Right Said Fred are one of the UK’s most enduring and pop exports. Despite being known for their 90s hit ‘I’m Too Sexy’, Bob Dylan, David Bowie, and Taylor Swift have a connection to the band as well.
Formed in 1989 by brothers Fred and Richard Fairbrass, the pair have achieved over 22 million sales globally, have reached number one in 30 countries, and were the first band to achieve a number one in the US with a debut single.
The multi-platinum brothers went on to win two Ivor Novello Awards for their hits ‘I’m Too Sexy’ (1991) and ‘Deeply Dippy’ (1992), release nine albums, share stages with big names all over the world, achieve a Brit award nomination, play in front of the Queen and release a track for Comic Relief. Their success is global, having reached fans all over the UK, Europe, the US, and beyond and it all started in a basement studio in Acton, London.
Back in 1990, Fred and Richard, together with guitarist Rob Manzoli, wrote ‘I’m Too Sexy’. Fred and Richard borrowed the money to demo the song and to keep the costs down they recorded at night in a studio in Ealing that had gone into receivership. The final session was at Red Bus Studios in London in early 1991. ‘I’m Too Sexy’ along with the song ‘Swan’, which also made it onto their debut album ‘Up’ was rejected by every record label the guys took it to. However, they followed their instincts nevertheless – they knew they were onto something special.
Opening with Richard’s vocals only with the (now) iconic lines, “I’m Too Sexy for my love, too sexy for my love, love’s going to leave me”, the single stood apart from the bland, insipid chart toppers of that year. ‘I’m Too Sexy’ was tongue-in-cheek, it was fun, and it brimmed with the band’s independent spirit, and the band were certainly not interested in following the trends at the time. Fred remembers the passion they had for the track at the time: “We knew we had recorded something new and very different, we just didn’t know how successful it would prove to be”
Like the best success stories, when it felt like the chips were down, fate was on their side. The band’s then teenage manager, who shared the band’s belief, managed to get the track to DJ Gary Crowley and then to the producer of the Simon Bates morning show on BBC Radio 1,, Simon played the track and the rest is history. ‘I’m Too Sexy’ spent 6-weeks at no. 2 spot in the UK charts and 4-months in the UK top 10 overall, and charted 10-weeks at no. 1 in the US Billboard Charts, hitting the top of the charts internationally in 32 countries. Their lives would never be the same again.
The single ‘Don’t Talk Just Kiss’ was next; it hit no. 3 in the UK charts by Christmas. Their second single reached no. 1 in the US dance chart and enjoyed international success worldwide from Japan to South American. However, it wasn’t until their third single, ‘Deeply Dippy’, that Right Said Fred finally scored their first UK number 1, almost exactly a year after ‘I’m Too Sexy’ had secured its place in the annals of pop history.
Right Said Fred launched themselves into a world tour, spending much of 1992 on the road, promoting their debut album ‘Up’, which was released that year. The album hit 7 million sales worldwide and was a number 1 hit in the UK. With this, the domino effect of their success continued.
Second album ‘Sex and Travel’ received praise US press and as they reached almost a million sales, they found themselves on the road again. That same year, the guys wrote and recorded ‘Stick It Out’, a single for Comic Relief, which was another top 5 hit for Right Said Fred.
After two albums with Tug Records, they parted ways and released their third album ‘Smashing’ on their own label Happy Valley. The success continued with ‘Living on a Dream’ and ‘Big Time’ becoming chart topping hits, and a slew of tours that took them all over the world but Right Said Fred had decided to declare their own state of independence, a spirit that would continue to the present day. Fred recalls that being an independent artist is what stood them apart from the rest, that and “being stubborn and sounding different.” Right Said Fred made no compromises.
The pair found themselves regularly hitting the top spot all over Europe as their chart success continued; fourth album ‘Fredhead’ reached no. 2 in Germany and single ‘You’re My Mate’ hit the no. 4 spot. Both the single and album reached Gold status, with ‘You’re My Mate’ being chosen as the official song for the South African Rugby Team.
