Being Frank: The Chris Sievey Story (2018) Movie Script

(dramatic music)
- [Frank] Hello, everybody!
- [Crowd] Hello!
(Frank humming lo dramatic music)
- You eilher loved him or you hated him.
- He's fantastic.
He was such a fever pilch of excitemenl.
- There is a different way of looking
al the world.
There's a different way of acting
in this world.
- The only true performance
is that which achieves madness
and there are moments
where it achieves madness.
I Here comes Darth with no shoes on. J
I Here comes Darth with no shoes off. J
I Here comes Darth with no sh-sh-shoes on. J
- ll's bizarre,
the bizarre world of Frank Sideboltom.
- No ones ever ever seen him
with his head off.
That was the big thing.
- He existed to me and that was it.
ldidn't want to know that there was someone
pulling strings or smoke and mirrors.
Don't burst the bubble.
- Frank was dead wary about
having his picture taken
being transformed.
If the camera came out, he knew,
he had a sixth sense.
Frank didn't wanna be exposed
to being a normal human being.
Which he wasn't.
(Frank humming)
- [Fan] Cheers!
(mellow guitar music)
J There's a chair over there i
I That I usually share with you t
I Where are you? t
I And where did your Cello Man go? )
J Sad and upset a)
I And his only regret is me a)
I'Cause where are me? J
t And where did your Cello Man go? i
t Where are you? t
(kids playing faintly)
- I think he was very popular at school.
He was quite popular with the girls, I think,
as a 10-year-old.
I don't think he had any problem
with bullying
because what he would do,
he'd befriend the bully.
You know, maybe make the bully laugh
or something.
One lad who was a bit of a thug
was his minder.
(lighthearted music)
Christopher coped. academically
although one art teacher said. "He has talent
but his fantasy is not always a success."
I think he was very happy on his own as well
doing stuff, but then there had to be
an audience at the end of it.
He wanted to entertain other people.
So he had the Subbuteo club.
- He used to have a Subbuteo League
with the lads from school.
We'd go round each other's houses.
You'd play on the floor or on a table
but no. not at Chris's.
You'd have to buy tickets beforehand
for the game.
So. a paddock where the lads would stand up.
You'd have a seating area at the other side
where the posh people went. you know
with the hospitality-type stuff.
Erm, programmes.
You know, and that was at school.
So you imagine he was thinking all this stuff
through his head at school.
His head must have been buzzing with ideas
and things he wanted to do.
- [Martin] For a while, we kind of called
ourselves the Space Brothers.
We were into space in, you know,
a trippy kind of way.
I had some LSD on blotting paper
so it was easy to cut a section
of the blotting paper off
so I could give him a small dose
'cause I didn't know what it was gonna do
to me when lfirst took it
and I certainly didn't know
what it would do to him
but of course, it blew his mind as well.
He just... never the same again.
Well, you're never the same again
after you've experienced that.
t Long ago in Bubbleland surreal J
J Hard to imagine, so hard to feel i
J So tough to picture in your mind J
) Stretch your brain and you may find)
(mellow guitar music)
- I'd be in bed, 11 o'clock, half 11 at night
the phone would ring, it'd be Chris.
"Oh, I've just got this new Beatles,
this Beatles bootleg."
"It's fantastic, you've got to listen to it.
You've got to listen to it."
And he'd start trying to play it to us
down the phone
and you have to show a bit of enthusiasm,
'cause you're my mate
but not at half 11, 12 o'clock at night.
- [Martin]
A folder of Beatles-related memorabilia,
"The Story of Lennon & McCartney,"
"The World's Greatest Songwriters,"
and then on the next page,
there's a feature about some other artists
which has just been crossed out
so you don't have to waste time reading
through anything that's not about
the Beatles.
No time for Stevie Wonder.
Even the advertisements
have been crossed out.
(he chuckles)
There was an advert in the Daily Express
saying, "Beatles, looking for new talent."
I said to Chris, shall we just go to Apple
and play our songs?
- [Interviewer] When you first went down
to London, was it, you went to Apple?
- [Chris]
Er, yeah, my brother and | , Martin
we had two acoustic guitars,
so we hitched down
we got there nine o'clock in the morning
and we went in and sat down in reception
and said, "We're not going
till you sign us up."
And... I mean, they tried to throw us out
and everything
but we wouldn't budge.
In the end, a bloke came down
and he had a listen to us
and he liked the stuff.
So they took us in a studio there
a couple of days later
and we did 11 tracks for them.
- Halfway through the evening,
a guest arrived into the studio
and it was Ringo Starr,
and of course, Chris and l
were completely blown away
especially when he spoke to us
and he said, "Hello, boys."
That's all he said.
The advice from Apple was go home,
get a band together
and gradually work our way up
into show business.
) But I know you won't let that happen
to you. )
- We had a band title of Hard Sharks
and we had a tryout
with a couple of other guys
and we were called Big Cheese,
and that was about it.
So we never got a recording contract
and we never got a band together.
We tried, but the inspiration faded
and Chris and I went our separate ways.
- [Chris] So, my brother lost interest
and I thought, well, I'm determined
to crack this business
'cause once I start something
I've got to see it through.
) Now that my life is over)
(guitar music)
) Now that my life is over)
) And all my time's been spent)
- [Radio] We're going to investigate
the world of cassettes.
(Radio jingle)
(guitar music)
) It's just another room by another place)
) When suddenly the girl at the door
wears the same face you wear)
) But it's me that's faced
with a double problem)
) How can I decide?)
) Wait. )
- [Paul] Don't forget, he would have been
doing all these himself.
Doing the instruments, recording it,
copying it to tape
doing the handwritten labels and stuff
so it was limited sort of editions he'd do.
- [Martin] I think they were not
a limited edition
they were a limited addition.
So if he got an order for one, he'd do one.
- [Chris] I spent about three, four years
just going around record companies
and there was just no interest at all.
- [Interviewer] Is it true that you've got
a scrapbook
crammed full of rejection slips?
- [Chris] Yeah, well, we've published one,
which was 104 rejection slips.
- [Interviewer] Do you never get disheartened
though when that's happening to you?
- [Chris] No, it always spurs me on, you know
because I'm sure record companies
haven't any idea
what they're doing at all and it's great.
- [Interviewer] There's one from
Factory Records,
which at the top of it says
"temporary rejection slip."
"Dear Chris, your real
rejection slip is in the post."
- [Chris] Most record companies,
the big ones,
they get so many tapes sent them
that they type up a standard letter
and what I did was I typed up
my own rejection slip
and all they had to do was sign it
and post it back to me
and that was what I got back from Magnet,
just "nice try."
(piano music)
- [Paula] When I met him,
he came to work in the factory.
Just sitting there and this guy walks in,
you know, with bright red knee-high
leather boots
and a green suede jacket and, like,
eyeliner on,
and we went, "Oh, look at him!"
Nobody dressed like that.
Nobody dressed like that and he kept
walking in a factory
to do a proper mundane
factory job dressed like that.
| used to think, "God, is it Monday?
I can't wait."
"I need to see this guy."
He was such a mysterious person.
We went walking down the canal,
just talking and chatting away
and just pushed me in the canal.
Just completely out of the blue
for no reason whatsoever.
Next thing, I'm in the canal
and, like, he helped me get out
and everything.
I went, "God, you absolute stupid idiot."
You know, I was covered in all...
the canal's notjust water,
it's like gunge and all sorts,
and mud and slime.
l was like, "My God, why did you do that?"
And he just went, "I dunno."
I think I tried to push him in,
but I couldn't get him in
and then we just fell on the canal bank
and ended up kissing.
And I didn't wanna kiss him,
because it wasn't that kind of relationship.
So I just went like that...
And he says,
"You're a really rubbish kisser."
I said, "It's 'cause I'm trying
not to kiss you."
"That's why I'm a rubbish kisser."
And then I just realized there and then,
ljust thought, God, lam so in love
with this person.
That was it, really.
) In every way )
) Paula, my love )
) I couldn't last the day without you )
- [Paula] We'd only, like,
known each other a few weeks
and he just says, "Should we go
and get married on Monday?"
So lwent, "Yeah, OK, then."
We went to work as normal
and we'd booked in a wedding at the town hall
in Sale for lunch time on our lunch break,
and nobody knew.
(Chris sings a tune)
- [Chris] This is Christopher Sievey,
just singing a few bits of tapes of mine
to register to prove that they are mine.
(Chris singing)
- We were really short on space
living in my mum's spare bedroom,
and he always just adapted
to wherever he was,
so we kind of pulled the wardrobe out a bit
and there was this space
behind the wardrobe.
Like, put all his recording gear in there.
Me dad coming in and noticing all the plugs
he had plugged in.
He'd just walk in, unplug the whole lot out.
"You're not using all my electricity."
