Saturday 3 May 1986


The following article is an overview of the career of British pianist, clarinettist, composer, and arranger Colin Frechter. The main source of information are two interviews with Mr Frechter, conducted by Bas Tukker in May 2021. The article below is subdivided into two main parts; a general career overview (part 3) and a part dedicated to Colin Frechter's Eurovision involvement (part 4).

All material below: © Bas Tukker / 2021

  1. Passport
  2. Short Eurovision record
  3. Biography
  4. Eurovision Song Contest
  5. Other artists about Colin Frechter
  6. Eurovision involvement year by year
  7. Sources & links

Born: August 2nd, 1938, Barnet, England (United Kingdom)
Nationality: British

British pianist, clarinettist, composer, and arranger Colin Frechter took part in the Eurovision Song Contest as a conductor on one occasion, taking the honours for Portugal in 1986, accompanying Dora for her performance of ‘Não sejas mau p’ra mim’. In the 1970s, however, he had already been involved in two United Kingdom entries as an arranger, writing the scores to the winning ‘Save Your Kisses For Me’ for Brotherhood of Man (1976) as well as to Co-Co’s ‘The Bad Old Days’ (1978).


Colin Michael Frechter was born in 1938 in Barnet, North London. His father, born in Poland, was of German Jewish extraction. “Dad was born about eight miles out of Warsaw. When he was seven years old, he went off to Vienna in Austria to be looked after by an uncle who didn’t really want him. The uncle made ladies’ handbags. Later my father and his two brothers went to Paris, where they opened a handbag business. In 1929, dad emigrated to England with 12 pounds 10 shillings in his pocket plus a small bag of tools. In London, he met his wife to be. He opened up his own handbag factory in Shoreditch (in London – BT) and was quite successful until the mid-1950s. Then, the man who used to make the metal frames for the bags got into financial trouble. This was right at a time when dad was expected to deliver a huge order to Harrods. Because the frames weren’t there, he couldn’t meet his obligations. That was practically the end of his firm. In retrospect, father led a sad life. He always drew a veil over his family in Poland. In fact, I didn’t find out he was Jewish until I was about eighteen. I wasn’t brought up in the Jewish tradition at all.”

“Neither of my parents showed any inclination towards music, but my grandmother owned a piano. As a three-year-old, I tinkered about on it and that was how it all began. A few years later, I was sent to a teacher, a dear old lady called Mrs Hill, who taught me the very basics. Looking back, I was a bit too adventurous for her… I wanted to run before I could walk. Having taken lessons with her for some two years, I gave up, but I took up the piano again when I went to boarding school in Elstree. The second teacher I went to no doubt was a clever musician, but sadly someone without the patience needed when working with children. The man couldn’t teach a chicken to lay an egg. Whenever I made a mistake, he rapped me across the knuckles with the ruler, so I stopped again after a very short time.”

“Instead, I took up playing the clarinet. I was keen to get into the school orchestra, as I wasn’t good enough as a piano player. When I found out they were looking for a clarinettist, I gave it my best shot. The regular music teacher was a good man and I liked his lessons. Mind you, I must have been a pretty bad clarinet player at the time, but I was admitted into the orchestra. Apart from that, I formed a little Dixieland band with four of my classmates. I was as green as everybody else and our repertoire consisted of no more than a couple of tunes. We had managed to lay our hands on some sheet music. Already at that stage, my ears were quicker than my sight. I learnt to play mostly by ear and only read out of necessity. We had to make it up as we went along. Very primitively, I also began to write some bits of music myself.”

“Coming out of school, I had no real conception of what I wanted to do. In 1957, I was called up for conscription – and somehow dreaming of being a pilot, I went to the Royal Air Force’s recruitment office. When I was tested for eyesight, they found that I was colour deficient, which meant my application was turned down. Now what could I do? At the time, I was a shop assistant at Harrods. One of my colleagues suggested going to the RAF’s music school at Uxbridge to audition as a clarinet player, so that’s where I went."

Aerial view of Singapore in the late 1950s

"At the audition, they judged that I wasn’t good enough for the National Service, which was two years – but if I agreed to stay an extra year to receive a musician’s training, I was allowed to sign on… so I had scraped in! Apart from studying the clarinet itself, I also received a wide range of general music theory subjects. I still remember being asked at the end of the year, at the final examination, to write eight bars of ‘Oranges and Lemons’. Again, because my ears have always been quick, I could do that in a matter of seconds – whereas other people wouldn’t know where to begin. I passed the exams, which were done at the level of the Royal Academy of Music.”

“After that, I was given the choice where I wanted to go – I could stay on a base in England or go abroad to either West Germany, Cyprus, or Singapore. I reckoned that the chances of me getting to Eastern Asia later in life were very slim, so I signed up to go to Singapore. For two-and-a-half years, I played in the No. 2 Regional Band based on the RAF’s Air Base in Changi. We played military band music, not just in Singapore; we also went out to do concerts in Hong Kong, India, Ceylon, and Borneo. Furthermore, we also had several little jazz bands. Back then, life in Singapore was a bit primitive. There weren’t any skyscrapers yet. The town itself was still rather modest and most of the locals were living in kampongs in little straw huts. Even though it was very hot all year through, nobody had ever heard of using sun lotion. We were just issued with salt tablets and malaria pills which we never took. We slept on straw mattresses. At times, we grumbled about circumstances, but we got on with it. We knew that we were out there as a resident military band, while the real forces had to go out and clear Malaya of terrorists. These guys had it much worse than us!”

“When I was released from RAF service in 1961, it was really difficult to get myself motivated to do anything. For four years, I had lived under a regime of everything being done for you. You can’t get the sack, you can’t starve, you get clothes to wear – it’s all done for you. I would have loved to go to the Royal Academy of Music, but the option was never there for me. My parents were quite poor. Still, I realised that being a musician was the only thing I could be any good at. My mother wanted me to be a quantity surveyor, which was the very last thing I wanted. She was pulling one way and I was pulling another. I first got a job in a furniture shop and then in a record shop – and finally, after my mother phoned up on my behalf, I was invited for a job interview at a London music publishing company called Francis, Day & Hunter. I told the boss that I could write music, which apparently was enough to earn a small contract.”

“One of the first things I was asked to do at Francis, Day & Hunter was writing down a tune written by a songwriter who had just been signed by the company, Jerry Lordan. It was called ‘Wonderful Land’ and I didn’t think much of it to be honest, but my job was simply making sure that it was written down as sheet music for their files. The next thing I knew The Shadows had recorded it and it was a huge hit. In the following years, I mainly worked as a song plugger. I had to go around to bandleaders to persuade them to buy the tunes that we published. Occasionally, I was asked to make demos of new songs for the company. I used to record those demos in the Regent Sound Studio, a small studio in Denmark Street. Taking around those recordings, we tried to sell the songs to artists and their managers. Given that I am quite a shy person by nature, I was more comfortable with making those demos than being a salesman. Those bandleaders didn’t really want to see us. To them, we were a nuisance.”

