❚ TIMPERLEY COMEDY LEGEND FRANK SIDEBOTTOM IS NO MORE. The man in the papier-mâché head like a Max Fleischer cartoon has been revealed only in death to have been aka Chris Sievey. Almost entirely unknown to the effete south of England, Lancastrian icon Frank was unleashed on the world through a record given away with the video game The Biz, presciently created by Sievey for the pioneering ZX Spectrum computer in 1984.
Only last week, he launched a comedy song for the World Cup, titled Three Shirts on My Line. Campaigns to Make Frank No 1 in the pop charts have begun at twitter.com/MakeFrank1 and at the Facebook group Let’s get Frank Sidebottom in the charts, which is bursting with tribute images. The Manchester Evening News reports that Frank is facing a pauper’s funeral after dying virtually penniless, so visitors to this impromptu Facebook page have already established a fund, being helped by Guardian writer and former bandmate Jon Ronson who asks for donations to go via this Paypal account: email@example.com. [Appeal now closed, see update below]
Frank Sidebottom zoomed to cult status through comedy records on the Regal Zonophone label and his broadcasts on Radio Timperley for Manchester Radio Online. Within minutes his stand-up routine rocketed him to 80s superstardom, accompanied by Little Frank, a puppet who was his deadringer. From 1986 he had his own comic strip in an anarchic children’s comic called Oink! which was top-shelved by many newsagents. He regularly reported for the regional TV news programme, Granada Reports, graduating to his own ITV showcase, Frank Sidebottom’s Fantastic Shed Show.
Sidebottom, whose fame was greatest during the late 1980s, can truly claim to have put on the map such names as Timperley, St Helen’s, Altrincham FC, Mrs Merton, Mark Radcliffe and most notoriously Chris Evans. Among the final appearances of Big Frank and Little Frank was the living test card shown on late-night television in Greater Manchester on Channel M.
Sievey left a daughter, Asher, 31 and two sons, Stirling, 31, and Harry, 18, who still lives with Sievey’s ex-wife Paula. Frank’s catchphrase was “The Robins aren’t Bobbins”. Another one was “You know it is, it really is”.
➢➢ Genuinely a genius – Manchester’s showbusiness stars lead the tributes
➢➢ Longtime friend Mick Middles recalls Frank’s creator, first encountered as frontman of The Freshies, an off-kilter power pop band
➢➢ “A curious line in daft Bontempi songs” – The Guardian obit, June 22
➢➢ VIEW ♫ ♫ Frank Sidebottom explaining Three Shirts on my Line, his unofficial World Cup 2010 song, at the Monarch in Camden Town last December
➢➢ Frank’s World, the official official site
➢➢ Complete Sidebottom discography at Frank’s interweb fan site run by Russ
➢➢ Frank Sidebottom at MySpace
➢➢ VIEW ♫ ♫ Chris Sievey and the Freshies in the studio recording Bouncing Babies – a poptastic treasure from 1981
➢➢ VIEW The Magical Timperley Tour – Frank Sidebottom takes a load of people on an amazing bus tour through his home village of Timperley . . .
➤ Update: fan fund totals £21,240
for Frank’s send-off
❚ FRIDAY JULY 2 IS THE DATE for Chris Sievey’s funeral. A private service for family and friends will be held at Altrincham Crematorium to celebrate the life of the man who created the cult hero Frank Sidebottom. It is being funded by donations from an internet campaign. Within six days of his death from cancer, donations to the funeral fund saved Sidebottom’s creator from a pauper’s funeral. More than 2,500 supporters signed up to the Facebook group Frank’s Fantastic Funeral, with Twitter claiming 3,400 followers. The appeal fund closed on Sunday June 27 at £21,240.
His son Stirling, 31, said the private funeral would give those who knew his dad the chance to mourn the man behind the mask. “The funeral is for friends and family of Chris. We want to hold a celebration of Frank within the next couple of weeks. We are looking at venues, including Manchester town hall.” [More at the Manchester Evening News]
➢➢ UPDATE: A fresh assessment of Chris Sievey, the little-known creator of Frank Sidebottom
❚ IGNORED BY THE MAINSTREAM ALL HIS LIFE, the cult comedian cum cod pop star finally made headline news in death. Plenty of people didn’t get Sidebottom. The first time he appeared at Liverpool University, he bombed. “Did Sievey like being Frank? Yes. Would he prefer to have been a Beatle? Yes.” – Simon Hattenstone in The Guardian, June 26, 2010
➢➢ Radio Presenter Mark Radcliffe describes the “real affection” evident at the funeral of his close friend Chris Sievey
❚ THE END OF THE SERVICE for Sievey at Altrincham Crematorium, July 2, was marked by the Beach Boys hit God Only Knows. A celebration of his life, titled Frank’s Fantastic Farewell, is being held in Castlefield Arena on July 8, 7-10pm, admission free.