Paul Carrack is riding in a limousine from his hotel on Long Island to downtown New York when he gets the news: He has made rock ‘n’ roll history.
Carrack played keyboards on “Something About the Way You Look Tonight,” the second A-side to Elton John’s “Candle in the Wind 1997.” Five weeks after its release, “Candle in the Wind” – John’s moving tribute to the late Princess Diana – has become the world’s biggest-selling song of all time, eclipsing Bing Crosby’s venerable “White Christmas.”
“Candle in the Wind 1997,” which debuted at No. 1 in the United States two weeks ago, has sold more than 31.8 million copies worldwide, according to the Guinness Book of Records. It has sold more than 9 million in the states.
“That’s phenomenal,” Carrack said recently. “I’m very happy it’s a big hit. I’m sure all the money’s going to a worthy cause, and I’m delighted to have a small piece of reflective glory.”
As former lead vocalist for Mike + the Mechanics, Squeeze and Ace, Carrack has his own sizable chunk of rock history. The Mechanics’ “The Living Years” topped Billboard’s pop chart in 1989 and Ace’s “How Long” was an international hit in 1975 (peaking at No. 3 stateside). Carrack also wrote the Eagles’ “Love Will Keep Us Alive,” ASCAP’s PRS Song of the Year in 1995, and as a solo artist, he has had four U.S. Top 40 singles, including the Top 10 hit “Don’t Shed a Tear” in 1988.
All of which makes it surprising that Carrack’s “Blue Views” (on Ark 21 Records), his first solo album in eight years, has gone virtually unnoticed since its early-summer release.
The first single, the yearning-laced “For Once in Our Lives,” reached No. 3 on Billboard’s adult contemporary chart but failed to crack the pop Hot 100. That doesn’t faze Carrack, who has higher hopes for the follow-up, “Eyes of Blue,” the album’s most distinctively soulful cut.
“Musically, I feel like I’ve gone kind of full circle,” Carrack said, “coming back to where I started out, with the simple songs that were always done in an organic, minimal setting. It’s sort of the way we used to make the records with Ace, where we would set up in a room and just play.
“One consideration was that I was very busy working with Mike + the Mechanics (during the ‘Blue Views’ sessions), so I didn’t have a whole lot of time to sit around in a studio and make a studio-kind of album. Mainly, my friend who produced it, Peter Van Hook, is very much of that persuasion; he likes the minimal production … you know, real music.”
Carrack even takes another stab at his signature song, “How Long,” giving it a slow, jazzy twist.
“I could do it in me sleep, that one,” he said, laughing. “I must’ve played that song at every show I’ve ever done, because I wrote it, but I’ve always enjoyed doing it, oddly enough. It’s a nice little vehicle. It’s a very simple song, but I’ve always enjoyed improvising around it.”
A short U.S. tour, which ends Oct. 26 at Luna Park in Los Angeles, and an impending European tour are a welcome break from Carrack’s busy session schedule. In the past year, he worked on six tracks for Eric Clapton’s forthcoming album and performed on John’s “The Big Picture” (which includes “Something About the Way You Look Tonight”) and B.B. King’s upcoming “Deuces Wild” LP.