He lives like a Spartan, wears his tracksuits to bed and still dry-cleans his mother’s clothes – even though she’s been dead 31 years. But Sir Jimmy Savile insists he’s not an eccentric, writes Nigel Farndale

Park Crescent in London W1 is a smart place to have a flat. But it wasn’t the address that appealed to Sir Jimmy Savile. It was the garage space. He can park his Rolls-Royce here, he tells me.

“I’m just off to buy my 18th this afternoon,” he adds, chewing on an unlit cigar. “Off to Jack Barclay’s showroom. That’s where I always go. Trade in my old one.”

You would never guess this cramped flat was the London residence of a wealthy man. It has woodchip wallpaper. An empty kitchen. A bed. A chair. A Hoover. A framed cover from the Radio Times. And an exercise bike.

“I live in gymnasiums,” he says, pointing at the machine. “I have five places to live and they are all littered with weights and exercise machines like this. No lady would stand for it, which is just as well.”

There has never been a woman — sorry, lady — in Sir Jimmy’s life, other than his mother, who died in 1973. The Duchess, as he called her, lived with him and when she died she carried on living with him, for five days.

He has preserved her room in his Scarborough flat — most of his flats are in his home county of Yorkshire — and he dry-cleans her clothes once a year. Nevertheless, he implies constantly that he has an active sex life: one-night stands only.

Beneath his in-evitable tracksuit, for instance, he is wearing a T-shirt which reads: “For good luck, rub my tummy (ladies only)”.

It is, he says, his “never-fail T-shirt with the ladies”. He has never been in love, he tells me — “Not really.” And has never slept the whole night with a woman.

“I like my freedom too much,” he says. “I enjoy the ladies and they enjoy me. And that’s it.”

With a rattle of gold jewellery, he flops down on the bed, legs apart, his long, white hair resting on the shoulders of his tracksuit top. I ask him if he thinks he dresses appropriately for a 78-year-old.

“I don’t know what a 78-year-old is supposed to dress like. The reason I’ve worn these tracksuits all my life is that you can take your shoes off, climb into bed, go to sleep, wake up in the morning, put your shoes on and you’re dressed. ”

Does he still dye his hair?

“Never have done. I bleach it. Still do. Take the colour out of it. The reason is, I worked for Coca-Cola for nine years and learned about product recognition from them.”

It is a telling comment. Sir Jimmy sees himself as a brand to be marketed. That is partly what the cigars seem to be about as well. They were the subject of a storm in an ashtray the other day when he posed with one — wearing only his boxer shorts — for the Stoke Mandeville charity calendar.

It was reported that his picture was to be dropped from the calendar because a hospital couldn’t be seen to condone smoking. This seemed a bit rum: after all, without Sir Jimmy there would hardly be a Stoke Mandeville.

He has raised about £40 million for various charities over the years, £15 million of which went to founding the spinal centre at the hospital. A compromise was reached: the cigar was airbrushed out. Even so, did he feel hurt at the ingratitude?

“I did it on purpose. I knew they would have to object to it because it is a hospital. And they knew that I knew. It — was — a — bit — of — fun.”

This is how he talks. In staccato sentences, with his eyes scrunched up in mock concentration. His speech is an odd mixture of warm, northern patter (“now then, now then”), pedantry (“fantasy is your word, I prefer dream”) and non sequiturs.

Bearing in mind how health-conscious he is — he ran his 217th marathon a few months ago — you would think Sir Jimmy wouldn’t want to damage his lungs with cigars anyway.

“The cigars don’t make any difference to my lungs. And I’m not going to give them up. Every time I light one it’s like a celebration.”

This is another intriguing comment. He has spent a lifetime celebrating his escape from childhood poverty. He worked down the coal mines until an injury forced him to look elsewhere for work.

He founded the first disco in 1947 and went on to make his fortune managing 52 dance halls. This he consolidated with television work: becoming the first presenter of Top of the Pops in 1964 and then, in the 1970s, the eponymous star of the hugely successful Jim’ll Fix It. Does he know what he is worth?

“Not really. I’ve given most of it away. What do you need in life? A bacon sandwich.” And a Rolls-Royce.

“No, that is different. That is about living the dream. When I worked down the pit I was earning 21 shillings a week. I had a picture of a Rolls-Royce pinned up in my wardrobe and I dreamed about owning one.

“I don’t use the Rolls much. I actually run around in a panel van up in Leeds. I also have a 200mph Ferrari because that’s my game. Knotty ash. Flash.”