(electric guitar music)
(upbeat guitar music)
- Kids, never be a pop-writing genius.
- The Freshies were never part of
the in-crowd.
- It was like a night out with your mates
for weeks and months on end.
- They all had a similar insanity.
That's why I thought they
were gonna be successful.
- Tell you what we didn't take too seriously,
- Chris just had these classic songs as well,
and I thought this guy should be massive.
This makes no sense.
Why is he playing the Gallery in Manchester
to 100 people?
He should be, like, number one in the charts.
- You've just got to accept the fact
that somebody who was being not recognized
and was still piling out these songs.
- If you don't like the
songs of Chris Sievey
there's something wrong with you.
- They were just a pop band,
they weren't The Clash.
They were The Freshies.
- [Interviewer] Where does the name
"The Freshies" come from?
- [Chris] ltjust meant nothing but
it sounded sort of bright and alert.
So it stuck.
- I think it was him rebelling against all
the doomy overcoat brigade
you know, all into Joy Division
and everybody walking around like,
"I'm so cool."
"I'm all in black."
And, you know, Freshies,
totally opposite to all that.
It wasn't cool, nobody thought it was cool
and he did it anyway, and it was great.
(garbled record music)
- [Chris on record] God, there's a lot of
dust on this needle.
(sound of blowing)
(record playing)
- You suddenly became aware that he was in
absolute control of everything he did.
All the artwork is controlled by Chris,
all the recordings are controlled by Chris.
- [Chris] Design a cover,
get them printed up
stick all the labels on,
and the covers together
you know, cart 'em around shops,
send out copies to DJs
you know, the full works,
from start to finish.
You know, there's more satisfaction
from doing it that way.
- Well, I'll tell you, Michelangelo,
he used to go to the quarry
and dig out his lumps of marble
and he used to wheelbarrow them back to base
because he didn't trust it to anybody else.
- [Interviewer] Tell us some ofthe things
that you have done to get the band known.
- [Chris] Erm, well, basically
I do daft things.
- [Interviewer] Tell us about your escapades,
like the secret meeting while you were
promoting Yellow Spot at Stiff Records?
- While we're in Stiff,
Chris stole some letter-headed paper.
- [Chris] I then wrote to everyone
in the record business
saying they were having a secret meeting
and you've been invited.
A&R men, managers, record company executives
even Elton John we wrote to, you know.
We sent this letter saying,
"There is a secret meeting
for a big signing and you'll
have to know what to say."
So the second letter went out and it said
"What did you see?"
You have to say, "I see a yellow spot."
) What do you see?)
) I saw a yellow spot...)
- [Chris] We'd, like, jam the phone line
for three days.
It was driving them potty.
- And all these people turned up at Stiff
saying, "I saw a yellow spot."
And me and Chris were across the road
in the pub watching this.
There was people driving up in limousines
people getting out of cabs,
people in really flashy clothes.
- [Chris]
And the idea was I was going to turn up
with a video cassette and, like, play it
to everybody in the business.
It turned out
they didn't have a video machine
that lifted the one I'd brought anyway
so I just got ticked off and sent home.
- Look.
Look, we're all on the telly.
- Isn't it good?
- We're all on the telly.
Wave, Stirling.
- Wave, wave, Asher.
I remember having a video
when nobody else even knew what a video was.
We had no, like,
things that everybody else had
but we had a video camera.
- Here we are, a quick look at
Asher's bedroom
before we paint it and it becomes
Mummy's bedroom.
Take that match out of your mouth.
Wave to the camera.
Where's the Dalek?
Behind you, oh, there it is!
What else is in here?
Shall we have a look what else there is?
- When we was young,
he'd done a Yellow Submarine
Sergeant Pepper mural in my bedroom.
- [Paula] He did that when Stirling,
our first baby, was born
and it was for him, really,
because it was Sergeant Pepper.
- Well, it's Yellow Submarine,
it's child-friendly.
I don't think probably the full room
was what she had as her intentions.
- [Paula]
It wasn't really a nursery
but it looked great as a nursery
and it was brilliant.
Aw, it was so good.
When Asher came along,
they needed to go into the bigger bedroom
and we needed to go into the small room.
So, he needed to paint over it.
It must have broken his heart.
We should have just kept it like that.
Oh, you live and learn as you get older,
you really do.
(drum and fanfare music)
(child mumbling)
He was a great dad.
He was a really good dad before school.
Once the kids went to school
and started learning other stuff
he said to me, "I've lost them now."
"Because they're not my kids anymore."
"They're learning stuffwith other people."
He loved having them where they were doing
everything that he liked doing.
If they didn't wanna go to bed, well,
why are you putting them to bed?
They don't wanna go to bed.
Let them stay up.
- From growing up with it,
you think it's normal,
and you go up to other people's houses
and the dads are coming home from work
at half five, et cetera,
and that's when you sort of see,
"0h, hold on.
"This is not how everybody else lives."
- Our house was very silly and daft
all the time.
- Mama...
- Hey, she's talking, isn't she?
- Mama.
- His favorite meal was cheese on toast,
but not your usual cheese on toast.
He'd put it under the grill,
and it wasn't ready until it was on fire,
actually on fire.
He'd wait until it was sort of aflame
in the middle.
That was his favourite meal ever.
- Because we'd grown up with that,
itjust felt normal to us, you know.
We didn't know it any other way
and I don't think I would
have wanted it any other way.
It was great fun growing up,
we had the time of our lives.
- He loved them kids
and he took them everywhere.
We all went together
everywhere as a family.
It was brilliant.
(whimsical organ music)
- [Interviewer] So is it a case of
making money
making music, having hit records,
what's most important?
- [Chris] Erm, well, actually
we want to get into video now.
We're starting making our own
one-hour programmes
and they're rubbish at the moment.
But hopefully we'll learn how to make 'em
over the years, you know.
- [Interviewer] You reckon this
is the thing ofthe future?
- [Chris] Yeah, I mean, it's early days
but it's gonna go video.
I think it's the same thing like 10 years ago
colour television was new,
but everyone's got one now
and I think in 10 years time,
everyone'll have a video.
- He personalized them,
which was fantastic.
- Can you see Stephen sat there watching us?
- Yeah.
- Can you?
- Yeah.
- So he's there in his front room,
"Hello, Stephen Doyle."
- Ooh, hello, Stephen Doyle over there
in Salford.
I hope this isn't scaring you too much,
- He was industrious at promoting himself
to a very small number of people.
- Roll titles.
(they laugh)
- It's not stopping.
- 0h, right, well, let's just...
- Don't roll titles!
- Freeze frame.
(children crying)
- Please just stop for a minute, will ya?
(children crying)
- [Chris] Hiya.
- 0h, hiya.
- [Paula]
It was quite exciting living with him.
You never knew what was gonna happen.
It was like being on a rollercoaster.
You know, one minute you're up there
and the next minute you're down there.
You just never knew.
Just didn't pay any bills,
didn't think he had to pay them.
One day, the kids invited some friends
back from school
and sat them all, like, in a circle
round the telly
and put the cartoons on,
they're all watching cartoons.
The bailiffs knocked on the door
and walked in
took the telly, walked in,
look the telly away
out of the living room and out
and the kids were just staring
at the blank space where the telly was.
- [Chris] Don't make me laugh.
- Chris came home, I said,
"They've taken the telly."
He went, "Oh, well, doesn't matter, does it?"
"We don't need the telly, do we?"
"I'll get us another telly."
"I've got this deal on the way."
"I've got this, I'm going to invent that."
"I'm going to London.
I'm talking to these people."
"We are going to be so rich,
you won't know what's hit you."
(crowd clapping)
- Thank you, Roy and the TSDs.
Now, if there was a prize for the craziest
disc of the year
it would be sure to go to the next group.
They're called The Freshies,
and the title of this song
I'll have to read it,
"I'm In Love With The Girl
On A Certain Manchester Megastore
Check-Out Desk."
Beats me! The Freshies.
- And then came Virgin Megastore,
my first inkling
of how things can go wrong for Chris.
- That was, like, my first single
with The Freshies.
He just said, "Come down to me flat,"
just got in the kitchen,
he says, "It goes like this."
) In the biz, you get to meet
all the top people)
) Trouble is, they never seem to be
the sort we pull..)
- This is the break through,
this is the moment.
I! played itself.
All we had to do was literally turn up.
)'Cause I'm in love
He's in love )
) With the girl on the Manchester
Virgin Megastore check-out desk... )
- [Announcer] Chris Sievey and The Freshies
with a monster record to be a super hit.
) Manchester Virgin Megastore
check-out desk )
- The only thing that was right was the song.
Everything else was wrong.
- Were they stopped from using the word
- [Radio DJ] I wasn't allowed to play it
anymore because the authority, bless 'em,
said that it mentioned a trade name
and it was giving an unjustified plug
and all this business
so Chris went home again and he came up
with an alternative title line.
