Jo Dunne: Member of the 1980s band We've Got A Fuzzbox And We're Going To Use It!!

 

When Jo Dunne and her sister Maggie made their live debut with Vickie Perks and Tina O'Neill in their home town of Birmingham in 1985, they could barely play their instruments. They had three songs and a band name that was both memorable and a statement of intent: We've Got A Fuzzbox and We're Gonna Use It!! Yet, after only their second gig, Robert Lloyd, frontman of the post-punk group the Nightingales, was impressed enough by their irreverent attitude and short, sharp, strident tunes like "X X Sex" and "Do I Want To?" to sign them to his label Vindaloo, already the home of the stand-up comedian Ted Chippington.

Within a few months, Fuzzbox – as they soon became known – were recording John Peel sessions, topping the independent charts with their spiky debut EP Rules And Regulations, and selling enough copies to knock on the door of the Top 40.

In the summer of 1986, Bill Drummond, later of KLF fame but then a maverick A&R man at WEA, brought Chippington and Fuzzbox to the major company and organised An Evening With Ted Chippington, featuring both acts at the Raymond Revue Bar in London's Soho, to promote the release of the Vindaloo Summer Special EP, which included their cheeky "Fuzzy Faves" covers medley of "Sitting In The Back Seat"/"Itsy Witsy Teeny Weeny Yellow Polka Dot Bikini" and "Kookie, Kookie". Fuzzbox also backed the comedian when he performed his own novelty tune "Rockin' With Rita" on the ITV children's programme Razzamatazz, but while he remained a cult figure they went on to mainstream, if shortlived, success towards the end of the decade with the perky, polished pop hits "International Rescue", "Pink Sunshine" and "Self!", as well as the Big Bang! album.

Born in 1968, and four years younger than Maggie, Jo Dunne shared her sister's eccentric fashion sense – wild hairstyles, garish clothes and make-up, quirky star-shaped glasses for Jo – that made Fuzzbox stand out, while their early sound owed a debt to their all-girl antecedents, the Slits and the Modettes. The four constantly swapped instruments, with Perks, Maggie Dunne and O'Neill singing lead, and Jo Dunne occasionally drumming but playing bass. Eventually she concentrated on her pink guitar – with trademark Fuzzbox distortion pedal – when they became a more conventional four-piece rather than the kitsch darlings of the C-86 indie movement, named after the mail-order cassette compiled by the New Musical Express that year. Of the 22 acts on C-86, only Primal Scream and the Wedding Present achieved a higher profile.

They took off faster than they could learn their instruments, leading to patronising comments from the male-dominated music press, rightly ignored since the critics seemed to miss the point of their DIY, sometimes shambolic approach. Maggie Dunne quit her job in the dole office and the other three, who had been friends since the age of 11, left college to concentrate on the group but, even when appearing on the cover of Melody Maker or on The Old Grey Whistle Test, they kept a healthy sense of perspective and injected a dose of mischievous Brummie humour into their interviews. "Forget the sex and the drugs. We're in this band for the driving," Jo Dunne told Record Mirror in May 1986.

At the end of that year, they released the fittingly "fuzzy" single "Love Is The Slug", their first bona fide hit, as well as their debut album, Bostin' Steve Austin, whose title referenced the hero of The Six Million Dollar Man TV series. The follow-up single "What's The Point" just missed the Top 50 but sported another unlikely cover – Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody" – on its B-side and hinted at their potential as Britain's answer to The Go-Go's or The Bangles. WEA head honcho Rob Dickins duly recruited the American songwriter Liam Sternberg, who had penned the Bangles worldwide hit "Walk Like An Egyptian", to work on the next Fuzzbox album.

Sternberg helped them compose their two biggest successes, the infuriatingly catchy "International Rescue", inspired by the Thunderbirds sci-fi puppet series, and the equally nagging "Pink Sunshine", while the WEA machine went into overdrive to promote Fuzzbox's more commercial sound and glossier image – "glamour pussies" or "sex kittens" as the NME put it. "We got swept along," admitted Jo Dunne who, in keeping with WEA's policy of using a different Fuzzbox member on the cover of every single from the Big Bang! album, featured on the picture bag for their flop synthpop cover of Yoko Ono's "Walking On Thin Ice". When their next release, "Your Loss, My Gain", also struck out in 1990, WEA pulled the plug on a projected third album and Fuzzbox broke up.

