I REMEMBER…Paul Nicholas
Reader's Digest UK|December 2021
All-round entertainer Paul Nicholas (76) has enjoyed success in the pop charts, on TV and in musical theatre. He looks back at working with David Bowie, playing Jesus and meeting Hollywood legends
Simon Button

…I WAS BORN DURING THE SECOND WORLD WAR IN 1944 and I remember having a lot of powdered eggs because of rationing. I also remember our three-bedroom council house in North London being pretty crowded because my parents, myself, my father’s sisters and my grandmother all lived there. Listening to the radio was a big pastime. When I was around age six, we’d go see Hollywood movies at the cinema, films like Easter Parade which brought a splash of colour to what was otherwise a rather black-and-white existence. I was told that when I came home I’d practise tap dancing on the lino.

…MY MOTHER WORKED FOR THE BOARD OF TRADE and my father was studying to be a lawyer. He’d go across to the local park with his books to study in peace and eventually he qualified as an entertainment and showbusiness solicitor. Prior to that, during the war, he told me he worked for MI6. He spoke Flemish, a bit of French and a bit of German so he must have been quite useful to them.

…I WAS RELIEVED WHEN MY PARENTS DIVORCED. I was 12 when it happened and they’d had a rather tempestuous marriage. When you grow up in that environment, particularly as an only child, it has a real impact so I was happy when they decided to call it a day. I lived with my mum until I was about 16, then I went to live with my grandma. My father nicknamed her Fighting Wyn because she was quite domineering. He had nicknames for everybody. He called my mother The Ogre.

…I WASN’T VERY ACADEMIC BUT I LOVED SINGING. I gave my first performance in a school dance when I was 15 and sang “Good Luck Charm” by Elvis Presley. The girls seemed to find me more attractive, which, when you’re that age, is a real plus. Changing my surname from Beuselinck to Dean, I formed a band called Paul Dean & The Dreamers. We supported Screaming Lord Sutch’s band The Savages and he recruited me as their singer and pianist.

…DAVID BOWIE WROTE ONE OF MY EARLY SINGLES. After going solo in the mid-1960s and changing my name again to Paul Oscar, I met with Bowie and he wrote this song called “Over The Wall We Go” about people breaking out of prison, which was both topical and funny—it was banned by the BBC. I found Bowie to be quite a serious young man and very talented.

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