)Cause I'm in love with the girl)
) On a certain Manchester Megastore
check-out desk)
JFSKE?m52tmz T pig;
- [Chris] All it meant was, like, rubbing off
the vocal track
and just singing that again.
So we went back in there and accidentally
rubbed off all the guitars.
So we more or less had to start again
from scratch.
- [Barry] Then you've got
the Top of the Pops thing.
(theme music)
BARRY: Getting on Top of the Pops
at that time made or broke you.
- There was a call that the BBC technicians
had gone on strike
so Top of the Pops was cancelled.
(theme music)
- So the next time that we was due
to go on Top of the Pops
they says, "Yeah, but you've gone down now."
- It lost the momentum then.
Fate conspired against them unfortunately.
- It's all a catalogue of disaster, really.
Which is great!
- [Paula] He pushed it and pushed it,
he did everything he could
to get it in the charts.
- It just didn't happen,
like it doesn't happen
for thousands of very talented people.
- He wrote one tremendous song
that in another parallel universe,
could have been a Number One.
- [Radio DJ] What number did it get to?
54, was it?
- [Chris] Something like that, yeah.
- Is that all?
- [Chris] Yeah.
) Megastore check-out desk... )
- He didn't seem to care.
(upbeat music)
- [Interviewer] Do you get very depressed
Have you ever thought, right,
I'm gonna pack it all up?
- [Chris] No, it doesn't bother me anymore.
- He was never thwarted.
- Ooh!
(Chris laughing)
(upbeat music)
- [Barry] 27 consecutive flops.
- It's like pulling teeth.
But all of them at one go.
- I think he was happy with the product
he was bringing out
because it was him,
anything else is not Chris.
(jaunty keyboard music)
- [Paula] Always had the next idea
in his head.
He did work really hard at trying
to make things on his own.
(off-key keyboard music)
(kazoo music)
(guitar music)
- [Chris] I also, like, have a solo career
as well,
purely because the others have said, "Eh?"
You know, "We're not doing that."
) Come clean what you know,
everybody wanna go)
) The Reds don't stand a bet )
- [Chris] So I've done quite a few projects
which are...
you know, they're always absolutely,
you know, failures
but they just satisfy, again, a need
to want to do something else, you know.
- [Paula]
I think he was trying to be edgy.
He's a tryer though, isn't he?
- But then of course he moves on
to new projects and things.
That's on the back burner, let's move forward
and move on with other stuff.
(upbeat synth music)
- A song about seat-belts...
on planes.
- | just saw it in Sounds magazine
and it says pop band "Freshies" split up.
- Only Chris would come back with
The Freshies, only it wasn't. Only Chris!
) Who said it couldn't be done? )
) We say it can and here's the fun...)
- Trying to be Dollar,
do you remember Dollar?
-Tight Fit.
- A bit Abba-ish.
) Fasten your seatbelts )
)Ooh-ooh... )
- I said, "It's just like a Eurovision song."
And he went, That's it, I'm gonna enter
the Eurovision song contest with it,"
and he did,
and it didn't get through.
) We're doing if, we're doing if,
we're doing it)
) We're doing it!)
(computer chirping)
- Well, I thought I'd done quite well
keeping up to date with these home computers
and video games
that any three-year-old can master
these days.
But there's a new development nowadays
that really makes the mind boggle.
It looks like a normal record.
- [Paula] He just went out into Altrincham
one day
and he was supposed to be paying
the telephone bill.
- Yeah, what happened was I went out
to pay me phone bill
and I saw one of these in a shop window,
and I came back with this instead
which didn't please my wife.
- "I'm gonna make a computer game."
I went, "You're gonna make a computer game,
how are you gonna do that?"
- It gave me three months uninterrupted
programming without the phone going.
- So they cut off your phone?
- Yeah, they cut my phone off,
but it gave me three months
to learn to use the thing.
- And indeed, the A-side
is a very pleasant song
called Camouflage by Chris Sievey.
But play the B-side and it's a series
of beeps and blips
that make no sense at all.
(record beeping)
- Certainly not quite so smooth on the ears,
Is it?
Now, Chris Sievey is the musician
behind that racket,
Can you tell me what on Earth it is?
- Erm, right, well, as a single, the A-side
is a conventional record
the B-side, though, contains three
computer programmes for the 2X81 computer.
Now the idea is, you buy the record
and you load the B-side
into your home computer.
It's just digital information
which the computer recognizes.
Then what you do is you turn the record over
and play the A-side
and you get a visual display with lyrics.
It's like a sort of cheap video.
(guitar music)
- It was like the start of computer games
on disc, on vinyl!
) | find it hard picking up)
) On the things you do )
) It doesn't do it for me )
) But it's no difference to you )
- I don't know how long
it would have worked for
because, you know, it would have degraded
pretty fast, I think
because it's not optical,
it was a needle, you know.
- [Chris] People can buy it
purely as software or as music
but hopefully get involved
with the two together.
) What a world I'm up against )
) Can you feel that?)
- [Interviewer] | just wonder
whether it's worth all the trouble?
- Really, it's beyond me.
If you're over 15, forget computers.
- I can understand now how my parents felt
about 20 years ago.
Chris, thanks very much,
and good luck to you, thank you.
- [Crowd] Sievey, Sievey, Sievey, Sievey!
)Oh, Frankie, Frankie,
Frankie, Frankie, Frankie)
) Frankie Sidebottom )
) Oh, Frankie, Frankie...)
- I can remember us going
to a fancy-dress party
and he made me a huge pair
of paper-mache boobs to wear
and he made a paper-mache head,
and it was Frank.
He called it John Smith at the time.
The head was quite popular.
I don't think my boobs quite took off
the same way, but...
Anyway, yeah.
And then he thought... I think he just
came up with the idea.
"I'm gonna do this," and he called it
Frank Sidebottom,
- Hello?
- [Frank] Er...
Hello, er, could I speak to Chris Sievey,
- To who?
To who?
- [Frank] Chris Sievey.
Could I speak to him, please?
- You are speaking to him.
- What?
- You are speaking to him.
- [Frank] What? Oh.
- This is.
- Pardon?
- This is Chris Sievey!
- Pardon?
- This is Chris Sievey!
- 0h, hello, Chris, er...
l was wondering, er...
if you're playing any gigs tonight
because I'll get me bass guitar
and I'll come along and have a jam
if you want.
- I don't think Frank
was an act of desperation.
I think Frank was a complete accident.
Frank was supposed to be a minor character
as part ofThe Freshies' video output
and Frank was just a comedy element
just to pull this whole thing together
to get a complete video.
He thought what The Freshies need
is an obsessive fan.
- [Frank] ) I'm in love with the girl
on the Manchester megastore )
)Check-out desk in Manchester)
- [Chris] We're playing at Fagins
on 14th of May
which is Monday night, and there'll be some
other local bands on as well
and also Frank, who is our number one fan
and has been following us around for years.
- Sunday night, that's where I'll be
with The Freshies.
Here I come.
- [Bernard] Frank was obsessed with Chris
and suddenly appeared
like some kind of weird stalker.
- Well, here we are, just in time.
Sounds like support band's still on.
They sound rubbish, absolutely.
(guitar music)
Oh, no! 0h, blimey, I've been missing them!
They're on already.
- It was around December 1962,
Chris did Frank for the first time
as his own support act.
- | only remember him being there,
and people being shocked by this bloke
with a big paper-mache head, as l was.
- All those years writing songs and then
he ends up being taken over by Frank.
- [Chris] Eh, what?
- [Frank] Hello, Chrissy, I'm Frank.
- [Chris] What do you mean, you're Frank, eh?
- [Frank] Oh, who's rattled your cage then?
- [Chris] Look, I'm getting sick of you,
(fist thumping)
(Frank crying)
- That hurt!
Blimey, he's hit me.
(Frank crying)
- He just grew into a monster.
I think even Chris thought
Frank wouldn't get that big
but he just took over everything.
- You're such a trendsetter, Frank.
Do you think the world is ready for you?
- Erm...
Oh, blimey, I nearly fell off then.
- [Martin] In his mind, Frank Sidebottom
was a superstar,
and the sooner the world knew the better.
Starting offwith the people of Timperley.
- [Frank] Forget Las Vegas, forget Paris,
New York and Milan.
We are in Timperley.
- [Rick] I think it was the name, Timperley.
It gave this image of this nice, happy place
where some guy made music in his garden shed
that went out to the world.
) Oh, when you're feeling lowdown
and there's nowhere to go)
) Why not visit Timperley?)
)'Cause when you get to Timperley )
) You'll start to feel fine )
) And then you'll want to be in Timperley
all the time )
- [Martin] His age was always 35,
so he was really a very overgrown child
still living at home with his mum.
