David Essex was holidaying in the South of France with his close friend Steve Collier when he came up with this song. The singer recalled in 1000 UK #1 Hits
by Jon Kutner and Spencer Leigh, "Steve had brought his guitar along and I was sitting by the pool strumming away when this tune popped into my head. It later turned out to be 'Gonna Make You a Star.'"
The song was released as the lead single from David Essex's eponymous second album and became his first #1 in the UK, spending three weeks at the top of the chart in November 1974. It was less successful in the US, failing to make the Hot 100.
Most of David Essex's songs at the time were written by him and produced by New Yorker Jeff Wayne. The American had studied at the Juilliard School of Music and worked as an arranger for The Righteous Brothers before coming to London in the mid-sixties. Essex first met Wayne via Liz Whiting, an understudy in Godspell in which the singer was starring. She was dating Wayne.
At this stage in Essex' career he was being treated as a cockney teen pop idol equivalent of David Cassidy. However, Essex himself was both amused and dismayed at this, and frequently managed to instill some lyrical cynicism in his songs. The theatrical tongue-in-cheek approach to "Gonna Make You A Star" was typical of his approach at the time:
Oh is he more, too much more, than a pretty face?
(I don't fink so)
It's so strange the way he talking - it's a disgrace
Some people felt that Essex's use of the East End of London dialect in his songs such as the "I don't fink so" phrase on "Gonna Make You A Star" was pretentious, but he told The Melody Maker that he wasn't even aware that he was singing in a Cockney accent.
"Do I? I didn't know. I'm just singing it. I thought I was sounding a bit more American," Essex said. "I was a bit worried about that. That may be a subconscious thing against when I was doing those blues songs in the Sixties and really had the black Southern accent off to a tee. It's throwing off that kind of dishonesty, because if you don't talk like that, why sing 'I got the blues 'bout ma baby.'"
"It's not really on, I don't think, although everybody is very used to it and 90 per cent of the singers like that," Essex added. "To me, it's always felt a bit silly. It's all a bit contrived."
This was covered by Martin Gore of Depeche Mode for his 2003 covers album Counterfeit. Released as a single, it peaked at #44 in the UK.