Frank Sidebottom

Well I don’t know what to write… I feel that I have to write something because Frank is another one of those Manchester icons who have gone too soon. You see I am Manchester. I am from Manchester and I will forever be Manchester even if I’m 3000 miles away.

As I get older I see these people who shaped my life all passing away…
Ian Curtis, Martin Hannett, Rob Gretton, Tony Wilson, and now.. Frank Sidebottom.

Oh I know that Uncle Frank didn’t exactly cause any ripples in the musical world, but like the others above he was Manchester. To be precise Timperley, but he was always gigging around the city.

Like many when these things happen you like to tell a funny story about your experience with Frank, so this is mine:

It was the early 90’s when Frank was out of fashion and he was playing a late afternoon/early evening gig at a pub in Levenshulme. I don’t know why he was on at that time, maybe a matinee thing I don’t know, but anyway… There we were in the public bar and on the small stage at the other end was Frank and his Bontempi organ. Now in there at the time (I think it was a Thursday or Friday) his audience was made up of the five of us and a dog. I am not making this up. Five people. And the dog.

At an allotted time (again I don’t know why, he must have been told to start at this time) Frank looked up and said “Oh it’s looks like the charabanc with all me family hasn’t got here yet. I’ll give them a minute.”

He then sat on the edge of the stage and looked straight ahead. Still in that papier-mâché head.
Occasionally he would look to the left and to the right, like he was looking and waiting for somebody, then straight ahead again. This sight was both slightly unerving and funny at the same time.

Eventually after what seemed like an age, but was probably only about five minutes he got up and started his act. Still to the five of us and the now sleeping dog. Nobody else had come in at that point.

After a small amount of time a few more did arrive and I think I counted about a dozen heads, but despite this sparse number Frank carried on and entertained us all. And the dog.

After he finished he told everybody that he had some albums and cassettes for sale if we’d like to buy. I went up and bought an LP and tape and got Frank to sign them both. I think these are both now sitting in storage with everything in the shed, I’ll have to dig them out. He then sat with us and had a drink. Through a straw mind. At no point did he break character. He never did and never will…

A couple of years later I bumped into him at the Reading Festival. I was lucky enough to get a presspass for backstage. (Not the backstage, but the area where all the plebs who thought they were special hung out). There was Frank – even though he didn’t need to – schmoozing the crowd. I told him about that five people/1 dog gig in Manchester and he remembered it well. The hundreds that were there, hanging out the door they were. Did two encores. Fantastic.

I’ve gone on a bit too long now, so I’ll stop here. Still have more to tell. Maybe another time.

In the past few weeks, ever after he learnt about and was getting treatment for the tumour in his chest, as they say the show must go on. He continued to gig and was planning on doing another of his Magical Timperley tours on July 4th. Which he announced only a couple of days ago would have to be cancelled.

I was closely watching his MySpace page and Tweets because Frank had also announced plans to release a World Cup song with the profits going to cancer research.

I was still awaiting news of this release, which was imminent, before he was taken from us.

But the song Three Shirts On My Line (clip below) might still get a posthumous release.

– There’s a Facebook campaign ~ also on Twitter ~ that was launched after the news of his passing. It’s aim is like the Rage Against the Machine one, to get this song to Number 1 in the charts.
As mentioned the original plan by Frank was for profits to go to cancer research and it still will.

As soon as I have news of when the track is out I will do full coverage here.
In the meantime some reposts of my favourite Sidebottom compositions:

Estudiantes (Striped Shirts, Black Panties)
Little Frank – Football Is Really Fantastic
Guess Who’s Been On Match of the Day (long)

And my all time favourite video – the Frank Sidebottom Supergroup (Frank, Little Frank, David Soul and Paul Ryder from the Happy Mondays) and their rendition of Hit The North:

  Little Frank is going to be speechless…

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2 comments

  1. Fantastic tribute and a great tale about the man himself. May the creative musical and comedy legend that is Chris Sievey rest in peace. Sidebottom was a truly unique creation. I’m gutted 🙁

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