Is the flashiness a compensation for his youthful poverty?

“I’m not sure. I wake up in the morning and have a bit of fun, at no one else’s expense. Don’t hurt nobody. Don’t slag nobody off.”

Every single day is a bit of fun? There are no days when he feels down?

“I don’t have down days. I’m very boring, I don’t do drugs, booze or underage sex.” Is he an eccentric?

“That’s not how I see myself. I’ve always thought everyone else was odd. I just have a bit of fun.”

It is the Monday of Christmas week. This interview will appear on Boxing Day. How will Sir Jimmy have spent Christmas Day? With family?

“No, I ain’t got any left. They’ve all pegged it. I was youngest of seven. Actually, I’ve got one sister who is 90.”

Friends then? Does he have any? Close ones, I mean.

“What is a close friend? Last week a couple of old friends from my days down the pit came round for a cup of tea in the morning. That’s close. Today I’ll have this bit of carry-on with you then I’ll go and see my new Rolls-Royce. Then I’ll get on a train back up to Yorkshire. I’m as free as a bird.”

He flaps his arms. It hasn’t been for lack of opportunity, this single life he has led. I mean, he pretty much had groupies in his heyday, didn’t he?

“More in the 1960s than now, because it would be unseemly for me to go to clubs and pursue ladies now, even though, physically and mentally, I’m still up for it. But one has to accept that it is not the done thing.” Does he know how many women he has slept with?

“I wouldn’t have the faintest idea and I wouldn’t even like to work that out.”

He is, he says, never lonely. Also, he claims never to have lost his temper. Yet he can be quite touchy and he is certainly self-aggrandising. He talks himself up and shows off about his wealth but he is also emotionally immature and perhaps even arrested. I ask him to describe himself.

“It’s Monday. I’m healthy. I’ve got a few quid. Nobody looking for me with a gun. I’ve got pleasant prospects. I love Christmas. Spend it on my own because I choose to. Free as a bird.”

He laughs gently. If there is a psychological malaise behind all this bravado it surely has its roots in his materially deprived childhood. I ask him if he thinks he was starved of affection as a child.

“On the contrary, I had plenty. One thing with a big family is that you have to be a survivor. We were a skint house so when food went on the table, if you didn’t cop yours, the other six had it away.

“My dad was a quiet, laid-back, line-of-least-resistance man. He never wanted to argue.” (His father, a bookmaker’s clerk, died when Jimmy was 27.)

“The Duchess had a very strong sense of right and wrong, which she instilled in me.”

I ask if he idealised his mother.

“No, not really. She wasn’t perfect. With the Duch I was not her favourite. I was the only one who didn’t marry, and so she could live with me rather than somewhere else.

“By the time I was in television, I realised my mother was a character. You could never contradict her.

“When I moved to Scarborough she was talking to these two ladies and told them that I had opened the Post Office Tower. I told them I hadn’t; that The Queen had opened it. The Duch said: ‘He did open it. He forgets, you know.’ ”

Has no potential wife been able to live up to the Duch?

“No, the reason I never married was that I would have had to give up the business — because I couldn’t have had a wife at one end of the country and me at the other at a gig surrounded by 800 girls and stay faithful.”

“Girls, women, whatever, females. We’re talking dance halls and discos here.” Surely he must be aware of the rumour about him and underage girls?

“Oh, you get rumours about everything. I tell you where it comes from: if I go on a cruise, say, and there are a dozen teenage girls they all come round to talk to me. Chat, chat, chat. To the casual observer it’s: ‘Oh, look at those young girls with that geezer.’

“They don’t realise that the only reason the girls are talking to me is that I know the people they idolise, which is the pop stars. But if I were to suggest anything to them they would be mortally offended. I’m an ancient punter.”

It is not unheard of for a young, impressionable woman to be attracted to an older man who is rich and famous.

“No, you are moving the goalposts. You were talking about young girls. Young girls are not attracted to power and all that. In fact, it puts them off. The teenagers today are very moral.

“The last thing in the world you would do with a teenage girl is try and tell her a mucky joke. Wouldn’t work. They are highly moral in their own peculiar way. So if I was going out on the pull they would be dreadfully offended, and I wouldn’t dream of it anyway. People get the wrong idea because people have had the wrong idea forever.”

Does he feel hurt by the rumour?

“No. It would be a lot worse if it were true. And as it’s not true I don’t give a shit anyway.”

