For Hatch it all started in church 

28 December 2023


TVTimes cover

From the TVTimes for week commencing 26 August 1978

THE SCENE was the church of All Souls, Langham Place, next door to Broadcasting House in London. Tony Hatch was 14 and practising Bach on the organ. As he played, he began to experiment with the knobs and pedals.

“Suddenly,” he recalls, “the organ sounded like the Wurlitzer at the Granada, Tooting — and I started playing Happy Days and Lonely Nights. I was enjoying myself when a prayer book whizzed past my head. It had been thrown by the assistant organist. ‘If that’s your idea of practising you can pack up and go,’ he shouted.

“That was the end of my organ studies and of my ambition to be a professional organist. However, the incident was the turning point in my life. From then on, I became more and more interested in pop. I began writing songs, and when I left school at 16 I became a music publisher’s office boy.

Now, Tony Hatch is so successful that he has become a tax exile in Ireland. With his wife, singer Jackie Trent, he has written international hits such as Downtown, Don’t Sleep in the Subway, I Couldn’t Live Without Your Love, and The Two of Us.

He also wrote the signature tunes of the ITV series Crossroads, Emmerdale Farm, Hadleigh, The Champions, and Love Story, and the BBC’s long-running Sportsnight.

Hatch comes from a family of amateur musicians, and remembers that at three he was an avid listener to pop music on the radio.

“I began plonking on the piano, trying to play the tunes I had heard. I was fascinated by broadcasting. At five, I turned the lounge into a mock studio, making microphones from tops of tins and pretending I was broadcasting the records I played on a wind-up gramophone.”

At 10, Hatch went to a boarding school which provided choirs for four London churches — and that’s how he found himself playing the organ at All Souls.


Tony Hatch

Tony Hatch at his piano. Photograph by Bert Hill


A few months after he had started work at the music publishers, Hatch arrived at the office one morning to find it empty—except for a record producer looking for songs.

“I played him several and then, with great daring, I told him I had written a song and asked if he’d like to hear it. I played it and he liked it. The song was Crazy Bells and it was recorded in 1959 by a young singer called Gerry Dorsey, better-known now as Engelbert Humperdinck.”

The record producer not only took Hatch’s song, he also offered him a job as his assistant. Before he was 18, Hatch was recording artists such as Joan Regan, Donald Peers, Lonnie Donegan and Max Bygraves.

It seemed that Hatch’s career would be interrupted by National Service. But before he could be called-up, he signed on for three years as a musician with the Coldstream Guards, and became an arranger for the regimental band. Stationed in London, he was able to continue as a record producer in his spare time.

Hatch’s career changed direction again when he met Jackie Trent.

They began writing songs together and the partnership led to marriage. They have been married for 11 years.

Is it easier to become a successful songwriter today than it was when Hatch started? “Yes,” he says. “Since the Beatles unexpectedly burst on to the pop scene, publishers and record producers have been willing to listen to the work of unknown writers. They are afraid of missing a fortune.”


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