Discussion in 'Comeback corner' started by Blabby, Oct 23, 2017.
These come to mind...
Sigue Sigue Sputnik
Hurts never got any success?
I'd say Hurts are pretty successful. Not a lot of mainstream success, but they're still doing alright.
I forgot Stooshe even managed to release an album in the end. Well, probably not just me.
Annie was only in a major label for 1 single, she was on an indie label the rest of her career, so she was hardly hyped up for commercial success?
And Hurts had a ton of (well, at least a few) hits and one or two big albums no?
Going back to Teairra Mari, yes she didn't live up to expectations but several years later she did bring us this banger
i'm drunk don't @ me
E’voke (One was in eastenders the promo always used to say)
Thunderbugs (had hundreds of thousands spent on them and one top 5 hit aside that wasn’t it)
Where did that money go exactly?
This article is interesting - Thunderbugs bit in bold.
From the Electronic Telegraph:
Saturday 13 November 1999
The girl band virus
The first symptoms were the Spice Girls. Since then there has been a
nationwide outbreak of girl bands seeking to part teenagers and their
younger sisters from their pocket money. Andrew Stalbow feels the pulse of
the pop market
IT is early in the morning in Hunstanton, East Anglia, a gloomy seaside
resort overlooking the North Sea. On the promenade 25,000 children crowd
around a makeshift stage which is the Radio 1 Roadshow, a shop window for
high-voltage pop acts to flog their wares. The children, mostly female,
jostle for space, squealing with excitement and periodically blowing on the
large whistles hanging around their necks. Over the sound system the
producer counts down to the next act. 'TEN, NINE, EIGHT, SEVEN,' everyone
shrieks in unison. On to the stage lope four teenage girls, who after a
second's pause break into a chirpy tune called I Quit. The singer mimes to
the lyrics, and struts and leaps in time to the pulsing whistles. The less
enthusiastic lead guitarist and bassist make little effort to synchronise
with the backing track. Afterwards, the girls have just enough time to gasp
on a cigarette before their manager hustles them into a people carrier, en
route to their next performance of the day.
This diminutive quartet are Hepburn, one of a burgeoning number of all-girl
bands waiting in line to enter the British pop charts. Lead singer Jamie
Benson, 20, guitarist Lisa Lister, 18, bassist Sarah Davies, 18, and drummer
Beverley Fullen, 19, were thrown together just over two years ago, when
independent band managers Mike Nocito and Ashen Dachtler were looking to
launch an all-girl band for the betweenage market. The idea behind Hepburn
was quite simple. They were being custom-built for children who had outgrown
the simple pop melodies of the record-breaking girl band B*Witched and
wanted a guitar-based stepping-stone to adult music.
By the time of Hepburn's first release in May they had been on the road for
nearly two years, during which time they visited more than 50 British towns,
establishing a fan-base of seven- to 14-year-olds. To that end they played
at more than 100 schools - 'the best experience, we got face-to-face
reactions from people buying our records,' says Benson. The Radio 1 Roadshow
was the next step in a carefully orchestrated marketing plan. After the
roadshow, the girls would be driven to a Norwich air-base, where a private
jet would take them on to Edinburgh for a recording of Top of the Pops.
Hindered by nerves, they would give a poor performance of their second
single, Bugs, but there would be no time to dwell on it. The private jet
would return them south again that night for an early start the next day at
another roadshow, milking a short shelf-life for all it is worth.
Before their launch as Hepburn, Columbia Records hired former commercial
radio DJ Steve Power to teach the four girls some media and music industry
savvy. Power's reputation as a pop consultant was established after he
helped educate the Spice Girls back in 1995. 'Hepburn have tried to
disassociate themselves from girl power,' he tells me from his Worthing
office. 'The first thing I talk about with girl bands is what it is that
makes them different from the Spice Girls. But if each of these groups ends
up with bank accounts as big as the Spice Girls', it's a success story.'
Power gets involved with acts at an early stage in the process of their
creation. He'll meet a band eight months before the release of their first
single and then report back to the record company. He and the band then
reconvene closer to the launch, by which time, Power says, there has often
been 'a change of personnel. I confirm my suspicions with the record
company - you have to be pretty outgoing and can't afford to be a shrinking
wallflower. You're trying to persuade kids that you're the kind of person
they'd like to be friends with.' Bands have to be as enthusiastic and
voluble as the most outgoing children's television presenter: shyness is not
an option if you want to stay in the line-up. (Smoking and drinking alcohol
in public is frowned upon, too.) Power gives a tight brief regarding what a
girl-band member can and cannot say to the press: 'Most record companies
like them not to have a partner, to be available. The standard answer is
they're too busy for boyfriends.'
