A talented musician is hoping his time has finally come years after he was dropped by a legendary record producer of the 1980s and his singing partner won X Factor.
Howard Dee, 43, released his poignantly titled first album, Unfulfilled Finale, a month ago after spending the last two years recording it in his bedroom in Stoneleigh.
As a 27-year-old he was signed to Love This Records, a record company formed by 1980s music giant Mike Stock, working with Matt Aitken, who were part of the legendary Stock Aitken Waterman partnership which produced hits for the likes of Kylie Minogue, Jason Donavan and Banarama.
Promised a three-album record deal, Mr Dee began recording in Mr Stock’s studio, but, after a short time his calls to the studio went unanswered and he never heard from Mr Stock again - triggering a hugely disruptive personality disorder.
Mr Stock told the Epsom Guardian this week that he never meant to drop Mr Dee but the Jubilee Line extension forced the sudden closure of his studio.
He described the musician as "very talented" and wished him every success with his new album.
Mike Stock and Matt Aitken
The episode triggered a deeply difficult period in Mr Dee's life during which time he suffered anxiety and was eventually diagnosed with depersonalisation - a disorder which caused him to feel detached from the world.
He said: "Can We Pretend was the song they really liked, the one they wanted to release. I started recording the song but it had unfinished vocals.
"All of sudden, just as I was getting to the basic stage and coming along, they never got back to me. I was broken.
"I was dreaming of becoming a musician and thought it was my time. They said ‘you’re going to be very rich’. I felt like I was not alive or living on this earth. I felt empty."
The anxiety disorder made it difficult for him to continue in music and for years he got jobs just to pay the bills, alongside gigging in pubs and clubs.
Then he met Steve Brookstein in well-known karaoke venue Rocky’s in Cobham, Surrey, in 2000, and the pair began writing and singing together under the name Blue.
When a recording deal did not materialise, the duo began drifting apart. Shortly afterwards Brookstein went on to win the first ever series of the X Factor.
Mr Dee admitted this had been a "blow", but said he was proud of his friend: "I knew exactly how much he deserved it, but after seeing how he was treated on the X Factor and not being allowed to release his own material, it put me off applying for the show."
Howard Dee's first album, Unfulfilled Finale, was released over Christmas
At the end of 2012 he quit his job in the City and started doing music full-time again.
Mr Dee said: "In early 2013 my mum was diagnosed with cancer and it was a huge blow. It was a massive realisation and gave me the determination I needed to finish my album."
To his surprise, the release of his album turned out not to be the first time his music had been published on the internet.
When a friend searched for his name on the internet in December, a compilation album, produced by Mike Stock, appeared with Can We Pretend listed as a ‘demo’.
Mr Dee, who never knew why Mr Stock had dropped him all those years ago, said: "It’s been released as an unfinished version and is going to make me sound like an amateur. It’s really bad."
Speaking to the Epsom Guardian on Tuesday, Mr Stock did not apologise to Mr Dee but admitted it was "unfortunate" that he felt he had been dropped 15 years ago.
In fact, he said, the extension of the London Underground’s Jubilee line was the reason why a generation of stars-in-the-making were let go.
Mr Stock said: "A lot of water has passed under the bridge and it’s part of the rich tapestry of life.
"At that time, my studio was undermined by the Jubilee Line extension of the London Underground, which ran underneath us.
"I had to close the building and in the end I couldn’t do much with anyone. It wasn’t just Howard. I didn’t continue working with anyone from that time.
"The studio was performing badly. There were traffic noises and murmuring. I moved out and lost my contract with Simon Cowell to do Westlife as a result.
"I sued London Underground but didn’t get very far. It had damaged the building but it’s very hard to prove consequential loss.
"I hope Howard is very, very successful. I always thought he was very talented."
Howard Dee was never told why he was dropped by Mike Stock 15 years ago
Asked about Mr Dee’s concerns around his song, Can We Pretend, being released as an unfinished demo on a compilation album, he said: "We always thought it was great as it stood because it’s just his voice and the guitar and for me it stands up very, very well.
"Back then we were taking on various artists, always with the intention of releasing their songs.
"This is the fifth album we have put out and it’s all material from those days. The compilations are part of a retrospective. They have never been available before now because they were made 15 years before the digital revolution.
"It doesn’t sound rough and ready, it’s just not the version that would be the single version. So if Howard or anyone wants to finish them we’re not stealing anyone’s thunder in that respect.
"Type in ‘Beatles, demo’ and you will get thousands from them. That’s part and parcel of it.
"There’s absolutely nothing wrong with it. If people hear it they’ll think ‘if that’s what a demo sounds like, what’s the real thing like? It won’t cause any problems for Howard."
He said Mr Dee would "absolutely" be entitled to royalties from the song being published and if it sells and that will be a "matter of public record".
He added: "I wish him well and luck with his album. I can understand that he was surprised but it’s not bad news and is nothing negative."
On shows such as the X Factor, the record producer said: "I don’t like the idea of lots of kids walking away and ending up on the scrapheap.
"The music industry used to be different. Now, kids get all the adulation and fame before and only a few get the actual training at the end."
Kingston-born Mr Dee said he hopes people can take an "inspirational message" from his journey.
Watch a preview for Unfulfilled Finale
He said: "There’s always a way through to fulfil your ambitions and dreams no matter how bad things at times may appear.
"I hope my journey can give light to others who have a dream who are faced with overcoming a mental health condition. No matter how big or small that there is always a way through.
"Instead of letting the condition get the better of me I took to studying and researching about it alongside nutrition, health, fitness and psychology.
"This gave me the knowledge, understanding and power to be able to combat the condition and move forward with my life.
"Sadly, many people judge or view mental health issues as a weakness, although in reality it's the complete opposite in that it's a real test of one's soul, determination and inner strength - it makes a worrier become a warrior.
"All these experiences I have been through made me want to do it on my own."
For a preview of Mr Dee's album, which includes the completed version of Can We Pretend, visit www.epsomguardian.co.uk. It is now available to buy on ITunes and Amazon.
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