First class! Songwriter Mitch Murray honoured with special stamp collection
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First class! Songwriter Mitch Murray honoured with special stamp collection

Isle of Man Post Office releases stamps honouring Murray, who penned hits for the likes of Cliff Richard, Gerry and the Pacemakers and Freddie and The Dreamers

The Isle of Man Post Office has released a special stamp set celebrating the career of Mitch Murray
The Isle of Man Post Office has released a special stamp set celebrating the career of Mitch Murray

Not many of us can claim to have appeared on a set of stamps. The gold medal-winning athletes of Great Britain’s 2012 Olympic team were accorded that honour, as were the Beatles and Queen – that’s Queen the rock band, not the Queen, whose image, even if only in tiny silhouette, is on all stamps.

Now veteran songwriter Mitch Murray, whose work includes some of the most popular tunes of the 1960s and 70s, joins that select group of people when the Isle of Man Post Office issues a set of 10 stamps celebrating his career.

Murray, 80, who penned hits for the likes of Cliff Richard, Gerry and the Pacemakers and Freddie and The Dreamers and has lived on the Isle of Man for more than 40 years, says: “I’m really flattered by it. I had to keep it quiet for ages as it was last year when they spoke to me about it and there has been a lot of work since then. 

“You can’t say anything until the Queen has approved it. I’m just so happy that I’ve got a beautiful set of stamps. The set is called Mitch Murray’s Top Ten, which is a nice title. 

“They represent various phases in my career. I had total input, which was even more flattering. We had the question of how you get across a career on 10 stamps. 

“I thought the best way would be to put it on sheet music and I think they captured it beautifully.”

 

Each stamp depicts a different piece of sheet music, with images of the acts who performed his songs. 

There is Tony Christie, looking suave and terribly 1970s in his flares for Avenues and Alleyways, while Gerry of Gerry and the Pacemakers is grinning broadly on the first class stamp commemorating How Do You Do It and I Like It – both number one hits, with words and music by Murray. 

Another stamp features an Ivor Novello award (Murray has two), and the wittiest stamp shows some members of the memorably named SODS, the Society of Distinguished Songwriters, a club founded by Murray for that talented elite. 

Among its more than 40 members are Don Black, Gary Barlow and Sir Tim Rice.

Murray, whose daughters Gina and Mazz have both inherited the musical gene and appeared in West End shows, is particularly pleased that stamp had Her Majesty’s approval.

Lockdown has been a busy time for the talented music man, who was awarded a CBE by the Prince of Wales last year. 

“There is so much to do on the stamp issue. They don’t just release stamps – they release booklets, pamphlets and first day covers and each one of those needs some writing, and I’m the one they asked to do it.”

An ingenious idea means the stamps also include an embedded code which can be “Zap-accessed” to download a new composition by Murray. “That’s first in the world,” he says. 

The Isle of Man Post Office team had already produced a set of stamps featuring birds, with a QR [Quick Response] code embedded with the appropriate bird calls.

“Immediately that gave me an idea and I thought, I think we can do a lot better than that and we worked it out. I wrote a special piece of music, symphonic really, which turns into pop, comedy and fantasy. It is all about the Isle of Man Fairy Bridge, one of the island’s great tourist attractions.”

Murray, who was born Lionel Michael Stitcher and grew up in Golders Green, started his career writing both words and music, but preferred working on the latter. 

“I did write some very good lyrics, but I didn’t enjoy it. Songwriters didn’t really work with the bands, unless you were part of one. 

Murray, 80, has penned hits for Cliff Richard, Gerry and the Pacemakers and Freddie and The Dreamers

“These days, it is nearly always somebody within the group, but in the early days you weren’t welcome in the studio when they were making a record of your song. Half the time they really trashed it. 

“The only control you had as a songwriter was to make good demos, and all they had to do was copy it, but they still managed to screw it up. 

“Eventually, songwriters started to become record producers in order to control their work and what was happening to it, not particularly for the extra money, but for the quality. So, like others, I was a producer.”

In a world in which online streaming is the norm, Murray longs for the days of popping into a record shop to hear the latest single.

“The money was so much better, and it was so easy to control – you either had a hit, or you didn’t. But if you had a hit, you would know you were going to make money. 

“I knew if I had a top five hit in the UK, it would sell a couple of million around the world at least. Nowadays, you might get that many hits online, but you don’t make that kind of money. I do miss those days.”

Mitch Murray’s Top Ten collection includes a set of 10 stamps, a presentation pack, a first day cover, a sheet set and booklet with four-track CD. Details: iompost.com/mitchmurray

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