Or indeed too young. In many cases pop idols are the older sisters their
fans never had and, as the age of the audience falls, so does the age of the
singers. The music industry is seeking younger and younger starlets after
the success of singers such as 17-year-old Britney Spears and 18-year-old
Christina Aguilera - now the elder stateswomen of pop. Singers Marvin and
Tamara are signed to Epic and are both just 13. The girl band BreZe, who
recently signed a £500,000 deal with Warner Music, are, incredibly, a
quartet of nine-, 10- and 11-year-olds.
There has never been a better time to be young and female in British pop.
The charts are heaving with girl bands such as All Saints, Thunderbugs,
Precious, and the forerunner of them all, the Spice Girls, each packaged for
the singles-buying public consisting, in the main, of pre-pubescent girls.
'The Spice Girls definitely opened the door for girls,' says Keavy Lynch,
the 19-year-old singer of B*Witched. 'The record companies saw there was a
large market out there for that kind of thing.' Over the past 18 months,
B*Witched have seen their first four singles go straight to number one and
have sold three million copies of their eponymous debut album.
Rob Stringer is the senior vice-president of Sony credited with discovering
B*Witched and Thunderbugs. He is only the latest in a line of girl-band
Svengalis spearheaded by Simon Fuller, the manager behind the Spice Girls.
Not surprisingly, Stringer disagrees with the suggestion that the music
industry has cynically manufactured the new wave of female pop. 'There's a
misconception about the girl group thing being completely calculated,' he
says. 'It comes from the artists as well.'
Since the Spice Girls, female musicians are being carefully directed by
music industry bosses looking to harness the pocket money economy. Pocket
money has grown by 50 per cent in real terms over the past 10 years and,
according to a Mintel survey, seven- to 16-year-old girls spend 39 per cent
of it on compact discs. When asked why they save money, most girls say 'to
buy music'. Call it the rise of the primary school pound.
From the Beatles to the Bay City Rollers to Take That, the teen-dream band
is a phenomenon as old as pop music itself. But traditionally it was
photogenic young men who were marketed to young girls. Now pop hysteria,
formerly understood to be an outlet for burgeoning female sexuality, has
been harnessed by young women. The Spices were the first girls to be
marketed to girls. It hardly mattered that they couldn't play an instrument
and only one could sing. They presented a streamlined, ready-made, pure pop
act and the young girls loved them. Their first single, Wannabe, went to
number one in 37 countries and each Spice Girl is now worth more than £15
million. Young female musicians who had previously fallen into the
singer/songwriter category were suddenly in demand.
For Hepburn and B*Witched, pester power is crucial. 'Young children are easy
to target and instantly accessible,' says Steve Power. 'The record companies
have wised up - it's a battlefield out there to get the four- to
Lest we forget, it is the parents who control the new primary school pound.
What all these girl groups have in common is that they are nice enough to
take home to the parents, or indeed for the parents to see in concert.
Unlike other music genres such as hip-hop, rock and grunge, girl pop is the
essence of safe rebellion, and it shows in the clothes. B*Witched, fashioned
by uberstylist Faye Sawyer, attracted fans by putting the group in denim -
an image children copy easily. Sawyer attends most of B*Witched's
photographic and video shoots. By contrast, Hepburn are the epitome of Top
Shop streetwear, while Thunderbugs (also styled by Sawyer) are
'aspirational', more Harvey Nichols than high street.
Exposure for these bands is easier to attract than ever before. Television
stations - Nickelodeon, Carlton Kids and Trouble - are dedicated to
children. Fifteen years ago the only way a teenybop band could get on
television was through Tiswas or Swap Shop. Today, Saturday morning shows
such as CD UK and Live and Kicking are formatted around pop, while magazines
from Smash Hits to Big catalogue the minutiae of a band's life.
In a failed attempt to tap the early-youth market, London's Capital Radio
applied for a Scottish licence for 'Fun Radio' late last year which would
have catered for children aged four to 14 were the application successful.
'Pop music is the music of the moment,' says Capital Radio marketing manager
Elly Smith. 'Artists appeal to a span of ages, but they start by targeting
the children. Radio stations have to embrace bands like Aqua even if they
don't want to at first, because the children are buying it.'
