Naturally, news that Boyzone, who will appear on the Late Late Show
tonight, are to reunite raises a host of questions: after several years
in the wilderness, does Ronan Keating still look like the smuggest man
alive? Now that he’s (vaguely) famous in his own right, will a
post-Coronation Street Keith Duffy be happy to flap in the margins,
little more than a burly background dancer?And, seeing as they’re rapidly hurtling towards middle age, is it even
proper to continue referring to the dimpled fivesome as Boyzone? Might
“Manzone” not be more appropriate? Or does that sound too much like a
premium chat line?
Clearly, Keating and company, whose first comeback performance was on
the British Children In Need telethon, have been monitoring the hugely
successful reunions staged by Take That and the Spice Girls.
Indeed, they will be encouraged to see that, having reformed, Take That
are arguably a far better group than they were in their original
incarnation. Meanwhile, ahead of their first live show in nearly a
decade, the Spice Girls have yet to show they can still cut it in the
pop wars. But the stampede for tickets — their London comeback sold out
in 38 seconds — suggests there’s still a market for girl-next-door
singers, even if only one of them, by their own admission, is a
naturally proficient warbler.
On the other hand, not every pop reunion fares so well. In the past 12
months, for instance, both East 17 — mid-1990s contemporaries of
Boyzone — and All Saints have seen their Indian-summer dreams turn to
dust. Not that we should be too surprised that East 17 came unstuck:
their clunky attempt to mix chart pop and hip-hop sounded horrible the
first time around and they never really got over singer Brian Harvey’s
boasts of bingeing on ecstasy.
More troubling for Boyzone will be the failure of All Saints, who
stalled in the lower reaches of the charts despite the fact that their
new dub-influenced record, Studio 1, was actually quite marvellous. The
lesson is a sobering one: just because a band was adored first time out,
it doesn’t follow that their fans, now a full 10 years older, require a
Should Boyzone be nervous, then, that their second coming might turn
sour at the box office? Probably not. In boy-band history, the group
occupies a cherished place. As the missing link between Take That and
the (still indestructible) Westlife, they were arguably the earliest
group to pitch themselves to two distinct audiences: excitable teenagers
and their (marginally) less excitable parents. Cannily, Louis Walsh
covered all bases when he assembled the line-up: while it’s easy to
picture a hormonal 15-year-old girl fancying the pants off Mikey Graham,
it’s no more of a stretch to imagine middle-aged Daniel O’Donnell fans
finding themselves overcome with the urge to mother Ronan Keating.
Besides, the landscape of pop has arguably shifted in their favour since
they performed together for the final time in 2000.
In the 1990s, Boyzone were derided for being empty vessels. Because
their songs were mostly re-cooked versions of older hits, people had a
hard time taking them seriously (there were some exceptions, of course:
Keating bagged an Ivor Novello songwriting award for the 1997 No.1
Pictures Of You).
Today, however, we live in the Pop Idol era: we expect singers to
possess a fantastic set of vocal cords but are happy for them to leave
the dreary business of songcraft to a team of back-room professionals.
And anyway, ever since their disastrous Late Late Show debut in 1993,
there’s always been something fundamentally likeable about Boyzone.
Indeed, in many ways their rise mirrored the first outbreak of genuine
self-confidence in this country. When people heard that Louis Walsh,
previously a mentor to Johnny Logan, wanted to assemble an “Irish Take
That”, the general reaction in this country was that, if Boyzone were
going to be Irish, they were probably going to be rubbish as well.
Walsh, though, had spotted a gap in the UK pop market and saw little
reason why our national inferiority complex should stop him exploiting
Having spent that summer touring small Irish club venues, Boyzone (five
strangers plucked from a shortlist of 300 applicants that also included
an unknown Colin Farrell) were unleashed on Ireland in early 1994 with a
cover of the Detroit Spinners’ Working My Way Back To You (for the first
and only time, Mikey Graham and Stephen Gately were lead vocalists).
This cleared the way for a fully fledged assault on the British charts
— several months after Working My Way.., Boyzone debuted at No.2 in the
UK with a version of The Osmonds’ Love Me For A Reason.
Subsequently, the album Said And Done topped the album charts in both
Ireland and the UK — Boyzone had arrived and so, as would prove more
significant, had Louis Walsh.
What will a post-reunion Boyzone look like? Children In Need offered
several fascinating clues. For one thing, Duffy has apparently taken a
more prominent role. Will he challenge Ronan Keating — the only member
who appears to have scarcely aged — as de facto frontman? It’s probably
too early to tell.
All we can predict is that, in a world where X Factor reigns, Boyzone
can confidently expect to conquer the pop universe all over again.
Life after Boyzone
Initially, it seemed that Ronan Keating was set to become Ireland’s
answer to Robbie Williams. Hooking up with New Radicals singer Gregg
Alexander, he released two heatseeker hit singles, Life Is A
Rollercoaster and Lovin’ Each Day. But though he has continued to enjoy
Top 10 hits in the UK as recently as 2006, his album sales flatlined. He
arguably reached a professional low point by agreeing to participate in
Ant and Dec’s All Star Cup, a reality TV twist on the Ryder Cup.
Gately was quick out of the traps: Boyzone had barely left the stage in
2000 when he scored a top five album, New Beginning. Twelve months on,
though, he was dropped by his label after the third single from the LP
proved a ‘flop’ (stalling at 13 in the British chart).
Shortly afterwards, he moved into West End theatre, landing the lead
role in a revival of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Joseph And The Amazing
Technicolour Dreamcoat. Subsequently, he played the evil childcatcher in
Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. Things reached a low ebb in 2005, however, when
he was reduced to starring in a Christmas pantomime, Cinderella.
Recently, he’s started working as a TV presenter with satellite channel
Having kept his name in the spotlight by appearing in the first series
of Celebrity Big Brother in 2001 (he finished third out of six), Duffy
moved into acting, landing a long-term role in Coronation Street as
raffish Dub, Ciaran McCarthy.
He also appeared in RTE drama The Clinic and has campaigned for
increased awareness of autism (daughter Mia was diagnosed autistic
shortly after her birth).
After hooking up with Duffy for a disastrous rap version of Milli
Vanilli’s Girl You Know It’s True, Lynch moved into television — he has
appeared on Celebrity Love Island and Sky soccer soap Dream Team. Lynch
is also a keen race driver and, in 2003, finished third in the British
Boyzone’s oldest member — he’s all of 35! — enjoyed a UK Top 20 hit
with his solo single I’m Your Angel.
But his pop career swiftly ran out of steam and he turned to acting. He
has appeared in two low-budget action movies, a kung-fu movie called
Fatal Deviation and a thriller called Hey Mr DJ.
Taken from “The Irish Independent” By Ed Power
Friday November 23 2007