In 1964, Colin Frechter was commissioned to make a solo record, ‘For Addicts Only’, containing alternative arrangements of eleven well-known TV theme tunes. To Colin, this album with the so-called Colin Frechter Orchestra was some sort of a breakthrough. “It was the first time I got to conduct a larger group of studio musicians, a big band. During my years in the Air Force, I had written some arrangements for the military band and had had a couple of opportunities to conduct them as well. Obviously, session musicians weren’t aware of my background. They put silly questions to me to see if I knew what I was doing. In the beginning, it was tricky, but after two or three sessions I started feeling more secure. All my life, I have been quite good at making things up as you go along. I didn’t do all arrangements myself, sharing the work with Gerry Shury, who I had met at Francis, Day & Hunter. He was a brilliant arranger and we became mates. One of the pieces I wrote was an arrangement of ‘Coronation Street’ which was totally different to the theme used on television. The album wasn’t terribly well made, but it worked.”

“Following that album, some producers asked me to write arrangements for them. One of the first was Bob Barratt. That fellow was to become a friend for decades. When I first met him, he was a producer at EMI, working alongside the likes of Norman Newell and Norrie Paramor. Bob Barratt produced Vince Hill, a well-known crooner, and he asked me to write an arrangement for Vince. I was nervous to say the least, because it involved writing for a full orchestra, including a string group which I had never done before. Asking some advice on how best to approach a string score, I sat down and did it… and it worked out alright. Again, it was almost trial and error. I am grateful to Bob for giving me the opportunity. He also wanted me to do some songwriting with him in those early days, but I’ve never become much of a songwriter. Generally I was better at writing arrangements, helping out others who didn’t know how to write music.”

“That same year, I wrote the arrangement to a single by Michael Chaplin produced by Larry Page. Larry, who had been The Kinks’ producer, told me he was in the process of setting up his own record company, Page One Records. “Do you fancy being my musical director?”, he asked. Well, that wasn’t a bad title, so I decided to go with him. I signed a contract earning me £22 a week. Larry rented a floor of a building in new Oxford Street. In the beginning, it was Larry, me, and a phone. There wasn’t even a desk. Larry didn’t have any artists yet. It was all very fledgling."

"The first bands he signed included a group from Birmingham who we all thought were quite promising, but who never managed a breakthrough – and a rather primitive rock group, The Troggs. Subsequently, Larry and I went to New York where we met Chip Taylor, a professional songwriter. Larry told him about The Troggs. “Goodness knows what we’re going to do with them. Can you write them something?” The next thing we know, Chip sent a demo over to London with a funny whistle noise on it. All knowledgeable, I said, “Oh, that’s an ocarina!” Of course it wasn’t… it was a New York sound engineer blowing into his hands. Anyway, the song was called ‘Wild Thing’ and we decided to do a session of it.”

“About half an hour before the session, Larry said, “Well if you think it’s an ocarina, you’d better go and find one!” Where on earth do you find an ocarina in London in 1966? So there I was, trailing up down Charing Cross Road, afraid I would be late for the session. I rushed into a little music shop, asking the blue-haired lady behind the counter for an ocarina. To my surprise, she had one. I got back into the studio just in time to lay down the basic track. It was hard work because The Troggs weren’t very refined musicians. I did the keyboards and backing vocals. Then Larry Page said, “Alright, clever Dick, now that you’ve found an ocarina, you’d better play it as well.” Being a clarinet player, I had some idea of what I was supposed to do with it. An ocarina is a Swiss vessel flute. I knew that I’d only get one shot at this. On the way down the stairs into the studio, I worked out four notes which I knew were safe to play. If I made a mistake, it would all have been a waste of money. After I had played that ocarina solo, Larry said, “Yeah, that’ll have to do.” That was the end of that… and then the song was a huge international hit. Larry didn’t credit me. The song was released as a Larry Page production. He just paid me for the session. In fact, for playing that ocarina solo on a worldwide hit I was paid exactly £8.”

“The Troggs were fine. They became my mates and I worked with them for three or four more years. The year after ‘Wild Thing’, I recorded another of their big hits, ‘Love Is All Around’. As the song didn’t have a fade-out, I felt it needed some strings as a cover-up. Larry Page said he couldn’t afford more than a four-piece string section. I wrote a small arrangement and it turned out to sound quite nice. I knew the track had something special to it, so I wasn’t surprised when it was a hit (and the song was an international chart success again nearly three decades later in an arrangement Fiachra Trench did for Wet Wet Wet – BT). It was all very nice, but after a while I became a bit disappointed that Larry didn’t want me to be recognised for my work. I don’t really seek fame and fortune, but I do get upset if people try to use me for their own benefit. My name never appeared on any record sleeve. Working with Larry became more and more difficult after I mentioned that I wasn’t happy with the situation.”

One day, while I was still working for Larry Page, a young man burst into my office who introduced himself as Reg Dwight. He was a young and aspiring singer, but he complained that nobody was interested in his music. He sat down and played a tune at my piano – and then he cried his eyes out. As it turned out, he was signed to Dick James, who was Larry Page’s business partner. I tried to cheer him up a bit. I felt for him. I went down to Dick James to ask him if I could take Reg into the studio to record some material, but Dick refused. I didn’t know at the time that Dick was in the process of falling out with Larry – and of course he didn’t feel like doing a favour to Larry’s musical director. Some time later, Dick teamed him up with another arranger, Paul Buckmaster… and I’m almost sure that the song Reg played me on the piano in my office was ‘Border Song’. Helped along by Buckmaster, he had his breakthrough as Elton John. Before that, I had the opportunity to do another song with Reg, ‘Nina’, a psychedelic tune which really didn’t suit him. It wasn’t a bad song, but the sound mix was so appalling that in the end it wasn’t even released. Unfortunately I never had the opportunity to work with Elton again.”

“Finally I decided that I could take no more working with Larry Page and I left. Going freelance was a bit scary. I didn’t know whether I would succeed. I couldn’t rely too much on studio work as a musician, because I wasn’t known as a session piano player. I virtually only played the piano in my own sessions. I did play the piano in several good dance bands at the time, doing odd gigs. It was nice to do on the side, because I was a jazz guy and it gave me the opportunity to play the music I liked myself once in a while. In the background, jazz was always there as an inspiration.”