- [CP Lee] If he was in a big
conurbation like Manchester,
there are too many weirdos in Manchester.
Whereas in Timperley,
there's only one Frank.
- [Stirling] A lot of people,
they just saw someone
with a paper-mache head on,
and just thought, you know, leave him to it.
- [Interviewer] Have you seen him
walking about in Timperley?
- [Woman] l have seen him, yeah.
- [Frank] Oh, have you?
- [Woman] Yeah.
- [Frank] Oh, very good.
You're making me go bright red now actually.
- [Frank] Can I just try one of them?
- Is that alright?
- No, no, no, no.
I think it was Salvador Dali who said that
to become universal you must
first become ultra-local.
- [Frank] Look at that thing!
Look at that thing!
Hey, look at them things!
Look at all them things there.
That's unbelievable, all that, isn't it?
You wouldn't believe it unless you saw it all
for yourself, would you?
- It's like having a peacock on your lawn.
You just chuck him some bird seed
every now and again
and clean up the shit.
- That way is the Timperley Triangle
which I'll tell you about some other time
but it's a very dangerous place.
I've been in it once and I came out
and I had no trousers on.
- It was falling between somebody
who's intentionally doing things badly
and somebody who was
actually doing things badly
'cause they'd lost it.
- The time is just right now for Frank
so I shall be conquering the world.
But me mum says I'm not
going on any world tour
till I've tidied me bedroom.
- Rather strange actually.
It does kind of remind me of a guy
who was in love with a girl
who worked in the Virgin Megastore,
but maybe I got it wrong.
- [Crowd] Little Frank!
Little Frank!
- Shh!
Little Frank!
- First of all...
- [Crowd] Little Frank!
- And then suddenly Frank has got a dummy,
Little Frank, and it's a stroke of genius.
- It is of course, the one and the only
Little Frank.
(crowd cheering)
(upbeat music)
- [Frank]
For those of you who've not seen him
Little Frank is me ventriloquist puppet,
so watch my lips very carefully.
- The only ventriloquist act
that I've ever come across
where neither ofthem's mouths moved.
- Hello, Little Frank, how are you?
Oh, I do his voice, don't I?
Hello, Little Frank, how are you?
- Oh, I'm very well, actually.
- A dummy venting another dummy,
it's classic.
(guitar music)
- Little Frank is a puppet,
but is he sentient?
I don't know, but then Frank
himself is almost a puppet.
- He would be talking to him,
and he would be making
it difficult for Frank
and contradicting Frank,
and being rude to Frank.
He's like an unruly child,
and yet Frank was
controlling Little Frank.
It was a ventriloquist dummy,
but with seemingly its own existence
which logic should prevent from happening.
That was the beauty of Frank's world.
It was founded on illogicality.
- I think there was some genuine jealousy
and resentment of Little Frank
from Big Frank.
He hated almost upstaging himself.
We'd do shows and I'd go,
"Have you got Little Frank?"
He'd go, Little Frank's not coming
to this one.
(crowd cheering)
- He obviously used to be
fairly strict with Little Frank.
- You're on a final warning.
If you ruin anything I ever do again
then I'm getting rid of you.
- Little Frank obviously
played up to that.
- [Crowd]
- Don't be swept along, he's only cardboard.
- (crowd laughing)
- It was one of his better gags, that one.
- What do you think of that, Little Frank?
- Oh, it's brilliant actually.
- Right, anyway, we want some tickets
to go and see American football.
So can we have them pronto?
(bass guitar music)
- One of the first gigs
I played was in Chorley.
The audience went wild,
banging on the dressing room door.
If you went in the toilet,
they were hanging on the toilet door.
"Where's Frank, where's Frank,
where's he gone?"
You know, it was total Frank-a-mania.
Some of the gigs, people are shouting
"fuck off" and all this
you know, so it was dead varied, you know.
What Chris wanted to
do was create something
that entertained people,
and blow their minds,
and it blew their minds,
and it blew my mind as well
and it still does.
If I think about it too hard.
(guitar music)
- So we started doing those gigs
and travelling about,
and really it was just an
excuse to get out the house,
dress up, get pissed.
| just remember those days
being just full of fun
and laughter, because
there was an endless supply
of stupid, but quite clever ideas.
- [Frank] OK, a one, two,
a one, two, three, four.
(crowd laughing)
Oh, blimey, where's me band gone?
- There's no kind of artistic merit,
and you're not going to get any groupies
so we had to choose people
who didn't care about kudos.
But that kind of underestimates me.
Playing in front of 300 people with Frank
lfelt was like unimaginable kudos.
(guitar music)
- Some of those gigs, there was people
fainting at the front ofthe crowd
it was unbelievable.
Unless you were there at the time to see it,
people being dragged off, good times.
(guitar music)
- It felt like you were
breaking the rules in some way.
How could you get away with playing this,
we won't call it shit, but this, like,
barely-rehearsed, bad versions
of other people's songs
and people loving it.
) Of the world.)
- When you got in the van with Chris,
you were going to enter
a slightly altered reality
and one time we'd been talking about
what you could do in the van
to while away the time,
and he'd come up with this idea of, like
well, you could have travel snooker
and then they picked me up in the van.
(van horn honking)
Chris had a half-size snooker table
over the back of the seats in the minibus
and so you were playing
snooker in the van.
Which you can't do, because any time
he puts the brake on
or changes... all the balls go all over
the place.
Apart from the fact you couldn't really
play snooker, you couldn't sit down.
But it was a joke, so it was worth doing.
(crowd cheering)
- [Martin] Another really fantastic gig
was at Wigan Bus Depot.
It's only a tiny stage
one foot offthe ground
but people were leaping off, stage diving.
He was show-biz royalty that night.
Has it kind of damaged you in any way?
- Yes, yes, it has damaged me.
(Martin laughing)
- [Rick] I don't think we'll ever
experience that again, ever.
- And on that sombre note...
- [Woman] Frank!
- [Woman] No, shake it a bit!
Shake it.
Come here, I'll do it.
- [Woman] We love you, Frank.
(fans giggling)
- Shut the door, Tina. Is that it?
- [Frank] Right, we're clear now, thank you.
In the good old days of GPO
| used to send out a thing called Com,
which stood for communication.
- [Steve] They're actually works of art.
So much attention to detail in there,
and so much love and craft and effort.
I suppose that was the great thing
about the world of Frank.
It was just a document of his world at
that point, you know, what he'd been up to.
Absolutely nonsense really,
but they were great.
You know, this was pre-lnternet.
You had to write to people,
and if you'd ordered some badges
you'd end up getting a
handwritten letter from him.
ltjust meant so much that
you got this handwritten note
from him all in lower case.
It was absolutely fantastic,
that level of communication
and attention that he put into it.
- Oh, Little Frank had a girlfriend,
didn't he?
That was marvellous.
- It's Little Denise!
(crowd cheering)
(cheery keyboard music)
Hello, Little Denise.
How are you?
- Her head went missing,
nothing to do with me,
and so he'd just bring the cardboard
body out, but still do the voice,
even though she never had her head.
- [Frank]
Oh, here she is, Little Denise.
Two puppets alone in Timperley,
they were only cardboard
but they were so much in love
with each other.
You can see it in their cardboard eyes.
And they wait for a bus
'cause they are in love
and the bus goes straight by, brilliant!
(crowd laughing)
- [Dave] Wherever your head is, Little Denise
I hope you get it back soon.
...with Little Frank and Little Denise
with no head,
- Hiya, good morning,
welcome to the programme.
I nearly missed the start of the show today
'cause my watch is actually wrong
it still says 20 past nine.
Welcome to the programme
Christmas is nearly upon us
and Christmas means...
Well, for me it means chocolate money.
- You know, he did sort of hit quite
a high point where he was quite famous
and he was on all the Saturday morning
kids shows -
it was good money for him and easy.
- Now when | travel, I like to play Subbuteo.
- I didn't realize when l
was watching him on kids TV
that he was, like, a grown-up's entertainer.
Performers you get on Saturday morning
kids TV that were trying to be all wacky
he just seemed like this sort of
mental bloke.
- [Frank]
Right, this looks safe as houses, just...
Eh, don't you think I look
absolutely ace, eh?
- What are you supposed to be?
- A hot-air balloon of course.
- Is that really a balloon?
- Eh, don't pull that!
(imitating balloon sputtering)
Frank Sidebottom here actually,
finding out who's got a crush on who,
and who do they fancy?
Who do you fancy, Little Frank?
- I like cheese on toast.
- Stupid, you can't fancy cheese on toast.
- He saw them sort of
Saturday morning kids TVs
as a sort of stepping stone to get a bit of
recognition to go onto do something
what he wanted to do,
rather than just sort of being a guest
on someone else's show.
- Don't forget he was trying
to get Frank launched
and it was a great launching platform
and everything, nationwide TV.
So I think at the time it suited Chris.
