Previously, you might have thought Bez launching his own series of fitness videos as likely as a Cooking With Armie Hammer YouTube channel, but the world is full of surprises. The fabled Happy Mondays vibes-man’s latest venture – which launched yesterday – sees him go 24 Hour Pilates People and tries to get in shape during Lockdown 3.0. He’s calling it Get Buzzin’ With Bez. What’s body coach Joe Wicks MBE going to do to compete? Grab a set of maracas and pull a whitey?
Putting the ‘E’ into ‘PE’ is just the latest unusual turn for formerly hedonistic Bez. He stood in the 2015 General Election for his Reality Party, running on an anti-fracking, free-energy and free-everything manifesto. He received 703 votes in his Salford and Eccles constituency, placing fifth, and was beaten by Labour’s Rebecca Long-Bailey.
On reality TV, he’s solid gold, whether it’s playing Scooby-Doo to Shaun Ryder’s Shaggy on Ghosthunting With The Happy Mondays (where he solicitously offered a ghost a swig of his brandy) or recording a track, ‘Ooh La La To Panama’, with the remote tribe the Embera People of the Upper Charges River on Singing In The Rainforest. Surreally even by the standards of a man who turned down a date with Julia Roberts, once lived in a cave in Morocco and broke the Guinness World Record for maraca-shaking, he was disqualified from the cosy BBC car boot-sale-ransacking game show Bargain Hunt for artificially inflating prices.
So, to Get Buzzin’ With Bez. Staring down the camera with his usual bug-eyed expression that makes it look like he can see multiple dimensions in time and space, Bez explains why he’s undertaking his keep-fit regime. “The first [lockdown], all I did was eat cake and drink myself into oblivion,” he says. “Second one, I totally missed – can’t even remember it. I’m 56 now, I’m a granddad, and I need to make some changes.”
As such, he teases us that he’s going to be trying yoga and undergoing hypnosis to kick his sugar habit. “And giving up the booze… maybe,” he adds, with the unconvincing tone of somebody resolving at 12AM on January 1 to learn Mandarin and finally write their novel.
Running around a snowy Manchester park in a hoodie and shorts, he brings his trademark self-deprecating charm and Have-A-Go-Hero sprit to the 15-minute video. Rather than a totem of athleticism, he casts himself as the out-of-shape everyman (“I’ve not run since 1999!”) with all the flexibility and joint-mobility of a Madame Tussauds waxwork, and knowingly plays on his reputation as having ingested a Periodic Table’s worth of chemicals. “Join me on my trip,” he implores. “A different trip! You know what I mean!”. He might as well add: “I want to lose more kilos than I would walking through customs!”
He’s abetted by personal trainer Andrew Naylor, who guides him through a simple introductory circuit of shoulder-taps, squats, high knees and sit-ups – three sets of 30 seconds bursts of activity followed 30 seconds rest after each. It’s not a particularly strenuous Fitbit-busting workout, and you’ll probably sweat less than Prince Andrew, but it’s very much pitched at novices and those who might be intimidated by an implausibly toned Men’s Health Australian cover-star screaming “Let’s go for the burn!” while commanding you do burpees into tuck-jumps.
If Joe Wicks (so godly you expect him to turn protein shake into wine) has the school kids – and their lockdown-horned mums and gay uncles – sewn up, Bez is pitching at the over-50s ex-Haç heads who might be persuaded to try exercise and make lifestyle improvements by someone who looks like them. It’s a sensible, easy-to-follow routine.
He suggests things will ramp up a gear for Bezwick in future episodes, as he tries out a variety of fitness regimes. Think of the comedic potential that might be gleaned from him attempting Zumba, Hot Yoga, or Ballet Fusion Core.
For comparison, I watched the latest PE With Joe, where Mr Wicks is dressed as Buzz Lightyear while doing appropriately-themed aerobics (dodging lasers and the like) to George Ezra’s ‘Shotgun’ and apologizing for letting off a heraldic fart mid-workout. Hopefully Bez follows suite in weeks to come with a Madchester-themed workout, where he dusts off the maracas to burn the calories (“You wanna lose more pounds than New Order did with the Haçienda, right?”) and blasts ‘Hallelujah’ at full volume.
Ultimately, though, Get Buzzin’ With Bez is endearing enough to suggest we’re in for a fun ride over the coming weeks. Bez once told NME he wanted to create a “Bez Broadcast Corporation” to spread peace and love, and with his YouTube channel – which also hosts his Call The Cops chat-show with Shaun Ryder – he’s perhaps nearing that dream. As most of our stomachs expand in lockdown and pulling our trousers down feels like joke-shop-snakes exploding out of a can, at least Bez is getting up off his bony-arse and doing something.
Bez’s name used to be shorthand for superfluous band members, yet he’s now nearing national treasure status. People have tried to make him the butt of their jokes – but he’s always had the last laugh. Now where’s that MBE?