Page last updated at 09:17 GMT, Friday, 13 January 2006

Life after million pound poetry

Murray Lachlan Young
Murray Lachlan Young supported acts such as Pet Shop Boys
Murray Lachlan Young, who became the first poet to sign a 1m record deal, is marking 15 years of performance with a show at Ronnie Scott's Club in London.

His shrewd verse such as The Closet Heterosexual and Simply Everyone's Taking Cocaine so impressed EMI and MTV that he became known as the Million Pound Poet in 1997.

But despite successful music festival appearances and supporting acts such as Pet Shop Boys, Brand New Heavies and Julian Cope, Young's relationship with EMI was short-lived.

"It has been a very interesting 15 years for me," he says.

"After six years performing I found myself the subject of global media interest, then two years later I disappeared completely."

'Supreme arrogance'

Despite the comic nature of his poems, Young's stage persona as a booming Byronesque dandy inspired as much hostility as it did amusement.

"It looked like supreme arrogance for me to resemble one of England's greatest writers," he says. "The tailor who designed my outfit practically turned me into a firework and lit the blue touch paper.

"Luckily by the time I felt trapped by my image, (ex-Changing Rooms host) Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen came along looking like an even funnier Byron than me."

Young resisted EMI's attempt to subsequently market him as a pop star and reached a financial settlement that enabled him to leave the label and set up home in an East Sussex wood.

Murray Lachlan Young
The tailor who designed my outfit practically turned me into a firework and lit the blue touch paper
Murray Lachlan Young

He had two children with his wife Zoe - who had a 1991 hit with Sunshine on a Rainy Day - and, despite appearing in films Plunkett and Macleane and Vatel, he wrote little for four years.

But a 2003 tour with Attila the Stockbroker, poet in residence at Brighton and Hove Albion FC, revived his passion for poetry.

"Attila has always worked very hard because he is doing something he loves doing," Young says.

"He feels privileged to be given the chance to perform poetry. It reminded me why I started doing it in the first place."

Young's latest gigs include recent works such as Is It Wrong To Wear the Thong, The Day the Taleban Came To Tea and Tumbleweed Toupee - inspired by the sight of a wig blowing across a road.

"Our obsession with hair seems to be one of the things that marks us out from other mammals," he says.

'Terrifying' performances

In one of the least pleasant incidents of his career, Young was chased off stage by a suspected murderer at Madame Jo Jo's in London after the poet asked him to stop swearing.

The man tried to force his way into Young's dressing room before being restrained by the club's transsexual performers.

He has happier memories of winning over large and initially hostile crowds at the T in the Park music festival and during his Ronnie Scott's Club debut in 1996.

Murray Lachlan Young
Young is set to become a theatre company's writer-in-residence

"It can be terrifying but it is those experiences that turn you into a proper professional performer," he says.

This year Young will become the writer-in-residence at the Penzance-based Acorn Theatre Company, before releasing a volume entitled Cautionary Tales for Children.

Despite his own success, Young advises future writers to think carefully before embarking upon a career in performance poetry.

"It is a platform to influence the way people think, so quite a lot of responsibility comes with it," he says.

"If you take it too lightly it will turn around and boot you up the arse."

Murray Lachlan Young appears at Ronnie Scott's Club on Sunday 15 January.

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