Boyzine – celebrating the forgotten boy bands of the 90s

April 5, 2012

Slam dunked

Filed under: Uncategorized — by Kate Perris @ 10:04 pm

Sean from Five was in the “entertainment news” recently when rejected on TV talent competition The Voice. Their 2007 comeback was so low key even I didn’t know about it until now. But Sean is still only 30, and hopefully can take some comfort from the fact that Jessie J was starstruck when she realised it was him. Where might she be in 10 years?


February 13, 2011

Now that’s what I call multitasking

Filed under: Uncategorized — by Kate Perris @ 12:35 pm

Antony Costa at the cash point

In the annals of boy band related news stories, it seems unlikely that anything will ever top the truly awe inspiring incident where East 17’s Brian Harvey ran over himself with his own car, blamed it on baked potatoes and found God.

But coming in at an admittedly distant second comes last week’s Mirror story featuring Blue’s Antony Costa pissing while using a cash point in Trafalgar Square in the early hours. I don’t know what is more impressive, the fact that Costa is able to text, take out cash and pee all at the same time, or that the Mirror is able to stretch to 31 paragraphs an incident which can be summed up in a sentence. While Costa’s painting the wall is not exactly classy I think they may be stretching the outrage somewhat by pointing out the cash point’s proximity to Charing Cross Police Station (gasp!) and approaching a spokesman for Scotland Yard and a Japanese person for comment. Concluding that the offence is liable for a fine up to £100 you can’t help but picture Costa heading to an ATM to withdraw it accompanied by a comedy fly unzipping sound.

In the words of Blue’s no1 hit with Elton John “Sorry Seems to be the Hardest Word”, but this doesn’t seem to be the case for Costa who has, to his credit, now apologised for embarrassing his mum. Although Blue have yet to unveil their song for Eurovision their description of it as “anthemic blues” does suggest that Eurovision shame will be raining down on the UK again like…do I have to continue?

June 7, 2009

We are E-Male

Filed under: Uncategorized — by Kate Perris @ 2:45 pm

I had been planning to write about Blue since their reunion is taking place as I write at the Emirates Stadium – a mere stone’s throw from Boyzine HQ – but there was another boy band crying out for inclusion on these pages. By 1998 it was no longer enough to just put together 4 fairly attractive boys and 1 unattractive or slightly overweight boy in their late teens, take them out of their old sportswear and put them in expensive sportswear and give them a cover version to sing. By 1998 boy bands needed a gimmick.

E-Male didn’t stop with one gimmick. They had two. They were advanced capitalism at work. They attempted to cash in on the internet which was inexplicably popular despite the fact social networking websites which allow people to follow in embarrassing detail the lives of people they once met at a party 4 years ago did not yet exist. And they matched that with a totally unrelated gimmick. Rollerskates.

There was no rollerskating fad in 1998. Inline skating, then as now, was popular with really stupid people but E-Male, despite their cutting edge modernity, kept it old school on quad skates. The seeming inexplicability of performing on rollerskates began to make sense when it was revealed that they had all appeared in Starlight Express, “the world’s only musical performed entirely on rollerskates”. Having a musical performed on rollerskates was a huge leap forward for musical theatre and we can only be grateful someone thought to extend this to pop music.

In their, tragically, only video, E-Male leap over desktop computers on their rollerskates, singing “check us out at our e-male address”, desperately trying to make the internet sexy by wearing midriff exposing tops, revealing torso and hoping viewers would forget that a lot more than torso was only a click away on the world wide web, as people referred to it then.

The gimmickry extended to names and E-Male were known as E-Mense, E-Zee, E-Nigma, E-Lusive and E-Go, which as they explain in this interview represent “aspects of the male”, since E-Male apparently stood for “Everything Male”. If nothing else, you’ve got to respect the brutal honesty about the masculine psyche demonstrated by these names (I’m hoping that E-Mense was a tongue in cheek reference to male “size obsession”).

The band obviously had a website, sadly lost to time, on which E-go (“the thinker of the band”) said “I wish that scientists realised that what they do is not anywhere near as important as the achievements of nature.” That’s right, that was “the thinker of the band” speaking. Still, it takes a certain kind of intelligence to be able to do backflips on rollerskates!

The band’s second single unfortunately not only never appeared but any footage of them performing it on The Freddie Starr Show also appears to be lost to the ages. However, even if it never reappears, I will never, ever forget the image of E-Male, parallel to the ground, performing pelvic thrusts on rollerskates.

I believe some of E-Male have gone on to bigger and better roles in Starlight Express and I hope they aren’t too embarrassed by their bizarre foray into popular music even though their boast “we just/can’t fail” may have proved a little bit optimistic.

