Martin Page has been in love music since he was five years old. He maintains that one of his biggest thrills is to go to Tower Records and say “Give me as much music as you can for this amount of money.Martin Page has been in love music since he was five years old. He maintains that one of his biggest thrills is to go to Tower Records and say “Give me as much music as you can for this amount of money.
Though a stint in professional football sidelined his music career for several years, the English-born songwriter soon realized he was not reaching his potential in the English sport and turned to his first love to give him the satisfaction he sought.
“I primarily came from being a bass player to being a songwriter,” Page revealed in an interview at his home in Los Angeles. “I came from a group that had successful records in America, so I came through the band route. I found when I was in groups that I wanted to write for my own group, and I started to fall in love with the art of songwriting. You are only as good as the song, which is the most important thing, even beyond image, which is so important in England.”
Page was in the British group Q-Feel, whose dance record “Dancing In Heaven” was released in the states in 1982. In 1983, Page came to the states to visit his father, who was working with British Aerospace in South Carolina, decided he liked the U.S. and subsequently moved to Los Angeles.
By dropping names and meeting people who could get him in to see other people, Page and his writing partner, Brian Fairweather, managed to create a stir in the first six months they were in L.A. Ironically, his first major credit in Los Angeles came as producer of the Bone Symphony mini-album project that did not include one of his songs.
Songwriting success was not far away. Heart recorded “These Dreams,” their first number one record, and Starship hit the top of the charts for the first time with “We Built This City.” It was Bernie Taupin’s first number one record with a collaborator other than Elton John.
Page’s list of credits could take up the rest of the space allotted for this story: “Invisible Hands” and “You Make My Heart Beat Faster” by Kim Carnes; “Magnetic” and “Turn On (The Beat Box)” by Earth, Wind, & Fire; “Thunder In The Night” by Melissa Manchester. Plus, soundtrack work for That’s Dancing, Girls Just Want To Have Fun, Flying, Armed And Dangerous, Caddyshack II and Sing. He also played synthesizer and other instruments on the Grammy Winning “Ghostbusters” single with Ray Parker Jr.
One of Page’s strengths, he believes, is that he knows so many of the artists in pop/rock music, and he is asked to write with many of these people.
“To survive as a successful songwriter, I think you have to be very aware that you must collaborate with some of the artists like Paul Young or Robbie Robertson,” said Page, who played on sessions for many of these performers while waiting for his break as a songwriter. I find I give myself security in doing that. I think I had all those cuts because I wrote with the artist and they want to put their song on the record. So if you can become their team member, then you have found a place.
“After I’ve done a lot of those, I’ll step back, because I’ve got to write a few songs totally on my own. There is a great deal of satisfaction when I do it on my own. The experience of writing with somebody helps you when you write totally alone. I love to collaborate and learn at the same time. The secret of collaborating is knowing you can give something to the other person.”
One of the people with whom Page has co-written is Bernie Taupin. The two of them were introduced by publishers Bob Skoro.
“Bob came to me and said I would like you to meet Bernie Taupin, he rarely collaborates with anyone but Elton John but we’d like to see him work with you. And I thought ‘Bernie Taupin! I grew up with “Yellow Brick Road.” I grew up on Elton’s music, he is my idol. So we met and he had a couple of tough ones to start with. He gave me “We Built This City” and “These Dreams.” We couldn’t have started in a bigger place, and I think I convinced him we were doing something right.”
When Page is given the lyrics and no indication of what music to put with it, he says he tends to feel the music from the nature of the lyrics.
“It’s just a matter of reading it and thinking ‘What does the title make me think, are the lyrics leading me towards a mid-tempo feel or are they softer lyric or an edgier lyric?’ I’ve tried to bring the traditional influence into pop music. Peter Gabriel is bringing more of the third world tradition into music, and we’re seeing more and more of it. It’s our heritage and those melodies are so special.”
“I’ve never been in a publishing situation where I found the publisher would run my songs and I could lay back and think it was going to happen without me doing anything,” Page admits. “I find it’s such an advantage to me to know the producer and the artist. I can pick up the phone and say ‘I believe I’ve got the right song, I think you should hear it.’ I got “These Dreams” to Heart because I was working with Peter Wolf in the studio and he asked for a song for Heart.”
Page has had cuts that climbed the pop, jazz, dance, R&B, AOR and A/C charts. He goes back to his love for music in citing his ability to write such a diverse group of songs.
“I think a part of my success is in that I can take on different colors,” he admits. “It keeps me fresh and I ten to be surprised every time because I am doing so many different styles of work. I pride myself because I’m such a great fan of music that when I get a call to work with somebody like Paul Young, I know exactly what I would be, how I produce him. I know all his records, I know where he’s coming from. But I can’t take what I would like for Paul into Robbie Roberston, so you become a chameleon but you bring along your own spirit. But I love shutting the door from Paul Young and going to Elton John. It keeps me thinking.”
Thinking is what Page would like to see the upcoming songwriters do when they start to write a song.
“When I talk to songwriters, I say ‘why don’t you try and experiment?’ It’s up to us, to writers, because we feed everybody. What we do is real important. The artists need great songs. What we bring to them is going to dictate how the music goes.
“Particularly in America our music is very stale. Lyrically it’s very tedious. We can all stretch, musically, and artists will be doing things which kids will hear and go ‘That’s great!’
“I get very upset when songwriters say ‘hey, that was a hit, I’m going to write something like that.’ That’s not doing what you do justice; you’re not caring about what you do when you do that; you’re not putting the music in a place where it could be.”
That place, according to Page’s way of thinking, is communication.
“Music is magic, you can’t touch it,” he says. “It’s not physical, it’s purely an emotional thing. It’s soulful, it’s spiritual, it’s in the air. Every other art form is a physical art form. You can put music on paper, but if it’s not played for the right person or it’s not written properly, it’s not the same magic. It’s the only art form that we don’t have a hold of, which to me is magic… pure communication.”