Sir Jimmy claims to have no introspection. No emotions, come to that. I ask if he has ever cried.

“No. When you’re in what I call the living and dying business — visiting people in hospitals — you have to have a bit of strength.

“There was a couple of 17-year-old girls up at Leeds and they were both terminal and I would joke with them and be outrageous and make them laugh. I would say, ‘OK, tonight, ladies, I’ve decided you can have me. We can pull these beds together.’ And they would say: ‘Chance would be a fine thing.’ They loved it.

“Then I had to go off for a month to do a charity bike ride from Land’s End to John O’Groats and when I went back to see them there was only one there. I asked her where her friend was and she said, almost apologetically, ‘Oh, she died. She didn’t want to. She wanted to wait till you came back.’

“I shut myself in a toilet for two hours, after that. I don’t know whether I cried but there was turmoil inside.”

It’s a tender story, and it shows he is capable of feeling a kind of love. He’s smoked down to the end of his cigar. As he stubs it out he tells me a poignant story which he hasn’t yet had time to polish up into a self-deprecating anecdote. It happened only last night. He went to mass in Spanish Place.

“When they came with the collection plate they walked right past me like I was a penniless mugger or something and I had to laugh to myself. You see, I had a score ready to put in the plate.”


James Blunt

It could be the homes around the world; his military bearing; or that he’s our biggest musical export since Elton. For whatever reason, being called annoying, a philanderer or – worse – middle class doesn’t exactly keep James Hillier Blount awake at night. Nigel Farndale met him

It’s not the sight of the groupies that haunts me, but the sound, or rather the absence of sound, as they ghost past us on their way up the stairs to the dressing-room. It takes me a moment to figure out that the reason they aren’t talking to each other is that they don’t know each other. One of the band members, the keyboard player, I think, has picked them from the audience on the basis of their looks. Half-a-dozen of them, all in their late teens and early twenties, and all, surprisingly, in pretty frocks, as if they were going to a Sunday school meeting. They have been separated from their friends like lambs weaned from their mothers. The silence of the lambs.

The ‘us’ they are filing past is James Blunt and me. He has a bottle of beer in one hand, a cigarette in the other, and not a hair in place – tousled just so, like a Renaissance painting of John the Baptist – but they don’t realise it’s him because he has changed out of the suit he was wearing on stage and is now in jeans, T-shirt and leather jacket, as well as a pink feather boa and star-shaped novelty sunglasses. But I’m getting ahead of myself. This is the end of the day; we need to go back to the start, well, to the middle, when the seats are empty and the Texan sun is at its most unforgiving.

A barefoot and unshaven Blunt is wearing normal sunglasses and shorts as he plays his piano, strums his guitar and sings his plaintive songs into the microphone for the sound check, all the while looking out with his soulful eyes over an empty, open-air arena in Houston. At 5ft 7in, he’s not a tall man, but he has presence and an unaffected manner – a certain maturity, too, one that you wouldn’t normally associate with a pop star in the ascendant.

But then he is 34 and this is his second career, his first being as an officer in the Household Cavalry. He joined after graduating from Bristol University with a degree in sociology. He became a champion skier for the Army and not only saw active service in Kosovo, but also guarded the Queen Mother’s coffin when she was lying in state.

Tonight he will be supporting Sheryl Crow, though, since his second album ‘All the Lost Souls’ and the single from it, ‘1973’, went straight to number one in America, he is arguably the bigger act these days. Indeed, not since Elton John has there been a more successful British singer-songwriter in the States.

His first album, ‘Back to Bedlam’, also went to number one over here, as it did in 18 other countries, making it the biggest-selling album of the millennium. It even entered the Guinness Book of Records as the fastest-selling album in one year. But it was his first single that really put him on the map. You’re Beautiful became the sound of that summer. It was everywhere, and still is – having become a favourite at weddings, funerals and bar mitzvahs. I even heard a brass band playing it at an agricultural show in the Yorkshire Dales this summer.

As well as millions of sales, James Blunt has won Brit awards, Ivor Novello awards, MTV awards and various Grammy nominations. In terms of credibility, he’s headlined at Glastonbury and won the respect of the world-weary music press. Yet not everyone loves him, as he points out when we get something to eat in the canteen area back stage.

‘After Back to Bedlam really started selling,’ he says, ‘there was this sudden aggression towards me in the UK, for whatever reason, and that focused my mind, made it clear to me what I was doing and why I wanted to do it. I write songs for myself. I don’t write them for you, or for anyone else, I write them because I have experiences that I need to process. I don’t have the answers all the time, but I do have lots of questions, and I express them in the songs I write.’

