'80s - Right Said Fred (2015)
'Don't Kiss, Just Talk: The Story of Right Said Fred'
The delightfully fun pop band Right Said Fred is an English band based in London and formed by brothers Fred and Richard Fairbrass in 1989, with guitarist Rob Manzoli joining the duo a year later. The group are named after a novelty song of the same name ('Right Said Fred') which was a hit for Bernard Cribbins in 1962. With over 20 million CDs sold worldwide, the group have achieved multi-platinum status and has also won two Ivor Novello Awards – for 'I'm Too Sexy,' the other for 'Deeply Dippy.'
Indeed, Right Said Fred are the first United Kingdom band since The Beatles to reach the number one slot in the United States with a début single. The single also went to number four on the Billboard Hot Dance Club Play chart. 'I'm Too Sexy' has been used in over 40 television shows and movies, including My Wife and Kids, The Simpsons, and even The West Wing.
Their second single, 'Don't Talk Just Kiss', with background vocals by soul singer Jocelyn Brown, was released in October 1991. It made #3 in the United Kingdom Christmas charts, entered the top five in many countries, and reached number eight in the United States dance chart. In February 1992, the band released their third single, 'Deeply Dippy'. This was number one in the United Kingdom for three weeks, and peaked at number nine in the United States dance chart.
The success of the singles resulted in the band's multi-platinum debut album, Up, reaching number one in the United Kingdom album charts as well as charting worldwide. The album remained in the Top 40 for almost a year. Subsequent albums didn't fair was well chart-wise, but their singles still today go down a storm in Europe.
Fred and Richard have also teamed up with jazz legend Tim Garland to write and record music for the new British independent movie 'Meet Pursuit Delange' (to be released this summer), and have an as-yet undisclosed documentary / campaign entitled, interestingly enough, I'm Not Too Sexy!
Sitting down with one half of Right Said Fred (RSF), Richard Fairbrass, and noting that RSF were formed in 1990, released their debut single, 'I'm Too Sexy' a year later and suddenly they were everywhere, if looking back had it been a smooth transition from unknown to known, or would he have done certain things differently in hindsight? "No it wasn’t a smooth transition, it was chaos. We had a manager who had never been a manager, a record label who had never been a record label and we had never been in a band with Rob; we were just writing partners. None of the relationships had had the chance to solidify, everyone was thinking on their feet without the advantage of know-how or experience. I think now we’d get an experienced business manager in the mix, someone with an overview."
'I'm Too Sexy' spent six weeks at #2 in the UK Singles Chart, but never made it to the top spot, which was held by Bryan Adams' '(Everything I Do) I Do It For You.' Back then, was that a thorn in your side to get so close to #1 ... and have you ever been face to face with Bryan to tell him what he did to you?! "No it wasn’t a thorn in our side, it is what it is. We’ve never met Bryan Adams although we did share the same agent for many years."
However, the song went on to be #1 in 32 other countries, including over here in the US, not only earning you your first Ivor Novello Award, but ensuring that you were the first British band (since The Beatles) to reach the #1 slot here with a debut single! My goodness, you must have been on Cloud 9 around that time! "#1 in the US is by far the most coveted chart position, it trumps all other chart positions," he smiles. "To be honest, we didn’t really celebrate as we were in promotion madness touring the world. We didn’t have time to reflect on it or enjoy it in the way we should have."
With singles such as 'Don't Talk Just Kiss' and another UK #1 'Deeply Dippy' ensuring that your debut album, Up reached #1 on the UK Albums Chart, the fact that it then stayed in the Top 40 for almost a year is a huge feat to accomplish. Is that something that could still happen today though, given the way buying, selling and making records has changed so much? "Although the industry has changed beyond recognition, I still think it could happen today. You need the right set of circumstances that synchronize with the right artist and the right songs."
Subsequent albums were then released - Sex and Travel (1993), Smashing! (1996), Fredhead (2001), Stand Up (2002), For Sale (2006), and both I'm A Celebrity (2008) and Stop the World (2011) - but nothing (chart wise) matched the success of your first two albums. Most bands would have called it quits after the third album, but you kept on keeping on, but what drove you to do so - and still does? "By the time we started recording Sex & Travel we really weren’t having a very nice time. The fame game and celebrity didn’t gel that well with us. That’s reflected in that album and it’s title. Although the extra money was great we have never been motivated by it or fame, so once the wheels started coming off we kind of just stood by and watched. We weren’t that bothered."