Thanks to Pop! Year Zero for the website quote.

November 9, 2008

The girl band who were boys

Filed under: Uncategorized — by Kate Perris @ 9:21 pm

Austin Drage’s departure from the X Factor makes this a good time to revisit the Honeytraps, the band he fronted as part of the reality TV show Boys Will Be Girls. The show’s premise was that former boy band members would form a supergroup but the obligatory twist was revealed early on in that they would have to pass themselves off as a girl group. Then 19 year old Austin supposedly qualified for this due to having been in a boy band called 5boyz although they don’t seem to have ever been signed and he achieved more as an actor (like most people who have passed through stage school in Britain, he had appeared in the Bill and Casualty.) Nevertheless, it’s not hard to see why they would be willing to overlook the obscurity of his boy band past: the other two (Russ from Scooch and Martin from the Fast Food Rockers) were too rough to pass as women, especially Russ who requires the full bag of digital tricks in the above video to hide his rugged jawline, instant 5 o’clock shadow and trucker physique.

Nevertheless Russ managed to make a comeback to go on to brief fame as part of the Scooch reunion for Britain’s 2007 Eurovision entry. Here again Russ is upstaged by a more camp rival who gets the “would you like something to suck on during landing?” line.

Martin from the Fast Food Rockers’ previous career high was being upstaged by a moonwalking blue velvet dog in the group’s only hit, and again, he didn’t get the line about sauces. He returned to his bar job after the show.

Austin (perhaps being younger and without the history of fixed grins and primary colours of the other two) was less game and refused to stop going to the gym and give up his manly physique so as to look better in frocks. However, it was inspiring to see that overall, no one was threatened by appearing as women and that they all got behind the project.

In addition to producing the above video the band have to appear live at a holiday camp and convince holidaying families that they are in fact a girl group. This seemed unlikely however it has to be said that the performance did take place in a very darkened room and that the band were at a considerable distance from the audience of not very critical families. Nevertheless they pull it off and maybe some of the dads had their minds broadened after the reveal.

The video was shown to 3 music business types to see if they noticed anything about the video and while when pressed harder to identify anything unusual 2 of the 3 did raise the gender issue the experiment was judged a success. Austin failed to weep copiously at the Honeytraps’ achievement (apparently this had not yet become his trademark). Perhaps while in drag he learned to hold back the tears as truly waterproof mascara isn’t a reality just yet.

It was great to see a band set a realistic goal such as convincing a few people that they were girls instead of a less realistic goal such as extended careers (although the single did reach no 24 in the download chart on its online only release). Austin’s X Factor comments about Wembley suggest unfortunately that his personal ambitions may not be so modest but whether he achieves them or not hopefully his role in this vastly entertaining TV show won’t hold him back.

September 6, 2008

Boy bands on your back. Forever. In Wales.

Filed under: Uncategorized — by Kate Perris @ 9:32 am

I hoped this Welsh woman’s giant tattoo of Westlife was a first. Sadly, I was wrong. It’s not even the first in Wales, as this Westlife fan got there first.

The first Westlife back tattoo lady is probably dying of envy that the second Westlife back tattoo lady not only ripped off her concept but actually got Westlife to sign her back and immortalised this in ink. Can it be long before the Swansea Valley woman gets Westlife to add their signatures and a tattoo artist to etch these into her skin? Will this end up in a huge rivalry where the two women fight to cover more and more of their bodies with Westlife images as their collective seven children turn to drinking, drugs and sex to blot out the pain of having a Westlife tattooed mum? I’ll bet it does.

How does Bryan McFadden feel about his early departure from Westlife preventing him from spending life on the backs of Welsh women? I bet he feels good.

August 2, 2008

Les Worlds Apart

Filed under: Uncategorized — by Kate Perris @ 1:29 pm

The most baffling thing you will ever see.

A disturbing feature of boy band videos is the shared love interest. All 4 or 5 boy band members coo and serenade a solitary model because they all just want a special lady in their lives. The same one, apparently. However, in this, the most disturbing boy band video of all time, the love interest for all 5 members of Worlds Apart isn’t just shared. It is an orangutan. Your jaw WILL drop as you watch the above clip in which they gaze adoringly at an orangutan, stroke the orangutan, kiss the orangutan and even try to enjoy a candlelit dinner with the orangutan. While most of them are wearing dungarees (although the orangutan is naked). In the end they all stroll off hand in hand with the orangutan.