“Even so, I’ve always preferred working behind the scenes, in the studio. As I found out soon after leaving Larry Page, I had built up enough of a name in the record industry to manage on my own. People in the business knew my name. From the start, the phone kept ringing and ringing. I wrote arrangements for Les Reed. John Coleman used to phone me up from time to time if he was doing a film score and couldn’t manage the arrangements on his own. I also did quite a lot of arrangements for television shows – I remember one time when I helped Del Newman out by sharing the arrangements for a BBC show starring Neil Sedaka. Alan Parsons asked me to write the string arrangements to Nazareth’s debut album. Importantly, I also became closely involved in working with Tony Hiller, who produced Brotherhood of Man and Guys ‘n’ Dolls. I was very lucky, large thanks to songs like ‘Love Is All Around’. The Troggs paved the way for me. Throughout the 1970s, I never had to worry about having enough work.”

Colin in 1973

In 1972-73, Colin Frechter briefly joined the vocal group Blackwater Junction, a project set up by his friend and producer John Goodison. Goodison was one of the original members of Brotherhood of Man – and co-wrote their hit ‘United We Stand’ with Tony Hiller. Goodison also asked Colin to write the music arrangements for the eight-piece group.

“John had this idea of putting together a big vocal group, consisting of eight singers. Four of us also played. It was really the most incredible band. Unfortunately having an eight-piece band is quite an expensive proposition. We had to work on shoestring budgets all the time. I joined because I was mates with John. I was the only one that read any music, which meant that a lot of coordination came down on my shoulders. It was a good education for me. I went on tour with them for a while, playing in nightclubs across the UK. Going away from London meant that I couldn’t work in the studio for large parts of the year. This cost me a lot of money, while I was living in cheap guesthouses on the road with Blackwater Junction. At some point I told myself that this couldn’t go on… so I left, which didn’t go down very well. It was a pity. I was involved in recording one or two albums with them as well. Unfortunately, there were no funds to work with a large session orchestra. To my mind, the band could have enjoyed more success if we had sweetened it up a bit.”

In 1974, Colin wrote the arrangement to ‘Born With A Smile On My Face’ for Stephanie De Sykes, which climbed to Number 2 in the UK singles charts. 

“For that song, I had no more than an hour-and-a-half to do the arrangement! I literally threw it together, copied all parts out myself, and rushed to the studio. After four minutes the session was over. It was very stressful. Quite often, things that were really successful didn’t carry a lot of weight for me, while stuff that you spent hours and hours on have gone largely unnoticed. I once sat up the whole night writing a Sacha Distel medley for London Weekend Television. Every couple of hours, I woke up my wife who took bits of score around to the copyist. At 10am he delivered the written-out parts to my door. The man looked so ill – it was as if I was staring Death into the face. With those parts, I drove down to the studio at Wembley, where I gave them to LWT’s musical director Harry Rabinowitz. He played it through and said, “That’ll do”… and that was it. Thank you very much, goodbye! All that work for a five-minute medley which was played just once. Occasionally you wondered if it was worth all the trouble.”

“I knew producer Phil Wainman through Johnny Goodison. Somehow Phil got hold of the Bay City Rollers, who had fallen out with their producers Phil Coulter and Bill Martin. Phil and Bill didn’t think the group members were good enough to play in their own recordings and asked session musicians to do the job instead. The boys weren’t happy being just figureheads. They wanted to write and play their own music. When they asked Phil Wainman to be their producer, Phil realised he needed someone to pull them along in the studio – and he thought of me. The Rollers weren’t the greatest players and needed nursing. I had to write down chords and ended up playing the piano in many of the sessions. I wrote the arrangement to their big hit ‘Bye Bye Baby’, but that was a done job. There was no real room for strings or brass in it and it was a matter of getting the boys to play the rhythm parts correctly. In total, we did three albums with the Bay City Rollers which all sold extremely well. Still I felt for the guys. They were so young at the time, but being teenybopper idols wasn’t all sunshine and roses. They were virtually locked in and couldn’t go anywhere without being chased around by screaming girls. In a way, they were victims of their own success.”

In 1976, Colin Frechter was commissioned to compose the music to Peter Collinson’s thriller The Sell Out. It was to remain Colin’s only involvement as a film composer. 

“Peter offered me work on his next film, but sadly he died shortly afterwards. The Sell Out was a spy film filmed in Israel with Oliver Reed and Richard Widmark. Peter asked me to do a poppy soundtrack with some additional orchestral elements. I was called upon quite late – in fact, I had eleven days to write the entire soundtrack. I had never had any expectations of writing film music and it suddenly came upon me. It was tough work. If I had had a bit more time, perhaps I could have done a better job, although I was quite happy with the result. I also arranged the music and conducted the sessions. Everything was recorded in five sessions! In spite of the tight schedule I enjoyed the experience a lot. It was something completely different than what I was used to working on pop music.”

In the second half of the 1970s, Frechter continued being much in demand as a studio arranger in various genres, writing scores for Helen Shapiro, Cilla Black, Max Boyce, Taxi, and many others. In fact, he found himself so overburdened with work that he had to turn down many commissions – even from some of the very biggest names in the business.

“Three times in my life, I have had to turn down Paul McCartney! I knew him and Linda. They were both quite friendly, but because of him being who he is, his office would call me up at the very last minute. “Can you do three arrangements for Monday?” They thought I had nothing else to do. On all three occasions, I was already working on other scores which I couldn’t have finished on time if I had taken on Paul’s work as well. That happened in the Wings era… roundabout the time that ‘Mull Of Kintyre’ came out."

"I can’t say that I regret it too much. I was happy to be so sought after. I was in my room writing arrangements all week. I didn’t need too many other outlets… I went out to do the odd gig now and then and every week I met my best pal, Clem Cattini, to play golf. Clem was the greatest drummer in London. He did all my sessions. We were so close that we were referred to as The Terrible Twins for a while. Clem was about my only real friend in the business. As a musical director, you’re between the devil and the deep blue sea. You’re working with the orchestra on one side and a producer on the other. Musicians tend to keep their distance from arrangers and producers, but Clem was the exception to the rule.”

“In the early 1980s, session work started to wear off. The music industry was changing. There was very little I could do about it. I saw the first synthesisers and Linn drum machines appearing on the scene. Bearing in mind my background as a keyboard player, I was interested in the new sounds a synthesiser produced, but record companies had other ideas. “Oh, this is great, now we don’t need session musicians. They cost too much money and they answer back!” Synths and drum machines became the accepted sound. It was cumbersome and there was overkill, but sadly the public have become so used to them that many prefer them to real strings and percussion – or more likely they don’t hear the difference. To this day, however, you still cannot reproduce a live musician. Recordings are missing out on the emotions which only real human beings can bring about.”

