How To Fix Image Will Not.Aopear On.Video.I Movie 15 Minutes Of Fame With ‘We’ve Got A Fuzzbox And We’re Gonna Use It’

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15 Minutes Of Fame With ‘We’ve Got A Fuzzbox And We’re Gonna Use It’

Sometime in the early to mid-eighties (nobody knows exactly when), four giddy schoolgirls get together and decide to do something with their lives in Birmingham rather than be doomed to grace the tills at their local Tesco. Sisters Jo and Maggie Dunn (four years older) were eagerly learning to play lead guitar and bass respectively, while Vicky Perks only had eyes for being a microphone-in-hand front lady and petite blonde Tina O’Neill already had drums in her tiny grip is ready for her first lesson. Without coming up with any great ideas for a band name, one of them came up with the idea of ​​playing around with one of the instruments they were currently rehearsing with. A “fuzzbox”, to describe it fully, is a guitar pedal used to create a distorted sound. It was first used by Jimi Hendrix and is a staple in creating surround sound from blurred or “fuzzy” noises primarily in rock music. It was also, and still is, a definite piece of equipment used by many punk bands at the time to give the very essence of the punk rock sound. Thus was born “We’ve got a Fuzzbox and we’re going to use it”…

Although with their brightly colored rags and market cuts an image that was more Barbie than pure punk, they were attractive if dated. Gracing the indie charts was about as good as they could get in their early days. Too clean and well-made up for anything along with The Slits, they took their place alongside fellow extreme make-up artists Strawberry Switchblade in their search for pouts, powder, ribbons and blank expressions. Now well equipped and fully trained on their respective instruments, they were ready to release their first single.

Signing to Vindaloo records (they were the first and only label willing to take a chance on the colour-blind quartet), they released the AA record ‘XX Sex/Rules And Regulations’ in April 1986. It was Tony Basile’s ‘Mickey’ again. It was sappy, so girly and pumped to the hilt with too much bass and certainly not enough glitz to tame the record buying public. Their promo video was an unsettling arrangement of choppy abandoned street scenes and all the gravitating stunner shots of a little brother to too many Tizers. The single itself flopped at No. 41 and failed to climb higher, but took the No. 1 spot on the indie chart. With their shrill chant of “There’s got to be more to life…” it looked like Fuzzbox would have to pull something better out of the hat if they really wanted to keep off the food isles. However, this is one of those pieces that, after easily gaining fame a few years later, we now sit and analyze for some deeper hidden meanings. “XX Sex” will just go down as a stupid song. Their overuse of yelling and screaming certainly wouldn’t put them firmly in the punk hall of fame, but for a brief moment they seem to have managed to achieve something of an albeit retro Teddy Boy feel with ‘Rockin — With Rita. Teaming up with mediocre ‘where are they now’ fellow label geeks, Duane Eddy’s heavy feel should surely appeal to Teddy Boy ravers of the seventies, even if they were all unemployed fathers by now. Again the weather was bad and again, it’s a song we go back to fondly and remember the days when we liked the lad working at Dodgems in Blackpool…

‘Love Is The Slug’ was actually their second single in the charts and brought out all the chic of girls in white shoes reluctantly dancing around bags in some cheap disco on a Saturday night (probably in Kidderminster). It was pure Siouxsie Sioux with its dull, draining vocals and lack of real imagination. Yet it was typical of the time. It sounded dark and almost to the point that the band was being held hostage while recording it. It wasn’t until “What’s The Point” that we felt a definite shift in the way they reflected the music scene around them. Released in February 1987, it was time for that punk image to come out and they set out to start toning down their look without it being too much of a shock to the last remaining punk buyers. Strangely, this time they were creating an alternative to the ever-popular The Bangles, who were happily frolicking in the middle of the pop charts. Meanwhile, Fuzzbox were climbing the ranks of the Indie scene. Not an achievement by all women ever created. Surprisingly, this rhythm rockabilly song failed to achieve anything higher than number 51. Although they were indie queens, they were actually chasing the commercial pop charts…

By this time, they knew that it wasn’t just their alternative, struggling working-class texts that would have to change. They could no longer sing about screwing up at the disco, drinking pints with the boys and washing dishes. The green fishnet had to go, as did the leggings and the pink and blue hair.

After falling out with the Vindaloo label, they moved to WEA’s UK section for their next single, and “International Rescue” tied for the chart in February 1989 after a fairly quiet two-year hiatus.

It was even more apparent in this song that Fuzzbox had a definite humorous side. We were all aware of their antics as their video performances up to this point have always been a bit risque and twisted. With this particular song, we see two of them dressed as the Thunderbirds, along with the villain played by Adrian Edmundson. All the amazing piss, but we wonder which is louder, the Thunderbirds’ piss or themselves. Either way, the trick worked, they reached number 11 and were now on their way to creating another corner of eighties pop music. You’re now a regular on certain programs like CH4’s The Tube and (who could forget?) The Old Gray Whistle Test! They were surely in for the most explosive 15 minutes of fame.