Primary school pupils are the first to hear new acts and are more clued up
and media literate than any previous generation. They are encouraged to
develop personal relationships with fledgling bands playing at their school.
After a show in the gym they fill in postcards in the classroom which are
added to a record company database for future mail-outs with information
about tours and T-shirts. Creating a fan-base has never been more
Sue Harris, a booking agent, has been organising pop tours around the
nation's schools since 1994. 'Bands play at three schools a day, and no two
bands go to the same one or it lessens the impact,' she says. 'I've got the
girl band Atomic Kitten on school tour at the moment.' (Atomic Kitten's
record label is fittingly named Innocent Records.) The bands don't feel any
guilt systematically targeting children, she says, because they've only ever
wanted to be pop stars and they'll do anything in the name of self-promotion
. 'And for the school children it's fun, a treat,' Harris says. 'But it's
not a case of selling CDs from the back of the assembly hall.'
The story of Thunderbugs is a typical example of elaborate marketing.
Industry insiders believe Thunderbugs are one of the most expensive girl
bands ever to have been unleashed on Britain. Rob Stringer, who signed them
to Sony, admits the costs were huge. A figure of several million pounds
seems likely, comprising advances, months in recording studios in Los
Angeles, styling, and a showcase held on the top floor of the Park Lane
Hilton. The video for their first single, Friends Forever, was shot over
four days - the industry standard is one. There were even drama lessons:
'Pop stars sometimes go into movies and think they can act,' says Stringer.
'The video is three minutes of acting and we thought it was necessary.'
On a chilly day in the week before the release of Friends Forever, I meet
Thunderbugs by the banks of the Mersey, where 50,000 Liverpudlian children
have gathered for a Radio City Liverpool roadshow. It's a format designed to
maintain the short attention span of a betweenage audience who, despite the
blustery conditions, appear to be universally clad in bright dayglo tops and
pedalpushers. In contrast, Thunderbugs are dressed in an upmarket mix of
Prada, Gucci and Burberry. Sitting backstage before their stage call, German
guitarist Brigitte Jansen, 25, the most striking bug with curled blonde
hair, Bowie-esque eyes (one is green, the other blue) and a first-class
degree in neuroscience, is being chatted up by a singer from boy band BBMak.
Croydon-born drummer Nicky Shaw, 24, is in a mood as miserable as the
weather. 'I'm sick of it. It's tough, always going on, coming off. I hate
the backstage schmoozing,' she frowns, as two representatives of the band
introduce themselves to Dominic Mohan, showbusiness editor of the Sun. 'And
miming is frustrating 'cos we can all play live.'
Thunderbugs take to the stage to a cacophony of whistles. Nicky is drumming
with minimal effort when a smoke machine begins spitting out dry ice at her
face and lap. Under a cloud of frozen carbon dioxide I can hear her
spluttering above the recorded song. She can't see the end of her
drumsticks. A member of the stage crew, instead of helping her, snickers.
Nicky kicks the drum pedal as much in frustration as in rhythm and the pedal
dislodges from the kit and flies across the stage. The stage hand guffaws.
'Girls and drums, that's not happening is it?' he laughs.
Afterwards, singer Jane Vaughan, 25, and bassist Stef Maillard, 25, sign
autographs for children penned behind a metal fence. A girl of about 10 with
ginger hair and a snotty nose asks me if I'm in a band. 'No, I'm not.' What
are you doing here then? 'I'm a journalist.' She thrusts a book - Julie's
Autographs - at me and I scribble my name beneath that of teen heart-throb
We retreat to a Cheshire hotel. Thunderbugs's striking image - the Bangles
meet Charlie's Angels - turns heads in the lobby. 'When we first met up we
weren't thinking about image at all,' says Nicky. 'It was only when we got
involved with our management company, First Avenue, that we knew we had to
look right together.'
Do they understand the competitive nature of their industry? 'You get one
bite, one chance, and you've got to go for it,' says Jane. Thunderbugs claim
to be unconcerned about where their first single charts. 'The pressure is
spread between a lot of people,' says Nicky. 'We wouldn't be disappointed
with top 20, not at all.'
A week later, Thunderbugs's Friends Forever makes number five. 'I was
pleased, but absolutely relieved,' says Rob Stringer. If they hadn't made
the top 10 what would their prospects have been? 'There would have been a
lot of soul searching and I wouldn't like to think about the ultimate
outcome. I think the band know that.'
