Every generation has its soundtrack. Anyone who grew up in the 1980s, and enjoyed the feelgood movies populated by the eponymous Brat Pack, will probably find themselves turning up the volume whenever John Parr's St Elmo's Fire comes on the car stereo.

It was a song that defined the Eighties, a sugar rush of soft rock that has survived the past 20 years.

John Parr turned up in the charts again this year thanks to a dance remix of St Elmo's Fire, called New Horizons, (John's son stars in the video) and now he's back on the road. But don't expect stadiums full of dry ice - you're more likely to find him in a community centre surrounded by posters for the Women's Guild.

"It's the Pretty Villages tour," says John. "I live in the longest village in England but we have no shop, post office or school anymore - just strangers moving in. Villages are commuter belts, people don't know who their neighbours are and only talk to them when they fall out.

"The last bastion of village life where I live is the village hall. I decided to get out and make use of community venues, the places usually only used by the WI or Ladies' Circle. Why not have rock gigs in these venues? Hopefully it will bring communities together, and make music accessible.

"It's a simple philosophy, just my way of trying to breathe life back into these great little venues. I started out playing clubs and pubs in the north and I've never lost sight of that.

"It's been going really well, I've had standing ovations half-way through the set!"

John, from Worksop, is playing at the Shoulder of Mutton pub in Shelf on Monday.

"Pubs weren't really on my list but I met up with (T Rex member) Paul Fenton who asked if I'd play there," he says. "It's an intimate show, I talk about my journey from a northern town to Hollywood. It's funny and informal, but it's quite a show."

John started singing professionally aged 12 and formed a band called The Silence with schoolfriends. "We got six guineas a week," he recalls. "We covered 150,000 miles on tour while still at school. I wanted to be a singer but it's a cursed ambition. It's such a tough business to crack but you just have to keep going. I didn't get my break until I was in my 30s, I played northern clubs for 20 years but couldn't break out.

"But when I started the Sixties was a golden time for a lad who wanted to sing. There were so many bands around, it was buzzing."

John played in several bands before going solo. His break came when he was asked to sing the theme to 1985 movie St Elmo's Fire, starring Rob Lowe, Emilio Estevez and Demi Moore.

"I locked myself in a recording studio for five years then met Meat Loaf and wrote and recorded with him in America," says John. "My songs got noticed and it all took off - it was like waiting for a bus then three coming at once.

"David Foster, who'd produced artists like Chicago, called me up about St Elmo's Fire and I wrote and recorded it in two days."

The song's full title is St Elmo's Fire (Man in Motion). "I talk about the story behind the song in my show, it's hairs-on-the-back-of-the-neck stuff," says John. "It was inspired by Rick Hanson, an athlete who broke his back in a freak accident and went around the world in a wheelchair. I just knew the song was going to be special, you get a feeling about these things. It felt like a gift from above."

John went on to write and record songs for other movies, including The Running Man and Three Men and a Baby.

"I didn't gig after 1986 but I did lots of writing and recording for artists like Tom Jones.

"Success was a long time coming but when I finally made it I suddenly got broody! I started a family and moved back to Britain to raise my children in the north, I made a conscious decision to do that. I'm a northern lad and I knew I'd come back one day.

"America was great though. I couldn't get a record deal in Britain but America embraced me. I love the traditional core of American music, it doesn't pander to trends and whims like British music does.

"Having said that, there are some fantastic singer/songwriters around, like Keane, The Killers and Razorlight. It's great that in the heat of the Simon Cowell get famous overnight' era there are so many bands writing songs and playing live. There's nothing better than live performance, record companies now see live gigs as the golden goose because they're not making any money out of record sales anymore."

  • John Parr is at the Shoulder of Mutton, Shelf, on Monday. For details visit www.johnparr.net