Well, it suited Frank and suited Chris.
- Me dad was never one for rehearsing
he just liked to do things
on the spur of the moment.
I think he would have rather if he could have
just turned up
and said, you know, you do your thing,
but they sort of tried to script him a bit,
which, when he's scripted,
he's never the same
so he couldn't express Frank as he wanted to.
- What he intented to do, every time,
was to come out and play
and that scared the shit out of people,
especially TV.
- The soundman, he warned me,
he says don't dip this in the wax like that
you know, because that's...
But what I have got is a brilliant,
fantastic puppet
I can dip in any old wax I like.
And by the magic of the
cathode ray tube or something...
(triumphant humming)
And I'll burn the microphone if I want
and I'll put my foot in there.
- Everybody in TV wanted to draft him in
and try and borrow from what he did.
But the fact is he was a master
of creating his own world.
- I mean, we're doing this now
from the dead center of Manchester
which is this spot. Well, we're not...
I'll show you where the center is, right?
The dead center is just here.
Right, that's the dead center there.
- He was his own being.
He was his own comedy universe.
- Hello, I've come to sell me mum's house.
- You've come to the right place, sir.
Last year, SWEAG sold over 80 million
worth of property.
- Crikey, all this from one office?
- And 29 others in South and East Devon.
- That's, er, 30.
Do I pay for all of them?
- No, for a sole agency rate,
you'll be with us all.
- If sir's mum wants another home,
we have thousands to sell.
- And we can arrange a mortgage.
- [Frank] That's fantastic!
Blimey, who are you?
- [Announcer] SWEAG, so good
we're almost big-headed.
- [Frank] Did you know I did Wembley?
(audience cheering)
Look at that, a red pass for Bros.
(audience laughing)
- [Paula] He had to announce Bros coming on
and it didn't go down well.
- [Frank] I got booed by 55,000 people.
(audience laughing)
Do you know what that feels like?
I started off all right, you know.
"Hands up if you like Matt",
yeah, they all went.
"Hands up if you like Luke,"
yeah, they all went.
"Hands up if you like Bros,"
yeah, they all went.
Hands up if you've got Betamax.
(audience laughing)
Total silence in Wembley stadium.
And then it raised its ugly head.
"We want Bros, we want Bros..."
and that was just Little Frank.
(audience laughing)
- [Paula] He didn't have a lot
of fine moments, did he?
- [Interviewer] Frank is a
star in his own comic in Oink?
- [Frank] Yes, that's right.
- And that's been running for some time
and made Frank very famous I think.
- Oh, yes, it has, actually.
- I seen his work as Frank, which I loved,
and also I knew that the style of his work
would fit perfectly into
this going against conformity
of traditional comics, because no other comic
would have him but Oink.
He was at home there.
- Well, I remember he did a cover for the
"Oink!" comic,
Frank was running to school as a child,
the background was a brick wall,
and he'd spent more time
dotting each individual brick
and putting details into the brick
that probably wouldn't have even been seen
'cause of the banners for the logo
for "Oink!"
- He'd be late for deadlines.
Four or five hours later,
we look at our watches,
and Chris would come in and say,
"Hiya lads, here it is,"
and it'd be worth waiting for.
- He'd be up all night
doing a page of artwork.
I said "Chris, we get 85 pound plus VAT,
just knock something off."
Money never entered into his head.
Well, that's obvious from the work.
Clearly this was a man on a mission
of rank insanity.
(Frank singing upbeat music)
- It was a really stupid thing to do,
to put your home number out
for everybody to ring it.
It just completely took over.
Couldn't use the phone anymore.
) I said Timperley 969-1909 )
(phone ringing)
- Now that used to be my phone number.
And Little Frank did warn me, didn't you?
- Oh, yes, I warned you.
- He would pick up and he'd pick up as Chris
and then go,
he'd say, "I'll just go and get Frank."
Obviously wander down the hall, come back,
come back as Frank, which is fantastic.
- He said, people are gonna ring you up.
(audience laughing)
I said they... people haven't...
they won't be bothered ringing!
Our phone never stopped.
- The phone would be constantly
ringing in the background.
Hundreds every day, all day long,
and all through the night as well.
In the end, we just didn't
even answer the phone ever.
We used to let the answering machine
answer it.
) I said Timperley 969-1909 )
(phone ringing)
(dial tone humming)
- [Fan] Hello Frank,
I think you're really fantastic.
Marvellous. Bye.
(dial tone humming)
- [Teenager] What a load of rubbish.
(answering machine beeping)
- [Man] No message, ljust
liked your answering machine.
(dial tone humming)
- Hello, Frank, this is Caroline.
Now, I've heard all about
your papier-mache cock.
I'd like to sample some of that cock.
How about meeting me under the clock, cock?
Bring your papier-mache cock along with you.
Even better would be the real thing.
Thanks, cock, bye.
) Oh, yes, but please don't phone me up)
) Because me mum goes absolutely bonkers)
) She goes up the wall
and across the fantastic ceiling )
)Oh, yes)
- [Interviewer] Do you see yourself
as the king of rock and roll?
- [Frank] King of football, as well.
- [Martin] Timperley Bigshorts FC.
"In Bigshorts we trust," was their motto.
This is the official club records,
volume one.
Here we have Frank Sidebottom,
good and fantastic for the game,
with Little Frank,
who is bobbins for the game.
- He says, "Oh, we're going to have
big shorts."
You can't wear big shorts,
nobody wears big shorts.
- So we had to go to a bespoke tailor
and get 15 pairs of big shorts
that went down to the knee.
- [Stirling] The players turn up like,
"I'm not wearing them."
"It's ridiculous!"
"Well, if you're not wearing them,
you're not playing."
- Division Three of the Manchester
Publicity Sunday League,
the chairman, boss and manager
is Frank Sidebottom.
The most important thing
is who's got the halftime fireworks?
- [Martin] Nice photo of the Bigshorts there,
the pre-war team.
- [Stirling] He made a programme every week,
team talk's in there, the manager's notes.
It was a Sunday league team,
but as far as he was concerned,
they might as well have
been in the Premier League.
He wanted to make it as professionally
amateur as he could do.
- Right, listen, Steve,
I know we're playing
at the moment and I
could be distracting you,
but do you think we're
confident of winning here?
- Er, well, with five minutes to go, 6-3,
I think we might...
- Oh, look out!
Here they come!
- [Stirling] He played a
few games with the head on,
which didn't go down too well.
- [Frank] We were playing against
the White Swan
and suddenly one of our players
comes off injured.
They said, "Francis,
you're gonna have to go on
and do the last seven minutes," so I did do.
- [Stirling] He probably couldn't even see
that the ball was there.
He just hung up front, goal hanger.
If he saw a glimpse of the ball,
just diving for it.
And at one point, he nearly
actually did score.
- [Martin] The attendance at this
match was 28 people,
two dogs, and one puppet.
This book wasn't an official publication.
It was never meant to be
really seen by anybody.
It was just his own personal record
of the Bigshorts' success and failures.
In fact, the more failures,
probably the better.
- He wasn't bothered if
they didn't win the league.
As long as everyone that was playing
had a good time playing and enjoyed it,
he was happy.
I think he pretty much achieved that.
(whimsical keyboard music)
- [Martin] Around the border
of a lot of the Frank artwork,
there was a kind of triangular design
which looked quite
decorative and quite random.
But he did mention to me
that within these borders
there was a code that
was related in some way
to the Enigma Code from
the Second World War.
- I remember he used to
draw borders around things
and have maybe little shapes around
that he would say was a secret code,
but I didn't know what the
code was because it was secret.
- Now he didn't tell me exactly
what the result of the code is,
but there is a code there.
- And if you interfered with his codes,
he then wouldn't be happy about it.
It's like if someone
used any of his artwork
to make a flyer for a gig,
and they took some elements out,
he wouldn't be happy because then it would
break this code or something.
- He always did codes, but I don't think
that was a code.
He's just saying that to wind people up.
That was just a little pattern.
- He certainly would talk
about this all the time,
and say it would all come out
and you'd be amazed when
you find out and all this.
And l was flummoxed by what he was saying,
because he would never give anything away.
He would always let it happen.
- If you do want to spend three or four years
working it all out, we all want to know.
Probably does say something like "The Beatles
were the best band in the world"
or something like that.
Some useless information.
- He took his creation very, very seriously.
You know, his various looks,
when Frank became kind of a rock star,
and the different heads.
The devil was in the detail and there was
a serious amount of graft went into that.
However, obviously there
are Frank fans out there,
and Chris said to me,
"Have you seen this?"
I went, "What?
He went, "Come and look at this."
And he got out a photo album
with "not Franks" written on it.
He went, "Have a thumb through that."
Oh, my God, it was absolutely hysterical.
Just shocking, really, really poor.
