I discovered Frank Sidebottom on ‘Piccadilly Radio’ around the time of the World cup in Mexico 1986. I’d finished my studies and in the months between leaving college and starting work in London, I listened to the radio a lot – usually Mark Radcliffe who had Franks ‘Radio Timperley’ on each day. There was just something hilarious about Frank – more his turn of phrase than anything else. Mark was reviewing the new Fall LP whilst Frank was in the studio, reading the sleeve notes “Brix Smith! Is that Mark E Smiths mum?! I wouldn’t let my mum make a record she’d make a right pigs ear of it!”
McD and I had a new obsession and joy of joys when Frank supported Jonathan Richman at both his Manchester and London gigs – we went to on consecutive nights
I got some of his singles via his fan club ‘The magic of Freddie Mercury and Queen’ single was signed “From Freddie Mercury……Only joking! its me really!” and his cha-cha-cha version of ‘Come all ye faithful’ still gets played every Christmas at our house.
I moved to London in Sept 86 and spread the word of Frank, much to the bemusement of friends. He played a gig at Covent Garden the following May and Mark Radcliffe was his drummer. During the gig, whilst extolling his virtue at “Having that ESP me” he asked someone to stand up shout out their address. “Y’see, I knew what you were going to say and have written it down inside this sealed envelope – can you read out what it says…” so the girl reads “Dear mum, have gone to London to do a show, will be back by tea time, love Francis”…….”Oh Blimey!” says Frank putting his hand to his forehead “I’ve left your address on our fridge door!”
Whilst ill with the flu around that time, I entertained myself by making the papier-mache head of ‘little bob the chiropodist’ (complete with little nail clippers in his hand).
Many more singles, LPs, T-shirts, paintings even a Sidie (a clay model, like a frank oscar) were purchased and he was always a joy to see live. One time he did a matinee and evening show at the Bloomsbury theatre – afternoon show for kids and evening for adults. Marc Rileys band supported and did a set of Johnny Cash songs. Darlene and I went to both, taking Oliver to the Matinee and the gang to the evening. To one of Marc’s quips Oliver shouted “You’re a very funny man!” “He’ll go far that lad!”……..he has
He fell off my radar after that. There was still the odd bit of brilliance (“Guess who’s been on match of the day…… you Frank, in your big shorts”) but the last time I saw him was sweeping the floor between acts at a 2006 Manchester Vs Cancer gig (which is ironically what killed him).
Theres a ton of his stuff on You Tube but nothing quite tops those Radio Timperley broadcasts, some of which you can get hold of here. I’ll miss you Frank…….you know I will, I really will……………THANK YOU!
Bob the Chiropodist (Finchley 1987)