They don't, I contend. 'They're not to understand the business side and it's
good they don't,' Stringer retorts. 'We don't want them to be exposed to how
fleeting it is because we want them to get on with what they're doing until
it becomes clear to everyone that this is a long-term thing. We're a long
way from that and they know it.'
Despite their short life expectancy, girl acts are appreciated by record
company accountants. They either generate a quick return (Cleopatra, Honeyz)
or dive miserably (Cliche, Toutes Les Filles) within weeks of their launch.
After the Spice Girls, B*Witched stand as the model of a successfully
marketed group. They met at a dance studio in Dublin and, inspired by girl
power, formed a band in 1996. At the time, twins Keavy and Edele Lynch were
16, Lindsay Armaou was 15, while Sinead O'Carroll claimed to be 18. With
their bright eyes, wide smiles and trademark denim trousers, they were
designed to look like babysitters, safely conjured for young children.
I meet them in a hotel room in Bloomsbury where Sinead admits that in the
past she shaved five years off her age, but now wants to come clean. She is
26, and was born in 1973, not 1978. 'Everybody lies about their age, don't
they? But it wasn't my decision entirely,' she says. 'The image was that we
were young and it would have been strange to have one older one.'
It's been a profitable policy. B*Witched have just returned from a
nine-month tour of American shopping malls and stadiums where they generated
sales of more than a million albums. 'It is surreal; you don't know what to
expect at malls,' says Sinead. 'You can be dancing your heart out and
they'll just be coming down the escalator holding their plastic bags.' But
it's profoundly effective, says Keavy. 'We perform in the shopping centre
and then go straight into the record store where we do a signing session.
You actually see them buy the CDs.' And that is what it is all about.
Such dreams of money and stardom are not for everyone. A few short weeks
after their appearance at Hunstanton, for Hepburn the magic had already
begun to pall; the compromises, the demands too much to take. I meet them
following a shoot with the lad magazine, FHM, and the band are fraught with
internal tensions. The photographer wanted to take provocative pictures but
both drummer Beverley - 'I don't like my body; I wouldn't show any cleavage
for the shoot' - and Lisa refused to bare any chest. Jamie - 'I would do
anything for publicity; it's all good - and Sarah were happy to pose
saucily. When the pictures are published, the bulging teenage bosoms of
Jamie and Sarah sit uncomfortably next to fully clad shots of the other two.
Things got worse. After two singles, their album sold poorly and charted
lowly at number 24. It doesn't look like rising. And at The Telegraph
Magazine's photo shoot a week later, four have become three. Beverley has
taken Hepburn's song I Quit to heart and left the band to pursue another
career in television presenting. It seems she was tired of the constant
photos, touring, interviews, radio promotions and television performances.
'It's hard work and Bev was tired,' says Lisa. 'We've performed in front of
as few as 10 people at schools and think that every bit counts. It's a
career we've all chosen to do, but she'd had enough.'
'It wasn't for her,' says a Columbia Records representative. 'We'll audition
for someone else, but it's hardly like the Oasis drummer leaving.' Girl-band
members, it seems, are as dispensable as the bands themselves.
I love this bit: "Thunderbugs (also styled by Sawyer) are 'aspirational', more Harvey Nichols than high street."
That was a really good read, thank you.
I'll read the second half later, I got too angry reading the first bit! Still, it proves that the industry were as cynical and totally cluless even after the golden age (sales wise) of the mid-90s as they were at the start of the 90s. Wankers.
What a dreadful business! I don't blame Beverley Hepburn for wanting her very own bevolution!
I remember Thunderbugs being crap and clearly manufactured just like The Dum Dums. Hepburn, just as manufactured, were enjoyable though. I like them.
I absolutely LOVE the Esmee Denters album!
I love this sentence in general but now I'm wondering why Brigitte isn't now the female version of Brian Cox.
What a great read this was. What strikes me most is how wasteful it all is. So many months and so much money ploughed into live performances and the band would be gone if the single didn't chart sufficiently. I can totally see how band members would get frustrated quickly, especially if they were genuinely musically talented.
Poor Thunderbugs... genuine potential wasted by the stupid timing of that second single release.
It's literally what happened to Mini Viva and their second single but 10 years earlier
Haha can I plug this post I did again?
Yes indeed - so many months of pre fame work to then tank. It would have been top 20 if it were released in early January!
Exactly. For an act that new they shouldn't have been taking these big risks. Scooch managed to offset their dodgy beginnings with a follow up in the first week of January in that time you only needed to sell 23 copies to reach the Top 20.
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