Songs Of The Day 2/14/2015: Frank Sidebottom - "Panic on the Streets of Timperley" + "We Will Rock You/Frank Gordon"

Quarterly Covers Report: A few weeks ago I watched Frank, a perfectly acceptable movie from Ireland about a band whose leader never takes off a giant papier-mâché mask. Michael Fassbender plays 95% of his role in this mask, and he’s really good. I read how he based the character on certain, shall we say, specially touched musicians such as Daniel Johnston and Captain Beefheart. But the aesthetics of the character were based on the exploits of a British television personality, Frank Sidebottom, a gleeful cult figure who built a media mini-domain in the late ’80s and early ’90s from his home in Timperley, a village in the suburbs of Manchester. He was like a faux-steampunk Max Headroom.

Sidebottom was played by Chris Sievey, who’d fronted a punk band called The Freshies who we’ll be getting around to later this year. In fact Sidebottom was originally conceived as a hardcore fan of the Freshies but eventually spun off into his own thing. He made loads of appearances on television and radio. Not having experienced this mayhem first-hand I only have sketches of his overall act. A lot of recordings were involved.

Then he disappeared for a few years, but re-emerged briefly in the middle of the last decade after making a surprise appearance in a club. This led to a Frank Sidebottom renaissance, in which he got another TV program (presented in black and white), and appeared on a talent show performing a medley of Smiths songs. Sievey passed away in 2010 after a battle with cancer. Allegedly he gave his blessing to the very fictionalized Frank film before he passed, and in 2013 Timperley erected a statue of the Sidebottom character in the village center.

I couldn’t decide which of these two videos to present, so I’m throwing them both up for your enjoyment and research. “Panic on the Streets of Timperley” from the early ’90s recounts a day in the life of Frank after a giant cut three went astray and landed in the middle of the street but, thank God, missed the footpath. The Queen medley was performed at an appearance in a London venue in 2007. There are ancillary puppets in attendance as well. Rest in peace, Frank.

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