer about three decades ago, but the show never came to fruition. He has made it, belatedly, and found himself conscientiously practising his piano scales and arpeggios again.

He breaks off to listen to the song playing in the bar. “I need the practice. See, I'm not as natural as . . . Smokey Robinson.” (The Sunday Times).

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