On the 21st October 2010, while walking past the Southampton Guildhall, I noticed a very large queue. It was only the middle of the afternoon. Something really big must be going on there. McFly were performing there that night. Having just begun studying journalism at university, I wanted a story, and so I decided to have a chat with the manic fans, iPod nano in hand, ready to record. I didn’t expect to be there for 30 minutes, however they were happy to speak to someone to pass the time as they waited to be let in.
Also worthy of mention is that the idea of interviewing the fans was completely impromptu as I walked home, and the idea of what to do with the results was not mine, but a lecturer’s, inspired by another magazine’s recurring feature of looking for the world’s most obsessive fans.
Believe it or not, the quotes are not twisted, and I referred to them in the precise context that they were used. I even still have the recording somewhere for proof. I also received a few positive messages from the fans mentioned by name, who found it funny and were happy for me to use their names. Despite this, there was a minor backlash as some other fans reposted it. To be fair, it is in a rather negative tone, and the possibility of them getting in trouble having mentioned the band’s drug habits probably didn’t help either. It was only ever going to be posted online for a laugh (in this instance at www.thatguywiththeglasses.com).
So here it is; my silly, overlong and possibly ill-advised article that would never be printed, that upset some McFly fans a lot.
In October, Take That’s upcoming Progress Tour, following their reunion with Robbie Williams, attracted phenomenal attention, smashing ticket sales records. People queued for days for tickets, and will no doubt queue outside the venues for a few more to secure a spot at the front. It is a staple of hugely successful pop-bands; there are always some obsessive fans. Scarily obsessive, a group of whom Nick Pollard met and interviewed prior to McFly’s sold out performance at Southampton Guildhall, as part of their current Above the Noise Tour. A couple of the merchandise-clad fans, sitting in the queue whisper in their native Italian.
Me: “What did she say?”
Her: “She says you’re crazy.”
It is a dark day when you can feel very alienated and outcast, almost daft, when surrounded by teens and ‘tweens’, who squeal at the mention of their favourite band’s name.
Having met one another on McFly’s official premium Pioneer site which lets fans communicate and even have their own queue outside the venue which is let in earlier than mere mortal normal fans. A lot of them know each other, despite whatever corner of the earth they have come from. Yes, Earth.
Michela, 26 and Silvia, 23 are one of a fair few that have come from abroad, having hailed from Florence in Italy. They point out others from the foreign roster. “Julia here has come from Norway and they come from Germany.”
Despite having been camped outside of the venue for the last two-and-a-half days, this was only a fraction of their struggle, as together they were following the band’s tour around the UK, all seven dates. Some of the fans had fed a lot of savings into their fantasies, having splashed out £40 for each ticket alone, which in total is… a hell of a lot of money – £280.
The chill of the winter does nothing to quash their spirits, as everyone is friendly with one another, in fact maybe a little too friendly. “We spoon when it’s too cold.” The band themselves don’t seem to have a problem with that though, to the point that they have a habit of joining in. Vicky, 18, from Jersey takes great pride in a close moment with a member of the group, sort of anyway. “One night Danny came out and got in my tent with me. I can now officially say that I have been in bed with a member of McFly”.
She didn’t stop at getting intimate with one member. “I had a really awkward hug with Dougie (Poynter, the band’s bassist), he gets really nervous and doesn’t know what to do. He’s a bit of a pothead. He smokes a lot of weed. I have one of his water bottles and it stinks of cannabis.”
It has become clear that the band isn’t quite as squeaky-clean as they were first promoted, considering how they have moved on from winning the Nickelodeon UK Kids Choice Award to The News of the World’s Sexiest Men of the Year. After I mention my surprise that they can be quite so rough, and my lack of McFly expertise, having avoided pop like a plague in recent years, they are quick to jump to the band’s defense before I get to mention their cheesier pop tracks of yesteryear. “They’re less worried about getting number ones now; they’re more interested in getting more people signed up to the website. It’s all about the fans.”
For some of the group, this wasn’t their first venture of this sort. In what ended up resembling an auction, they screamed in pride how many times they had seen the band, and how long they had been fans. One of the fans says that she had seen the band fifteen times, including one of their earliest shows, supporting Busted, greeted by much groaning from the rest of the group. Show off.
18-year-old Megan set herself the aim of getting each of the members’ autographs tonight, to be copied onto her arm. Permanently. “I have Danny Jones’ one tattooed here, and I’m getting the rest done when I get home.”
There is an inevitable sense of elitism in the Pioneers queue, as one of the fans, Abi, was there for her very first McFly show. The patronizing ‘aww’s that followed were reminiscent of a reaction to a newborn baby; the gig count was like an age. The band really is the focus of their lives.
The fans stood down to a couple of others that had outperformed them, to a degree that meant that even they thought they had no life. One such fan had come from Brazil and had seen the band a hundred times, and another fan, aged thirty, took great pride in being a friend of lead singer and guitarist Tom Fletcher’s mother, and having bought a pair of a member’s stinking, sweaty jeans. One fan quips “I’m surprised she isn’t raping them right now.” Charming…
I asked why they are so desperate to be at the front of the queue, as opposed to a mere few metres further back. “We get the barrier, right in the centre, right in front of Danny (Jones, lead singer and guitarist)”. Despite them having shown disgust about the purchase of the jeans, they gave some rather hypocritically revolting answers of their own. “He took a sip of his beer and spat it into the crowd. You get spit all over your face… it’s so good.” 17-year-old Kayleigh-Jayne from Eastleigh, backs her up. “It was the sweatiest gig ever, it was the best.” Lovely.
Having been flabbergasted by the aura of insanity in the queue, I conclude by asking just once more what brought all of these fans from around the country, even from overseas, to Southampton. Just… why? In perhaps the most definitive statement amongst thirty-minutes of a mixture of childish sniggers and plain filth, Vicky explains the sheer scale of how attractive they are.
“Once you’ve seen them once, it’s like an addiction, you just cannot stop. There’s no other way to describe it. If you’re not there you just cry. They’re like a drug. They’re like heroin. Busted were crack and McFly are heroin.” I’m a little unnerved by this seventeen-year-old’s drug knowledge, backing up her claim with logic, based on how long the drugs last, and how much they cost.
And these were the ladies who had the nerve to call me crazy earlier.
“I guess we’re crazy!” adds Silvia. Quite possibly.