Star Interview: Foster & Allen

Foster & Allen
Foster & Allen

When it comes to folk music, Irish bands have some of the biggest 
audiences, with fans dotted across the face of the globe.

One such duo, famed for their unmistakable brand of easy listening songs, is Foster & Allen.

Made up of Irish-born Tony Allen and Mick Foster, the pair got together in the 1970s and soon became known for a string of hits, including A Bunch of Thyme and Maggie.

Years later, the pair are still going strong. Not only have they recently published their life story, entitled After All These Years: Our Story, they are also currently on tour and will be performing at The Core at Corby Cube tonight at 7.30pm, and at the Spinney Theatre in Northampton, on November 16 at 2.30pm.

Mick said the mix of songs performed will be carefully considered.

“We have to do all the hits, if we didn’t do Maggie and A Bunch of Thyme and I Will Love You All My Life we would be lynched. What we try to do is a cross section of the most-requested songs and tunes. As you can imagine, we have recorded in excess of 800 titles. Over the years we have got a feel for what audiences want, by their reactions.”

And Mick said he never gets bored singing the hits.

“I can’t get bored. I have been doing a lot of the stuff for more than 30 years, but what stops you getting bored is the audience’s reaction. If you do Bunch Of Thyme, which I have been doing since the 1970s, you can see the audience reaction, with them singing along. I’m sure if you were doing something for years and not getting a reaction, that wouldn’t be too good. We did a concert in County Kildare recently and in every song the audience took over, they nearly did the concert for us. Maybe some people wouldn’t like that but, for us, that is great to see.”

Tony and Mick met when they joined the same band and they eventually formed their famous duo at a later date.

Mick said: “I was playing in a local band in the Midlands of Ireland. Tony just came and joined. He was four years younger. Now I’m 65 and he is 61. He left school and joined the band and that was in 1967, then in 1975 we started Foster & Allen.

“We thought the same way about everything and, over that length of time, we have a unique record, we have never even had an argument. Neither of us are placid, both of us are fiery enough, but not with each other. I don’t know why it is but we have never had anything to disagree about. We always decided from day one we came into this to give it our best shot.”

Known for easy listening songs with a traditional Irish feel, it came as a surprise to the pair when they were once invited on to BBC’s Top Of The Pops.

Tony said: “When we started out first time, Top Of The Pops was furthest from our minds. We went out to play in the pubs and clubs and made a living from it that way. Once Bunch Of Thyme got to number one in Ireland, that changed a lot, but not to the extent of when it got into the charts in England.”

For Tony, music was an automatic step for him to take, given his upbringing.

“I grew up in a house with nine kids and our parents. There was lots of music in the house. My mother was a very good singer and would sing a lot of the popular songs in the 1950s. She died at 62 years of age, very young. But there was always music, neighbours would come in and listen to the radio. In Ireland, music is the next thing to sport. When I grew up, kids were either obsessed with sport or music.”

Mick agreed: “I grew up in the 1960s and, in Ireland in those days, and even today in rural Ireland especially, there would be a lot of music. If there wasn’t an instrument thrown around every house then there was an instrument thrown around every second house.

“I never wanted to be anything else other than an accordion player and that is how it worked out.

“I’m a singer by accident. Tony would be the main singer, he would do all the classy stuff.”