Richard Fairbrass talks becoming an overnight success, being a public gay figure, his love life and more
This Richard Fairbrass interview was originally published in the June 2017 Issue of GCN (Issue 330) which is available to read online here.
In 1991, Richard Fairbrass (pictured right) and his brother Fred, aka Right Said Fred, went to number one in 32 countries with the song ‘I’m Too Sexy’. Fairbrass came out as gay at the time, inciting much ire in the UK press, but according to Richard himself, gay men didn’t quite believe him. Nine albums later and still performing, he says he still has trouble fitting in with the gay label.
… ‘overnight success’
We had been gigging for about 13 years before ‘I’m Too Sexy’ came out in 1991, so we were hardly an overnight success. I remember in the early stages, going out shopping and people staring at me. It was all just a bit weird and vaguely embarrassing. It’s only recently that I’ve gotten used to it. I enjoy it now; people are generally very nice.
… ‘I’m Too Sexy’
Early songs are a little bit like early boyfriends – you value them and you can remember them, but you don’t want to necessarily repeat the experience. I love ‘I’m Too Sexy’, but I have absolutely no interest in spending my life trying to re-cultivate that thing.
It was all a bit weird, looking back. We basically did what we were told. The single was climbing the charts and they’d say go on Noel Edmund’s show and wave, and we would. It’s only in the last five or ten years that Fred and I have taken a much firmer grip on how we want to sound and what we want to do.
… fitting in
I never feel like I’ve fitted in with being gay. Gay clubs and that gay label never really suited me. I was with my partner Stuart in 1982 and we were together for 28 years before he passed away. It didn’t feel gay or straight; it was what it was.
… coming out
Coming out was tricky, the band becoming successful forced the decision upon me. My Dad had passed away, but Mum was still around and she didn’t know. It was a difficult time. I had stuff scrawled on my car, people would spit at me; Stuart got beaten up in the street. Back in those days, particularly because of HIV and Aids, there was an awful lot of ignorance and fear around.
… being out in the public eye
When the band hit, I think it was a very difficult time for Stuart. He became HIV positive in 1983, so we’d lived with that for most of the ’80s, and had kept ourselves to ourselves. I was very public, and very out, and he was dealing with HIV and felt compromised, I’m sure. I was so busy being famous and all that nonsense that I didn’t give him and his situation enough thought.
… a gay following
When we first broke we had a whole lot of gay venues booked, but we had to cancel them, because I think a lot of gay guys thought I was a straight bloke taking the piss. I’ve had three or four gay fan letters in my life. Our appeal over the years has generally speaking to a core family audience, mums and dads and kids.
The whole Right Said Fred image was accidental. Fred and I had been weight training at the gym anyway, and had been for four or five years prior to the single coming out, we’d shaved our heads a year before. It was a very gay look, but I didn’t know it at the time. I’m pretty clueless about these things. I didn’t know Freddie Mercury was gay until he died.
… the most memorable moment
We rented a bluebird Pontiac convertible sports car when we were in America. Fred and I were driving around LA with the top down, under blue skies, and I turned on the radio. I happened to hit on the American top 40 and the DJ was saying, “This is America’s number one song, Right Said Fred, ‘I’m Too Sexy’.” I remember thinking, that is pretty cool.
… the new album
The reviews are the best we’ve had in years, and they’re from people who would normally be taking potshots at us. It’s driven by the songs. Once we got two or three together and we liked them, and we thought it was beginning to sound cool, we said let’s just keep going until we’ve got an album’s worth. It took about a year to write the songs and a year to record it.
… the love life
It’s a little less busy than I’d like it to be. But I’m lazy. I was with Stuart for 28 years and when he died in 2010 I thought I’d move on and find someone else. But you don’t, that’s now how it is. When someone dies, they’re kind of with you all the time, so it’s a much slower process.
… the years since ‘I’m Too Sexy’.
I’ve never done any work other than being in the band; I’m unemployable in every other field, I think. We’re lucky enough to have pipeline money, so we get paid twice a year for back catalogue, which is really great. We’d be richer now if we hadn’t done anything since 1995. We ploughed tens of thousands of pounds into what we do. What else would we do, sit at home with more money and watch the telly? Life is too short for that.
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