The New Seekers’ Eve Graham spoke with us about “I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing,” Melanie songs, The Boston Pops, and songs from her new album A Matter of Time, produced by The New Seekers' producer David Mackay.
By Warren Kurtz
GOLDMINE:Before a concert here in Florida, my wife Donna and our daughter Brianna were talking about you. I mentioned that you had sung with the act we were about to see that night, The Boston Pops, with Keith Lockhart as the conductor. I still think of him as the new guy, even though he has been with them for 29 years.
EVE GRAHAM: I had not thought about them for a long time. It never occurred to me that they would still be going, but why not? Of course, they would. Maybe Keith was in the back row when The New Seekers worked with them, watching with his father or something. It was in the early ‘70s. We went to rehearsal. We had the written score in our hands. Our producer, David Mackay, did our arrangements as well, but he never put the top line on it, to put the vocals on, because we did that separately. So, it was just the orchestration. Arthur Fiedler took what David had written, wrote some notes for the concert, and gave it back to us, because he wanted the top line. He wanted to know what we were singing and I’m looking at all these rows of music and I’m thinking how is he going to be able to read it anyway? But he did. He said, “Come back tomorrow with it.” It was just our musical director, our guitarist and myself who could half read and write music. We sat up nearly all night, writing in the dots for the top line to take back the next day to him. It was scary. So, I’ve written an arrangement for Arthur Fielder and The Boston Pops for a performance in Boston of a “My Sweet Lord” medley of songs.
GM: That was an era that helped to establish Christian rock and the contemporary Christian music to follow. There was “Oh Happy Day,” which led to “My Sweet Lord.” There were Top 40 hit singles from Jesus Christ Superstar and Godspell. On your beautiful flip side, “When There’s No Love Left,” there is the line, “when there’s no love left in Jesus,” with a strong melody in line with “One Tin Soldier” by The Original Caste.
EG: In the UK the first record we had out was called “Meet My Lord” and you could really hear sounds of the original Seekers in it, very much a follow on from the original group. “When There’s No Love Left” was continuing with the religious, folky style of the original Seekers. It was the intended A side of the single and “Beautiful People” was on the flip side and that’s because we followed up with a Melanie song after “Look What They’ve Done to My Song, Ma” and we were trying to resist the idea of featuring another Melanie song as our A side. I had sung the lead on “Look What They’ve Done to My Song, Ma” and it had done well in America. It was the music of Melanie, though, who just launched us from what The New Seekers were intended to be originally. To go back a bit, it was Keith Potger’s idea for forming the group years after The Seekers had split up and he didn’t want the same thing to happen again. With us you had two girl singers and three boys who could sing and take over the lead vocals as well so that if any one member left there would still be a group. With the original Seekers, when Judith Durham left, the boys were out of a job. So, Keith didn’t want that to happen again as it did with him, Bruce Woodley and Athol Guy. There was no idea for me to stand out as a lead singer, so after “Look What They’ve Done to My Song, Ma” became successful in America, the idea was to play down the lead singer idea a bit, although with “When There’s No Love Left,” I was singing the lead as well, but it was a different kind of song. In fact, that had been recorded earlier. We had done the Melanie one as well, although that was on the flip side. The public had liked “Look What They’ve Done to My Song, Ma” so much that they wanted more of the same and “Beautiful People” came right to the forefront with the disc jockeys and the public and it sort of established my style. “When There’s No Love Left” probably wouldn’t have established my style in the same way as it was a different type of song, where with “Beautiful People,” it just cemented the idea that I was the lead singer, and this was the style of The New Seekers and I still sing it all the time.
GM:So, “When There’s No Love Left,” in theory, was pushed to the flip side, and we heard your version of “Beautiful People” on the radio. What a beautiful song, one that Melanie performed at Woodstock, which we discussed in the Melanie anniversary article where she told me, “Thanks to The New Seekers, there was a time in 1970 when I had three compositions in the Top 100 simultaneously.” She said that “Lay Down” was ending its run, her next single “Peace Will Come” was new on the charts and then there was your record. So, she was thrilled.
EG: It would have been nice to know that back then because it wasn’t until your interview with her that I got to see that she had appreciated our input. Back then, I was always a little bit afraid that we had, more or less, stolen something away from her where she should have had chart success with the single. There’s almost that embarrassment that it shouldn’t be me, but it should be her.
Original intended flip side as noted with -B catalog number
The New Seekers
Flip side: When There’s No Love Left
A side: Beautiful People (originally intended as the flip side)
Top 100 Debut: 1/9/1971
GM:Just like versions of Melanie’s music by her and by The New Seekers in 1970 and 1971, as 1971 turned to 1972, there were competing versions of “I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing” by The New Seekers and by The Hillside Singers in the Top 40.
EG: The Hillside Singers were the first ones off the mark. They recognized the fact that our commercial was so popular that it was worthwhile making it into a commercial record. They were just session singers, calling themselves The Hillside Singers and jumped on it. Our manager heard that they had this out and it was starting to go up the charts and said, “Quick. We’ve got to catch up here.” So, we dashed in the studio and I think our record company had it on the street in ten days.
GM:Compared to The Hillside Singers, with you we got “the real thing,” your voice that we heard in the commercial. Please tell us about filming that iconic spot.