Still just as rowdy, but now all wearing the same color, they seemed somewhat tame and only admitted to writhing on the floor during video sessions and concerts. Now they were even bigger, glitzier and more professional, miles away from their amateurish, ill-formed but energetic theme. Now the music was more rock than indie. It had edge, sex on the feet and was beautifully aggressive. The Spice Girls were a bunch of cabbage kids still growing up compared to Fuzzbox. These girls were certainly all about girl power. Instead of a cozy evening and maybe a good night; Fuzzbox would tire you out, then dump you after ordering you to serve them breakfast in bed.

‘Pink Sunshine’ followed and sat quite ecstatically at number 14 in May 1989. One thing that could be said for this band who were songwriters, producers and masters of their own mixing, they knew exactly how to control the market you are Not dropping too many singles at once in a desperate attempt to win over the crowd, they instead sat and watched carefully, delegating what to play first. This particular song, “Pink Sunshine,” is by their personal standards a song that should be released this summer. A song full of cheer and a real summer theme of bright sunshine and fun, they feel it would have been a better hit if it had been released a month or two later. They were probably right, but we would never know.

Perhaps their biggest song was their last known single, although several more followed. A quick and also uncredited solo by the legendary Brian May of Queen, “Self” was definitely coming out of the Fuzzbox, just as the album this song comes from suggests, with “Big Bang”. Angry Number 24 in August 1989 was the summer when all the girls learned how to make fun of themselves successfully. It was meaningful as well as mean. We hated anything that moved while listening to this song. Men cowered in fear before thousands of young teenagers growling with the power of a hundred PMTs. It was a wake-up call for both listeners and Fuzzbox themselves, but bitter resentments and disagreements between the label and band members meant that any further work would be curtailed.

Especially the most poignant title, “Walking On Thin Ice”, which was originally by Yoko Ono, was released sometime around 1990, while the band embarked on an epic tour of the Far East. It was a desperate piece not only in subject matter, but it failed dramatically and the bitterness became too great. The band decided to cut their losses and continue with the tour, despite the knowledge that Vickie longed to pursue a solo career after a hiatus. Something, even today, she is still trying to find.

They returned home recharged and relatively equal in their sense of the group’s now questionable direction. Work on a new album was supposed to take place, but the reconciliation between the band and the label proved not to be worth it. From the unfinished album ‘Out Of This World’, the final single was released just as the band decided to break up. The significantly titled “Your Loss, My Gain” heralds the second line of “..and you know things will never be the same again…” seemed to be the band’s swan song. It was time to go all in and pursue more personal plans. The Fuzzbox enigma came to a sad end and literally all four went their separate ways. Tina is now an art teacher, while sisters Mags and Jo have started writing for other artists as well as DJing in the underground scene. (Must have such tight maneuverable turntables on those escalators…)

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Looking back on this group, we wonder if it is possible for this group to continue. Leaving the stage on such a creative high, it always seems such a shame that the company of the departing band when it appears they could have had so much more to say. We had watched Fuzzbox grow up and we grew up with them, from their messy, embarrassing and overly colored take on punk (almost an insult to true punk rockers), they were, just briefly, to punk what the Cheeky Girls were to pop music; minor insult, but they broke away, rather glamorously, from it all and became the most prominent girl group of the late eighties, albeit only for a few years – hence the idea that they literally had 15 minutes of fame.

With no real melodic notes in their heads, they had certainly learned to play their instruments well, considering they couldn’t play a note to begin with. They were so bad, it was genius. They looked terrible, they couldn’t sing and their arrangements were about as professional as the Mini Pops, but they still stick in our heads and the world of indie pop is a very boring and uninteresting place without them even today. It’s been 16 years since we were made to either reach for the remote to turn up the volume or reach for the kettle in the kitchen. A comeback attempt did appear once sometime in 1998, but quickly fizzled out that same year.

It was time to ditch the sequins and hairspray and go back to listening to some awful Best of 2006 album instead. Somehow it doesn’t feel the same…

Fuzzbox were and always will be as;

Vicky Perks – vocals

Tina O’Neill – drums

Joe Dunn – lead guitar

Maggie Dunn – bass guitar

Albums to run out on and foist on old ladies;

The Big Bang, 1989

BBC Sessions, 2002

“Look at the hits on this!” 2004

[http://www.fuzzbox.tv].

Vindaloo/WEA Records

© Michelle Hatcher (sam1942 for ciao and dooyoo) 2006

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