He is, I think, alluding to a poll last year of ‘the most annoying things in life’, which put him at number four, just behind cold-callers and queue-jumpers. ‘I haven’t met anyone who voted in the poll, have you?’ he says when I mention this. ‘That poll probably came from a website that was after some publicity. You and I could do the same poll very quickly right now and it would count as a poll. We could do one about annoying newspapers, for example. I promise the Sunday Telegraph wouldn’t be in my list. My parents take it.’

His father, a retired colonel in the Army Air Corps, manages his son’s finances. His mother arranged the purchase of his six-bedroom villa in Ibiza (he also has a chalet in Verbier and recently bought a place in Chelsea). ‘I’m not married,’ he says, ‘and so the support structure in my life is my parents. I’m closer to them now than I have ever been.’

He certainly isn’t married, as the photographs of him emerging from nightclubs with various high-profile women on his arm attest. Tara Palmer-Tomkinson was probably the best known socialite, Jessica Sutta, of the Pussycat Dolls, the most glamorous. He also seems to be photographed regularly cavorting on beaches with bikini-clad models such as Petra Nemcova, whom he dated and then dumped – unceremonious dumping being his way of ending relationships, according to the tabloids. He once said he found himself in a swimming pool in LA with nine naked women. ‘I was the only bloke. It was the only time I wished my mates were there, purely to spectate. I had arrived. It was a moment.’

Now he says of the tabloid interest in his peripatetic love life: ‘Last week I went to my home in Ibiza and was photographed by the paparazzi in my swimming trunks with girls. What is the point of that? I’m not that bothered, but maybe the media should be concentrating more on global warming or the Russian invasion of Georgia.

‘Looking at me in my swimming trunks is not a great sight. It’s a waste of time. There generally is a long lens pointing at me wherever I go, these days. I’m comfortable with it. I appreciate how things work. But my record label said something about my always being photographed coming out of nightclubs and I thought, “But this is what I do. I was doing it before the second album came out, so what is different now? You didn’t tell me to stop then.” I’m not going to change my life because of these people. I don’t see why I should.’

His label also gets him to dye his grey hairs and be enigmatic about his love life, which is an old tactic dating back to the Beatles – they had to pretend they didn’t have wives and girlfriends so that fans could fantasise they were in with a chance.

Actually, at the time of going to press, Blunt seems to be going out again with one of his old flames, Verity Evetts, an Oxford-educated barrister. He has also stayed friendly with some of his other exes, the socialites at least. He told one – an ex who got married not long ago – that he doesn’t feel ‘centred’ at the moment and would like to get married as well. Then again, he also said that he never tires of singing You’re Beautiful night after night because it gets him laid night after night.

Either way, he tells me he has grown used to the idea that his mother will probably find out from the papers what he has been up to, and with whom, before he has had a chance to tell her. ‘And my [two] sisters are quick to email me about things in the papers, laughing their heads off. I get healthy, ritual abuse from them, and give it back myself.’

As we are talking, I can’t decide whether the way Blunt smiles all the time is disarming or disturbing. He’s like a victim of a religious cult, smiling at the beginning of the sentence and at the end. I guess he has a lot to smile about, but also I sense a great deal of insecurity to disguise.

Then, I’m distracted by the sight of Sheryl Crow playing table tennis across the room. She has been holding her adopted son in one arm as she bats with the other, and now, even more distractingly, she is heading straight for us. ‘Are we going to have one of our little conversations on stage again tonight, James?’ she says. ‘That flirting thing. I think it worked well last night.’

They discuss the duet they will sing – a cover of Cat Stevens’s The First Cut is the Deepest – then we both watch her shimmy away, her blonde curls bobbing. ‘She’s very down to earth,’ he says. ‘I’d met her a couple of times, which was why she asked me on this tour. We do end up playing a lot of table tennis on the road. We’ve done 117 shows so far this year, in 117 cities, and there are a lot of hours to fill in the day.’

As he sleeps on his tour bus with his band, one city tends to blur into another. When I joke that he is in Cincinnati now, he looks genuinely confused. ‘No, this is?… Oh, right. Actually, I always get the tour manager to say where we are just as I’m going on stage. I still managed to get it wrong the other night, saying “Hello Dallas” when I meant Austin. I’m surprised I got out alive.’

