Music

This is what Right Said Fred’s I’m Too Sexy can teach you about life & how to live it

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Dave Fawbert
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All told, 1991 was a pretty depressing year for humanity.

It began with the Gulf War in full swing, throughout, the Soviet Union played out its final collapse, bringing economic turmoil, Gazza knackered his cruciate ligament in the cup final against Forest, a tropical cyclone killed hundreds of thousands of people in Bangladesh, and two Germans won Wimbledon.

But in the music charts? Well, it was thoroughly sexy.

In the space of two months, Color Me Badd released I Wanna Sex You Up, Salt-n-Pepa unleashed Let's Talk About Sex and a brand new act from London named Right Said Fred released I'm Too Sexy.

The latter was the biggest success of all of them, spending six weeks at number 2 in the UK, held off by the unmovable behemoth that was Bryan Adams' (Everything I Do) I Do It For You but hitting top spot in an incredible 32 other countries, including the US - the first British band to achieve such a feat with their debut single since The bloody Beatles.

Of course you know the words (who doesn't) but when was the last time you sat down and gave this song - an absolute, undeniable, solid-gold hit - the listening attention it deserves? I hold my hands up and admit - probably not since, well, 1991. And my nine-year-old self even bought the album, Up.

It's a song that's weirdly omnipresent - everyone, everyone knows it - yet you rarely hear it; never on the radio, not usually at weddings and I'm fairly sure they've never dropped it at Fabric.

But it turns out that this song is more nuanced and layered than you ever thought possible. In fact, as it prepares to celebrate its 25th birthday (15 July 2016) I'm Too Sexy has many lessons to teach us about love, life, and how to live it. Step this way...

  • This is what Right Said Fred's I'm Too Sexy can teach you about life & how to live it

    Stay true to your artistry

    Honestly, how many artists have the balls to open up their song with an a capella vocal? We can only think of Whitney Houston's version of I Will Always Love You - and that only made it in on Whitney and Kevin Costner's insistence, against record company wishes, as they thought it would damage the commerciality of the song. It went on to become the seventh biggest-selling physical single of all-time. Well done on that one record company guys, you absolute bloody idiots.

    Similarly, Right Said Fred had absolutely zero interest from any record labels in their track. But step forward manager Guy Holmes, who told the Independent, "I heard that coming back from a night out with this very cute girl I fancied - who didn't fancy me unfortunately. She was sitting drunk on the back seat and said she managed a band. She put the cassette in and there was I'm Too Sexy, an awful rock demo version. It was clear it would make a great dance record though. Radio 1 loved it but no major would touch it. I thought bollocks to them and put it out myself - it sold six million singles and five million albums."

    Eat that, 'the suits'.

  • This is what Right Said Fred's I'm Too Sexy can teach you about life & how to live it 1

    Don't overcomplicate things

    10 seconds in and it's got you by the jaffas, as the most nineties drum beat and rave piano riff of all time kicks in. Honestly, when did they stop using beats like that? They were instant dancefloor fodder. Actually, probably 1999 now we think of it. And yet nineties piano riffs are everywhere nowaways - how come the drums never made a comeback? Maybe it starts now. It should do.

    Do you remember the non-singing Fairbrass brother (Fred) playing bass? I don't. But it turns out it's the most crucial part of the whole backing. Incredible.

    The track was produced by a guy called TommyD, who has since produced for Jay Z, Kanye West with Wired Strings, the orchestral collective founded by his wife, Rosie. Right Said Fred and Kanye West: musically closer related than you ever imagined. 

    There's a bit of bassy overdriven guitar. And that's it. There's nothing else on the track other than a bit of organ later and a very special ingredient which we'll get to later.

  • This is what Right Said Fred's I'm Too Sexy can teach you about life & how to live it 2

    The Universe must retain its balance

    Picture the scene: it's Christmas and grandma Fairbrass has come over bearing gifts to be delicately placed under the tree, Richard and Fred eagerly awaiting the discovery of the contents of the shiny boxes. Given the signal, they frantically tear at the wrapping to reveal a neat new shirt to make them look smart. But what's that look of sadness on the boys' faces? It's because they will never be able to wear that shirt. Because they are too sexy for it. Clothes cannot constrain them. Even a vest - which is minimal as you can go up top - must be ripped off because the sexiness aching to emerge is too much even for this garment to bear.

    But it's not easy for Richard and Fred to deal with this. Far from it, because, as well as being forced to exist in a perpetual state of undress, they reveal that they are also so sexy it hurts. They may have the attribute of extreme sexiness, but they must pay for it, in order to restore the balance of the Universe. God giveth sexiness, but God also taketh away your shirt, and a painless existence. Man must suffer for his art, for it is written in the scriptures.

  • This is what Right Said Fred's I'm Too Sexy can teach you about life & how to live it 3

    Be aware of your own power

    Right Said Fred are too sexy for Milan. As the video illustrates, that includes the cathedral. We visited Milan cathedral recently, and it's a serious bit of kit. The architecture is mindblowing. It took centuries to build. The vision, the skill, the dedication, the intricacy: mere words cannot do justice to its sheer beauty. But it is no match for sexiness, specifically the sexiness of Right Said Fred.

