The Legendary We’ve Got a Fuzzbox And We’re Going To Use It are back with a vengeance.
The new single I Can’t Do Anything is a complete reimagining of the X-Ray Spex classic that touches on themes left-of-centre for a pop record, such as dyspraxia, growing pains, pet rats and surrealist observations which the late great writer Poly Styrene was noted for. Each year in London there is a celebration of the life and times of Poly Styrene called Polyfest and last year featuring the likes of The Vibrators, The Rut, Dexys Midnight Runners, Youth, The Specials featuring Neville Staple, Christine ‘Sugary’ Staple and Fuzzbox who in last year’s celebration blew the roof off with this incredible track.
This year due to the pandemic shutting the place down Polyfest which is in its 7th year won’t be live so is now being celebrated by a series of recordings by an eclectic array of artists performing totally original versions. Fuzzbox fronted by Vix Perks and Maggie Dunne played their classic tracks such as Pink Sunshine, Rules And Regulations and the American Billboard Top 20 Self which are all featured on the bands forthcoming box set which has been produced by Mike Bennett (The Fall, Gregory Isaacs, The Specials, Toyah Willcox and Ian Brown).
A splendiferous, many-coloured, lipstick-smeared shock of lace and ribbon, Fuzzbox shot out of Birmingham, England, in 1985. In the summer of Boris Becker, Live Aid and ‘Rambo’, it all started out as four teenage friends cutting loose and having a laugh, using music as an outlet for their youthful energy. One thing’s for sure – none of them could have guessed that in a few whirlwhind years they’d become the most successful instrument-playing female band in British pop history. It’s a record they still hold today.
Originally a quartet comprising singer Vix, keyboard player / bassist Maggie Dunne, guitarist Jo Dunne and drummer Tina O’Neill, their name was inspired by the device used to create the buzzsaw guitar sound they wanted. “We’ve got a fuzzbox and we’re gonna use it,” a satisfied Maggie stated, and the name stuck.
Fans got their first taste of We’ve Got A Fuzzbox And We’re Gonna Use It in April 1986 when Vindaloo Records released double A-sided single, ‘XX Sex’ and ‘Rules And Regulations’. Knowingly knockabout, rebellious and engagingly fun, the band acquired an immediate kinship with disparate musical tribes, and before the girls knew what was happening, their debut release had kissed the edge of the UK Top 40 singles chart.
The band’s unique sound, unforgettable name and image caught the imagination – as did the single, which remained in the indie chart for 25 weeks. From nowhere, the girls found themselves on UK and European tours, and Vindaloo released full length album ‘Bostin’ Steve Austin’ in December. Geffen would also release a version of the album, retitling it We’ve Got A Fuzzbox And We’re Gonna Use It for the US market. Success continued to grow, with grungy indie-punk classic ‘Love Is The Slug’ entering the charts, followed by the irresistably quirky ‘What’s The Point’, both singles propelled by typically lively, fun-filled promo videos.
Much bigger things lay in wait for the band – who were now so familiar to fans that most observers opted to shorten their name to Fuzzbox. It was an unofficial change also deemed suitable for overseas markets, who might not ‘get’ the girls’ Brummie humour. Signing to major label WEA, 1989’s ‘Big Bang!’ saw the band working with bigger budgets and a much larger, slicker production. With tongue thrust firmly in collective cheek, Fuzzbox blossomed into a honed, high energy, pop-rock act with massive tunes – several of which remain chart classics to this day.
‘International Rescue’, ‘Pink Sunshine’ and ‘Self’ were all big UK hits – each supported by memorable videos (the former directed by and featuring Ade Edmondson). Fuzzbox – clad in an array of eye-catching outfits – were now regulars on ‘Top Of The Pops’, not to mention a major talking point in school corridors and college canteens. Bright, exciting and intoxicating, the band’s stellar trajectory took it to just about every radio station, magazine and TV show imaginable, from ‘Smash Hits’ to ‘Cannon And Ball’. Not only that, but ‘Self’ – which featured guitar work from Queen’s legendary Brian May – became their only charting single in the US.
1990’s ‘Your Loss, My Gain’ looked set to take Fuzzbox further still, but sadly fate and ‘musical differences’ had other ideas. The original band parted ways before third album ‘Out Of This World’ could be completed. Compilations, re-releases and a DVD kept the fuzzy flame just about burning, and a comeback single paved the way for a full tour in 2010. Drummer Tina, now happily employed as a school teacher, opted out, but gave her blessing for the reunion to go ahead.
Tragically, much loved guitarist Jo Dunne (renowned for her trademark shades and huge smile!) passed away in October 2012 after a short illness – but the Fuzzbox story is far from over. Still the most successful all-female band in British pop history, Vix and Maggie have assembled a new line-up to take the band into a bright new era. Joining the duo are Megan Burke (guitar), Sarit Black (bass) and Hannah Layhe (drums), all of whom made their debut at a packed comeback show at London’s 100 Club in November 2015. For the newlook Fuzzbox, it’s just the start. Vix and Maggie are writing brand new music alongside former collaborator Liam Sternberg, and – reuniting the team that worked on ‘Big Bang!’ – Andy Richards has been confirmed as producer. With further gigs and festivals being confirmed, Fuzzbox are set to smash more rules and regulations into 2016 and beyond. Who knows, they might even turn the sunshine pink.
Fuzzbox – I Can’t Do Anything
Fuzzbox – Pink Sunshine
Fuzzbox – International Rescue