The YouTube Files – The Exuberant World Of Fuzzbox.

After looking back at the careers of Danielle Dax and Strawberry Switchblade, I thought to myself are there any more women with strange-coloured hair who made terrifically quirky records in the 1980s… and there are! (We’ve Got A) Fuzzbox (And We’re Gonna Use It) formed in Birmingham in 1985 and originally consisted of frontwoman Vickie “Vix” Perks, along with Jo Dunne (1968-2012), Maggie Dunne and Tina O’Neill. They didn’t have any Top Ten hit singles but they made lots of great songs which brightened up pop music in the mid/late-80s. This is a piece telling their story through their various TV appearances and music videos on YouTube (plus some magazine covers) from 1986-1990. fuzzbox0

In April 1986 they had their first hit single, an EP featuring “Rules And Regulations”, “XX Sex”, “Do I Want To?”, and “She” which reached no. 41. They made one of their earliest TV appearances on a show in Belgium. This consisted of an interview where they were sat on the floor, followed by oddly-framed performances of “She” and “XX Sex” where one of them was up a ladder and another one was down a hole. vlcsnap-00174

Before I started putting this piece together, I would never have had any idea that they appeared on TV in Belgium, never mind it being as odd as this, YouTube really is the gift that keeps on giving. And also, if my maths is correct it seems that most of them including Vickie would only have been 17 years old at the time of this performance, and I didn’t realise that they started out as young as that. vlcsnap-00177

Also around this time the video for “Rules And Regulations” was played on the first-ever Indie Chart on Channel 4’s The Chart Show, and they were also interviewed on CITV’s Splash and CBBC’s Lift Off, as we’ll discover they seemed to be very fond of appearing on children’s TV shows. Also around this time they appeared on BBC2’s Whistle Test where they were described by Radio Times as “exuberant” and performed a couple of songs including their cover of “Spirit In The Sky”. vlcsnap-00264

In May 1986 they appeared on the cover of music magazines Record Mirror and Melody Maker. Fame at last!  fuzzbox1

In July 1986 they took part in the single “Rockin’ With Rita (Head To Toe)” as part of the Vindaloo Summer Special, a supergroup consisting of various acts on that record label which reached no. 56. They performed this on CITV’s Razzmatazz, part of the 1980s Tyne Tees music show trilogy along with The Tube and The Roxy, and afterwards they were interviewed by David Jensen. Also around this time they played at the Glastonbury festival. vlcsnap-00211

In November 1986 their next single was released which became their first Top 40 hit, another EP featuring “Love Is The Slug”, “Console Me”, “Spirit In The Sky”, and “Justine”. It reached no. 31 and earned them their first mention on Top Of The Popsvlcsnap-00312

They also performed “Love Is The Slug” on TV-am’s Wide Awake Club, where they were then interviewed by Tommy Boyd as Garfield looked on. In December 1986 their first album “Bostin’ Steve Austin” was released but this wasn’t a hit. Also in this month they performed a lively concert at the Astoria Theatre in London which has turned up on YouTube. vlcsnap-00188

In February 1987 the final single off the album “What’s The Point” was released which reached no. 51. They also performed this song when they appeared on German TV and American TV’s The Late Show where they were interviewed during the brief time that their frontwoman was Christina Aguilera (well not really of course but Vickie really does look like her there don’t you think?). They never really made the breakthrough in America though. vlcsnap-00274

They also performed this song on CITV’s No. 73 and none other than Neil Buchanan could be seen clapping along in the crowd to their performance, you only see things like that happen on children’s TV. “What’s The Point” had a great video too. vlcsnap-00234

After a break in 1988, Fuzzbox returned in 1989 for what would turn out to be their most successful year. They also had a new look, no more pink hair for these ladies, and frontwoman Vickie had become something of a flame-haired sex symbol. In February 1989 the first single off their second album was released, the Thunderbirds-influenced “International Rescue” which featured Adrian Edmondson in the video and became their biggest hit, reaching no. 11, and this earned them their first Top Of The Pops appearance. vlcsnap-00261

Also around this time they were interviewed on CITV’s Motormouth. Most excitingly though, in April 1989 they appeared on the cover of Lookin magazine for the first time alongside the likes of Kylie Minogue and Scally the dog! fuzzbox2

In May 1989 their next single “Pink Sunshine” was released which reached no. 14, and although it’s a tough decision I would have to say that this is my favourite single of theirs. I remember watching the video to this on the “Hits 10” VHS compilation, and I also enjoyed their Top Of The Pops performance. vlcsnap-00208

They also performed this song on ITV’s My Secret Desire and live on CITV’s Ghost Train which featured something of a mishap when the backing tape began to rewind that revealed that they were miming and they laughed for about the final two minutes of the performance. Also around this time they were interviewed on BBC Midlands Today in a report about the Birmingham music scene, and they also appeared on CBBC’s On The Waterfront and met Andrew O’Connor! vlcsnap-00254

In August 1989 the next single “Self!” was released which earned them another Top Of The Pops appearance and reached no. 24. Also in this month the second album “Big Bang!” was released which made the Top Five. They also appeared on CBBC’s The O Zone where they were interviewed by Andi Peters at a fairground, and we found out some great facts about them including “Jo thinks that Tom Jones is the best-dressed man in pop!”, “Maggie’s favourite book is Simon And Schuster’s Guide To Cats“, and that they are big fans of the Reynolds Girls, but then who wasn’t at the time? vlcsnap-00002

Also around this time they appeared on lots more magazine covers including NMEJackieLookin and Record Mirror again, and Smash Hits for the first and only time. fuzzbox3

