Sunday, June 27, 2010


Saddened by the death of Chris Sievey / Frank Sidebottom in ways that I find hard to express.

Sievey's death represents, I dunno, a failure of some sort. I don't mean that his life was in any way a failure - it certainly wasn't; the pleasure he gave me and many others was enormous (tho oddly difficult to quantfy) - no, rather, it feels like his death was symbolic on some level - just as his life was - that it represents the last rattle n gasp of some older, purer Indie Ethic.

It seems to signal the idea that The Little Guy will never get ahead in the end, irregardless of how wonderful, talented or original he might be - that the system'll beat 'em down or - worse - just fucking ignore them.

Chris / Frank was an early adopter of a genuinely independent business model - he sold his own records, CDs, downloads, art, even games for the Spectrum ferchrisake - through mail-order, website, whatever... he toured like a motherfucker, pioneered the self-marketing approach that half the world uses now (and had a several year headstart on the rest of the biz) - that it failed and he could barely scratch out a living towards the end does not bode well for the future of that model. Or for the 'Indie' Sector itself. MusicFail.

Even the tabloid papers are full of talk about how he was a "National Treasure", a true "one-off", blahblahblah...but, really, where were they when he really needed their support? - a column in The Sun, a 5 minute late-nite TV slot, a show on Radio-5, 6, local radio, whatever...a support-slot on a tour.

And where did the audiences go? Where did we go?

It feels like something far bigger died with Chris Sievey.

And maybe that's why I'm feeling sad.

But I could write all day about the stuff he did. It's kinda deep. Someone really should write an essay on all this. I loved the way that Frank 'appropriated' other people's material, changed the titles and then made the songs his own by default. I don't know what that is, that process; some sort of Copyright Creepage, where intellectual/artistic property grows legs and walks across the border towards you. Songs, like cats, who chose a new owner.

Frank didn't do cover-versions. What he did was something else.

And that whole mediated identity thing. That leaked out into a novella I wrote recently. Characters that become their own thing; that become 'real'. That's very close to my own heart.

I think that the fact that he was so clearly loved by so many - that his passing caused such an upsurge of emotion - marks Sievey's life as a success. A Top Ten Hit in its own right.

And now there's going to be a cartoon series, a film, etc. Oh, if only he were here and all that was his. Ain't it always the way?

I think this, though, will have to stand as my own personal tribute.

But let's not forget just how fucking funny he was. He made me laugh in a way that only Tommy Cooper and The Marx Brothers come close to. Superficially, it's just slapstick, but there's so much more going on at the same time - an odd mixture of satire, surealism and anarchy.

We loved you, man.

*puts clothes-peg on nose*

"We really did, we really did..."

"Thank you."

"Little mark E. Smith!"


At 9:28 pm, Blogger bumtapes said...

great tribute dude!
its hard to say exactly why his passing hit me so hard but that sums it up perfectly :)..thank you

At 9:45 pm, Blogger dubversion said...

a terrible shame. I ran into the comedian Andre Vincent at Pilton and he said Sievey had died so skint, they'd done a quick "comedy network telephone whipround" and raised six grand in an afternoon to cover the funeral etc.

I'll never forget carrying Frank round a shit Bournemouth nightclub on my shoulders while he sang "The Wonder of Frank" like it was a stadium show.


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