Being big in Japan (or more commonly Malaysia) is common enough for British boy bands who fail to make it on home turf. Worlds Apart were big in France, which apparently has a relaxed attitude to bestiality I was unaware of but doesn’t wholly surprise me. After a string of minor hits on home turf they found the other side of the channel more receptive and began recording in French. Lineup changes meant that in 1994 they recruited Nathan Moore from minor Stock, Aitken, Waterman recorded boy band, Brother Beyond. Being already pushing 30 failed to prevent Nathan from becoming a French pin up and Worlds Apart continued to enjoy dwindling success in France and Germany into the 21st century. After a brief hiatus they reformed as a 3 piece in 2007 meaning that Nathan’s boy band career has now (off and on) spanned 22 years. As manager of Lisa Scott-Lee on MTV’s Totally Scott-Lee he was seen neglecting his managerial duties in favour of pursuing his own comeback. His reality TV career continued with the all time great, Boys Will be Girls, in which he managed members of Scooch, Fast Food Rockers and 5boyz as they attempted to pass themselves off as a girl band called the Honeytraps. But that’s another entry.

In an unfortunate honeytrap related note, Nathan hit the news in 2004 when he pleaded guilty to soliciting a woman police officer saying that he was innocent but trying to avoid interest in his personal life. Unfortunately for him press interest continued when a PR agent (not his own) claimed to have been his boyfriend for 13 years. Nathan married (a woman) last year and whatever the truth of his personal life, at least only humans have been involved, and he wasn’t featured in Worlds Apart’s simian love fest.

July 5, 2008

Adam Rickitt and cheese

Filed under: solo artists,Uncategorized — by Kate Perris @ 11:15 pm
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He’s not a boy band, I know, but Adam Rickitt is far too fascinating to let being a solo artist stand in the way of appearing on this site. His music and image took so much from the 90s boy band tradition and he was managed by no less than Take That’s manager Nigel Martin-Smith. Launching his music career on the back of his success as Nicky Tilsley in Coronation Street (replacing an earlier Nicky who failed to grow up to be sufficiently hot so came back from Canada as someone else) Adam made an immediate impact with his debut (or dayboo as they apparently say in New Zealand – see the above video clip) single “I Breathe Again”. The video features Adam breathing heavily and naked in a box, surrounded by menacing lady doctors with clipboards. Short of a guest appearance from the Village People it’s difficult to see how it could be any more gay.

Adam was widely derided for attempting to build a music career around the ability to look good naked in a box. His unpopularity reached a climax at the 1999 Brighton Party in the Park when someone threw a smoke bomb on stage at him. Although I can’t claim to always be on the spot at many moments of historical importance, on this occasion I was there as he was rushed off stage and I asked him about the explosive attack to which his response was “oh yeah, yeah”. And at that moment I abandoned all hope of a career in celebrity journalism.

His singles and album were undeservedly met with decreasing success despite the fact his shirt came off at every opportunity. After appearing in musical theatre, panto and as a last minute replacement for Goldie on “The Games”, “Celebrity Big Brother” must have been calling but instead, he bravely sought a career in politics. With the Conservative party. Being from poshest Cheshire the Tories must have seemed to be the obvious choice and he made David Cameron’s A list of potential candidates and appeared on Question Time (he didn’t feel that the cartoon of Mohammed in a Dutch newspaper should have been censored, if you’re interested). However, it’s hard not to feel that all those topless pictures and the involvement in Coronation Street’s first gay kiss might have made it hard for some more traditional Conservatives to stomach, or so they may have publicly claimed.

Adam’s next move was an even bigger one…to New Zealand, to appear in their top stroke only soap opera, Shortland Street. Unfortunately this only came to the attention of any of the rest of the world when Adam got caught shoplifting a block of cheese and a jar of coffee from a supermarket in Auckland. Fortunately he got let off due to unspecified family problems and stress. Yes, it’s that well known famous person defense, where you can claim that you’ve been working so hard you forgot that you have to pay for things in shops. In his defence it can be claimed that there is something of a tradition of cheese stealing in New Zealand as Martin Phillips of the Chills also got caught stealing cheese (and a banana smoothie) from a supermarket in Dunedin. NZ MP Phillida Bunkle got in on the coffee stealing act shortly afterward with the theft of two packets of Fagg’s coffee although I really only mentioned that so I could say Phillida Bunkle.

Regardless of any illegal activities Adam made quite an impact on Shortland Street during the tense “mystery serial killer” storyline. I was in NZ at the time and New Zealanders seemed to be impressed to have someone who could act to international standards appearing on Shortland Street.

