Signed, sealed, delivered: He had it all. He lost it all. All that stops his being the classic pop music story is that Luke Goss has lived to tell the tale. Jim White talks to the drummer who was Bros

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The Independent Culture
ABOUT SIX months ago, I thought it would be a good idea to find out whatever happened to Bros. It seemed the twin brothers Matt and Luke Goss represented the ultimate pop tale: a short career providing laundry for the mothers of adolescent girls, then the subsequent sad turn of contractual wranglings, court cases, repossessed Porsches and total disappearance.

The first port of call in the search was their old record company, whose employees professed ignorance of the boys' present whereabouts: 'We'd love to help, but, you know . . .' Their former management company just laughed. And their record plugger, the man who used to tell the world and its radio station that he represented the hottest boys in town, said that, as far as he was concerned, Matt and Luke might as well be dead.

Dead, they weren't. Just dormant. Last week, Luke, the drumming half of the partnership, re-emerged, willing to talk.

Four years ago, to talk to Luke Goss about anything other than his favoured colour of underpant would have been impossible. A wall of agents and managers had been constructed between him and the rest of the world. Now he is delighted to chat about anything. He has written a book (it is called, recalling Bros's biggest hit, I Owe You Nothing) which details his and his twin's rise and fall. It is a riveting book, not so much in its writing but in its plot, a horror story worthy of Stephen King. The only recalcitrant pop-star stipulation he made was that if we wanted photographs, we had to supply a make-up artist. His image, he implied, was all he had at the moment.

The last time I had seen Luke in the flesh was at his concert in August 1989 at Wembley Stadium, when in the company of 68,000 terrifyingly aware pre-pubescent girls, I had watched his finest hour and a half. He was at the time, 21. That evening it appeared he had the world, or at least its junior distaff side, at his feet. Six months later he was finished. His hair fell out in lumps. He stayed indoors for nearly a year, crying every day. Where, as George Best might be asked, did it all go wrong?

'I thought that Wembley gig would push us into realms of Simply Red,' Luke said. He is now, incidentally, fit again, still tanned, still with a gold curtain ring through his right ear lobe. 'I really did think that was the start of the next chapter. Whatever the papers said it was a sell-out - well, 4,000 short. We went to America the next day well happy. But then a lot of little things started to fall together which made me think, it's all over. The papers splashed headlines saying Wembley was half empty. I read a review in Smash Hits slagging off the album, which we spent a million quid on. I told myself 'this should not matter' but it did. I suddenly realised, this is over.'

Luke decided to split from his brother, who, for some time, had been courted as a soloist (and is now in LA about to release his first album). For Luke, realising that he was no longer a teen idol, it was only the beginning.

'At first, it was kinda fun, no pressures,' he said. 'Then it all began to rain down on me. I tell you to be famous and poor, it's a living nightmare.'

A few weeks after the split, the financial implications of their career broke over the brothers' heads. They had been living on credit throughout their 18 months of stardom. Trouble was, like the hero of Martin Amis's novel Money, when the tab was presented, it was them who had to pay it.

'We generated six million quid as Bros,' Luke revealed. 'We ended up with nothing, less than nothing, we ended up with minus nothing.'

The problem arose because of the contract they signed with their manager Tom Watkins. Within days of the 18-year-old blond twins from Camberley walking into his office in December 1986, Watkins, the marketing genius who had guided the Pet Shop Boys to success, got them to sign a contract which guaranteed him 20 per cent of the gross of any earnings. Under his tutelage, his eye for a niche, they hurtled to fame and the money started to flow. Into his bank account.

A typical piece of Bros business was their British tour in 1988. It grossed pounds 1,623,600. It cost pounds 1,332,596 to stage. Commission to Watkins's company was pounds 286,143. Which left pounds 4,860 to be split between the brothers and their erstwhile partner Craig Logan. At the time Luke was employing two body- guards and a personal assistant; he was paying a mortgage and financing a tidy jewellery habit. His weekly expenses were pounds 70,000.

'Morally you're not protected by law,' said Luke. 'You can't write into contracts that people must love you. Tom never did anything wrong, he never broke the law. I signed that contract. I did hate him, don't get me wrong, I'd be some saint if I hadn't hated his guts. But he did nothing wrong. I have to blame myself.'

Perhaps believing his charges had a limited shelf-life, Watkins pushed his boys relentlessly. Craig Logan was the first to crack.

'Tom wanted to conquer the world and we were treated like his machines,' said Luke. 'He made us do everything and anything. We felt so defenceless. When the machine gets going, you get crushed. Bros had incredible commitments. It needed three of us to cover them, but Craig was ill a lot. He collapsed way back in the early stages. Matt and I kept going for ages. We never stopped. I remember once in Japan arriving backstage and there was Craig sitting in a wheelchair. I was tired, shagged out and I just smacked him one. I wanted him to get up and give me some, but he sat there whingeing: 'you only hit me because I'm in a wheelchair.' I said 'with respect, you should see what I'd do to you if you wasn't in a wheelchair'.'

If it wasn't much fun being a member of Bros, it was worse being an ex- member. When the bills had to be signed, Matt and Luke were kebabed. Soon came the court cases, the repossessions and the gloating headlines: Bros's fall was detailed with salivating relish by the popular press.

'To this day, I cannot explain why they enjoyed it so much,' says Luke, who now lives on pounds 300 a week (advances on his book and on potential earnings from his new band) and is still in hock. 'What we had done was bring harmless pleasure to millions of young kids, and we were destroyed like we were criminal master-minds or something. Musically nothing went wrong with Bros. I can quote the two positions in the charts we were when I packed it in. We were getting 68 plays a day on Spanish radio. It was purely financial. The madness for me is that in America you can be a down- and-out bum who plays great sax and you'll be a jazz legend and they'll make a film about you. In this country, if you're skint, you're done.'

These days Luke is in a group called the Band of Thieves. His fingers charred by his experience, he has set up his own record company to handle the release of his single, called 'Sweeter Than the Midnight Rain'. It is a hard rock number, with Luke revealed as possessing a voice which sounds as though his larynx has been marinated in cheap whisky for six months. Expect lots of gags from DJs playing it and then saying 'you'll never guess who this is'. You won't.

'I was never really comfortable with Bros,' Luke said. 'I wanted to appeal to people my own age. I hope to God this band doesn't appeal to the teens. I loved Bros's music, though. Maybe if me and Matt are successful again, people will rediscover it. I mean there's nothing better than driving along on a summer's day, roof down, listening to Wham]. Nobody now feels ashamed of liking Wham], because of what George Michael has done since. Hopefully, one day, Bros music will be rehabilitated like that.'

Luke is convinced his single will be the start of his rehabilitation. He is, at 24, too young to be finished.

'We have encountered tremendous prejudice against Luke,' said his new manager, Peter Powell (their contract is a rolling one). 'Everyone was looking to him to fail. I can't be certain that enough water has passed under the bridge, but nothing will stop him having a go. The consumer will, in the end, decide.'

Tom Watkins, meanwhile, has proved his pop longevity by guiding the latest teen sensation, East 17, into the charts. Luke Goss's book reads like an A-Z of the traps and manholes awaiting a pop star. East 17 might be wise to read it.

'Maybe,' Luke said. 'But even if a kid had just read that book and was presented with a contract like ours, he'd sign. It happened in the Sixties, it happened to us, it'll happen next century. Dreams eclipse everything, including logic. If I ever met East 17 or Take That, I'd say, 'please, look after yourselves, think ahead. You might not like to believe it, but one day, guys, you won't be as hot as you are now.' I tell you, I know.'

(Photograph omitted)

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