I mean some were square, totally square,
just a cardboard box,
you know what I mean?
It's all the people who turned up at gigs
who've made their own.
I mean, there were a few that were, like,
bang on, you know.
There were better Little Franks
than Big Franks though.
I think he's easier to make.
It was just hysterical, and I remember
his wife going,
"He's not got that out, has he?"
"He takes it very seriously, you know."
- [Crowd] We want Frank!
- [Announcer] By arrangement
with Mike the Manager...
- [Crowd] We want Frank!
(crowd cheering)
- [Announcer] And with
the very kind permission
of Mrs Sidebottom...
(crowd cheering)
- So me and my mates had no idea
how many people would be in there.
Walk in this tent, you know, it's like,
Jesus Christ, there's 10,000 other people
absolutely fanatical about Frank.
(crowd cheering)
All you could hear was,
"Come on, let us in,"
we wanna get in, we wanna see Frank!"
People scaling this fence,
security almost like, "Get back!"
You know, cattle prodding them back down,
you know.
- [Crowd] We want Frank, we want Frank!
We want Frank, we want Frank!
- [Frank] Hello, Reading!
(crowd cheering)
Let's go.
) Oh, guess who's been on Match Of The Day?)
) You have, in your big shorts. )
) And guess who can play
fantastic football? )
) You can, in your big shorts. )
) Yes, I've got some very big shorts. )
Thank you very much, good night.
(crowd cheering)
- [Martin] When Frank
released his double album,
the gatefold picture showed his bedroom.
There was no way he could
have got to the bed,
so he must have hemmed himself in,
like the painter who paints
himself into the corner.
And there he stayed, hemmed in
to being Frank Sidebottom.
- Frank has now taken over.
And it's not a conscious thing.
He's gone into this great
subconscious ramble,
ramble around our heads 'cause
he's messing with our heads.
- It's the weirdest thing.
You couldn't talk to Frank and get Chris.
- I mean, I know there's
an awful lot of debate
about that amongst people who knew him,
and some people say absolutely not,
Chris knew that Frank was just an act
and it was like nothing, and then other
people say, no,
I think it's a lot more complicated
than that.
I mean, I veer towards the latter,
I think there was something going on.
- It was always what Frank would do,
not, "I'm going to do this as Frank."
It was two separate personalities.
There was Chris Sievey and there was
Frank Sidebottom.
- | feel he became more than an alter ego.
It was a schizophrenia
almost that was involved.
He was someone else, you know.
- Frank was a real person, whether he was
in front of 500 people or
whether he was in front of one.
You know, it wasn't Chris.
It was very much a split personality.
- Where Chris ended and Frank began
was absolutely straightforward and easy.
He put the head on, he was Frank.
- I can't prove to this day
that Frank Sidebottom was Chris Sievey.
It could be a bullshit story
that Chris Sievey's
put around that he was
Frank Sidebottom, for all I know.
(faint speaking)
(Chris laughing)
(Chris coughing)
(soft piano music)
) Drifting )
) Slowly )
) Moving with the tides )
) Separate the days )
) Thinking of not thinking)
) Just flowing between the sheets)
) Sheets become the clouds )
) And clouds just keep on drifting)
) Slowly... )
)lt's Frank's Fantastic Shed Show )
) You know it is, it really is. )
(audience clapping)
(audience cheering)
- It was shot in big studios at Yorkshire TV.
It was like Emmerdale was half the building,
and Frank's Shed Show
was the other half of the building.
It was a big set with a full audience in.
All of us thought, "Oh, yeah,
we're on the telly."
You know, this is going to be it,
it was going to change all our lives,
and Chris made you feel like that.
He had unlimited optimism really,
and confidence that it
was all going to be great.
- [Frank] I actually first met Paul McCartney
when me and John were looking
through me mum's catalogue.
We saw him modeling some underwear.
(audience laughing)
- I think they really broke all the rules
to allow it because it was so insane.
- Come on, have a go, bobbing for Betamax.
We've got some brilliant films here.
Let's get them in.
Right, come on, have a go, madam.
Get your face right in there, that's it.
(audience clapping)
- 0h, I'll tell you a
great story about Autocue.
- Oh, yes, I like good stories about...
(audience cheering)
Yeah, go on.
(audience cheering)
- Frank!
- Tell us a good Autocue story, yeah.
I'll have two of what you're drinking.
(audience cheering)
- [Paula] I just think that ruined him.
He was there, he had it all,
and... I don't know,
somebody like that with
a compulsive nature,
with too much money.
He just went off the rails.
(piano music)
How did he ever get chance to mess around
and do all the things
that people tell me now,
because we were so close, it's mad.
And I know that he loved me.
You know, there's no doubt about that,
but I think he also loved a lot of other
women as well.
) Drifting )
) slowly )
It was a downward spiral.
And it's a shame.
- The gigs put food on Chris's
table and paid his rent.
This is the idea...
often Chris wouldn't pay his rent
'cause he forgot and couldn't be arsed,
or would prefer to spend it on cocaine.
The man was a comedian,
what do you expect?
(audience laughing)
- He could hold his drink.
He could take an awful lot of abuse.
) Keep on drifting)
- When you're all drinking,
you can't tell who the real drinkers are,
and it's only as the rest of you slow down
then you meet people who
are still going for it,
and you think, oh, this is
something different isn't it?
- Being Frank, I don't know
if he wanted that really.
I think that was just a bit of nonsense
he did for a laugh
and it turned into something much bigger.
It was frustrating for him that he wasn't
a pop star
and he ended up this guy with a cardboard box
on his head.
- I did learn from him
that he was depressed,
and he was annoyed that he
had to do Frank Sidebottom,
and not what he really wanted to do,
which was to become famous writing songs.
- You know, the Frank thing just really
had taken over his life.
It was a fraction of his talent.
- Here you've got a mutually
symbiotic relationship.
The dummy can't survive without you,
you can't survive without the dummy,
so you grow to hate it.
- [Paula] He didn't drink when the older two
were growing up.
It was just like when Harry came along.
(Chris laughing)
Don't bite it! (laughing)
I did realize that he was quite drunk
quite a lot.
There was one time when l was about
nine years old,
he's taken me into the town center,
he's been in the pub while I've gone
round the shops or whatever.
I've gone back to meet him and he can't walk,
and I've had to carry him back,
and he'd, like, fall over and get cuts
on his face and stuff like that.
It never really bothered me,
but it was just quite hard
trying to deal with
looking after your
dad when he's leathered
when you're quite at a young age.
- He'd go missing for days on end
and come back in a complete state,
and I didn't know where he was,
what we was doing.
He'd turn up absolutely wrecked, you know.
We'd already been evicted from one house,
and then we were threatened with eviction
with the next house we were in.
I thought, "That's it, I can't do it,"
and | just took the kids and we went to live
in a hostel.
- And in five, four, a one, two, three, four.
You tend to think, "Oh, I've got 50 quid,
and then forget that you're
supposed to give half
of that 50 quid to the tax man.
- Take it away!
- And he was thousands
and thousands in debt.
I said to him one day, "Is that a new
credit card you've got?"
He said, "Oh yeah, yeah, yeah."
He always had every intention
of paying everything off.
He never paid anything off. (laughing)
- He was done for 30,000 pound back tax,
so he had to go to court.
And he stood up in the
dock and the judge said,
"This is a very serious matter.
Have you considered a payment plan?"
And Chris said, "Would a pound
a week suffice, my lord?"
And the judge said, "No, it would not!"
- Frank, can I ask you,
with your tax problems,
can't you afford an accountant?
- An accountant!
I've got enough problems with me puppet.
I can't even afford to keep him,
never mind an accountant.
So if you're watching at home and you can't
afford an accountant,
get a puppet.
That's my advice.
- I think he'd gone bankrupt
and he turned it into art.
- Let's get it filled in, what's me name?
- Frank.
- Yeah.
How do you spell Sidebottom
or is it Sl-DAY-BOT-EM?
- It's the lifestyle, it's the art thing.
You're in it or you're not.
(lively music)
(mellow music)
- [Paula] He used to write
me letters saying how much
he missed us and everything,
and he wanted to be back together,
and | always knew we would get back together.
I don't know, I think he seemed
to sort himself out a bit
and he ended up coming back again, so.
- You know, he was an alcoholic,
and I did actually take him
to the doctor's at one point
and sat in the doctor's with him.
When he admitted that he did need help,
you know, that was a big step forward
for him.
- He did stop drinking for a while then
and then when he did go back,
it was sort of in moderation.
But I think he did a lot of damage
to the family sort of without realizing it.
- He lost a lot of opportunities 'cause
of his own way he was,
his artistic bent, I suppose.
He couldn't be controlled.
- I heard a rumor that
he'd stopped performing.
- [Mark Radcliffe] There were
times when he stopped doing it
and where the whole thing
just seemed to be lost really.