June 28, 2008

Na na na na na na na na

Filed under: Uncategorized — by Kate Perris @ 2:45 pm
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Remember North and South? The boy band with their own tv series? And members from both the north and the south of England. They held out the promise of destroying the north south divide of boy band music in 90s England, where you could be a fan of Take That (north) or a fan of East 17 (south) but not both. North and South also reversed the traditional boy band tradition of “the unattractive member” by having only one attractive member. You would have thought that the unattractive girls who learn early to settle and claim to fancy the specially designated unattractive member (Danny from New Kids on the Block, Howard from Take That when he had dreads…) would have flocked to them but it didn’t quite happen and they broke up after only 3 singles.

No Sweat, the tv series of the band, had a first series set in Brighton in which the boys form a band in order to escape their drab lives (going to school, being bullied, not even a hand job from the girls at school, and one of them has a really annoying mother). They then attract girls but only the wrong kind (not slutty enough?) and have to hide from them a lot. What believability the first series had was altogether abandoned in the second in a move reminiscent of latter day Scooby Doo when they started having real ghosts, in that they started having real ghosts. Yes, why not introduce the supernatural into your failing boy band drama? In the second series North and South tour the country in a van which actually has a house inside (predating Harry Potter), have a glam rock manager and have to hide from a goth girl a lot. The BBC are keeping both series under wraps (no DVD) and the second did so badly their album, Allsorts, was never released. As ever I’d love to hear from you if you have a copy, because the few songs they did appeal were a great mix of guitars, singalong choruses and boy band tricks – like proto-Busted or McFly.

Little was heard from any of the members until the 6th series of American Idol when a now 28 year old Tom Lowe appeared and fessed up to his UK 90s past in North and South. He made it to Hollywood with (what else?) a Luther Vandross ballad but no further. His parents, however, will no doubt be pleased that he has an education to fall back on since he graduated from Harvard, no less. The official geeky member of North and South (the one in glasses) is probably a nuclear physicist by now.

Upside Down

Filed under: Uncategorized — by Kate Perris @ 1:33 pm
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* Are you between 17 and 21 and extremely good looking (we’re only looking for the best)
* Can you sing and wish to join the next teenage all boy band sensation?

So read the advertisement placed by Nick Stollery and Paul Hawkins of “World Records”, creators of Upside Down.  With a car hire fortune behind them, they turned their attention to the more glamorous world of pop, and their spectacular failure to mould their chosen four lads into a teenage sensation was captured by the BBC for its documentary, “A Band is Born”.    Since it isn’t on youtube, this description will have to suffice.

The programme starts with Nick and Paul reducing their initial 7,000 applicants to 250 by screening photographs, with the remaining fresh faced boys assembling at a Mayfair nightclub in February 1995 to sing either “Love Me for a Reason” or “Never Gonna Give You Up”.  Many of the hopeless auditionees – who it’s hard to believe thought of themselves as “extremely good looking” – literally run away in mid-song.  The rest are screened on video by Nick and Paul at home, weeded out with such damning comments as “spotty, isn’t he?” “yes, very bad acne”.  The 250 are eventually reduced to four:  Jamie (16), Chris (22), Richard (17) and Giles (20).

Even their new manager don’t seem overwhelmed with their lads, deeming them best of a bad bunch.  Jamie seems to be their favourite but is judged “too short”.  It could also be pointed out that he has big ears and a bad haircut but when asked by the BBC “do you think you’ll be attractive to young girls?” he blithely answers “yeah, definitely, definitely”.

After the initial euphoria wears off off, the boys’ parents are (perhaps understandably) nervous about handing their sons over to two middle aged men and take legal advice.  Giles even has middle class parents and is giving up studies at De Montford University.  The contracts unsigned, the documentary makers question Nick about possible exploitation: “Surely you could give them a few extra quid?” “Why?”

So Chris holds on to his job as a waiter, and is shown in a uniform of cowboy hat, braces, a pleated skirt over trousers and a red and white vertically striped polo shirt in some kind of bizarre combination of Austria and the Wild West (what can the food be like?)  Worse sartorial horrors are in store for the band as Nick and Paul appoint a stylist.  She is instructed to give the as yet unnamed band a “boys next door” look and an unlimited budget.  We see her spend over £2,000 in two shops alone and dress the boys in black and white vertically striped suits which isn’t what the boys next door to me are wearing (I do live in Catford).  They also go to a choreographer, who schools them in pelvic thrusts “because the girlies love them.  Some boys do too.”

The boys are flown to Spain in April to acquire suntans for their proposed summer single.  In a Marbella heavy metal club we see Richard trying to stay upright by holding onto a condom dispenser while moaning “oh no, fucking hell”.  A voice helpfully suggests “Rich put two fingers down your throat” but he crashes to the ground in one of those truly humiliating moments that keeps me watching fly-on-the-wall documentaries.  Marbella’s cocktails inspire the band’s eventual name, Upside Down.

