Whatever happened to... Boy bands

Monkeying around

In 1967, The Monkees told a press conference: "There comes a time when you have to draw the line as a man. We're being passed off as something we aren't." "The fabricated four" persuaded their management to let them play their own instruments.

Twenty years later, ex-Take That singer Robbie Williams's explosive nature has got him into trouble. He is being sued by his ex-manager for breach of contract. Allegedly the lad strayed from the boy-band requirement - the sort of boy a girl could take home to her mum for tea.

I'm a Believer

The Monkees were thought up by a television producer who wanted a TV comedy based on a rock band. Having set out his requirements, 500 applicants were interviewed. The rest is history: gold records, The New Monkees spin- off show, the reunion gig this year. Admitting to not playing on the records didn't do The Monkees much harm, but it altered the pop industry. The importance of marketing and image was fully realised. When The Bay City Rollers burst on the scene, they hadn't even released a single but were introduced to 10,000 girls through a mailing list supplied by a teen-girl magazine.

The Hit Factory

By the Eighties, Stock, Aitken and Waterman took pop firmly into their business hands. With their insistent beats and vocals, their songs infiltrated your brain and the pop charts. Anyone with the right face could front the music, like the tea-boy Rick Astley, the East End hairdressers Mel and Kim and soap stars such as the Minogue sisters.

Gaps in the market were filled. Bros targeted yuppies' aspirational whinges of "When Will I Be Famous", Wham! represented the fun-loving boys from the DSS, E17 were the white homeboys from Walthamstow and Take That the five types of lads who were somebody for everybody.

Take That

By now jokes like: "Knock, knock. Who's there? Bros. Bros who? That's showbiz," illustrated that the game was up. Bros had 10 Top 10 hits but then went bankrupt and fell into obscurity. George Michael faced three years of silence and pounds 3m in a bid to be released from his record label and forge away from the teeny-bopper image. East17's Brian Harvey and Take That's Robbie Williams were similarly dismissed for behaviour inappropriate to their image.

Maybe today the formula has changed with The Spice Girls. Ben Myers, a writer at Melody Maker, says: "The Spice Girls are obviously manufactured, but this is accepted. It may be that after 10 years of boy bands, we are just glad to have a band that will mention politics."

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