- [Martin] This is Christopher's
Job Seeker's Allowance book.
After years in show business,
he had to sign on the dole
because he was broke,
and this is his back-to-work plan.
He was fed up with being self-employed
and I think he was just
looking for something
where he didn't have
all the responsibility.
- Like, I found him thatjob
at HOT Animation.
I thought, "God, this is just what you need,
go and see these people,
you're gonna love it."
- This letter arrived,
this was a sort of CV
of all the writing credits
that Chris Sievey had done.
Through most of our little
sort of chatty interview
he spent his time looking
to one side or the other,
didn't really look at me.
I said, "OK, well, would you like
to have a look around the studio?"
He was just entranced,
and he just thought everything
was fantastic in there.
"I must work here, I'm gonna work here."
I explained to him that we hadn't
really got any jobs at the moment.
The next day, he just turned up.
He just kept turning up every day.
He was there from that day on, really.
Chris was actually really a very good
craftsman as well.
So these things he had to
make for Bob the Builder,
or some of the other
programmes in different styles,
he could adapt to.
His craft work was beautiful.
Gradually came the day where I think
he had more ambitions than
staying in the props workshop,
which he enjoyed,
but he started to say to me,
"I've got all these other ideas."
I think he was engaging less in the company
and he decided to move on,
actually through mutual agreement.
- We still had our ups and downs
with his drinking hinges and stuff,
but he was getting back on track,
and then, er...
he ended up leaving me after all that
anyway, so.
| just thought it'd be better
if he moved back into the house
'cause it was full of his stuff.
You know, the cellar was full of his stuff.
It was easier for me to just move out
and start afresh.
So I just went to the town hall
and got my own divorce.
I think it cost me 35 pounds,
and it was the easiest thing.
I remember Chris calling round
one day and he just said,
"I just got this letter, we're divorced."
"Do you wanna go out for
a drink to celebrate?"
But we didn't.
Yeah, it was weird.
We just got divorced dead easily
after all those years.
After, like, 26 years, itjust ended
just like that.
- | used to drop my
children off at school,
and we'd go pick him up
and we'd drive to HOT,
and he wouldn't say a word.
Not one word was spoken.
He wouldn't speak to me.
You know, it took a
while to get to know him.
) Well there's a girl I know )
) And you've just got to go)
) To see her degree show )
) 'Cause she's the only girl)
) In all the world)
) Who's art'll move ya)
He lived on his own.
We spent a lot of time together,
but he wanted that space,
and he would have been
impossible to live with.
I wouldn't have been able to handle it,
I don't think. (laughs)
He certainly had a deeper
melancholic side to him.
I would say he was quite troubled.
The only thing was
probably walking the dog.
You know, he loved his dog
and he would take her out
and make sure that she was all right.
Frank was something that just wasn't part
of his life at that point.
He talked about it occasionally,
but very, very like it was
something that he'd done.
It was in the past.
I think he felt he hadn't
been recognized as Chris
for what he was, and that bothered him.
He wanted to be recognized
for everything else he'd done,
not just for Frank.
He would never say that he was an artist.
He didn't think he was an artist.
It was natural to him,
he didn't have to try.
It's just what he was.
He would spend hours and hours and hours
with no sleep,
no food, to get something
how he wanted it to be.
Every day, another idea came in, if not more.
It didn't matter what format that came in,
if it was film-making, drawing, painting.
- [Martin] One of the events
that he liked to record
was the sunset in Timperley.
If there was a sunset,
you'd probably see Chris
on the bridge, capturing it for posterity.
A little bit obsessive, but good thing
to be obsessive about, sunsets.
(film fluttering in projector)
(Chris laughing)
- And now it's time for...
(dramatic music)
- He said, this time I want to control it,
and | only want to do it for so long.
- [Martin] When Chris decided
to resurrect Frank Sidebottom,
he had what he called his Five Year Plan.
The plan was to make Frank more famous
than he'd ever been before,
and then at the zenith of the five years,
he'd publicly take off Frank's head
and announce, "It's me, Chris Sievey."
"It was me all the time."
Then finally freed of the
shackles of being Frank,
he'd be able to create art or music
or whatever he wanted,
as himself, once again.
- And I'm filming.
(Frank sings a tune)
Hello, Frank Sidebottom here.
(lighthearted music)
(people laughing)
- There would have been at least a dozen
kids parties,
what Frank would have done.
People used to ask,
"Will he bring Little Frank?"
'Course he's going to come,
you know, so. (laughing)
- And if you start any nonsense,
and people start liking you at all,
then you're going
straight back in your box.
Is that understood?
- [Crowd] Aw!
- He's only cardboard.
(people cheering)
Thank you, thank you.
- What he said was, he opened the floodgates.
- Are you ready to raise
the roof about this high?
You know the worldwide web?
Have you got the number?
I need to phone 'em up.
- Norman's Piano Bar in Ambleside
is probably best just forgotten.
There was only three of us there,
so it's probably...
but saying that though,
he did put the full show on
and he did do the full
two hours to three people.
- His little animated series on the boat.
He didn't talk about doing it.
He didn't wait or go around pitching it.
He went home and he made it.
) Oh, did you know that animation )
)Is the very latest thing )
) So here is my interpretation )
) That's guaranteed to entertain
and make your heart sing)
- [Little Frank] This is me, fishing.
Oh, I like fishing.
- [Chris] Couldn't we just film it like this?
- [Frank] Frank's World, it's called.
And we're doing a deal at the moment
to make another one.
When I say, we've done a deal,
I've done it with meself.
And welcome to the Magical Timperley Tour,
a fantastic trip round my local town,
which is dead good.
- What a brain child, what a barnstormer
of an idea.
Small groups of people making
a pilgrimage to Timperley
to be blessed by this monk-like figure.
(car horn honking)
- Keep your eyes on the road, madam.
As I said, there's a green grocers
on the corner there,
but it's shut.
She doesn't know.
One post box is for left-handed people
and one is for right-handed people.
(keyboard music)
- Channel M was The Guardian Media Group's
experiment into local television.
- [Dan] And stand-by Frank.
- [Frank] I'm ready.
) Oh, it's my proper telly show)
- When he came back, he had his own show,
and you go, this is fucking brilliant,
and it was only going out
within Manchester cable TV.
- He was like, "I'll do it for free."
"I'll do it for nothing."
He just wanted complete creative control
and somehow he managed to get that.
) You know it is, it really is )
- [Frank] Thank you.
Right, now you've got a new song out,
haven't you?
- Yes, l have.
- Did you write that?
- I did, yes.
- What colour pen did you use?
- (laughing) I don't remember.
- The guests were purely a
stooge for Frank to bounce off.
- David Soul was, I think,
very confused and wanting to leave.
- Do you have to sign loads of autographs?
- No, only on, er, checks
and credit cards.
- Oh, right.
Do you have to copy it off the label
in your vest,
or do you know your name off by heart?
- I know it mostly by heart.
- If you created a list of the hundred most
non-asked questions on a chat show,
Frank would have covered them.
- Have you ever been on an airplane?
- Once or twice.
- What's that like?
Do you have to hold your nose
when you go up in the clouds?
- These are really good questions.
You know, nobody's ever asked me
questions like this before.
- That was good, wasn't it?
- [Little Frank] Oh yes, very entertaining.
- Well, nice of you to say so, Little Frank.
- Flying over to America, doing one gig
and flying straight back.
Who would do that?
- (Laughing)
Oh, Frank called us up and--
- Frank, not Chris.
- [Lois] I'm coming to America.
) Well I went over to the USA )
) To take New York)
)It only takes a day )
) I did a gig, I did a telly, I did a radio )
) And then I said I really have to go )
- He lost his passport, and he said,
oh we have to cancel.
I can't go home, I don't have my passport.
We will find it!
- Come back in like six months,
I'll have a rest.
- We need a rest.
- I'll get some sleep.
- I'll just go and conquer America
and come home for tea,
you know, like you do.
- He had to get home to walk his dog.
- Right, we are pushed for time here,
so now I'd like to do all four sides
of The Beatles' White Album.
(people laughing)
- There was one year, my dad asked me
what I wanted for Christmas.
So I just kept saying to him,
'All lwant for Christmas is you.
And he keep asking me, and l was like
'Dad, all I want is you.
'All I want for Christmas is you.
So anyway, I've gone
round on Christmas day,
and I've gone into the living room,
and he's head to toe completely
covered in wrapping paper,
and he's just stood there
straight with a cig in his mouth.
Just smoking this cig,
completely wrapped up.
It's the best Christmas present
I've ever had. (laughing)
(banjo strings)
- Hey, you used to be the drummer
in The Smiths, right?
- Mmhmm.
- Tell us about that.
- 0h, erm...
It was 1982,
and a mate of mine called
Pete Hope that I used to live with,
he used to know Johnny Marr.