"Rich and I have always written and played because we enjoy it. We split up with Rob in the late 90’s and then Rich and I started writing the Fredhead album. This album achieved better chart positions in some countries than the first album Up. It also enabled us to have a few very successful tours. We write and record because we enjoy it. Sometimes we’re successful, sometimes we’re not. That’s just life."
"Charts have become less and less important, song usage is key. That said, good chart positions are always nice to have and are good for the ego. Our LA based label, Promark has been extremely successful in the US Dance and Club Charts and we’re very proud of that."
You have a massive following in Europe, always have done, and it's seemingly all based around your singles. Even in 2013, with the release of 'Raise Your Hands,' it proved to be your 6th consecutive US Club and Dance Chart Top 10 hit! So, what is it about Germany, especially, and the US that they seem to be more fertile hit single ground for you than England? "Yes, Germany, Northern Europe and US have always been supportive in one way or another. The UK music business and the music media was hostile towards us from the off. I guess you either fit in or you don’t. We don’t. It used to annoy us, but now we don’t care. We just follow the love."
Naming a band after a 1962 song by actor Bernard Cribbins was an adventurous thing to do, but in reflection was it always your number one choice, perhaps? "Once we’d decided to call the band Right Said Fred, we’ve never given it a second thought. Before that we were in many different bands with various names - The Actors, Trash, Flash and Money, In the Flesh."
RSF have not only sold over 20 milllion albums worldwide, but achieved multi-platinum status, winning two Ivor Novello Awards along the way too! Be honest, when RSF released its debut single in 1991, did you ever in your wildest dreams imagine still touring and making music nearly some 25 years later? "We’ve always had a lot of faith in ourselves. We were confident that we would be successful one day, but never really thought about how it might manifest. We are extremely fortunate to have made a good living out of something we love doing. I think that should be enough reward for anyone."
With 'I'm Too Sexy' still today being used on TV shows - most recently on an advert for Swamp Hunters on the History Channel - I know they have to come to you to get permission first (and then pay you), but does it always work that way?! "Yes, many times they have “forgotten” to get permission," he smiles. "Fortunately now the internet, and in particular social media, is a great way to track the use of your songs."
Looking back to the writing/producing of these albums (below), please tell us [in just a quick paragraph per title) what was going on in your life [that may have inspired you, disheartened, pleased, or angered you, etc.] around the time that RSF were recording them:
Up - "This album was recorded while ‘I’m Too Sexy’ and ‘Don’t Talk Just Kiss’ were both achieving huge success. We were becoming more and more famous and it was weird for all of us to be going through this while recording the debut album. This gave the album a lot of energy and confidence. It was a very exciting time and I really enjoyed making this album."
Sex and Travel - "Although we now had success and money this album was a horrible time for me. The writing I enjoyed, but the recording was too slow, too expensive and had way too many politics. Everyone was over thinking everything. All of our professional relationships, and some personal ones, were disintegrating. Personally, I couldn’t wait for the whole miserable experience to be over."
Fredhead - "This album was a lot of fun. We went a little more ‘Euro’ on this album and some of the album tracks have really stood the test of time. Again, we were recording it on the back of chart success, this time with ‘You’re My Mate’. The label Kingsize/BMG were very focused and supportive. It was our first album with Clyde Ward and we hit it off immediately. Fourteen years later we’re still writing with Clyde."
I'm a Celebrity - "I enjoyed this album. It was fun to make and we weren’t thinking at all about radio play or the charts ... which is a good job as it sold like shit!!! That said, some individual tracks - 'I’m A Celebrity,' 'This Love,' 'Lord Have Mercy,' 'Melanie,' 'I Am A Bachelor' - have done really well in the Dance and Club Charts and have become favorites when we play. They have even been used in movies and in commercials. It was our own release on our own label and I’m still very happy with most of the album."