'The Terrible Twins’, Colin Frechter (left) and Clem Cattini, in 2003

In the late 1970s, Colin Frechter became involved in working with Irish crooner Val Doonican, who had his own weekly BBC television show. Frechter wrote arrangements for five of Doonican’s albums and accompanied him on stage across the UK and Ireland. “Val was a very affable guy who could handle crooner repertoire as well as more folksy things. By the time I started working with him, he was pretty exhausted of his TV show, which he did for twenty years. It was an old-style music programme which required new orchestrations week in, week out. I got to write a few of them, although not too many, because Ronnie Hazlehurst – or Hazle Ronniehurst, as he was called by some – had his own team of arrangers lined up. Ronnie was efficient as a musical director, but he was very clannish, usually preferring to work with his own people. When Val stopped at the BBC, he had more opportunity to go on tour. Initially, I wasn’t in his band, but after having substituted for his pianist Roger Richards for six weeks when Roger was in hospital, Val wanted me to stay on as a synth player. In all, I worked with Val for eleven consecutive years.”

With fewer and fewer commissions for pop and rock sessions available, Colin Frechter diversified his activities, writing library music as well as music for television. He was the MD of ITV children’s show Minipops (1983), while also composing the music to cartoon series The Shoe People (ITV: 1987-92) and Barney (BBC: 1988-89). Furthermore, between 1977 and 1996, he regularly arranged and conducted the London Philharmonic Orchestra (LPO) in the studio, recording instrumental music albums ranging from Broadway hits to classic film music.

“In the 1970s, I got to know Dave Miller, an American producer who had his fill of messing around with pop groups. He owned a firm in Germany, Miller Internationale Schalplatten. For most of the recordings I did for Dave, we used sections of the LPO, but sometimes I got to conduct the orchestra as a whole. One time, we were due to record a cover version of a piece of film music. Dave promised to send me a tape so that I didn’t have to face the orchestra unprepared… but I never got it and the first time I saw the arrangement was when the orchestra was already in the studio waiting to play! The score didn’t contain any instructions, no tempos, nothing. It was just notes. I said to the orchestra, “Listen, I’ve never seen this music before and nor have you. We’re all in the same boat. It looks as if it’s a march, so we’ll play it as a march. Rightly or wrongly, just bear with me.” It was probably the best thing I could have said, because suddenly the musicians felt for me. We played it and it turned out to be the march from Star Wars! I was a bit intimidated, but I just got on with the job by appearing to be capable!”

“In the 1980s and 1990s I did quite a lot of library music with my old pal Bob Barratt. After Bob asked me to write arrangements for Vince Hill and Deke Arlon in the 1960s, we continued being in touch. We did the King’s Singers and Max Boyce. The amazing thing about Bob was that he was one of the few producers who never tried to rip you off. He was dead-honest. Thanks to the library music projects I did with Bob, I earned myself a bit of a pension. We worked for some of the biggest stock libraries; the Standard Music Library and Carlin Production Music. I enjoyed working on those library albums an awful lot. In pop music, you were required to be current and keep up with the latest craze, but as a library composer you could forget about all that. You were writing instrumental pieces. Bob and I did several albums, my favourite being ‘Palm Court Trio’ (released in 1989 – BT). We put the thing together from start to finish without being at the mercy of lousy sound engineers or executives looking over your shoulder. It was nicely done, played beautifully by musicians who knew their job.”

Colin (far left) conducting the Burtle Silver Band on the Glastonbury Festival stage (2015)

In 1993, Frechter was commissioned to write an arrangement for a TV show with the hugely popular boyband Take That. “When Take That were preparing that programme, they made it known that they wanted to do their hit single ‘Pray’ completely live. A big orchestra was invited, conducted by Mike Reed, Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical director at the time. I was asked to do the arrangement via the husband of a friend of mine who worked for Take That. They sent me a breakdown of all the synth tracks of the studio recording, which I had to translate into an orchestra. I did the whole orchestration complete with the drum machine part. I took it down to Thames Television, where I met the guys. I didn’t know them and they didn’t know me. Honestly, the orchestra sounded better than the record. In that same show, Cliff Richard also appeared, but he performed to a backing track. Compared to Take That, his performance sounded cold and mechanical. To their credit, Take That sang extremely well. It was gratifying that Mike Reed complimented me on the arrangement afterwards, but it ended there and then. It was a one-off.”

More or less withdrawing from the recording business around the turn of the century, Colin Frechter was the resident pianist in various dance halls in and around London, while he also worked as a keyboard player in several pantomimes. From 2004 to 2007, he lived and worked in Antas on the Spanish Costa Blanca. 

“I got in touch with a friend with whom I was in the RAF all those years ago. It seemed an appealing idea; enjoy the sunshine and perhaps do some work. At that stage, I wasn’t chasing a career and I got my pensions and royalties. Once I had moved there, I did some gigs now and then, but all on an amateur scale. It was good while it lasted, but also because I didn’t speak the language I couldn’t imagine living in Spain for the rest of my life. In Spain, I met an English lady from Somerset; we hit it off and I decided to move in with her in the West Country. Sadly, she passed away a couple of years later, but I still live in that part of England. I don’t miss the chaos of London at all. Life is more quiet here and I like that.”

“Back in England, I played keyboards in some more pantomimes. Also, I was invited to conduct a brass band, the Burtle Silver Band. I met a local hairdresser who told me he played in the band – and that they were looking for a conductor. They auditioned me and I got the job. It was nice to retrace my roots, having started out as a brass player in the RAF. You had to get used to the fact that you were working with amateurs who couldn’t play just any arrangement you wrote for them, but once they got the hang of it, they were alright. When I started, it was pretty much chaos, but they came a long way."

"In 2015, we had the honour to perform at the Glastonbury Festival on Sunday morning. Michael Eavis, who is ‘Mr Glastonbury’, heard us at the unveiling of a war memorial and asked us to play at his festival. We were the first brass band for a long time to do Glastonbury. It was quite an occasion. As usual in Glastonbury, there was pouring rain. When we started at 9am, there were about 20 people, but by the time we finished, there were about 400. Everybody seemed quite happy. One year later, because of health issues, I had to step down. I like to think I laid the groundwork for my successor, who has done a great job with them.”

“I am 83 years old now and I have no ambitions. For a little six-piece band in Weston-super-Mare, I write some arrangements now and then, but that’s it. I am retired and I’m happy to take it easy. The last real studio work I did was back in 2010 when Tony Hiller invited me to write the arrangements for an album with Mitch Winehouse, a pub singer who was Amy Winehouse’s father. As so often before, I was at the mercy of recording engineers and producers. When I heard the tracks, I wasn’t overawed by how wonderful they sounded. Even though I have no desire to make my mark again, I’m happy with some of my achievements… the music I wrote for Bob Barratt, conducting the London Philharmonic. I’m not very proud of the way I handled my business, though. It’s embarrassing how much money I lost over the years. If I had to do my career over again, I would get myself an accountant to protect myself from thieves. For large swathes of my life I was too busy to chase the money that others owed me. I should have been a bit tougher at times.”

