'I wanted to make people dance': Anton Du Beke on debut album, missing Bruce and Strictly wins
PUBLISHED: 08:36 16 December 2017
He has become a household name thanks to more than a decade on Strictly Come Dancing, but now Anton Du Beke has released his debut album From The Top. The affable dancer reflects on this new venture as well as his past, present and future on the Strictly dance floor.
You know that feeling, when you listen to Arctic Monkeys’ I Bet That You Look Good on the Dancefloor and think to yourself, “You know, I really love this song but what I really need to hear is a swing version by a bloke who dances on a Saturday night prime time telly show...”?
Well nobody ever expected to utter these words, but Anton Du Beke’s cover of the Sheffield band’s classic breakthrough single is pretty darn good.
The Strictly stalwart’s old school swing, big band version is one of the highlights on his startlingly refreshing debut album, From The Top. Think Hit The Road Jack given a northern makeover, with a little bit of Strictly stardust scattered over it.
“I hope they don’t mind what we’ve done with it,” laughs the professional dancer. “They might not have has it down as a swing track but it definitely works.”
Anton Du Beke is as synonymous with Strictly Come Dancing as the glitterball trophy and the delightfully camp video clips that punctuate each episode.
One of the professionals on the show since its inception in 2004, the affable ballroom star has danced his way through an impressive 15 series.
He was tipped to take over from head judge Len Goodman last year when he bowed out of the series, but the much-coveted job went to Shirley Ballas.
This year he partnered TV presenter Ruth Langsford through to week eight prompting more light-hearted pokes at another Du Beke anomaly - the fact that he’s never won a series of Strictly. The furthest he ever got was third place in the very first series with opera singer Lesley Garrett.
So it’s unsurprising there is a low, yet constant, rumbling of speculation that he might be finally ready to hang up his dancing shoes and retire.
Du Beke brushes them off swiftly though. “Everybody knows I’m not leaving. I’m not going anywhere,” the 51-year-old exclaims, looking amused by the suggestion that he might be waltzing off.
“I completely know I’m going to stay,” he insists. “Whether they want me to stay or not is a completely different matter. But I’ll turn up anyway.”
His good-natured attitude and charming demeanour are certainly assets to the show but does he think he can win the show someday? “I don’t know, that remains to be seen. The viewers vote to say who wins, so we’ll have to wait and see if they want me to win or not.”
It’s fair to say Du Beke has become known for his fun-filled routines, and he doesn’t appear to mind the tag of a novelty dancer. Who can forget that infamous Strictly moment when he swung former Tory Minister Ann Widdecombe around the dance floor.
He reminisces about the hilarious moment this series that saw him take a tumble at the end of a comedic paso doble with Langsford, who promptly climbed on top of him, much to the surprise and delight of the audience.
“Look at the reaction we got when we fell over!” he exclaims. “And look at the reaction we got when I whipped my trousers off!”
The last decade and a bit has been quite the journey for Du Beke, and he never could have imagined back in 2004 where the Saturday night BBC1 mainstay would be now.
Regularly drawing in more than 10 million viewers and with a dedicated following across the country, it’s one of the most-watched programmes in the UK, year after year.
Du Beke reveals that he and his fellow dancers who were there for the inaugural series “never thought beyond” that first outing.
Referring to himself, Brendan Cole and their respective dance partners Erin Boag and Camilla Dallerup, he says: “We were competing in China and then we got the nod that Strictly was going ahead.
“When we got back from China, we did another competition the following week in Sweden, and that was it. We were into Strictly.
“We hoped it would be a lot of fun. For me, it was an incredible thing to be able to do, I wanted to be in it and be part of it, and of course, I wanted to work with Bruce Forsyth, who was my hero.”
The late Sir Bruce Forsyth and Anton, of course, shared a love of big band and swing music and it’s a style and era of music that features on his debut album, From The Top. Overseen by Grammy-winning producer Brian Rawling and backed by vocal harmony quintet The Overtones, he covers a wide range of songs that have inspired him over the years, both on and off the dance floor.
Music snobs may roll their eyes, but he nimbly manages to inject his fun character into decades-worth of hits, proving that he really is a modern version of Brucie.
He says the record, a jauntily joyful saunter down memory lane, has been a long time coming. “It’s something I’ve wanted to do for years, an album of all my favourite songs. I really wanted people to be able to dance to them, and I think I’ve done that.”
It turns out he has a pleasant show tune-friendly voice. And while it’s true, Arctic Monkey’s song aside, there is nothing too ground-breaking — most of his song choices, from Fly Me To The Moon to Me And My Shadow, are as predictable, it is a jolly listen.
“I tried to stay away from really iconic songs, for example, something like Mack The Knife - it is really well known for the Bobby Darin version,” he says of his song choices.
“It’s like New York, New York by Frank Sinatra, and It’s A Wonderful World by Louis Armstrong, which we did flirt with but didn’t do in the end. They’re such great songs, you can’t do them better anyway.”
Well worn classics that do feature, Me And My Shadow and Putting On The Ritz, sit alongside contemporary tracks like City Of Stars from La La Land.
For Du Beke, one of the most meaningful tracks on the album is Me And My Shadow, which he performed with Sir Bruce on Strictly in 2008.
“It’s a poignant song, because I did it with Brucie on the show. He was a hero and a great friend,” he reflects, describing it as a bit of a tribute. “He’d have loved the song. I think he’d have done it with me on the album, and that would have been the ultimate, really.”
There’s also a track that’s a heart warming tribute to his wife Hannah, with whom Du Beke welcomed twins, a boy and a girl, earlier this year. The couple haven’t revealed their names, but he jokes they’re called Anton and Antoinette.
“More, which is a song not many people will know, is a wonderful song that I’ve loved for many years, and a song I have dedicated to my wife,” he says.
“It’s sort of our song. I played it for her very early when we got together, and it’s also a song I had on in the background when she was having the babies.”
He gushes: “She’s the most incredible wife and mum. I’m just the luckiest guy in the world.”
• Anton Du Beke: From The Top is out now
• Anton & Erin - From Broadway to Hollywood will be at Cliffs Pavilion in Southend on January 23 and 24
Feeling The Fear
Anton’s cheeky-chappie persona make it look like performing come naturally. But for all of those years of TV and dancing experience, he admits nerves are now kicking in more than ever before. While never getting “that nervous” in his earlier Strictly days, Du Beke confesses to having a bewildering thought hit him - what if he forgets his steps? “It’s not really nerves, it’s apprehension,” he clarifies. “And I don’t know where that’s come from, because I never forget the routine. I never have. I mean, the unforgivable sin for a professional dancer would be a mistake in the routine. It is beyond sacrilege.”