He is funny on the subjects of things that go wrong. ‘People are normally surprised by my show, which is more energetic than you might think. Jumping on the piano. Jumping out into the audience and running up and down the aisle high-fiving them. But going off the stage can be quite dangerous. I broke my finger once. My legs carried on when I jumped off, and I smacked down on the ground. The spotlight was on me, and when I got back to the piano I hit the wrong note and thought, “Why did I do that?” And I looked down and saw it was because my finger was broken, sticking out an angle. Look,’ he says holding it up. ‘It’s still crooked.’

On another occasion, in Chicago, he jumped 8ft off the stage. ‘When I began running to the audience, a security guard stuck his arm out and I thought, “Does he want a hug?” Then next thing I know he’s rugby-tackled me. He wouldn’t release me and I was screaming in his ear, “I’m the f—ing singer.” I had to wait for the other guards to pull him off.’

I would have thought Blunt’s training in unarmed combat would have helped. I presume he still works out. ‘No, never. Couldn’t handle it. Too boring. I am a hyperactive person though.’ He likes an adrenaline rush, as well, having recently bought an 1100cc Moto Guzzi V11 Sport motorbike. There’s also the skiing, which he still does, and the riding. Actually, he tells me, he never really liked horses before joining the Life Guards. So why did he join that particular regiment?

‘Well, it is a reconnaissance regiment.’ But they are all so tall in the Life Guards, did that not make him self-conscious? ‘Some are. The Foot Guards tend to be taller regiments, though. The Life Guards take a few shrimps, as well. Besides, they are on horses, so height isn’t so important. Also being in that regiment had the benefit of being in Knightsbridge. I got a chance to be in London and meet people in the music scene.’ And groupies, as it happens.

As he paraded up and down the Mall in plumed helmet and shiny breastplate, girls would stick their phone numbers down his knee-length boots. But it was his time in Kosovo that really made girls swoon. He used to strap his guitar to the outside of his tank, because there wasn’t room for it inside. He had learnt to play the violin at five, the piano at seven and the guitar at 14, while a pupil at Harrow.

He writes his songs on piano and guitar. ‘But mainly guitar because it is easier to carry around. It’s like a child messing around with a toy. If a tune comes to me I don’t record it instantly. I think if I remember it, then it must be worth remembering, and if I forget it, then it was forgettable.’

Does he have any anxiety dreams about forgetting lines or chords? ‘Not yet. Perhaps I will tonight. Perhaps you’ve jinxed me. But audiences aren’t judgmental, and if things go wrong and you can look them in the eye, that is fine. The only people who are judgmental are the journalists. I will be conscious of you being there in the audience judging me.’

Blimey. Sorry about that. Is it true he signs breasts? ‘Not that I remember. Not that I’m fussy what I sign. A lot of men started coming to the shows after I appeared on Top Gear last year. That was such fun. I spun the car five times. I thought I might as well make the most of it. I am competitive.’

He recorded one of the fastest laps, but I’m surprised blokes didn’t think him manly before that, given his tour of duty in Kosovo. ‘It’s because I sing songs that are heart-on-your-sleeve and therefore I must be overly emotional. Nothing I can do about it. I could pose more, but I am comfortable with my masculinity.’

He has said that his lyrics are autobiographical, in which case, are we to assume that the lyric on his new album, ‘I killed a man in a far away land’, means he killed a man in a far away land? I only ask because in the past he has said that he would never try to exploit what he went through, what he saw. ‘You should ask any soldier how many lives he has saved. How they do it is no one else’s business. What I took from my experience in Kosovo is that you are told from one day to the next who your enemy is and it keeps changing. That’s what is happening in Iraq, too. I believe in looking people in the eye, looking for the common humanity.’

He is a great believer in looking people in the eye. He will use the phrase again later and it seems to reveal a Christ complex, or a John the Baptist one. That direct and challenging stare of his. It would also explain the hair.

It is time for him do some photographs before he goes on stage and, endearingly, he says he is ‘not fussed’ about the grooming he is offered before they are taken.

On stage his features contort with passion when he sings. The big video screen goes in tight on his face. His voice is by turns soft and tremulous and forceful, but always high. Having seen him in concert once before, a couple of years ago, I notice the tone of his banter has changed.

‘Wow it’s hot tonight,’ he says now. ‘I’m surprised any of you are wearing any clothes. We could all take them off and get friendly.’ It is suggestive, designed to get the teenage girls in the audience screaming. Before he used to joke about his ‘girlie voice’ and taking helium to get it that way, and being ‘a bit wet’ and the ‘housewives’ favourite’. I think now he has realised that, actually, he is a proper musician, a popular one, too, and that he doesn’t need to apologise for it.