Celebrating his eightieth birthday with his niece Elaine Paige (2018)


Long before his only stint as a conductor in the Eurovision Song Contest for Portugal in 1986, Colin Frechter was involved as an arranger in A Song For Europe, the United Kingdom’s pre-selection for the festival. In the 1970s, he orchestrated many songs competing for the right to represent the United Kingdom in the Eurovision Song Contest. In 1976, he was the arranger of a certain song called ‘Save Your Kisses For Me’, performed by Brotherhood of Man. In those years, Frechter worked with Brotherhood of Man’s producer Tony Hiller; amongst other things, he wrote the arrangement to the group’s previous hit success ‘Kiss Me, Kiss Your Baby’ in 1974.

“Back then, Tony Hiller provided me with a lot of work. We were good mates. he wanted me to arrange all his productions. When he called me to do a demo of ‘Save Your Kisses For Me’, though, I wasn’t available. I was in the studio with the Bay City Rollers for six weeks to record their album. They had just had their big hit with ‘Bye Bye Baby’. At the time, the Rollers were the biggest group in the country. I couldn’t just walk out of the studio to do a demo for some song Tony wanted to submit for A Song For Europe. So I had to say, “Sorry, I can’t do it.” It happened to me quite a lot in those years. Then, one of the group members, Lee Sheriden, jumped in and did a chord chart (a basic arrangement for rhythm instruments – BT) and another one of my pals, Gerry Shury, supervised the string overdub.”

“A couple of weeks later, when I came down to London from the studio in Chipping Norton where I had been with the Rollers, news got through that ‘Save Your Kisses For Me’ had been picked for the final of A Song for Europe. Working from the demo track done by Lee and Gerry, I did the arrangement for the full orchestra. The competition was held at the Royal Albert Hall. In rehearsals, Tony Hiller had a bit of a contretemps with the producer. He said, “That’s it… we’re lost now,” but it went on to win after all! If I remember correctly, I had three arrangements in A Song For Europe that year and ‘Save Your Kisses…’ came out on top.”

Brotherhood of Man on the Eurovision stage in The Hague (1976)

Colin Frechter did not get to conduct the orchestra for his arrangements. All entries in A Song For Europe were conducted by Alyn Ainsworth, an experienced musical director the BBC had booked specifically for the programme as well as the international festival final. 

“That was standard policy at the BBC in those days. They wanted one guy to do the job for them. It didn’t worry me that much. I am not a musician driven by fame and fortune. I always hoped to do a good job – that was the main thing. Alyn Ainsworth was a consummate music professional who mainly worked for London Weekend Television. Although he was freelance, he was a sort of in-house musical director for them in those years. Occasionally, when Alyn got snowed in with work for one of the many television shows he worked on, he asked me to cover him and write some arrangements. He was a pleasant man, even though I didn’t get too close to him.”

Subsequently, at the Eurovision final, held in The Hague, ‘Save Your Kisses For Me’ won first prize, blowing away their European rivals with a record number of votes. 

“I didn’t travel with the group,” Frechter comments. “I probably adapted the orchestration here and there to suit the orchestra that was in place for the Eurovision Song Contest. I didn’t really have high expectations of doing well. Nobody, including Tony Hiller himself, thought it was going to be a big hit at all. To our mind, it was just a Eurovision song. With the benefit of hindsight, I would say it was a cute little song, which benefited from a charming stage performance by the group. Nobody did dance routines in those days, so that was a bit of an innovation."

"In all fairness, I don’t think my arrangement made that much of a difference. It was just a standard arrangement, efficient but nothing more. Any other of the arrangers with a bit of a reputation in London would have done a similar job on it. The strength of the song was the tune itself. It obviously helped to be enhanced by the orchestra, but that’s the word that comes to mind; ‘enhanced’, not ‘rescued’. Believe me, I’ve done enough of making silk purses out of sow’s ears to know the difference!”

After winning the festival, Brotherhood of Man had a pan-European hit with ‘Save Your Kisses For Me’; in fact, the song even topped the Billboard Easy Listening chart in the United States. Colin Frechter’s name doesn’t feature in the credits list, however; Tony Hiller is mentioned as the producer and, oddly, Lee Sheriden as the conductor. Frechter does not look back happily on this episode.

“To be honest, it made me quite angry. It wouldn’t have hurt Tony Hiller if he had given me some sort of credit. Lee Sheriden is a nice guy, but he didn’t conduct the studio recording – I did that! As I explained, he did the initial chord chart; nothing more. Lee was very keen to become the group’s arranger at the time. Tony probably wanted to do him a favour by putting his name in as the conductor, but it was a favour done on my back. Sadly, such things happened regularly in the studio business. It didn’t hurt my working relationship with Brotherhood of Man. In the following years, I wrote many more arrangements for them in the studio and for their live shows. Over the years, I regularly went with them to rehearse their stage act when they were about to go on tour. The four of them were mates for a long time.”

The winning UK team at the 1976 Eurovision Song Contest – standing, from left: Martin Lee, Tony Hiller, conductor Alyn Ainsworth, and Lee Sheriden. Seated, from left: Sandra Stevens and Nicky Stevens

Two years later, in 1978, Colin Frechter once more was the arranger for a song which represented the United Kingdom in the Eurovision Song Contest. This time, A Song For Europe was won by Co-Co, the group who had finished second behind Brotherhood of Man in 1976. The song which won them their ticket to the European final, ‘The Bad Old Days’, was co-written by Stephanie De Sykes and Stuart Slater. 

“I knew Stephanie quite well,” Colin explains. “She was a session singer. Some years previously, I wrote the arrangements to her solo hit ‘Born With A Smile On My Face’. In this case, however, with Co-Co, I didn’t see anything of her. How her song was picked up by Co-Co I do not know.”

“One of the singers of Co-Co was Terry Bradford. Terry was a producer in his own right who had a studio in Birmingham. Together, we regularly worked on tracks for several singers, mainly from Ireland where Terry had good connections. Dominic Kirwan is the name of an artist that springs to mind. For ‘The Bad Old Days’, he did a rhythm track, but the idea was to have a full orchestral arrangement. I went up to Birmingham and put a keyboard line on top as well as arranging bits of string and brass. Terry gave me the freedom to do pretty much as I thought right. Apart from that one Eurovision song, we did a full album for which he and I shared the production credits.”