Given that you are British, live in Spain, and are a musician, that would all lead me to believe you would abstain from all-things US politics. But yet that couldn't be further from the truth as you are a very politically-vocal person, but where does that stem from? "Politics are everywhere. You can’t avoid them unless you live under a rock. I think we are lied to and misled on a daily basis. It’s in everyone’s interest not to buy into the lies and the deceit. There are many independent and alternative news sources, it would be silly not to try and get different perspectives. US politics effect the whole world, from the Federal Reserve, the military, foreign policy and the many allegiances that are formed."
Reading through your FB and Twitter accounts, it seems RSF have come full circle and are as busy now as they once were! Indeed, you have just teamed up with jazz legend Tim Garland to write and record music for the new British indie movie, 'Meet Pursuit Delange.' How did that all come about and what type of musical slant are RSF bringing to the jazz work of Garland? "We have two songs in the movie and are also appearing in it. Tim Garland wrote a song for Rich to sing and has performed on one of our tracks. It’s been a learning curve and a lot of fun. We’re finding ourselves involved in a few movies now which is great!"
You also have a cameo in the film, so please do tell us more about the roles you play? "We are Guardian Angels, so we appear then disappear. We’re not expecting BAFTA’s just yet," he smiles. "They’ve got some really good people involved, like Jason Flemyng, Hannah Waddingham, Peter Bowles, Ben Starr, Robert Portal, etc. etc. It’s a VERY British, very quirky comedy with quite a lot of music!"
Being that you are in the studio, one assumes working with Mike Rose again, I can only guess that a brand new RSF album will be unleashed this year? If so, has it got a working title at this time - and what can we expect from it, sound wise? "We’re mostly working with Paul Statham at present, but we love working with Mike ... and yes, he is involved in some of the tracks. It’ll be a 2016 release. It’s less four on the floor than some of the previous albums as we’re using a lot of acoustic guitar. We’re also teaming up with a couple of girl singers for some tracks. We have a couple of other collaborations we’d like to try, but we don’t know if they’ll happen. We’re really enjoying the process. No title as yet."
Interestingly, Nile Rodgers recently busked incognito on the Southbank in London, and you yourselves did similar "gigs" in Convent Garden and such back in the late 80's. If you were looking to promote a brand new album in 2016, would you consider this kind of self-promotion also, perhaps? "Busking isn’t anything we plan to do anytime soon. We weren’t mad about it first time around! That said, never say never!"
Please tell us more about the film I'm Not Too Sexy, as it seems you are quite involved in it and already touting it on social media! "It’s not a film, it’s part of a documentary and a campaign. I can’t say any more than that at the moment. All will be revealed at the end of July 2015."
Talking of social media, you seem to have embraced it with open arms. So is it a completely good thing or, to your mind, does it have a dark side also? "I enjoy it to a degree. I don’t engage with the nut jobs or the haters. I hit block/delete and move on. It can be great thing and a toxic thing, all at the same time."
You also have your Autobiography upcoming this year. But is it your personal Autobiography or an RSF one together with Richard also? Does it have a working title yet? "It’s an RSF autobiography scheduled for 2016. The working title is ‘May Contain Nuts’."
You live in Barcelona, Spain these days, but commute back and forth to England a lot, so what made you move abroad and away from London in the first place? "I moved for health reasons. I have chronic asthma and chronic sinusitis so the UK winters hit me really hard. I decided to try a more sympathetic climate," he smiles.
So that would explain the medical tests you had done recently where a cardiac arrest team had to be present! Are you ok, in general, my friend? "Yes, I’m ok, thanks. I have to just keep an eye on myself."
Being that both yourself and Richard have uber buff bodies, are your work out routines as rigorous as they were back in the 80's/90's? "No, our routines reflect us getting older and I’m less demanding on myself. We trained very hard when we were younger and we have the injuries to prove it. I train if I want to and I don’t train if I don’t want to. We are both still pretty strict with out diets though."
Being that we're not called Exclusive Magazine for nothing, please reveal something about RSF that you don't normally talk about in interviews, but if you mentioned it now it would truly make this interview VERY exclusive! "My real name is Penelope ... and I’m a woman," he smiles, broadly.
Finally, we here at Exclusive Magazine LOVE Penguins! So, we would like to know if you do also, perhaps? "I like Penguins although I’ve never met one socially ... but they seem like a good bunch!"
Interviewed by Russell A. Trunk
Fred @ Twitter
Richard @ Twitter
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