Afterwards, back in the dressing-room, he strips to the waist as he talks because he wants to take a shower before going back on to do his duet with Sheryl Crow. ‘Things got a bit hairy out there when I jumped into the crowd,’ he says. ‘Did you see that? Some thought it was some kind of sport to grab me.’

I watch his duet from the side of the stage and notice he whispers something in Sheryl Crow’s ear and then she starts running her hands over his trousers suggestively, patting them. Afterwards, I ask what he said. ‘”Is now a good time to ask for your phone number?” She was checking my pockets, pretending to look for a pen.’

He shows me round the gold-coloured tour bus where he will be sleeping tonight as they drive to their next gig in Dallas. It is full of hi-tech equipment and is nicely air-conditioned but there isn’t much space in the bunks. ‘We do live in close proximity,’ he says. ‘Some of us stay up late. This is the crew end, they have to get up early.’

Where do the groupies go? ‘Never have groupies on here. Never. They’d only get in if we invited them in. But we’d only ever invite friends in.’

Does he sleep OK? I heard he has to take sleeping pills. ‘It is a bit of a rough sleep, but better than a hotel and taking planes all the time because you have to get to the airport two hours early, which is miserable. Then your flight gets delayed.’

He is drinking champagne from a plastic cup. ‘This is for your benefit,’ he says. ‘The tour management went out and bought a bottle of champagne because he thought I should be seen drinking it. Better for my image. Isn’t that sweet? Normally, we drink vodka and beer. In fact, I think I’d rather have a beer, now. Want one?’ He opens a well-stocked fridge then takes me to the back of the bus where there is some seating space. He has one small case which he pulls out from a cupboard. It continues a few pairs of socks, T-shirts and a spare pair of jeans. No photographs or mementos. ‘This is all I have for 14 months on the road,’ he says. ‘I’m not known for style.’

Does he know how much he is worth? ‘No I don’t, not very interested in it to be honest. I travel with hand luggage only. That is why I always seem to be wearing the same clothes in photographs. If a tabloid says my clothes aren’t fashionable or my hair looks stupid, I really don’t worry about it. Don’t have any hair gel.’

In London, he takes the Tube or the bus. He prefers pubs to restaurants. When he goes to Ibiza, he flies easyJet. Still, that’s at home. Presumably on the road he can afford to be more self-indulgent.

Another lyric that we can only assume is autobiographical is ‘I’ve taken a s—load of drugs’. It is. Though his only comment on the subject is that he has ‘a comfortable relationship with drugs’. His relationship with fame is less comfortable. Oscar Wilde said there were two forms of tragedy: not getting what you want, and getting it. Is that how it felt for him when he went to number one? ‘Actually, I don’t think I had been dreaming about it. Certainly, I hadn’t anticipated being so recognisable so quickly.

‘I do remember getting a phone call from the record company, who said both the single and the album have gone to number one, and thinking, “S—, this is not what I expected.” I hadn’t prepared myself for it. Number two is great. Number two is nice. I sensed then it would mean having to change from being a musician to being a celebrity and that that would be a change for the worse. Fame doesn’t affect me, but it does affect everyone else around me. As for celebrity, it is the worst invention of the modern world. Gossip columns treat your life as if it were a cartoon. Relationships reduced to cartoons.’

Although there are other public-school bands around at the moment – Radiohead, Coldplay – Blunt seems to have suffered more than most from a perception that he is too posh to be credible. His family name is Blount (and his middle name Hillier), but he changed it to Blunt to sound, well, blunter and more proletarian.

When he tells me he would nevertheless still send a son of his to Harrow – ‘I think I would. I think I would. Public schools make individuals rather than sheep’ – I ask what he makes of the mood change now that the old Etonian David Cameron has made it OK to be posh. ‘Is it? I must come back to Britain immediately. Is it really safe to come back?

‘It’s not a dirty word to be posh, people come up to me and no one gives a damn if I’m posh. It’s about having a normal conversation and looking people in the eye.’

We head back to the dressing-room where he puts on his feather boa and novelty sunglasses then we wander back downstairs to have a word with Sheryl Crow, who is signing autographs. This is the moment at which the keyboard player says: ‘This way to the good-time room girls’ and the silent groupies dutifully appear.