In the Eurovision Song Contest in Paris, conducted by Alyn Ainsworth, Co-Co did not manage to capitalise on their status as pre-festival favourites, finishing a disappointing eleventh – the worst result for a British entry in the contest up to that point. Like two years previously, Colin Frechter was not part of the UK delegation.

“I have no idea what went wrong. The song itself was nice enough and Co-Co were quite good singers. Terry usually did a good job on making an attractive vocal arrangement. He must have come up with the idea of that gimmick with the drummer using a loudspeaker in the chorus – it certainly wasn’t something thought up by me. Terry and the group went there being rather hopeful of doing well. They thought they stood a chance. To me, it was just a short episode. The arrangement done, you go home and leave them to it. I wasn’t too involved in what happened subsequently.”

“My overriding memory of the Eurovision job for Co-Co was that I didn’t get paid for producing their album which was released following the contest. I got the fee for my arrangements, but as a producer you were entitled to royalties. Nat Kipner was the group’s manager. He played a trick on me. When I arrived at his flat at the appointed time to sign the contract, he wasn’t there. His housekeeper told me he had gone out for the day. She told me he had taken the contract with him. I never spoke to him afterwards, but it was pretty obvious that he didn’t want me to have my share. It’s one of those instances when I should have been a bit tougher, but I guess it wasn’t in my character.”

Terry Bradford (seated) with his band Co-Co, representatives of the United Kingdom at Eurovision 1978 in Paris

Several years on, Colin Frechter was unexpectedly given an opportunity to conduct the Eurovision orchestra himself. In 1986, he was the musical director of Portugal’s delegation at the international festival final in Bergen, Norway. The Iberian country’s entry that year, the distinctly poppy ‘Não sejas mau p’ra mim’, was performed by Dora. It was not the first time Portugal turned to the UK to hire an arranger and conductor for their Eurovision entry; Richard Hill was contracted to accompany Carlos Mendes in 1972, while Mike Sergeant, a Scottish guitarist living in Portugal, took the honours in 1983. Still, the choice of Frechter, who did not have any ties with Portugal, was a striking one.

“Well, my brother-in-law at the time was Philip Love,” Colin explains. “Philip owned a studio in Chiswick, West London, called Eden Studios. Over the years, I had done quite a lot of work at Eden. We had done some of the recordings of the Bay City Rollers in there, amongst other things. Somehow, Philip had got hold of Dora. He had a demo of her Eurovision song which had been sent to him from Portugal and he asked me if I wanted to do the arrangement. I said “Yeah, why not?”, so that’s what happened. How exactly Philip got hold of the song is beyond my knowledge.”

To get more background about the matter, we contacted one of the songwriters of ‘Não sejas mau p’ra mim’, guitarist Luís Oliveira Fernandes, who kindly agreed to speak to us.

“At the time, I was just 24 years old and I was starting out as a session musician. With two others, Ze da Ponte and Guilherme Inês, I formed Namouche, a little company. We basically did advertising. It didn’t take us long to be the top guys doing jingles in Portugal. We were thriving! At that point, we received an invitation from the RTP (Portugal’s national broadcaster – BT) for the Festival da Canção. If we submitted a song, we were guaranteed a spot in the Portuguese pre-selection for Eurovision. Around the same time, we were commissioned to oversee a casting for a theatre production of a Disney show. We were supposed to discover the Portuguese Cinderella. In that casting, Dora took part. She was very young and we had never heard of her before. It was obvious that she didn’t fit the part of Cinderella, but she could sing! Guilherme, Zé, and I decided this was the voice we needed for our Eurovision song.”

“In Portugal, there was a long tradition of songwriting, especially for the festival, which we didn’t like. The three of us were interested in international pop music. We wanted to do a song which was contemporary. Now, I had come up with a chorus on my guitar and recorded it on a cassette. Guilherme and Ze thought it was cool and so we worked on the initial idea, developing the verses and an arrangement. It included a saxophone part which I wrote. It was played by Mário Gramaço, who had been in a rock band called Roquivários. By that time, we had found Dora and we were working to come up with something that was Madonna-oriented. Dora had it in her to sing that type of music. When we had done the demo, we knew we had something which was good and different. Especially the sax part was very unusual, certainly in the context of Portuguese pop music.”

Dora rehearsing her performance in Bergen – on the left, Colin Frechter can be seen conducting the Norwegian Radio Orchestra

“Now, we were very competitive. To give ourselves the best chance of winning the final in Portugal, we decided to spend some extra money to do the recording in England. Before founding Namouche with me, José da Ponte and Guilherme Inês were in Zoom, a pop band. They had recorded their material at Eden in London, where they had met Philip Love. Ze renewed his contacts with Philip and so we all went to London to do a new recording of ‘Não sejas mau p’ra mim’."

"At Eden Studios, Phil told us he had a great guy to do the arrangement and introduced us to Colin Frechter. We got along fine with Colin. He contributed to the final mix by adding synth lines which weren’t there in the original demo. Phil himself didn’t contribute too much in the production. He let us use the facilities of Eden Studios, but we didn’t pay too much attention to him. On the other hand, Colin’s help was great. After doing the recording, I went back to London once again with a Portuguese sound engineer, Jorge Barata, to do the final cut for the vinyl. The quality of the mastering in Portugal wasn’t very good back then. Upon arrival in London, we caused some alarm at the airport with this two-inch tape wrapped in aluminium foil. It took considerable time to convince security officers that we weren’t carrying a bomb!”

“Thanks to Philip Love, we got in touch with CBS London. Having listened to our recording, they thought Dora could be the next European Madonna. We did a six-month deal with them to do two more singles after the Eurovision Song Contest. This made us only more confident. We were convinced we would win the festival in Portugal. There was a risk, however, because we had to get past the national juries. We weren’t very popular with RTP officials, because our approach and Dora’s stage presentation was so different from what they were used to… but José da Ponte was a very skilled person. I don’t know exactly what he did, but he influenced some of the jury votes. In the end, we won, but it was a close call. There was only a couple of votes in it.”

“In the Portuguese final, there had been no orchestra. All songs were performed to a playback track. Now that we were going to Eurovision, we wanted to use the orchestra without losing the track we had done in London. We knew we absolutely wanted to use a backing track for our performance in the contest. In those days, sound was everything – and it was allowed to work with tracks. We didn’t want to risk working with an orchestra which couldn’t reproduce the exact sound we wanted. This was a type of song which could have worked without the orchestra, but now that we had the opportunity to use it, it would have been stupid to let it pass by. Also visually, it terms of show, it was an attractive option."

"Because José, Guilherme, and I were being a bit rebellious, we decided we wanted to hire a conductor who wasn’t Portuguese. We wanted to be different – away from the traditional Portuguese clichés. Who else to ask but Colin? We were aware of his background… that he had written the arrangement to ‘Save Your Kisses For Me’ and that he wrote arrangements for the BBC. We were very honoured that he agreed to come with us to Norway. We told ourselves that we had found ourselves a conductor with a ‘pedigree’!”

