Monday, June 21, 2010

FRANK SIDEBOTTOM: Rest in peace (same goes for you CHRIS SIEVEY!)

Veteran musician CHRIS SIEVEY passes away at the age of 54

CHRIS SIEVEY, the man who stood in front of THE FRESHIES and lurked beneath the papier mache head as FRANK SIDEBOTTOM, has died of cancer. 

While his musical career stretches all the way back to the early '70s, Sievey didn't achieve proper fame and notoriety until he donned an oversized papier mache head and created his alter ego, Frank Sidebottom.  His song parodies, original tunes and excessive use of the word 'fantastic' may not have been enough to capture the hearts and minds of the American public, but his success in the UK and Europe helped ensure that Sievey remained a busy man up until his death. 

The best way to describe Frank's is like the British equivalent of Wesley Willis minus the schizophrenia, with better tunes and far more silly!

While British comedians like Eddie Izzard and Russel Brand have managed to carve out a career in the U.S., Sidebottom was a uniquely British character who most Americans just didn't 'get'.  Why did he have this big fake head?  Why did he talk like his nose was plugged up?  Why did he SING like his nose was plugged up?  Why did he always sing about football and Timperley?  Where the hell is Timperley

I don't have answers for these questions, nor do I want to know.  While I may not understand what he's going on about, I certainly 'get' it.  Sidebottom is a character that you don't need an explanation for. You either find him entertaining of you don't.  I happen to love him.... but it could be that I absolutely loved what Sievey did in the late '70s and early '80s as the brains behind Power Pop/New Wave band THE FRESHIES.  

The Freshies may not have released any album during their brief existence, the Cherry Red label did release a fantastic collection that features loads of great Pop tunes that should have been big hits. The Very Very Best Of: Some Long & Short Titles is not the only place to get all of their hits on one CD, it is also their only CD!  So, it's essential either way!

After the Freshies, Sievey donned the papier mache head full time and began recording and making TV appearances galore.  Things really began to take off during the late '80s and early '90s and the Frank Sidebottom character became an honest to goodness celebrity, allowing Sievey to remain fully anonymous while his creation became loved and ridiculed in equal measures.

Towards the end of the '90s, Cherry Red issued FRANK SIDEBOTTOM'S ABC&D: The Best Of, which neatly compiled many of his unique reinterpretations/cover versions, original tunes and unique sense of humor. This collection is silly yet oddly compelling.  If you listen closely, you can hear the sound of a Pop musician creating music that is supposed to be goofy, but never strays too far from Sievey's pop roots.  Charming and stupid, Frank Sidebottom is worth your while. 

EFG&H: The Best Of Volume Two is more of the same, which roughly translates into: you have to own this in order to get the full picture of Sidebottom and his fancy pop tunes. While there does seem to be some crossover from the previous comp, there's still plenty of top tunes here to wrap your head around.  Does he get annoying?  Maybe. Is he entertaining?  Definitely.   As usual, there are plenty of reinterpretations/covers, some great original tunes and more. 

While there are probably hundreds of unreleased Sidebottom tunes that cane be released posthumously, it's a shame that Chris won't be around to create new music.

And that's a shame.

You know it is. It really is.

Thank you.
Stephen SPAZ Schnee

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