It wasn’t until fifth album ‘Stand Up’ that the guys achieved their first no. 1 in Japan with the single ‘Stand Up (For The Champions)’. The Cincinnati Wild Cats adopted the song after winning the NFL in 2003 and the track became a massive sports anthem regularly used by Borussia Dortmund, Manchester United, Bayern Munich, Saracens and during the World Cup.
The success of ‘Stand Up’ and ‘Fredhead’ put the brothers back on the map in Europe and this enabled them to go back on the road performing at arenas and shows all around the world and they even appeared as special guests at the Bollywood Awards in Mumbai. As a band, they were now financially independent of their hit ‘I’m Too Sexy’ and they had begun to reach a new audience with ‘Stand Up’ and ‘You’re My Mate’ as well – sports fans.
Fred describes this period as something they “hadn’t experienced before.” Their songs were now taking them to sports arenas, F1, the NFL crowd and the World Cup. “It also proved we could continue to write big songs,” Fred notes looking back on this period.
More albums followed ‘For Sale’ and ‘I’m A Celebrity’, Right Said Fred began to dominate the dance charts with successive top 10 dance/club hits in the US collaborating with acclaimed DJs Paul Rincon, DJ Reza and Klubjumbers on ‘I’m a Celebrity’, ‘This Love’ and ‘I Am a Bachelor’, all taken from the ‘I’m A Celebrity’ album plus ‘Raise Your Hands’ and Sexaholic’.
Meanwhile, the UK charts were becoming more homogenised throughout the noughties and Right Said Fred’s brand of tongue-in-cheek, observational pop tracks and sing-a-long hits were sorely missed. However, globally, they were still recognised as prolific song writers, chart toppers and personalities.
In 2016, Right Said Fred celebrated 25 years since their hit ‘I’m Too Sexy’. Although the guys never stopped making music, it felt like a ‘return’ to the UK scene. There were those who remembered the guys from their ‘Sexy’ days, dancing around in their signature waistcoats but a fresher set of ears, those who had grown up with fond childhood memories, were keen to find out more.
Q, Gay Times, Gigwise and Shortlist were amongst those who chatted to the band in 2016 about the last 25 years since ‘I’m Too Sexy’. People were surprised to find out that Fred had played guitar with Bob Dylan and that Richard has played bass for David Bowie. Subjects like supporting independent music, being independent themselves, being honest, open and unwavering cropped-up in various interviews and won them the attention of a younger, passionate and less cynical crowd. For Right Said Fred, it’s all about the music and being independent, shunning preconceived perceptions.
Right Said Fred have always been a band that continue to surprise and it’s the reason why they’re still being asked to appear on radio, TV and in magazines with recent appearances on This Morning, The Wright Stuff, Chris Evan’s on BBC Radio 2 and Lorraine Kelly. Appealing to a younger crowd now, they have also performed special acoustic sets for Sofar Sounds and continue to play all over the UK and Europe.
In 2017, Right Said Fred released their ninth album, ‘Exactly!’ to critical acclaim. The album featured their signature ‘big’ pop sound but it was also a glimpse of where the guys are in their lives now. There are fun, observational tracks like ‘Silicon Journey’, a song about the rise of the Japanese sex doll but there are more sombre notes on the album like ‘Raining In England’. ‘Exactly!’ is a wonderful blend of Right Said Fred’s vibrant energy, humour and versatility as musicians and writers.
In keeping with their independent spirit and no-nonsense approach, they decided to forgo the big shiny pop video blueprint in favour of raising money for homeless charity Crisis with their single ‘Sweet Treats’. The video was filmed in a pub and featured the guys with their fans. The video cost nothing and they decided to donate the money they would have used for the video to the charity instead. It’s in this notion where you can find the true spirit of Right Said Fred.
Fred and Richard want to make music without the nonsense of the industry. They don’t care about stereotypes, posturing or pleasing anyone but their fans and themselves. With their experience and history behind them, the guys want to continue carving a fulfilling career for themselves and give back to independent artists, gladly offering time and advice to help them avoid the many scrapes they found themselves embroiled in over the years.
Right Said Fred are living proof that two music-loving brothers with an ear for a hit and plenty of passion and self-belief can defy all expectations and conquer the world – long live Right Said Fred.