The Tip-Off: Frank Sidebottom

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Papier-Mâché head + comic covers roster + a posthumous motion picture = Frank Sidebottom

 

A charismatic aspiring rock and roll star living in Timperley. With his Mum. Who’s fictional…

 

…with a Papier-Mâché head.

 

That’s all I can conjure up as a quick summation of Frank Sidebottom. A creation of Chris Sievey (lead singer of The Freshies), Sidebottom was an alternate comic guise for the musician, away from his main musical projects. The character, who was prominent within the fringes in 1980’s England, combined stand up comedy, musical interludes, and even a tombola in to his live appearances.

 

A short-lived television career, occasional slots on regional radio, and an art exhibition amongst other outlets, where were Frank ended up before his gentle fade into obscurity.

 

Before that, the guise of Frank had made his way into fronting a proper band which went on tour. Mark Radcliffe (BBC radio broadcaster) and Jon Ronson (journalist, author, documentary filmmaker) were allegedly members. Chris Evans (television and radio presenter) was apparently the van driver, too.

 

This story gave birth to a feature-length film, starring Michael Fassbender, which was a very loose interpretation of the true story, but none-the-less very entertaining.

 

The actual Frank was just as endearing, and his musical career was a combination of silly songs with covers of popular songs. Here’s a few highlights…

 

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‘Guess Who’s Been On Match of the Day?’. He has. Sievey was a fan of football, and Frank seemed to have adopted that love for the sport. It’s a topic that appears in a lot of the songs.

 

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An amazingly funny cover of one of The Fall’s greatest songs. Mark E Smith was also a Manchester City fan, which is the shirt that Frank’s wearing in the artwork here.

 

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In this Sex Pistols cover, you can hear Frank’s signature banjo sound. Almost always over the top of a cheap drum machine.

 

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Literally the weirdest version of the classic Christmas song that anyone could imagine. Also features a false start, and a mention of Little Frank, his smaller cardboard version of himself, who appeared in a lot of his live performances and recordings.

 

Frank Sidebottom is to music what Ted Chippington is to comedy. There’s a side of me that goes “Frank Sidebottom.. hardly anyone knows who he is”. When I play him to people, they say, “This sounds like rubbish”. Then I retaliate with the “Well, you just don’t understand” response, to imply that there’s a higher art form which they haven’t yet understood.

 

  • Monthly Listeners in Spotify: 1,429
  • Hometown: Timperley, Greater Manchester, England
  • Would fit best in a playlist called: Northern
  • 3 Related Artists: John Shuttleworth, Ivor Cutler, John Cooper Clarke
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