In no particular order, and certainly in cruelly undetailed fashion:
Fairnie the Producer, Video Director and Mentor
Fat and Frantic made a name for themselves on the contemporary Christian circuit in the 80s with their wacky approach to making music, which was a mixture of skiffle, folk and out-and-out pop, their oblique songs featuring eloquent titles such as ‘Last Night My Wife Hoovered My Head’. Gradually the gigs and the following grew, culminating in a sell-out tour with fellow anti-heroes Trevor and Simon (whatever happened to?…). Fairnie had been regarded as a major influence from day one, and was called in to produce ditties such as the 1990 single ‘I Don’t Want to Say Goodbye’. He also directed a video to the Fat and Frantic anthem ‘Brian’, filmed in the depths of the hall of mirrors at Wookey Hole.
The band fizzled out but reunited for an a cappella performance of the old Fish Co number ‘Precious Lord’ at Fairnie’s funeral in 1993. This led to the more economically-named FAF recording and releasing a whole album of vocals-only songs, fittingly entitled ‘Precious Lord’ and dedicated to their former producer… The band sporadically get back together, last touring the UK in July 2011. See www.fatandfrantic.com
Other musical connections include Scottish band Lies Damned Lies . Dot Reid, Charlie Irvine and Steve Butler formed Lies Damned Lies after a period in the mid-80s spent trading as Talking Drums. After several attempts to break into the big-time mainstream (most notably through a series of massive-sounding Stuart Levine-produced singles such as ‘Love Among the Ruins’, ‘Lonely Together’ and ‘Say You Won’t Forget Me’), the band focused on what they do best: melodic, moody, meandering, ambient pieces that fall somewhere between Blue Nile, Prefab Sprout and David Gray. They occasionally re-surface, 2002 seeing the release of the albums ‘Last Place on the Map’ and ‘Life, Death, God’, the latter a collaboration with Martin Wroe. Both have been put out by LDL’s own independent label, Sticky Music, now in its 20th year.
Fairnie artwork turned up on the cover of the recent Lies Damned Lies compilation ‘Retrospectively’. In the liner notes, Lies Damned Lies refer to Fairnie as their “friend and mentor during the mad years”.
> Further information about the Lies Damned Lies connection in the interview with singer Steve Butler here .
Fairnie the Stand-Up Comedian
Throughout his life, Fairnie was fascinated by the power that preachers, dictators and performers could have over their audiences. A power that Billy Graham, Hitler and Charlie Chaplin all used in radically different ways and for widely varying purposes.
Those who remember Fairnie on stage will remember the awesome charisma which he had, and his ability to hold a crowd in the palm of his hand. One of his final projects was to hone this charisma into a stage act mixing comedy and magic, loosely based on the theme of ‘Pop Icons of Our Time’. For some bizarre reason, he was billed as ‘Cliff Richard’s Love-Child’ , and the show went down a storm. Cliff Richard was unavailable for comment.
Fairnie the Greenbelt Icon
Christian arts festival Greenbelt went from being a hippie gathering on a farm to a key date in any self-respecting music and art-loving person’s diary. Fairnie was there every step of the way and played a major part in its development, both as a performer and member of the festival council. Bev and Steve were mainstage comperes in 1981, produced the fashion show in 1987, and in between time, Fairnie was asked to direct the official video of Greenbelt ’86. Whether trading as Fish Co, Famous Names or Technos, Fairnie & Sage were celebrities whenever the festival took place.
In ‘Landscapes of Glory’, the 1996 tale of Welsh writer Tom Davies ‘s pilgrimage into the ‘soul of England’, the following tribute is paid: “Walking on into the night again I remembered all the great characters I’ve met over the years I’ve been coming to Greenbelt… Steve Fairnie, that strange Bristolian who looked like a cross between Adolf Hitler and Charlie Chaplin. He had a great singing act with his ravishing wife Bev but his speciality was hypnotising chickens, once putting five of them out – and a dog who happened to be watching the act – all of them flat on their backs with their legs poking stright up into the air. Steve died unexpectedly a few years back but his spirit continues to live with us all as closely as the secret dust in the linings of our pockets. He was there by my side still, a part of all of us at Greenbelt for all time, as I stood watching the dawn break…”
High praise indeed.
Fairnie in the Canvas Chair
Canvas Chair , the visual design company, was founded in the late eighties with Bev. As ‘Purveyors of Fine Visual Images’ they took photography to new heights. Or rather to new depths, much of the work being carried out in the basement studio of their ground floor flat in Bristol. Fairnie was billed as Photographer / Art Director and Sage as Makeup Artist, but as ever their respective responsibilities blurred into one perfectly complementary whole…
Fairnie the Mad Inventor
Fairnie would usually have more bizarre ideas over lunch than many have in a lifetime. One such flash of inspiration almost reached fruition but not quite. As a seasoned motorway driver, Steve believed there was a market for new, improved cats eyes. For legal reasons, it is best the finer details be left well alone, but the concept involved creative use of colours and heat-sensitive particles.