- I'm... I'm gonna have a shower.
See you in the morning.
(keyboard music)
) I said hey you, bank account manager)
) please can I have a loan )
) I'm thinking of getting, one of your)
) low rate endowment policies )
)'cause when | get older)
)lwould like to know
I'm secure in me old age )
) I said, hey, you bank manager)
) please, can I have a word in your ear )
)I am a street rapper who
wants to be secure in old age)
(keyboard music)
- I invited Chris to do a solo exhibition
about Frank Sidebottom's world.
He wasn't precious about
any of his work at all.
He would use masking tape,
Sellotape, whatever was at hand,
and he would just shove stuff up.
He didn't really care about the
mode of display or whatever.
If you had a six inch nail,
he would have used that,
you know, straight through the middle
of a beautiful drawing if it meant
he could get it up on the wall.
You know, if you really wanna do it,
you've got to do it 24/7, and he did.
In that sense, he's a tragic romantic
19th century artist in the Garret figure.
You know, he's Zola and Balzac.
We got into Artforum, one of the most
important international art magazines.
They'd asked lots of different critics
to name their top ten exhibitions.
In at number three was Frank Sidebottom,
"Chelsea Space is Ace."
One of the big questions is
kind of who makes the work?
Was it Chris that made the work
or was it Frank that made the work?
It was impossible really to know where
the one thing began and
the other thing ended.
- You shouldn't be filming this.
Cut. (laughing)
Stop filming.
Here we go!
r - [Frank] Ah )
)- [Audience] Ah )
r - [Frank] Ah )
)-[Audience] Ah)
r - [Frank] Ah )
)-[Audience] Ah)
)- [Frank] Ahhhh)
)- [Audience] Ahhhh )
)- [Frank] Ah)
)- [Audience] Ah)
)-[Frank] Ah)
)-[Audience] Ah)
) -[Frank] Arghhhhhh )
) Arghhhhhhhhhhhh)
)Ah ah ah ahhhh)
) Arghhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh)
) Arghhhhhhhh)
)Ah, ah, ah, ahhhh)
) Arghhhhhhhh)
) Arghhhh )
) Arghhhhhhhh)
)Ahhhh )
) Arghhhhhhhh)
) So shake it up baby)
) - [Audience] Shake it up baby)
- Thunderbird 2, understand
your danger zone.
Let's get to work.
ETA five minutes.
FAB, Scott.
- My dad always told me he's gonna live
till he's 100, so it didn't
really properly sink in.
So I was like, yeah, he's gonna be fine.
He always pulls it out of the bag.
He's always okay.
- I went round to his house.
I could tell his mind was
slightly somewhere else,
and we stood in front of a bookcase
he had full of Beatles DVDs.
He just turned to the bookshelf and he said,
'l've watched all them now,
I've watched all...' and he had!
He had hundreds.
He made a definite decision that he was
gonna spend his time watching every bit
of Beatles material he had.
- One of the last times I saw him,
Oh, I have to stop a minute.
It's hard work, that one.
Right, yep, one ofthe
last times I saw him,
I went round to his house in Hale
and, erm, ljust looked at him.
I said, Chris, you look absolutely awful.
In fact, I said, Chris, you look shit.
And I know he'd been up all night.
He told me he'd been recording, doing stuff,
but he looked absolutely awful.
I said, look, I'm going, I'm not staying.
I don't want a cup of tea, I'm going.
Just get yourself to bed.
He says, no, I've got stuff to do.
I said, but Chris you look dreadful.
And you know what?
Out of all those years I've known him,
it's the first time he actually hugged me.
r [Frank] Oh )
) I hope I am dead soon)
(audience laughing)
) 'specially where the wind blows )
- The last time I saw Chris, he came off
to say goodbye to me,
and there was an open-top skip
just up the street from his house.
So he went and had a look in it
and came walking back
with two large pieces of brown cardboard.
Who knows what he was gonna do with them?
Probably make Little Frank bodies,
but they'd be nice and stiff and sharp,
no folds in them,
- Well, that was absolutely fantastic.
Right, here's something dead funny,
me as me after chemotherapy.
Have a look at that.
The show must go on, eh?
I'm just not a 100% at all.
Still, I don't suppose anybody noticed.
- Last gig, Salutation.
I noticed he had to keep
pulling his shorts up.
(people laughing)
) Don't ya know)
) Love )
) love will tear us apart again)
Your turn!
) - [Audience] Love )
) Love will tear us apart again)
)- [Frank] Oh, I'm alone
in me room, oh yes)
) And me mum, she does not know)
- He had the room upstairs,
the Presidential Suite as they called it,
which was like a bit of carpet,
and things running up and down the wall.
- He had this nice jacket on and like 20 tags
in that pocket and 20 fags in that pocket.
- And he'd go, do you want a cig, Rick?
And then the next time
it'd be this one, like that, you know.
- It was just...
Oh, fuck.
- Your turn!
) - [Audience] Love )
) Love will tear us apart, again)
- It got to about three o'clock then.
l was working the next day,
then he just laid back down on the bed,
just fully clothed and went to sleep.
- And he just went like that.
See you, Chris.
- Yeah.
- [Frank] Thank you.
(crowd cheering)
- [Martin] Unfortunately,
Chris was never able
to fulfill his 5 Year Plan.
The big reveal never happened,
and he left us all in the lurch,
not knowing what he would have achieved.
- When he died, there was
obviously a funeral to pay for.
There wasn't any savings for a funeral.
There was nothing to pay for it.
- I heard it was like five grand.
Like, if we raised five grand
he could be spared a pauper's funeral.
So I sent out that one tweet.
Within an hour, 500 pounds had come in.
By the end of the day, it was like
21,000 pounds.
We have enough money for them to like bury
and exhume and bury and exhume him
like ten times.
- You know, so many people cared,
and you know,
it wasn't any flash funeral that we had,
but we managed to have a nice send off,
which, you know, I'm grateful for.
- He'd always tell me the stuff that
he was doing that wasn't Frank.
Like, 'cause he was writing
a lot of music himself as Chris Sievey,
and he spent a lot of time doing that.
Like, he bought this 16 track.
There was just so much music on it
that no one's even heard of before,
and he's kind of singing
from his heart again.
) So where are you?)
) Everything you do astounds me)
) As I sit here with your
artwork all around me)
) So where are you?)
- I think Chris should
be remembered for being
too wonderfully strange to
ever make it in the mainstream.
- He was pushing some envelope,
some mystery envelope,
and he made the public an accomplice.
- None of us want to stand
on stage and be ridiculed,
but Chris taught us that
it was only that moment
and that would pass and we'd be on
to the next idea then.
Just because it might fail was
not a reason not to try it.
(crowd cheering)
- His legacy is, it is all right to go out
and be brilliant at what you do
without worrying
about the check at the end of it.
Don't be looking at the fucking
X-factor finishing line.
Just be good where you can be good
and where it goes from there,
that'll take care of itself.
- It was just him doing his own thing.
I know how I'd remember him
and you know, it's all in here.
(peaceful music)
(rock music)
(pencil scratching)
) Please look into my eyes)
) I want it to be truthful, no messing)
) Don't tell me any lies )
) I've a funny feeling that )
) Something's hanging there )
) And don't tell me othenwise )
) Or I'm hallucinating, I'm waiting)
) And don't disguise the facts )
) I've a funny feeling that )
) I've seen it)
) What did you see?)
) I saw a yellow spot)
) How could you tell?)
) I heard from the first time)
) A yellow spot)
) Yeah, a yellow spot)
) I've got a girl )
) So far away )
)lwish I could be with her now)
) And everyday )
) Maybe I'm dreaming )
) But dreams are often make believe)
) | feel her love )
) Though we're apart)
) She's sending messages of love to me )
) By radar shot direct into my heart)
) Life with the Lyons )
) Your signal's weak)
) But detection is strong )
) Darling I can't spend another day )
)Without your love )
) So many things are standing in our way )
) To overcome )
(keyboard music)
- [Martin] There actually
was a secret code
hidden in those triangular borders.
It was deciphered by a
crack team of code breakers
and mathematicians from British
intelligence agency GCHQ.
Just what sort of message did Chris
deem worthy of such secrecy?
Now you can crack the rest
using Chris's own code grid.
It was in the back of his
address book the whole time.
- [Frank] Right, that's definitely it, yeah.
The end, because it says "the end."
It's not even in focus, is it?
Oh no, that was out of
focus anyway, wasn't it?
Right, you can switch it off now,
'cause we've finished.
(Frank sings a tune)
- [Little Frank] What's on after it?
- [Frank] Oh no, yeah,
there's some bits after it
I think as well.
Oh, leave it on.
Oh, let's try it dead fast speed.
Hold on.
Hey, there's dead fast speed.
Oh, there's nothing on it.