In October 1997, Jo and Maggie Dunne guested on the identity parade segment of the TV quiz show Never Mind The Buzzcocks, while Perks appeared in the same slot 12 years later. In May 2010 the Dunnes and Perks reformed Fuzzbox for a UK tour and recorded an electro cover of M's 1979 smash "Pop Muzik". Interviewed on the BBC's Midlands Today at the time, Jo Dunne was keen to stress the fact that "of all UK girl bands, as opposed to vocal groups, we are still the most successful. And we did have a lot of fun." She died of cancer at St Mary's Hospice in Birmingham.

Jo Dunne, musician and songwriter: born Birmingham 12 November 1968; died Birmingham 26 October 2012.

Suggested Topics
Voices
voicesGood for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, writes Grace Dent
Sport
The Pipes and Drums of The Scottish Regiments perform during the Opening Ceremony for the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games at Celtic Park on July 23, 2014 in Glasgow, Scotland.
Commonwealth GamesThe actor encouraged the one billion viewers of the event to donate to the children's charity
Sport
Karen Dunbar performs
Entertainers showcase local wit, talent and irrepressible spirit
Sport
Members of the Scotland deleagtion walk past during the opening ceremony of the 2014 Commonwealth Games at Celtic Park in Glasgow on July 23, 2014.
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Arts and Entertainment
The Tour de France peloton rides over a bridge on the Grinton Moor, Yorkshire, earlier this month
film
Life and Style
fashion Designs are part of feminist art project by a British student
News
Very tasty: Vladimir Putin dining alone, perhaps sensibly
news
Life and Style
Listen here: Apple EarPods offer an alternative
techAre custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?
Arts and Entertainment
Top guns: Cole advised the makers of Second World War film Fury, starring Brad Pitt
filmLt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a uniform
News
The University of California study monitored the reaction of 36 dogs
sciencePets' range of emotions revealed
News
Snoop Dogg pictured at The Hollywood Reporter Nominees' Night in February, 2013
people... says Snoop Dogg
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from Shakespeare in Love at the Noel Coward Theatre
theatreReview: Shakespeare in Love has moments of sheer stage poetry mixed with effervescent fun
News
Joining forces: young British men feature in an Isis video in which they urge Islamists in the West to join them in Iraq and Syria
newsWill the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?
Arts and Entertainment
The nomination of 'The Wake' by Paul Kingsnorth has caused a stir
books
News
i100
Life and Style
food + drinkZebra meat is exotic and lean - but does it taste good?
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

BI Manager - £50,000

£49000 - £55000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: My client is...

BI Project Manager - £48,000 - £54,000 - Midlands

£48000 - £54000 per annum + Benefits package: Progressive Recruitment: My clie...

VB.Net Developer

£35000 - £45000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: If you're pa...

SAP Business Consultant (SD, MM and FICO), £55,000, Wakefield

£45000 - £55000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: SAP Business...

Day In a Page

Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

Meet the US Army's shooting star

Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform
Climate change threatens to make the antarctic fur seal extinct

Take a good look while you can

How climate change could wipe out this seal
Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier for the terminally ill?

Farewell, my lovely

Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier?
Man Booker Prize 2014 longlist: Crowdfunded novel nominated for first time

Crowdfunded novel nominated for Booker Prize

Paul Kingsnorth's 'The Wake' is in contention for the prestigious award
Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster to ensure his meals aren't poisoned

Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster

John Walsh salutes those brave souls who have, throughout history, put their knives on the line
Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

A $25m thriller starring Sam Worthington to be made in God's Own Country
Will The Minerva Project - the first 'elite' American university to be launched in a century - change the face of higher learning?

Will The Minerva Project change the face of higher learning?

The university has no lecture halls, no debating societies, no sports teams and no fraternities. Instead, the 33 students who have made the cut at Minerva, will travel the world and change the face of higher learning
The 10 best pedicure products

Feet treat: 10 best pedicure products

Bags packed and all prepped for holidays, but feet in a state? Get them flip-flop-ready with our pick of the items for a DIY treatment
Commonwealth Games 2014: Great Scots! Planes and pipers welcome in Glasgow's Games

Commonwealth Games 2014

Great Scots! Planes and pipers welcome in Glasgow's Games
Jack Pitt-Brooke: Manchester City and Patrick Vieira make the right stand on racism

Jack Pitt-Brooke

Manchester City and Patrick Vieira make the right stand on racism
How Terry Newton tragedy made iron men seek help to tackle their psychological demons

How Newton tragedy made iron men seek help to tackle their psychological demons

Over a hundred rugby league players have contacted clinic to deal with mental challenges of game