HEAVY rain and wintry temperatures did not deter the hundreds of fans of 90s pop star Chesney Hawkes from heading into Priory Meadow to see him open the ice rink and Christmas market last Thursday (December 6).
Despite the storm of controversy erupting in the national press after some people deemed the signer was not famous enough to open the rink, the atmosphere in town was magical, with fans and shoppers cheering on Chesney when he arrived.
The star, famous for his 1991 number one hit The One and Only, wished everyone a happy Christmas before singing his most famous track. A spectacular fireworks display followed and afterwards people queued to get Chesney’s autograph.
Charmaine Hardy, 30, of Bohemia Road, a die-hard fan of Chesney, has been attending the star’s gigs since 2004.
She said: “When I found out Chesney was coming to Hastings, I couldn’t believe it. I was in shock. I was nine when The One and Only came out and it was the first pop song I got into.”
Rebecca Chandler, 23, who lives in Ore, saw Chesney perform at Wembley in a show with Louis Spence. She said she was ‘pleased’ the singer found time in his busy schedule to come to Hastings.
Although not a fan, Sue Read, of North Street, St Leonards, came to cheer Chesney on in defiance of the negative comments that were bandied about in the national press prior to the star’s visit.
Wearing an I Love Chesney Hawkes badge, she said: “I came to the opening to prove that Hastings was not a town in revolt.”
The singer was brought in by Roger Crouch, of Pirate Day fame, who has known Chesney and his family for more than 30 years.
The Observer was also able to catch up with the singer and songwriter last Thursday evening.
Chesney said: “I’ve been to Hastings several times, the last visit being two years ago. It’s a lovely little town and an interesting seaside resort. I jumped at the chance to come and open the rink and market, and so looked forward to coming.”
After the Observer announced that Chesney was heading to 1066 Country a flurry of mixed reaction appeared on the Observer website, with some people commenting on why Mick Jagger or Suggs were not invited instead.
The comments were picked up by the national newspapers and before long Hastings was portrayed as being a town in ‘revolt’ against Chesney. There was even talk that a Go Away Chesney campaign had been set up.
Chesney, 41, himself laughed off the slurs. He said: “The whole story of Hastings being a town in revolt was ridiculous. In reality the complete opposite was true and I had a very warm reception from people, who have been lovely.”
Chesney’s career started when he was 19, appearing as the title character in the film Buddy’s Song. In March 1991 he released The One and Only from the film’s soundtrack. His younger brother, Jodie, was the drummer.
Written By Nik Kershaw, the song was later featured in the opening credits of Doc Hollywood (1991), starring Michael J Fox, in the 2009 movie Moon, as the song Sam Rockwell wakes up to every morning, and again in the 2011 film Source Code as the mobile phone ringtone of Michelle Monaghan’s character.
The One and Only spent five weeks at number one and was the 20th most successful single to be released in the 1990s.
Chesney, who has been friends with Nik for 20 years, has released eight singles since 1991, including I’m a Man Not a Boy and Another Fine Mess.
His latest track, Caught up in Circles, came out on Monday and his album, Real Life Love, is released on next Monday (December 17).
Speaking about his latest single, Chesney said: “It’s a piano ballad and focuses on the problems we all have and how we hold onto things that come back in life. It’s about how we tend to make the same mistakes in life.”
Chesney grew up around music as his dad, Len ‘Chip’ Hawkes, was the singer of the 1960s band The Tremeloes. The band itself had 15 top 10 hits, including the 1967 single Silence is Golden and Here Comes My Baby, released the same year.
Chesney said: “I always wanted to be a musician and around the time The One and Only was released I was playing the piano in pubs and clubs, weddings, Bar Mitzvahs, you name it, so I grew up around music.”
Since the star’s single came out, his career has taken off and now Chesney jets all around the world, as well as touring in the UK.
He flew to Latvia’s capital, Riga, to do a commercial for the Swedish national lottery the next morning after leaving Hastings and then on Sunday, played at a gig in Somerset.
Before coming to 1066 Country, Chesney spent three weeks filming with comedian John Bishop for a 90-minute special called Panto, which will be aired on ITV on Boxing Day.
He said: “It was so much fun. I laughed the whole time and met great actors.”
Chesney plays around 80 to 100 gigs a year in the UK, Europe and beyond.
He said: “I like playing here in England more than anywhere else but it’s always fun to visit new places. The USA is especially great. I also like Germany, as the Germans are always a good laugh, as well as Austria.”