I beat Atomic Kitten and Blue to Christmas Number 1 but quit to live in the mountains… fame would have killed me off | The Sun

HE sparked one of the great Christmas number one shocks 20 years ago, beating the likes of Sugababes, Atomic Kitten and even Sir Cliff Richard to the top spot.

But today Gary Jules, who bagged the prestigious honour with his cover of Tears For Fears' Mad World, reveals why he turned his back on fame at the height of his success.

The 54-year-old and his pal Michael Andrews found themselves at the centre of an unexpected chart battle after record bosses released the record in December 2003 -two years after it first appeared in the cult movie Donnie Darko.

Bookies had expected The Darkness’ Christmas Time (Don't Let the Bells End) to bag the top spot in a race with Bo Selecta's Proper Crim-Bo, Westlife’ Mandy, Atomic Kitten’s Ladies Night and Sir Cliff’s Santa's List.

Instead it was little-known Californian songwriter Gary who suddenly found himself thrust into the spotlight, sharing a sofa with the likes of Victoria Beckham and Sir Ian McKellen to talk about his surprise victory.

Gary tells The Sun: “I’m glad the success didn't happen when I was 23. I'd probably be dead or something.

Read More Features


Omid Scobie should pipe down and shut up over Harry & Meghan, says Jodie Marsh


£250K cocaine hauls, affairs & a ‘wildcat’ jail bird… Miss World scandals

“You hear stories of people are confronted with a little bit of fame who self-destruct or transform."

In fact, at the height of his success, Gary's newlywed wife Greta Townsend showed him a positive pregnancy test after a sell-out London show, which changed his view on fame and fortune.

The mayhem of the Mad World tour and strain it had on his self-confidence led him to take a step back from stardom to focus on being a dad to kids Gus and Edie.

For years, he virtually disappeared off the radar, swapping the hills of Hollywood for a sleepy mountain town in North Carolina.

Most read in Music

off air

Radio 1 legend quits after 21 years on air – and his final show is days away

centre stage

Pop superstar drops huge hint she’s playing Glastonbury 2024 in legends slot


Christmas Number One race is on as Sam Ryder edges closer to winning


The latest Christmas Number One odds – this is who could bag the top spot

Gary met stars like Victoria Beckham at the height of his fameCredit: SUPPLIED
Tears for Fears pair Curt Smith and Roland Orzabal, who wrote the original hitCredit: Rex Features

He says: “I had a bigger idea of the temporal nature of things and to not think that because this thing was a big deal, that I was a big deal personally.

“I also knew that to try to keep it at that level would've been very dangerous.

“ I also didn't want to stay on the treadmill and have to do sh***y things and just be only that.

“After my son was born, my wife and I moved to a small college town in North Carolina, in the mountains, and that's where we've raised our children.

“They grew up very much around very kind of normal people and fairly normal circumstances.“

Today California-raised Gary looks back on his “surreal” experience of landing clueless in the middle of the chart wars – and how the record’s depressing and dark image is false.

He revealed his pride in being one of a handful of US stars to top the UK Christmas charts – a feat Elvis, Madonna, Frank Sinatra and Taylor Swift have not achieved.

The singer-songwriter laughed at how he lived in fear of The Darkness’ Justin Hawkins pulling a stunt or embarrassing him to win sales in their battle.

Gary recalled: “Being from the US I had no idea about this ‘war’.

“And we were very much a long shot and we were not the usual thing sent up the flagpole to challenge for that time. But I was aware, the holidays are very, very difficult for a lot of people.

“That was probably the most exciting time of my professional life.

And while his ballad, originally recorded for the Jake Gyllenhaal thriller Donnie Darko, crept up the charts, The Darkness’s Hawkins was on a media mission.

Gary said: "I don't know what I would've done being made fun of by a man in a**less nylon pants – it could have really done a number on me.

“Luckily he didn’t. I couldn't possibly compete or protect myself if Justin had come after me, not in any weird way. Nobody wants to be embarrassed 6,000 miles from home on the biggest stage you've ever been in.”

A few months later, Gary, Michael and Justin met in Scandinavia.

“He was hugely sweet, super bright and charismatic with an incredibly big heart," he says.

Another memorable moment came when Gary and Michael joined Posh Spice, Sir Ian McKellen and comic Johnny Vegas on the Jonathan Ross show.

Gary found himself bamboozled by Vegas’s antics and stunned by Victoria’s kindness.

“Victoria was just incredibly nice and spoke in a very kind of more familiar tone with me.

“I was probably very honest about just feeling like a fish out of water and she was kind and caring, really more worried about me than she was about herself, dress, publicist or appearance.

“She treated me like a human being, which at that time meant everything.

“I didn't have any preconceived ideas about her at all. But I found her to be very funny, eloquent, personable, and a real music fan. She seemed excited about the things that she had done, and talking about being a musician, not about being famous. Not everybody gets to hear that from her."

Posh was gunning for Gary to match her success as a Spice Girl, with the act having scored three Christmas number ones.

“She mentioned that and I tried to bet her that I wouldn't have another one. But she never took the bet.

”I may have also asked her if we could put all of our money in a pile and split it. She's got a great sense of humour.”

Gary insists that critics of Mad World are wrong to call the song “depressing”.

“People perceive it generally as a sad song. It's an incredibly inspiring song, because it's not about the world around us or all of the terrible things that are going on, but I felt like it's a very powerful personal piece because it draws attention to that sentiment, to the personal experience of living in a chaotic world where you have no agency over the things that happen to you.

"It became like a mantra almost for me. And if anything, I felt like I was leading the mantra for those who understood that feeling.

“And anytime there's something like that that brings everybody together around a single thing, there are those who feel left out. And I feel like it's very… it was a harbinger of things that were coming.

Read more on The Sun

end of journey

Strictly in new 'feud' as THREE finalists all snub star after backstage row


Baby girl dies suddenly after morning feed just days before Xmas

“I do know that every single person on Earth has felt that way at some time. So I felt like it had the teeth and it had the possibility of becoming that thing. I just didn't know if it was the right time or place, but it was.”

Gary has re-released Mad World and a filmed special live recording of his entire catalogue Live In Los Angeles. He hopes to tour the UK in 2004 to mark the 20th anniversary of his road shows there.

Source: Read Full Article