Recently I reviewed the 80s children’s TV show The Kid. I don’t remember watching the show at the time, but I found it online one day and enjoyed it. The Kid starred Steve Fairnie. Now this was someone that I knew nothing about, but he must have come from somewhere. Had he appeared in any other TV shows? I did some research, and I discovered that he had a rather remarkable career in music along with various other things. I thought that it was all interesting enough to do a piece about.
I know that it won’t be 100% comprehensive, but I have picked out some of the highlights and will concentrate on Steve’s music releases and TV appearances. My only motivation for doing this is because I’m always keen to discover more about 80s pop music and it’s a story worth telling. Words that are often used to describe Steve’s personality include “one-off” and “unique”, many think he should’ve had much more success, and hopefully it’ll become clear why. This piece will concentrate on 1979-1988 and be in two parts, although it also features a little of what happened before and after, along with a remarkably odd twist at the end that is worth hanging around for. Off we go then…
pre-1979: Steve Fairnie was born in February 1951 in Fraserburgh, Scotland, although his family moved to England shortly after. By the early-70s he had taken an interest in art and formed the band Fish Co. with Steve Rowles. In 1975 they released their first album “Can’t Be Bad”. In December 1977 Steve married Bev Sage who would be a major influence on his work for the rest of his life, and they had two children. The second and final Fish Co. album “Beneath The Laughter” was released in 1978.
1979: By this point Steve and Bev had formed a band called Wrïtz, and released the album “Wrïtz”. Although I couldn’t find any features in music magazines from the time, they did have a couple of adverts promoting their album and tour in NME. They also made some TV appearances, including in December the BBC1 show RPM that I think was only shown in the West region. They performed “Night Nurse” which had a routine where Steve’s hand fell off, along with “Luxury” and “Movies”.
It was very exciting seeing their performance on the brink of a new decade, although people didn’t know it yet the first half of the 80s was going to be a very creative time for British pop music, and Steve would be a part of it. They also performed “Movies”, “Night Nurse”, and “Private Lives” on a TV show in Ireland. “Night Nurse” was released as a single, and it was produced by Godley And Creme, a duo who would go on to direct many pioneering music videos in the 80s, including “Cry” that was shown on The ITV Chart Show‘s Video Vault seemingly every other week for a while.
1980: Wrïtz had now changed their name to Famous Names (maybe a little tongue-in-cheek as they still weren’t that famous at this point). In August they played the Reading Festival. In November they appeared in the ITV drama Cream In My Coffee, starring Lionel Jeffries and Dame Peggy Ashcroft, where they performed “Movies”. They released the singles “Holiday Romance” and “Modern Mums”.
Famous Names also appeared on a TV show hosted by Steve Wright who had recently joined BBC Radio 1 (although I’m unsure if it was an unaired pilot or not). Steve was interviewed, and they performed “Holiday Romance”, “Luxury”, and “Muscle Culture”. They were also supported on tour by Shock, a dance troupe whose members included Tik And Tok and blue-haired fishnet stocking-wearing vampire robot Barbie Wilde.
1981: Steve and Bev became a duo called Techno Twins. I don’t know if it’s right or not, but it has been said that they were the first people to use the word “Techno” in the context of a musical genre. So maybe we have them directly to blame for “No Limit” by 2 Unlimited over a decade later. They also had a side project called Techno Orchestra, and released the album “Casual Tease” under that name. The Techno Twins album “Venetian Blind” was unreleased.
1982: The early part of this year was rather eventual for Techno Twins. In January they had their first and only UK hit single when their cover of “Falling In Love Again” reached no. 70, and there was a video made which featured Tik (or was it Tok). They also released the album “Technostagia”, which included a rather unique take on “I Got You Babe”. It was reviewed in Smash Hits, where it was described as “blippy” and scored, er, 4½/10. Also released as singles were “Can’t Help Falling In Love” (described by NME as “beautifully evocative”) and “Swing Together”.
But it gets even better. Also in January, Bev (who had picked up a French accent along the way) was the guest vocalist on “Queen Of The Rapping Scene (Nothing Ever Goes The Way You Plan)”, a hit single for Modern Romance (best remembered for hits including “Ay Ay Ay Ay Moosey” and “Everybody Salsa”). This reached no. 37, and led to some TV appearances, including Dutch music show TopPop (where Bev had blue hair!!), and in February, Top Of The Pops! So one of them did get to appear on the show. I hope Steve wasn’t jealous.
After leaving Modern Romance, frontman Geoff Deane went on to write for TV shows, including late-90s flop ITV sitcom Babes In The Wood. We remain eternally thankful. Also in February, they appeared on CITV’s Razzmatazz, where according to TV Times “the new electric band Techno Twins brighten up the studio with their latest single”. Bev also appeared in the video to “Big Boys Don’t Cry” by Nick Battle alongside none other than Barbie Wilde!
1983: Techno Twins had now renamed themselves The Technos, and in September there this was piece of news in Smash Hits: “Steve Fairnie of The Technos is wandering around hypnotising chickens. At least it might stop them making records”. Oof! Steve really did hypnotise chickens as part of his stage act. Crowds were reported to be “bewildered”. They released the single “Foreign Land” and contributed to the compilation album “Curious Collection”. Steve and Bev also appeared in the videos for “Blue Skies” by The Jets (not to be confused with The Jets who had a hit with “Crush On You”, they came later), and “Voulez Vous Danser” by Ricchi E Poveri which was a hit across Europe (where Steve did his award-winning Charlie Chaplin impersonation).
Don’t touch that dial, we’ll be back with more in part two…