The singer is reported to have slept with 3,000 women. In an exclusive interview, he tells Ed Power what really happened on the road
So, Mick Hucknall, what's it like to sleep with 3,000 women? "To quote Sinatra, 'I have lived a full life'," says the Simply Red singer after a pause that threatens to go on longer than his new album.
"In the '80s, I was a bachelor. I lived a bachelor lifestyle. I was . . . what's the word for it . . . ? Gallivanting . . ."
Even by the standards of Thatcher-era pop lotharios, Hucknall was spectacularly frisky. Girlfriends included actresses Catherine-Zeta Jones, Tracy Shaw and Martine McCutcheon and models Helena Christensen and Kathy Lloyd.
Not bad for a skinny ginger bloke who has confessed to being too shy to talk to girls in his teens.
"I was young and I was free and have no regrets," he says, grandly. "At least I wasn't a hypocrite. I didn't have a wife hidden away at home."
He is aware that nowadays he is almost as well known for his bedroom derring-do as for the millions of records he flogged with Simply Red.
What people don't understand – and how could you unless you've ridden the rollercoaster too – is that, in the end, the whole sleeping-with-whoever-you-want thing turns into a drag.
A blur of meaningless bonks, broken promises, self-destructive partying. The longer it went on, the lonelier he felt inside.
This is a supremely touchy topic for Hucknall and it takes some cajoling for him to open up. He remains tremendously irritated by a 2010 UK interview in which he was quoted as saying sorry to each of the thousands of women he bedded.
"If you actually take a look at what I said in the infamous interview and what the editor introduced, you can see that they are slightly different," he says.
Rather than offering a mea culpa to thousands of ladies, he says, he was conveying his regrets to four or five specific individuals.
"I didn't apologise to 3,000 women. The 3,000 wasn't my figure. That was the editor's figure. I said to the journalist, 'during the last 25 years there were four or five important woman in my life who I could have treated better, women I could have had long-term relationships with'. And then I said, 'let me apologise to them right now'."
All right then, let's not take this infamous '3,000' total as kosher. Regardless, was there not something excessive – manic almost – about Hucknall's skirt chasing?
He suspects it has to do with his upbringing, the fact his mother abandoned him when he was three. As an adult, he sought female company whenever possible.
By the mid-90s, the playboy lifestyle was getting old, he says. He was drinking too much. His records weren't selling quite as well as they used to. And he'd split from the most serious girlfriend he'd ever had.
Hucknall's friends had all married, started families. He wanted the stability they took for granted.
"It was a downhill spiral really," he says. "That is what sex, drugs and rock and roll ultimately lead to.
"I had the lost the woman I loved at that point and was spiraling into alcoholic oblivion. I wasn't an alcoholic. However, it was definitely a slippery slope. I needed to pull myself together or I knew I wouldn't come back."
So he binned the empties, pulled his trousers up and convinced the love his life, businesswoman Gabriella Wesberry, he deserved a second chance. They married in 2010 and have a four-year-old daughter, Romy.
"Growing up and maturing enough to take on the responsibility of being a father and a husband has proved of huge benefit to me," he says.
Hucknall sees himself as an artist as much as an entertainer, which is why, to the almost certain detriment of his bank account, he recently put the Simply Red brand to rest and is releasing a collection of American soul covers under his own name.
This isn't to suggest that he wants to distance himself from Simply Red. He is immensely proud of the band.
Hucknall is from a rough part of Manchester and, starting out, his contemporaries were moody cult outfits such as Joy Division.
Today they are worshipped by critics. His music, in contrast, has always been received with derision by the purists. Given his time over, he wouldn't change a thing.
"The truth is [Joy Division label boss] Tony Wilson was always jealous of Simply Red's success," says Hucknall. "He never achieved massive international sales with any of his acts. He did very well with the propaganda, with the too-cool-for-school journalists.
"I live in the real world of popular music. Every one of my Simply Red records sold more than a million copies. And that's something I'm immensely proud of."
American Soul is out now. Mick Hucknall plays Olympia, Dublin, next April