In November 1989 the final single released from the second album was a cover of “Walking On Thin Ice” which reached a very disappointing no. 76. They performed this on TV-am’s WAC ’90 (and again they were interviewed by Tommy Boyd), plus CBBC’s The Satellite Show and CITV’s The Disney Club. The video was also featured on the “Monster Hits” VHS compilation (essentially “Hits 11”) although it wasn’t a monster hit. Indeed, it wasn’t a hit at all. vlcsnap-00310

In June 1990 what was planned to be the first single from the third album “Your Loss My Gain” was released. They performed this on ITV’s The James Whale Show and Cannon And Ball’s Casino, along with appearances on CBBC’s The 8:15 From Manchester and CITV’s Ghost Train where they met Nobby the sheep. However, it reached a miserable no. 100, and after this disappointment work on the third album (which was to be called “Out Of This World”) was abandoned and Fuzzbox split, and they didn’t perform together again for 20 years, although in 2004 a best-of album was released called “Look At The Hits On That” which featured all their big ones.

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CITV Memories – Mousetrap.

Mousetrap (CITV, 1990-1991)

CITV’s Saturday morning show Motormouth used to feature a game show segment. Originally these were the rather crazy games It’s Torture! and Gunge ‘Em In The Dungeon, which were essentially their equivalent of CBBC’s classic Double Dare on Going Live! Around the launch of the third series, they decided to do something different, and created a game based around a classic board game. All three of these games were hosted by the rather excitable Steve Johnsonvlcsnap-00026

The new game was based around Mousetrap, with a lifesize version of the board and the trap recreated in the studio. Two contestants took part and they had about seven minutes to complete obstacles and play various games depending on what square they were on. If they succeeded in these challenges and managed to get round the board in time, they would win various prizes and could play for a good quality prize in the final, maybe even a fancy TV if they were lucky. vlcsnap-00029

There was a twist though. At a random point a couple of times in the game, a hooter would go off which would start the trap, featuring everything including the ball going down a slide, and that green man that flipped over. They then had to run round to a tap to stop the trap, but this could be more difficult based on where they were on the board. Failure to stop the trap in time making the cage hit the ground would lose them the prize on offer, and they would then have to play for a smaller value one instead. Their prize value would also decrease if they ran out of time before completing all the challenges. vlcsnap-00031

When the game was over, the star prize that they were playing for was placed under the trap. The trap was then started, and if they could answer three general knowledge questions correctly before the cage hit the floor, they would win the prize on offer, and there were some rather close finishes. While not as wacky as Double Dare, Mousetrap was still good fun, and also there were a few celebrity specials, and it’s rather odd to think that Celebrity Mousetrap was a real thing on the TV. Unfortunately, we still await Celebrity Hungry Hippos on ITV. trap0001

I am a fan of board games, and around the time Mousetrap was shown I remember that I had a lot of them, including the classics such as Monopoly and Scrabble, along with many others. I do remember also at some point buying Mousetrap, I’m not sure if I was influenced by the TV version and wanted to have a go myself, but I remember how fiddly the whole thing was to set up, and how fun it was to play once everything was ready. After Motormouth came to an end in 1992, Johnson would return to host another quirky CITV game show called Terror Towers and I’ll review that soon.

Saturday Morning Memories – Motormouth.

Motormouth (CITV, 1988-1992)

It’s about time for another look back at a Saturday Morning show. Motormouth, which replaced the long-running No. 73 as CITV’s main Saturday Morning show, was a memorable show which featured various changes to the format over the years. There were several presenters, with good old Neil Buchanan being the only one to host for the whole run of the show. It was another show that had the usual features such as showing cartoons including The Real Ghostbusters and all the hottest pop groups of the time being interviewed in the studio, along with a few other enjoyable things. mouth0001

In the first series, as well as Saturdays, Motormouth was also shown on Sundays. There was a big inflatable mouth in the studio too. There was also a comedy spin-off called, er, Spin-Off. This was a parody of soap operas that was supposedly set behind the scenes of the show and featured some familiar faces including Richard “Cuthbert Lilly” Waites, Wendy “Wizadora I“, Van Der Plank, Joe “Spatz” Greco, and Roger Sloman, who has been in lots of things, including recently appearing in EastEnders, playing the crazy characters. vlcsnap-00918

By the second series new presenters Gaby Roslin (long before The Big Breakfast) and Steve Johnson joined the show. He was memorable because he hosted the games on the show in a rather crazy style. These included It’s Torture! and Gunge ‘Em In The Dungeon. In later series these were replaced by Mouse Trap, a version of the famous board game, which featured an enormous green flipping over man thing and everything, and there were lots of great prizes on offer for contestants. vlcsnap-00919

In the third series Andy Crane, having recently left the CBBC broom cupboard, joined the presenters line-up, and the format changed again to now look like it was coming from a diner. I do remember there being a regular competition around this time where viewers could write in and win a can which said “Steve’s Brain” on it which was all rather odd. vlcsnap-00916

In the final series there was another spin-off feature which this time was a look behind the scenes, which seemed to take up a lot of the show. Every week the production staff interacted with the various guests who would be appearing on the show, and there were also various plotlines. The cast members included Carla “Sophie II” Mendonca and Siobhan “Benidorm” Finneran. Wow, it was so crazy. Also in this series Neil hosted a celebrity edition of Finders Keepers, with various stars raiding the rooms. vlcsnap-00917

Motormouth ran for four series and was produced by TVS. Although it was a show that I did enjoy watching it doesn’t seem to have lingered in the memory with many viewers as long as its rival Going Live! which was shown on CBBC at the same time, although it had good ratings. This is unfortunate as it definitely had some great moments and there are lots of clips available to watch online, including just about the whole of the final series.