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June 29, 2012 10:31 AM   Subscribe

Fad Gadget was the brainchild of Leeds-born electronic music pioneer Frank Tovey He died on April 3, 2002, just as his career was entering a new phase with his first arena tour in support of Depeche Mode's Exciter tour. He left a legacy of 10 albums, most of which are now out of print, and his name is largely forgotten, although his legacy (ever so slightly NSFW) lives on.

Tovey was a British avant-garde electronic musician and vocalist working at near the start of industrial music, before moving into more experimental and folk directions, including an album of protest songs as heard on Tyranny For The Hired Hand.

His music was originally created by a mix of DIY synths, tape recorders, and found objects such as drills, bottles, pipes and electric razors.

He was the first artist to sign to Mute with the track Back To Nature, which was produced by Daniel Miller (The Normal).

Depeche Mode said they had “made it” when they were supporting Fad Gadget.

Perhaps his best known song is Collapsing New People, recorded in Berlin during the sessions for what would be the fourth and final Fad Gadget album: Gag.
The B-side (Berlin Mix) was a remix of the song featuring percussion by kindred souls in the "found object" school of hitting-things-make-music Einstürzende Neubauten.

After Gag he recorded an album with Boyd Rice Easy Listening for the Hard of Hearing. (Live).
There as a transitional album (Snakes And Ladders), and then set out to explore new sounds in a folk direction.

After his death of a heart attack in 2003 a documentary was released as part of a best of boxed set Fad Gadget by Frank Tovey, telling his life story as was a posthumous re-mix of
Collapsing New People (WestBam Remix) (b/w Lady Shave - John Acquaviva Remix.

There is still an official site and a fan site, and his legacy pops up sporadically, as in this art exhibitions.

The following is a mix of live, TV and recorded Fad Gadget songs based around the singles:
Back to Nature
Ricky's Hand or Ricky's Hand - Live
State Of The Nation (demo tracks) 1979
Fireside Favourite
Make Room
Saturday Night Special
Hotel Suburbia (1983) Part I Part II
Lemmings On Lovers Rock (live at Hacienda, 1984)
King of the Flies
Life on the Line
For whom the Bells toll
Under The Flag
I Discover Love
Love Parasite
Collapsing new People
One Man's Meat
Luddite Joe

And then we go folky...
Bridge St. Shuffle
Sam Hall
The Liberty Tree
All That Is Mine
Worried Man (Live 2002)
Chasing The Blues Away (Live 2002)

A 1980s interview on the telly.

And: .
posted by Mezentian (15 comments total) 38 users marked this as a favorite
posted by mykescipark at 10:38 AM on June 29, 2012

When I first started listening to Fad Gadget as a teenager, I thought it had to be 100% tongue-in-cheek. But, after awhile he seemed to me to actually be very genuine and sincere, mostly. It was what it needed to be, and he was kind of riding the tip of the New Wave going on in the late 1970s and early 80s.

Here's the original Lady Shave, by the way.
posted by Burhanistan at 10:44 AM on June 29, 2012

I flew to London in April '01 to see Frank play as Fad Gadget, and it remains the greatest live experience I have ever had. I have never seen a performer who so threw himself into being on stage (or onto and up speakers), while at the same time being so shocked that people still cared.

Later that night we caught the night bus through Hackney. I was in the second row, and I was spattered in fake blood from Ricky's Hand (second song, as I recall). I have never felt so wired, or so safe, on post-midnight public transport.
posted by Mezentian at 10:44 AM on June 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

Yup. love, love, love Mr. Tovey. Fireside Favourites is an absolute masterpiece from start to finish, one of the finest records ever, with hints of psychedelia, cabaret, noise, and some damn fine crooning over some damn fine songwriting. As pointed out, a lot of his sound was thanks to one Daniel Miller, but Tovey himself had that certain something that draws one in to both his records and his live performances. Absolute shame I never got to see him perform. At least we have the videos, I guess, but still.

Needless to say, great post. Long live Fad Gadget.
posted by item at 10:45 AM on June 29, 2012

Great post ... but no Ad Nauseum, which for me has always been the masterpiece.
posted by philip-random at 11:12 AM on June 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

That vid's got some fairly disturbing imagery, by the way.
posted by philip-random at 11:13 AM on June 29, 2012

I was going to include a section on influences, but it fell apart when I discovered the GusGus Lady Shave was... not. And the only two I could think of were By Ghosting, a German/Iranian band I figure no one will recall, and aren't on YouTube.
posted by Mezentian at 11:19 AM on June 29, 2012

Can't favorite this post enough. Tovey was way ahead of his time.
posted by interrupt at 11:39 AM on June 29, 2012

I remember my girlfriend (at the time) being totally disgusted with the lyrics to Newsreel, particularly the bit about giving birth at the beginning.
posted by juiceCake at 12:18 PM on June 29, 2012

I saw him at the Nashville Rooms in London in 1979. He was awesome. He had an electric piano plugged into a fuzz box and he was smashing that thing with various parts of his body like a maniac, which generated a distorted roaring wall of sound behind the synthesizer track.
Years later I bumped into him at Mute's studio where I was photographing someone else for a magazine and I got him to pose for some shots too. He was a really nice quiet guy when not on stage.
posted by w0mbat at 12:20 PM on June 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

under the flag - seminal; thanks for the reminder!
posted by progosk at 3:14 PM on June 29, 2012

It delights me to see all you folks remembering Tovey-

Please forgive my baseness, but am I the only one grateful to England for its ability to create such smokin' hot crazy guys? Fad Gadget, Julian Cope and of course Syd Barrett leap to mind-these weirdly creative and astonishingly GORGEOUS fellows... I could listen to 'King of the Flies' bassline all night....

Thanks for reminding me of this man; outstanding work on his part!
posted by JulesER at 5:41 PM on June 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

You sunk my battleship! Now all I have left to do is post a Soft Cell retrospective.
posted by Nomyte at 6:20 PM on June 29, 2012

Damn, I didn't even know he was dead. :-(

He was a seminal figure from my teens, "Saturday Night Special" really got play around our set. I didn't love "Frank Tovey and the Pyros" nearly as much but he always had a special place in my heart.

posted by lupus_yonderboy at 5:39 AM on June 30, 2012

Great post! A former coworker of mine was one of the original band members with Fad Gadget - she had good things to say about her experiences with Tovey and the other musicians.
posted by mark7570 at 11:29 AM on July 2, 2012

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