We’ve Got a Fuzzbox and We’re Gonna Use It!
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 March 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 that was 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, paving the way for a comeback single and 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 isn’t over. Still the most successful British all-female band in pop history, Vix and Maggie have assembled an exciting new
line-up to take the band into a bright new chapter. They’ll pay tribute to Jo and celebrate the remarkable things they achieved together, smashing rules and regulations and capturing the Fuzzbox sound and spirit. Who knows, they might even turn the sunshine pink.
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