Babybird brings a new ‘The Bad Old Man’ UK tour to Sheffield in December
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Cast your mind back in time to September 1996, a time where the Sheffield-formed band, Babybird released the hit song, “You’re Gorgeous”. It reached number three in the UK charts and charted highly around the world. It’s the track for which the band is probably best known.
Writer and singer Stephen Jones sat down for a chat with us, and he spoke about how he used to get heckled with the lyrics of his own song, how people misunderstood the message behind the song, as well as that time Johnny Depp ended up directing the band’s eighth top 40 hit, Bad Old Man, a track that made him go onto play guitar on two albums and make a million dollar video for the song “Unloveable”. The video touches on all sorts of darkness with a very ‘David Lynch-ian’ take on those themes (pun not intended) — incorporating all the things that make a short promotional film virtually unplayable on mainstream platforms, at least at the time of its release. But that was never the point to Babybird.
"That’s the sort of stuff that Johnny Depp likes, it was kind of his idea the whole video really. It wasn’t going to be something where I say, “I don’t want to do that, I don’t want to dress up as an 18th century soldier, which is basically what I did. That was the last thing I thought I’d be doing in a video, but it works you know”
Babybird’s undoubtedly most popular song, You’re Gorgeous, was a catchy and widely popular song and often misunderstood in terms of its meaning. People believed it to be a besotted love song, used at weddings, sang aloud in pubs and clubs, one of the Royals even quoted it.
"It was just constant, people shouting out of car windows, or when you go to the garage at two in the morning, it wasn’t abuse. It was just “You’re Gorgeous” and all this. So, I had to move to London, literally, to kind of escape”
"It’s a strange one, it’s a huge song, you kind of hate it but love it. But it’s also kind of kept my career going so you have to give it fair due”
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Speaking to The Sheffield Telegraph all the way back in 2009, Stephen Jones was quoted as saying that:
“I couldn’t tell people how to interpret the song. However the song was actually about male photographers who wanted to use images of women to sell things by utilising their sexuality”
Naturally society has moved on since then (sadly, it really hasn’t).
It’s clear that this intention of creating music that discusses deeper themes, while also encasing them within a variety of different musical styles in order to deliver a message, is something that remains very important to Stephen Jones. He still writes as he always has, since those Babybird lo-fi albums of 1995-6. Going upstairs into the smallest bedroom of his house, or studio as his family laughingly like to call it, Jones is at home with just one laptop, a few barely fully strung guitars and a piano. With his headphones on, all that can be heard is Jones tippy-tapping annoyingly on a plastic two octave keyboard.
"Bad Old Man was a single off there’s something going on, which was actually our second album. It can be confusing to some as there’s two parts to Babybird, the stuff I did on my own like lo-fi albums as Babybird and then we became a band. We did three or four albums as the band and this was off the second one and Bad Old Man was a song off that, we thought it was a great song and I’m getting old but not so bad anymore. I just felt that was perfect for this tour."
“Bad Old Man” was basically written like that too: as a demo, then blown up by the band. It is possibly Stephen Jones’ favourite song, especially live. So it makes plenty of sense that this is the reason for the return of The Bad Old Man tour, once again… but with an added measure of lingering despair hidden within the confines of what appear to be maudlin songs about love, lust and lost.
Praised at the time of its 1998 release by Melody Maker, Time Out and Smash Hits, it was Jones’ greatest pleasure that the track got into the top 40, with lines like “he drowned his stepson in the duckpond” and “he hid razorblades in the ice cream” making it even more subversive than “You’re Gorgeous”.
Now, Babybird is bringing “Bad Old Man” back to UK audiences with a string of UK tour dates this Winter. Kicking off in Southampton on 30 November, the tour will see stops across the country as the pioneers of critical pop bring their charming wit and innovative sound to audiences across the nation.
"I’m looking forward to bringing all of the older hits and some newer ones. All those hits I was talking about, Unloveable, Bad Old Man. Bad Old Man is a good one as that’s when I got to know Johnny Depp basically. He’d sat down with Marilyn Manson, which is not necessarily a good connection anymore, but they liked the darker side of things. That’s the good thing about Babybird, lyrically it’s quite dark… but hopefully darker humour, like a David Lynch sort of humour with very naive lullaby-ish sort of music that can be very ‘hooky’ and drive you mad, or drive you very happy. So that’s what fans will get on this tour.”
Babybird will be performing at Sheffield’s O2 Academy on Friday, 2 December, 2022. You can buy tickets to the show here: https://www.ticketmaster.co.uk/babybird-sheffield-02-12-2022/event/1F005CDE2D5A9E85
For more information, go to: https://www.babybird.info/