“Back in London, where we discussed the Eurovision project with Philip Love at Eden Studios, Colin suggested working with the full orchestra. Of course he did! As a conductor, you want to do the arrangement for the orchestra as a whole, but that was not what we wanted. We wanted to have the best of both worlds, so we pushed our idea of a backing track and asked Colin to add a bit of sweetening in the background. By that time, we knew that Colin was a nice guy. While working with him in the studio, we found him open and easy-going. He must have been disappointed when we turned down his suggestions, but he didn’t show it. As he was much older than us, he must have thought we were a bit wild and crazy at times… mainly me, because I was the youngest. With Colin, we finished the backing track we were going to use in Bergen. I don’t even remember discussing the orchestral arrangement extensively with him. We were confident he would do a good job on that.”

Dora and her boyfriend being taken back to the hotel after one of the rehearsals in Bergen (1986)

When asked about the arrangement, Frechter himself readily admits that he would have preferred a more orchestral approach. “What happened was typical for the mid-1980s,” he comments. “Instead of being asked to do the arrangement as a whole, you received a demo of a rhythm track – and then it was your job to add strings and maybe even some brass in the background. In terms of production, Dora’s song was quite contemporary – more modern than the standard orchestral songs you would hear in Eurovision at the time."

"When we discussed the orchestration for the Eurovision Song Contest, Philip Love explained that the sound should be mainly about the synths and the rhythm track, just like we did in the studio version. I might have suggested writing a bigger score, but that wasn’t what they were looking for. When writing the orchestration, I didn’t change the track in any radical way. I was pretty much given a free hand and I just did what I thought was right. It’s difficult to know if adding an orchestration was necessary for this particular song. It wasn’t up to me to say that. I was asked to do the job, so I did what I thought was right and hoped that it would work.”

“The prospect of conducting the orchestra in the Eurovision Song Contest wasn’t frightening. I knew how to conduct. I had been conducting orchestras in the studio since the 1960s. Although I didn’t have that much experience working as a television conductor, I had done that several times as well… notably a short series with Sacha Distel and a show with Val Doonican for RTÉ in Dublin. In a way, it was just a job, but at the same time it was a job I hadn’t expected to come my way. In the United Kingdom, guys like Alyn Ainsworth and later Ronnie Hazlehurst had that gig all tied up for themselves. There was no question of my ever conducting a UK entry, even when I was the arranger.”

After Norway’s first Eurovision win in 1985, the Scandinavian country chose to hold the following year’s festival in the Grieghallen in the coastal town of Bergen. 

“I was looking forward to seeing Bergen,” Frechter recalls. “It was a place I had never been before. I thought the city was lovely, the people were friendly, and the food was nice. This Eurovision was obviously the biggest festival I had been involved in. I had been to Knokke, and Bob Barratt and I used to go to the festival in Castlebar in Ireland. The contest there was a bit amateurish, with the greatest respect, but Bob loved to compete, mainly because it was a sort of pilgrimage the two of us undertook every year. Compared to those previous experiences, the Norwegian organisation stuck to their timetable almost to perfection. You were given clear instructions about what time you were expected to be in the auditorium. When you entered the festival hall, they checked your badges, but there was very little security otherwise. The Norwegians were pleasant. For us, there was very little to complain about during the week we were there.”

“One thing worried me though – the news about the nuclear disaster in Chernobyl. It happened in the week before the contest. In Norway, we were much closer to the Soviet border than in the United Kingdom. If the wind had been blowing from east to west, it would have covered all of us in radioactive dust. We were terrified, walking down the street with our heads bowed down. At the contest, we met a journalist from Ireland who was as mad as a hatter. When she heard about what had happened in Chernobyl, she tried to hitch a lift on an American air force flight to see what was going on. “You’re crackers,” we all said, but she solemnly told us that, being a journalist, she had to go there to find out more. I don’t know if she ever got there. I never saw her again!”

Colin Frechter with Piers Ford-Crush (to his left) and Philip Love (on the right), co-owners of Eden Studios, after a reception held in Bergen’s port, Eurovision 1986

“The rehearsals with the Norwegian orchestra were fine. The sound was good. The players were really friendly and helpful. They tried hard on every single song. I don’t know quite what they felt about it all personally, but I didn’t notice anybody in the band ever commenting badly on one of the entries. You can tell if an orchestra isn’t trying, but that was not the case with them – so all credit to them for that. I attended a few other rehearsals, but not too many. You were given a time and you made sure you were there a quarter of an hour before. You sat and waited for your turn, then you do your bit with the orchestra, and you stay a quarter of an hour afterwards to say ‘thank you’ to everybody. There wasn’t much more to it. Backstage and away from the auditorium I met some of the other conductors – Noel Kelehan for Ireland. I knew him because he did the Castlebar Festival every year. He was a very skilled musician and a great bloke. I also remember hanging out with Martyn Ford (English musician who conducted Cyprus’ entry in Bergen – BT). I didn’t know him terribly well, but we made friends in Bergen. He was a nice guy.”

“I didn’t see that much of the Portuguese representatives in Bergen. They were friendly, but to be honest I don’t even know whether Dora spoke English. They tended to stick together and so did we… I was with Philip Love and my sister-in-law, who was his wife. Piers Ford-Crush, Philip’s partner in Eden Studios, was also with us. In spite of her young age, Dora seemed to cope with the pressure admirably well. She wasn’t world-beating, but she sang well and was pretty. The person who dressed her tried to make a statement. Dora got to wear a green ballet tutu with Dr. Martens boots. Everybody, myself included, wondered what they were trying to prove. In his television commentary for the BBC, Terry Wogan even mentioned it in a jocular sort of way. The song itself was a bit quirky and obviously we were hoping to win. I think it stood a chance, but I wouldn’t have put money on it.”

In spite of being one of the pre-contest favourites, ‘Não sejas mau p’ra mim’ picked up no more than 28 points, finishing fourteenth among twenty competing entries. 

“I wasn’t that disappointed,” Colin admits, “but Philip was. He felt we deserved more than we got, but it was what it was. I don’t think the Portuguese language was a problem. Personally I’d much rather hear somebody singing convincingly in his own language than badly in English. Only ABBA got away with singing English with a bad accent; they were just brilliant and thoroughly deserved to win the contest. Dora’s song was a good piece, but on a personal level I could have done with hearing a little more of the orchestra. In the final sound mix, the orchestral players were sunk so far back that you could hardly hear them. It was basically buried in the rhythm and synths of the backing track. That’s vanity coming into it, because I had done the arrangement! It wouldn’t have made much of a difference, just some strings and brass to give the orchestra something to do, but the musicians worked so hard and they deserved to be heard.”

