Sadly Frank or more truthfully, to step outside of suspended disbelief for one moment, Chris Sievey the man fundamental to the fun and the face, passed away in 2010. But now his legacy is being documented in documentary by film-maker Steve Sullivan who once worked with Frank on the short Magical Timperley Tour. Steve is canvassing for funds on KickStarter and, fantastic news, has just reached the first phase target of £20,000. This is enough to fund the filming of a raft of exciting interviews with people related to the Frank Sidebottom story. But this is just the first step. Fund-raising continues, and further funds will go towards acquiring the rights to some or all of Frank's many wonderful and obscure television appearances including Match of the Day.
You should donate (by clicking HERE), and here are some reasons why; why Frank matters, why his legacy should be remembered and why we should help those poor poor people who don't know and love him.
4. His Music
I suppose Frank Sidebottom is chiefly a musician. A musical act. The character started off as an obsessive fan of Chris Sievey's band The Freshies, but took over and eclipsed with his own musical career. His range is surprisingly wide ( >>>spotify links>>> ): cute (Zoo Scrapbook), self-aware (Airplay) footbally (The Robins Aren't Bobbins), political (I Said, 'Hey You, Riot Policeman'), historical (Mr. Custard You're A Fool), sciencey-fictiony (Space is Ace), and even beautiful (Electricity). Then of course there is all the cover versions, wave after wave of popular hit usually with a key word in the title replaced with a reference to Timperley. Just listen. They are hilarious, catchy, masterful.
3. His Comedy
But then again perhaps he is chiefly a comedian. After all his act consisted of long periods of bumbling tomfoolery, tombola-ry, and jokery. Stewart Lee described him as an 'alternative Alternative comedian'. He was an amateur child in the body of a professional man putting on the act of a semi-professional entertainer man-child. Or something like that. And he did a bloody good job of it to.
He would chat away to himself, his audience, his band, his guests, but mostly to Little Frank, the tiny replica of himself with the flimsy cardboard body. Everything about the act was weird weird weird, but it was accessible to children and adults alike. One of my firm Frank favourites was the late-night test card he did for Channel M. It was seventy minutes of improvised nonsense which was played on a loop throughout the night on Manchester's now-defunct local TV channel. It's HERE on YouTube. Watch it, please. (“You shouldn't be watching this, it's only a test card. It's not viewing entertainment.”)
His head is a work of art. His album covers are art. The thousands and billions of felt-tip pen drawings he made are art. Comics he drew. The 1980s computer game he programmed! His animation. His websites, podcasts, radio shows, MySpace page, TV programmes... all of that stuff. One giant body of creativity, of art, of what Frank Zappa called the 'project/object' – an inter-connected lifetime of worked linked by themes, references and jokes.
He used to sell his drawings on eBay, and god I wish I'd bought one. A self portrait of Frank as Freddy Mercury, or Little Frank as a spaceman. After Chris was diagnosed with cancer he put on eBay a portrait of a hairless post-chemotherapy Frank. Proper beautiful art, like.
1. His Collection
Oh, his collection! How I want to dive into it (carefully!) and swim through the oceans of oddities! The toys and the records, all of which reflect his own tastes in quaint sci-fi, puppets, comics, toys and Paul McCartney. I believe there is talks of preserving the collection as some sort of publicly accessible archive, and I hope to Little Frank that this is true. I actually once had a dream that I had the money to fund this, and what a beautiful dream it was. And I have a waking dream of my own obsessions one day manifesting themselves as a large collection of silly stuff filling my house. How pleased my wife would be live amongst myriad wrestling memorabilia, octopus stuff, crazy religious pamphlets, postcards of Osaka, and drawings and sketches of this and that! You know she would, she really would!
That is it, four reasons why Frank is really great. And all these and more will, I'm sure, be documented in the documentary Being Frank. The more the raise the more we will get to see and hear. So come on people, lets get to it. Spread the word, to Frankophiles and Frankophobes alike, and don't forget to donate.
(Also, come to the unveiling of the Frank Sidebottom statue in Timperley at 11.37am on 23rd June 2013!)