EG: I think we did about a dozen jingles for Coca-Cola. We did thirty and sixty second radio commercials. There were all different melodies and it was just this one that seemed to catch the public’s imagination. Everyone seemed to like this one that said, “I’d like to build the world a home and furnish it with love.” The filming of the commercial was supposed to be done in England at the Cliffs of Dover, but the weather was too bad. They couldn’t get the helicopter right with the aerial shot so then they moved it to Italy, but they couldn’t get the children to run down the hill at the right time. They were supposed to run down the side of the hill toward the Coca-Cola but as soon as they all saw the bottles of Coke that were being delivered, the kids ran down the hill and the helicopter hadn’t got there yet, so that didn’t work. Then they got the students from the university, who were more adult, at which time they realized they could have had us on screen as well because, at first, they said that we couldn’t do the visual because we were too old.
GM:Let’s talk about one more song from that era, “All Right My Love,” a favorite of mine from the Beautiful People album.
EG: I was thrilled to sing some really good songs. Keith Potger had written that one and he didn’t present a lot of songs for us. I enjoyed singing that song so much. By the time I joined The New Seekers I was 26 and was so pleased to be surrounded by great musicians in a proper studio.
Beautiful People album cover photo: Eve Graham on the left
GM:On your new album, A Matter of Time, you sing a pretty song about being “all dressed up with no one to love.”
EG: I like that one. When the song was given to us, we already had enough songs for the album and David Mackay sent that one through to me at the last minute. The good thing now is that you can email songs to each other. We don’t have to get together around a piano and play things. I can get a demo via email because David lives in London and I live in Scotland, so we were able to prepare the album long distance. He did all the backing tracks and I just went down for a few days and did the vocals. It was good that we could discuss songs ahead of time and he could send me demos. I said I would really like to do this, but it was called “No One to Love,” and I said that I really like that song, but I think it should really be called “All Dressed Up.” “No One to Love” just seemed to be an overused title and you don’t imagine anything. I just fancied changing the name. I said it flippantly because nobody does anything that I ask anyway but he went back to the writer and he said that he will change the name for me. I loved the story, as I like story songs.
GM:A favorite song of mine in recent years is Sara Bareilles’ “Little Black Dress,” where she describes her feelings and confidence through clothing. On your album, you want to wear “Something in Red.”
EG: That is a beautiful song. There was a song that David Mindel and Angela Kaset wrote, which is on the album called “I Could Be the One.” David Mindel is a friend of David Mackay, but I didn’t know who Angela Kaset was. I looked her up and the first thing that came up was “Something in Red,” which she wrote, and I knew it from Lorrie Morgan’s version. I went around the house singing that one to myself. Then David Mackay sent me an email and said, “This is a lovely song,” and it was “Something in Red.” So, I think his train of thought had been the same as mine as we were both prompted by the fact that Angela Kaset had submitted a song. Although some may know the song from Lorrie Morgan, my album isn’t really a country album exactly. It isn’t rock. People ask, “What is it?” If I like a song, it just gets me. It might be because it is a good story or there might be something else about it. It might just be a melody hook or some hook about it. If a song just gets me, then it’s in. I don’t care about being true to a particular category of songs, being country, or whatever. I don’t think you need to put a label on it.
GM:You mention a hook. With “Slipping Away,” there is an instrument which I think is the hook. I believe it is an electric sitar.
EG: Yes, it is an electric sitar. I learned that from David Mackay. Someone else asked about that instrument and said they had heard it in the ‘70s on a record by The Drifters called “Like Brother and Sister.”
GM:I also think melody is key, not only on David and Angela’s composition “I Could Be the One,” but also the melody on “Things That Always Make Me Smile” is gorgeous.
EG: That is beautiful, isn’t it? That is really sweet. It is almost like a little girl song but at the same time it felt so natural to be able to sing that with my advanced years, it still seems to work. It just brings the child out in you. It’s just lovely.
GM:Speaking of advanced years, there’s “Turning into My Mother.”
EG: When I was researching Angela Kaset on YouTube, I saw that title and had to click on it, and I just laughed. Some women are horrified by it. Not everybody gets it.
GM:Oh, my wife has gone through that.
EG: Tell Donna that I know that I would like her very much because I think you can judge a woman by how hard she laughs at that song.
GM:Another song that you deal with aging is “The Last Time.” You open with the line, “I got the call today, a real good friend left us, and I believe he left us way before his time” and share the advice of communicating love in the chorus. It gives me chills.
EG: “The Last Time” is the reason this album started because I hadn’t recorded for a lot of years. There’s a lady who lives here locally and she takes tours out to America and is friendly with a guy called Michael Curtis and knows people who have studios there in Muscle Shoals. Michael Curtis is a songwriter and he sent the songs through to me called “The Last Time” and “When I Am No More” and that is what started this off. I began by wanting to record one or two songs and that led to me thinking, why don’t we record an album? We recorded it in the UK but I would still like to get to that part of America. We used to go to Florida, when my husband Keith was alive, who passed in 2016, visiting friends there near Orlando. I’ve been to Daytona Beach, near you, but that was a while back. There is talk on whether I would go to Muscle Shoals. When there is a good band or orchestra, doing a show, I still like to be involved, even at 75. Thank you so much. This interview has been very kind. I really appreciate the fact that you are very interested in what I’ve been doing.
New Seekers Kevin Finn and Eve Graham left the group in 1978 and married in 1979, photo courtesy of evegraham.com
Warren Kurtz is a Contributing Editor at Goldmine. “Warren’s Fabulous Flip Sides” can be heard most Saturday mornings, in the 9 a.m. hour, Eastern time, as part of “Moments to Remember” at wvcr.com or iHeart Radio – search WVCR.