Co-composer Luís Oliveira has his own thoughts about his song’s lack of success. “The big problem for us was that Portuguese television didn’t want to invest money. In Bergen, the girl from Belgium who won it (Sandra Kim – BT) was a star right from the moment she stepped from the plane. The Belgians worked hard to keep her in the spotlights all week. The RTP, however, were scared of winning Eurovision, because then they would have had to organise it themselves. For our television’s delegates, Eurovision amounted to little more than a couple of days of shopping with their families. We were exasperated by their amateurism. To make up for that, we invested money of our own. In Norway, we were walking around wearing training suits and T-shirts with a print reading ‘Dora I adore you’. We paid for a stylist who dressed her in those striking boots and a green skirt bought in the same second-hand shop in London where Madonna and Cyndi Lauper used to find their outfits. The way Dora looked in Eurovision was terribly criticised in Portugal, but that’s actually what we wanted to happen. Portugal was conservative. By following international trends, we were hoping to turn her into a European star. We did what we could, but without the RTP’s support we didn’t get far.”

Dora and her backing group applauded by the audience at Eurovision 1986 in Bergen; once more, Colin Frechter is just visible on the far left

After the disappointing result in Bergen, Dora didn’t succeed at the international breakthrough her three songwriters had been hoping for. 

“As I told you, we had secured a six-month deal with CBS London,” Oliveira continues. “After the contest, we recorded two follow-ups with Dora at Eden Studios, ‘Easy’ and ‘Seventeen’. The budgets were quite lavish, allowing us to work with backing vocalists who usually worked with Stock, Aitken, and Waterman. Mariam Makeba and Richard Derbyshire were two of them. We thought it was quite an achievement, but unfortunately nothing happened. One of the problems we faced was Dora herself. She had a fantastic voice, but at the same time she was essentially an amateur. Coming from a poor neighbourhood, she lacked education… in a way, we had to teach her how to behave in public; how to have a meal properly. We almost managed to get her on the Eurovision stage two years later with a great song, ‘Déjà vu’, but we were tricked out of it by Portuguese television and another songwriter, José Calvário. Still, the Dora project was great fun. Those were the days!”

Coming back to Colin Frechter’s recollections – when asked about the reactions to his Eurovision participation returning to Britain, Colin wryly comments, “Well, nothing much happened. Of course, conducting the Eurovision orchestra wasn’t a life-changing moment for me, but it was a gig with a certain amount of credibility to it – well, not in the UK. At the time, England were going through their arrogant period. The people I spoke to weren’t that complimentary. They just repeated Terry Wogan’s jokes about Dora’s looks. Wogan was wonderful at making funny gags, but due to his comments year after year, the competition lost its seriousness for the UK public. The Europeans took Eurovision much more seriously than we did. We thought it was a bit of a joke. Gradually other nations thought the British coming to Eurovision felt they had a divine right to win it. I blame Terry Wogan personally for a lot of the current situation where we are finding it very hard to pick up votes internationally year after year.”

“Nowadays there’s so much political voting going on. Cyprus voting for Greece and vice versa, that sort of thing. The notion of voting for a decent song has gone out of the window. Some crazy songs have won since the turn of the century. Given how much the contest has changed I can’t imagine an orchestra fitting into that ever again. Music has gone beyond that. The only way to do it would be to have a level playing field with everyone just using the orchestra, banning tracks altogether, but the music industry would be up in arms about that. People are just so used to synths and drum tracks nowadays; I don’t know how you could do without them."

"There is some hope, though. Nowadays (our interview with Colin was in 2021 – BT), in the UK, arrangers are getting work again. Records are becoming more sophisticated. Perhaps following the trends of American film music, producers have found a way of giving synths their place alongside strings and other classical instruments, instead of using them as a replacement. Real songwriting is making a comeback in the US and in England. In the Eurovision Song Contest, that trend isn’t visible yet; there, you mostly hear tracks which are not real songs, but just records built on top of a drum beat. Europe is trailing international trends by fifteen or twenty years. Only time will tell if Eurovision will catch up eventually.”

Picture taken from the 1986 Eurovision Song Contest official programme


Fellow arranger John Coleman is a contemporary of Colin Frechter’s. “My first involvement with Colin came when I was overburdened with arranging work one day and was in need of some help. He was highly recommended to me by one of our peers. In the following years, Colin occasionally did some arranging for me and I did some for him. I always had the impression that he was a bit further up the ladder than me. He obviously had a good reputation all around. Like me, Colin knew full well that you’re only ever as good as your last gig in the world of music. My memories of working with him as a colleague are very pleasant!” (2021)


Country – United Kingdom
Song title – "Save Your Kisses For Me"
Rendition – Brotherhood Of Man (= Martin Lee / Lee Sheriden / Nicky Stevens / Sandra Stevens)
Lyrics – Tony Hiller / Martin Lee / Lee Sheriden
Composition – Tony Hiller / Martin Lee / Lee Sheriden
Studio arrangement – Colin Frechter / Lee Sheriden
Live orchestration – Colin Frechter
Conductor – Alyn Ainsworth
Score – 1st place (164 votes)

Country – United Kingdom
Song title – "The Bad Old Days"
Rendition – Co Co (= Josie Andrews / Cheryl Baker / Terry Bradford / Charlie Brennan / Keith Haslar / Paul Rogers)
Lyrics – Stuart Slater / Stephanie de Sykes
Composition – Stuart Slater / Stephanie de Sykes
Studio arrangement – Terry Bradford / Colin Frechter
Live orchestration – Colin Frechter
Conductor – Alyn Ainsworth
Score – 11th place (61 votes)

Country – Portugal
Song title – "Não sejas mau p’ra mim"
Rendition – Dora 
Lyrics – Guilherme Inês / Luis Oliveira / José “Ze” da Ponte
Composition – Guilherme Inês / Luis Oliveira / José “Ze” da Ponte
Studio arrangement – Colin Frechter / Guilherme Inês / Luis Oliveira / José “Ze” da Ponte
Live orchestration – Colin Frechter
Conductor – Colin Frechter
Score – 14th place (28 votes)

  • Bas Tukker did an interview with Colin Frechter, subdivided into two sessions, May 2021
  • Thanks to Luís Oliveira Fernandes and John Coleman for looking back with us on their experiences of working with Colin Frechter
  • A playlist of Colin Frechter’s music can be accessed by clicking this YouTube link
  • Photos courtesy of Colin Frechter, David Barber, Bill Holland, Ferry van der Zant, and Kato Hansen
  • Thanks to James Doughty and Edwin van Gorp for proofreading the write-up

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