    Imagine possessing that sort of power. It must be frightening. You could use it for ill: to oppress people; to enslave them; to exercise pure, true autocratic control. But Right Said Fred used it for good. They wrote I'm Too Sexy and Deeply Dippy. Truly, they are our benevolent all-loving, all-sexy guardians, and for that we should be grateful, because the alternative is too terrifying to comprehend.

  • This is what Right Said Fred's I'm Too Sexy can teach you about life & how to live it 4

    Nothing is impossible

    Right Said Fred managed to rhyme 'party' with 'dancing'.

    Follow your dreams, kids.

  • This is what Right Said Fred's I'm Too Sexy can teach you about life & how to live it 5

    Respect your musical forefathers

    Prepare yourselves: Right Said Fred were a trio. Yes, like Bros, there was actually a third guy in there all along. Who knew? And that man, Rob Manzoli, was responsible for interpolating ('nicking') the guitar riff from a 1967 Jimi Hendrix song, Third Stone From The Sun (45 seconds in), into the song at 1:15. That's right, Jimi Hendrix was part of a Right Said Fred song.

    Jimi Hendrix was a sexy man. And he was now part of a song called I'm Too Sexy. No wonder the sexometer needle was bending itself with sheer pressure against the edge of the red zone on this track when it was unleashed unto the willing ears of the unsuspecting public.

  • This is what Right Said Fred's I'm Too Sexy can teach you about life & how to live it 6

    Seriously

    Just look how happy he is with both that superb outfit and banging out a Hendrix lick. You'd be happy too, wouldn't you?

  • This is what Right Said Fred's I'm Too Sexy can teach you about life & how to live it 7

    You are worth more than worldly possessions

    Richard Fairbrass is too sexy for his car (by far) and too sexy for his hat. What do I think about that? It's profound, that's what I think.

    Many people take pride in their cars; they spend hours polishing them, fixing them, cleaning them, pouring their money into working to afford the latest model. They prioritise them above real, human relationships. A car never criticises you does it? Never says you should have worked harder for that promotion at work because these bills won't pay themselves and the kids don't respect you, you know.

    Well, Richard is sexier than his car. He's above it. Because worldly goods - hats, as well as cars - do not interest him. Because he exists on a higher metaphysical realm. And look how the car has responded to this slight. Did it stomp out, unhappy at being usurped from its privileged position? No, it's still there. It admires him for it. It's stuck around, and taking him from A to B; specifically what looks like it might be the Edgware Road but we can't say for certain. It does look like West London though. Perhaps the Uxbridge Road, Shepherd's Bush roundabout end. Very hard to be definitive on this one.

    Be like Richard. He's doing it right.

  • This is what Right Said Fred's I'm Too Sexy can teach you about life & how to live it 8

    Yeah

    There he goes again. Look at that smirk. Totally justified.

  • This is what Right Said Fred's I'm Too Sexy can teach you about life & how to live it 9

    Be kind to animals

    He's already stated that he's sexier that a host of major cities and a selection of worldly possessions, so one cannot be surprised when Richard declares that he is too sexy for his cat. What chance did the poor thing ever stand?

    But then, he declares - in an outpouring of sympathy hitherto unheard in the song: "poor pussy, poor pussycat".

    Because his humanity, his love, his compassion extends to our animal friends. Pity the poor creature, because it will never compete with his sexiness. But that's okay.

    Remember, he could have chosen to end the stanza with a mocking reprise of the phrase "what d'you think about that?"

    He didn't. He chose empathy, and so should you.

  • This is what Right Said Fred's I'm Too Sexy can teach you about life & how to live it 10

    It's OK to be vulnerable

    Out of nowhere, in this sea of sexy confidence, and 2:41 into the song, comes a moment of doubt. "I'm too sexy for my love...love's going to leave me."

    What's going on here? What is this love of whom he speaks? Is it the woman in the cat outfit? We'll never know, but he's scared. He's worried about the future. He's vulnerable. And it's a sobering reminder that even being too sexy for pretty much everything does not mean that you aren't human too.

  • This is what Right Said Fred's I'm Too Sexy can teach you about life & how to live it 11

    Don't be constrained by the world around you

    And at the end: the final message.

    Richard is too sexy for this song. How meta is that? Like an awareness of the matrix, he realises that he is, in a very real sense, bigger than the very musical vehicle that he exists in.

    And you should think like this too.

    Dream bigger. Think outside the box.

    As 2 Unlimited would tell us less than two years later: you have No Limits...

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Dave Fawbert

ShortList.com staff writer Dave’s primary passions are pop, prose, punning and power ballads (and alliteration). A lower division football enthusiast and long-suffering cricket fan, he is one of only 110 people followed on Twitter by Chas Hodges from Chas ‘n’ Dave. Follow Dave on Twitter like Chas: @davefawbert

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