After 51 years in the business, Hallyday makes date for UK Britain

Click to follow
The Independent Culture

After 900 songs, 110 million album sales, 100 live tours, 30 movies, four wives, two suicide attempts and one near-death experience, Johnny Hallyday has done everything that a rocker can do.

Except one thing. In 51 years in the business, France's "national rock star" has never given a concert in Britain. On 15 October next year, Hallyday, 68, will put that right. He is to perform at the Royal Albert Hall as part of an international tour that will also take him to the US and Israel.

The singer has never had much of a following outside the French-speaking world. USA Today once called him "the biggest rock star you never heard of". Tickets for the Albert Hall gig, already on sale, will be snapped up by fans from France and members of the 300,000-strong French community in Britain.

This will be Hallyday's first full concert in the UK but not the first time that he has crossed the Channel to perform. Born Jean-Phillipe Smet, he was on the bill at the Royal Variety Performance in 1965. He has also recorded several albums in London studios.

Hallyday once attributed his longevity to body-building; to a type of anti-ageing pill widely prescribed to American grannies; and to pre-concert doses of cocaine to "kick-start my motor". Almost two years ago, he was placed in an artificial coma in a Los Angeles clinic. The singer and his insurers blamed a botched back operation in France, but a leaked medical report said his body had been weakened by years of alcohol abuse.

He is one of the most indestructible and workaholic members of the 1960s rock generation. He is appearing on stage in Paris for the first time to excellent reviews, playing a mixed-race man in a Tennessee Williams play. He will tour France next spring before his visits to the US and Britain.

In half a century, his deep, rasping voice has mimicked every style from "bad boy rock" to The Beatles, but to many of his fans, he is at his best with slow ballads in the French tradition.