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Music

How Ricky Gervais became a pop sensation in the Philippines

@TomTaylorFO

It stretches the imagination to levels akin to a horse in a living room to even think of the “chubby little loser” Ricky Gervais shuffling around the new romantic scene, let alone assailing it as a pop sensation. However, that was a different era and a different jawline for the man who Dicky Anders once described as being as entertaining as “counting your own feet” and through a quirk of fate, the seminal king of modern comedy was indeed remarkably a riotous pop sensation in the Philippines. 

The year was 1982, and Gervais had somehow successfully warded off scurvy during his university years. David Bowie’s new period was proving divisive, but Gervais had the hairline for it and snaffled it up. Together with his pal Bill Macrae, he formed the band Seona Dancing. They recorded a 16-song demo tape, sent it off to agencies, sat back on a pork chop and awaited the inevitable results. London Records signed them up and soon they were releasing the singles ‘More to Lose’ and ‘Bitter Heart’.

Sadly, despite Gervais dotingly placing a hand atop a white piano and crooning ‘More to Lose’ on the ITV show Razzmatazz and ‘Bitter Heart’ receiving huge promotion by London Records, both songs failed to break the top 40. In truth, in an era saturated with bequiffed synth stars, their label had a harder job on their hands than the Elephant Man’s tailor. 

Gervais promptly hung up his musical boots, traded keyboards for cheeseboards and drifted into booking artists. Eventually, teaming up with Stephen (Mitchell) Merchant whose “eyes bulged with imagined riches” as they set about creating the most influential comedy show of the century. Thereafter, they returned to XFM Radio as conquering heroes, were beset with the twaddle talking Manc bullshit espouser, Karl Pilkington, and the future of alternative comedy was crystalised.

Take the clock back to 1985, however, and the man who once almost had a panic attack after paying a producer £10 to remove his sock on-air and say “you’ve got nice toes you have ‘n that,” was the star in the Far East. Two things were huge in the Philippines during this time— fraudulent government authoritarianism and Seona Dancing (not to suggest that the two are linked?).

However, with corruption proving so rife in the region, poor Gervais and Macrae were being swindled worse than Merchant when he was cruelly robbed of 50p change. The plucky Pilipino radio station DWRT-FM found Seona Dancing’s failed track ‘More to Lose’ and chanced their hand at placing a piece of near-untraceable Western music on their airwaves. 

They billed the song as ‘Fade’ by Medium, inserted a station ID halfway through and claimed the track as a sort of exclusive. This way no royalties had to be paid, no other station could use the glossy anthem and nobody from the West had heard the song anyway so they were likely to dole it out as a gem without ever footing the bill for it. Thus, they played the hell out if and the catchy hook caught on. 

The song became a staple at high-school dances as the Philippines modernised from the staunch brutality of Ferdinand Marcos and soared on the boon of Gervais’ new wave revolution. All the while, Gervais was at home in a bedsit urinating in a sink while Jane Fallon moaned, “At least take the washing up out first!”

You can catch the Footloose-esque video for Seona Dancing’s ‘Bitter Heart’ below.