Right Said Fred's "I'm Too Sexy"
(From left) Richard Fairbrass, Rob Manzoli and Fred Fairbrass of Right Said Fred. (Tobi Corney Getty Images)
The musical list of one-hit-wonders runs longer than a greedy child’s Christmas list. However, very few of those singular smashes retained the culture footprint of Right Said Fred’s “I’m Too Sexy.” The 1991 #1 hit in 28 countries seeped deeply into popular culture. It appeared on Jazy Z’s “The Blueprint,” the iconic television show “The West Wing,” along with “The Smurfs 2” and a Toyota commercial. More recently, Taylor Swift even mimicked the vocal rhythm in her new single “Look What You Made Me Do.” “I’m Too Sexy” obviously exudes ridiculousness, which perhaps is why it still brings a smile today. Here are all things “I’m Too Sexy.”
Right Said Fred’s Slow Burn
While “I’m Too Sexy” turned into an unexpected hit in 1991, the group of Fred and Richard Fairbass, along with Rob Manzol had bounced around since the late ‘70s. As Fred put it, “When everyone else was doing post-punk New Wave, we were busy doing sort of … acoustic power-pop. Which just didn’t fit. We toured with Suicide and with Joy Division. Like most musicians, we had part-time jobs – we worked in video production, we both worked in gyms. People always thought we were going to do something, and we never did.”
By the late ’80s the boys moved to New York and lived in a weird existence of strange parties and dodgy jobs. As Fred remembers, “What was interesting about New York in that period, it was very hedonistic. Big parties like [the drag hangout] Jackie 60. Richard worked at [nightclub] Nell’s. I worked at [the punk-rock clothier] Trash and Vaudeville. We just did a load of stuff – we went to a lot of really dodgy parties.”
Back Across The Pond
After moving back to the UK, the Fairbrass brothers took their New York experience and applied it to their music. Fred: “So when we got back to London, we started writing slightly different stuff. A bit more cynical and lyrically cynical. “I’m Too Sexy” was the first song we’d wrote with this guy we’d met, a guitarist named Rob Manzoli. We told Rob, “We’ve been through the mill. We don’t want to use anything that we’ve written before. We want to write a brand-new song. No old ideas, nothing.”
Stupid Or Genuis?
The impetus for “I’m Too Sexy” started with "a bass line" and "a little bit of marijuana" and “a very, very hot day in a very, very non-air conditioned basement studio.” According to Fred, “Because we had been down at the gym, we were training quite hard and we were in quite good shape. He (Richard) took his shirt off and started singing “I’m too sexy for my shirt” to the bass line. Rob and Richard thought it was very funny. I was less convinced initially. I thought, This is a bit of a stupid idea.”
Ultimately, they worked the kinks out with a DJ named Tommy D in a technically closed studio that the janitor would let them into, assuming they didn’t use any light or heating. As the brother remembered, “We had to work from the lights that came off the equipment and the little spotlights in the studio, and it was freezing.” Unfortunately, none of the labels thought much of it until a “ballsy” teenager named Tamzin Aronowitz told them she’d get it on the radio.
A Radio Hit
Once “ I’m Too Sexy” hit airwaves the song immediately took off. Eventually, it even unseated Byran Adams “(Everything I Do) I Do It For You” six week chokehold on the top spot in England. The group had to make their own label as the song took off. They begged and borrowed from everyone they knew to set up their shop all under the popularity of “I’m Too Sexy.” Next thing you know the previously unknown Right Said Fred boys were getting chased around New York City as they went to promote the song. Thankfully, “I’m Too Sexy” promoted itself since Richard believed, “I don’t think we were very good at it, actually” (promoting).
In England, people knew the group was in on the joke. In America, the group appeared just meat-headed enough to believe their own song. Either way ironically or not, American listeners ate up “I’m Too Sexy” and cemented it in one hit wonder history.
Tags: Right Said Fred
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