Back in England they are taken to a singing teacher for vocal exercises.  “Open your mouth enough to admit the fattest part of your thumb between your teeth” she advises.  Certainly a skill worth having in the music industry.

Contracts finally thrashed out, the managers visit publishing house Rondor Music in the search for a “killer radio single”.  Unfortunately publisher Zara de Candole (!) can come up with nothing better to offer them than a song called “Arnold Schwartzenegger” which Nick and Paul openly laugh at and dismiss as “really twee”.  Haven’t they heard Belle and Sebastian?  Instead, they hire Ray Hedges to create a sound for the band.

Ray: “I was a bit reticent because I thought, well, another boy band.  I thought I want to try a harder route, I don’t want to do another boy band, so we’re trying to be more soulful.  We’ll try to take it somewhere other boy bands haven’t been before.  I can see more of a backlash than the boys can, and World Records.  I just really don’t want them to fall into the trap of thinking they’ve just got a formula to put out records.  You’ve still got to have that little spark so I’m going to try and drag it into the direction I think it should go.”  He produces a Jackson 5 style song which is fantastic, but was never released, so if you have a copy, let me know!

World Records declare Ray’s single too “black” sounding a too much of a marketing challenge, so behind his back they hire Ian Levine in an effort to “hedge their bets” (pun probably not intended).  They record a song due to have been recorded by Bad Boys Inc before they split up and which bears a mammoth debt to “Careless Whisper”.  Ian Levine comes across as very patronising towards the band and they prefer the Ray Hedges track (with the exception of Jamie).  World Records choose Ian Levine’s effort, “Change Your Mind”.

By now it is October and Switzerland becomes the location for the video shoot.  For the video, the boys are filmed lying on fur rugs in front of fires, scantily clad.  The director points to Giles’s shirt and says “if this falls off, don’t worry about it at all.”  Richard is clearly uncomfortably, pointing out “well, I’m in my underwear”.  Jamie is once again made to stand on the Yellow Pages when the group photos are taken.

Pop fame seems to beckon as Upside Down are chosen for the Smash Hits tour and attract the attention of a group of adolescent girls who scream and hold an animated discussion on which member is the most attractive, at least until Peter Andre appears.  Paul declares “I want to see a few pairs of knickers on stage.  Mine included.”  Their performance in velvet suits didn’t do it for me but some girls do wave their “show us your d*ck” (asterix in original) banner with enthusiasm, so it is declared a success.

The documentary ends with the announcement that Upside Down’s single has entered the charts at number 35, their launch having cost Nick Stollery half a million pounds.  You can buy success, but not very much of it.  For anyone who likes and defends “manufactured” bands (and I was with Ian Levine when he said that usually “pop bands survive better when somebody is masterminding them”) it hurts to see them manufactured so badly.

Upside Down’s role as figures of fun was pretty much guaranteed after the screening of “A Band is Born”, but they released 3 further singles, all produced by Ian Levine.  “Every Time I Fall in Love”, a song from the Rondor Music “repetoire” featured the lads in clashing acid bright suits (without shirts, of course), the 9 photo digipak providing plenty of opportunities to contemplate the crime against fashion.

“Never Found a Love Like This Before” was slated for being an obvious rip off of “Pray” and I can’t argue with that since the first time i heard it, I thought it was “Pray”.  It didn’t help the cause that the video was directed by the director of “Pray”.  Around this time, Richard acquired a stalker, a man whose actions were surely a cry for help.

For what was to be their final single, in November 1996, Upside Down recorded a genuine cover version, although thankfully not the cover of Petula Clark’s “Downtown” which they performed at roadshows.  In best boy band tradition they went for the MOR ballad and “If You Leave Me Now” by Chicago.  If you’ve heard Westlife and Mariah Carey’s version of “Against All Odds”, well, it isn’t as good as that.   There was a moody black and white video shot in Prague.

After dissolving their partnership with World Records, Upside Down reappeared…as a rock band, who played their own instruments, and were called Orange Orange (what do you want to bet they came up with their own name too?)  I This reincarnation met with all the success you might expect and was followed by Giles’s equally unsuccessful solo career where he admitted that the band had lied about not having girlfriends and had slept with fans.   I hope these performances were more successful than their musical ones.

It goes without saying, but if anyone knows what Upside Down are doing now, get in touch.  Their documentary was borrowed liberally from for the 1999 mockumentary series “Boyz Unlimited” which brought us James Corden (Gavin & Stacey) as the obligatory oversize figure of fun member but fiction was a lot less funny than fact (or fat).

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