Does Rock ‘N’ Roll Kill Braincells?! – Blue

In Does Rock ‘N’ Roll Kill Braincells?!, we quiz an artist on their own career to see how much they can remember – and find out if the booze, loud music and/or tour sweeties has knocked the knowledge out of them. This week: the boy band take the ultimate test

1
In the 2003 film Love Actually, Blue are locked in a Christmas Number One chart battle with ageing rock star Billy Mac (played by Bill Nighy). What does he write on a poster of you?

Antony Costa: “Small cocks or something?”

CORRECT. He writes ‘We’ve got little pricks’ in a speech bubble coming out of your mouths.

Duncan James: “We’ve never seen it.”

Costa: “But every Christmas, you’re bound to get a text about it. We were supposed to be in the film, but because we were touring at the time there was a schedule clash, [so] they obviously used pictures instead. There was talk of us walking on as he’s slagging us off and we were going to have a stand-off. That would have been fun to do, for sure.”

2
Blue were once flown to meet fashion designer Donatella Versace because you were her favourite group. But which band had the record company confused you with?

Simon Webbe:Blur.”

CORRECT.

Costa: “Her PR company told us, ‘Look, Donatella’s a massive fan. She really wants to meet you guys’. So we all went and got kitted out at Versace in Bond Street, she sent a private plane and we watched her show at Milan Fashion Week. This was just after ‘All Rise’ had come out [in 2001]. Afterwards, we were standing in line to meet her like we’re meeting the Queen – God rest her soul! – after the Royal Variety Performance. Donatella walks past us and gives us a dirty look, so I asked: ‘What’s her problem?!’ Anyway, it turned out she’d invited Blur, not Blue. We didn’t find out until we got home, by which point we had all the free Versace gear, so we didn’t care. Years later, she Instagram-d me a picture of her and Damon Albarn saying: ‘See, now I’ve met Blur!’”

Who’s been the most unexpected person who’s turned out to be a Blue fan?

Webbe: “For me, it was the Brazilian footballer Robinho. When I met him at a football awards ceremony, he sang ‘All Rise’ at me. I was starstruck.”

James:Liam Gallagher. I’ve met him a few times and he’s always been lovely about Blue. He said we’re all grafters and loved our music, which surprised me because I did not expect him to like us.”

Webbe: “When [Blue bandmate] Lee [Ryan] covered a Foo Fighters song [‘Best Of You’] on Radio 1’s Live Lounge, Dave Grohl heard it and had respect for Blue from there.”

Costa: “I didn’t know that.”

3
How many points did Blur… sorry, Blue score when you represented the UK at Eurovision with the song ‘I Can’ in 2011?

James: “Well we came 11th, and I thought we scored 100 points? It was a different voting system back then to what we have now.”

CORRECT.

Costa: “It was great fun to do, though, and an honour to represent your country. It was hardest work we’ve ever done.”

Webbe: “It felt like we were stepping onto a different planet in a different universe. Eurovision is its own entity: it’s like the World Cup of music. You get up on-stage and sing for three minutes after 10 days of back-to-back interviews. Underneath you’re being humble saying [adopts forced grin] ‘It’s all about the taking part!’. But nah! We wanted to win, man! And I think we represented the country well.”

James: “I still remember Bulgaria gave us 12 points.”

Webbe: “We need to do some gigs in Bulgaria, bruv.”

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4
What number did your 2003 cover of ‘Signed, Sealed, Delivered I’m Yours’ reach on the Hungarian charts?

James: “Number 7?”

WRONG. 12.

James: “Great! We did not know that. I can sleep at night now.”

What was it like duetting with Stevie Wonder on it?

Webbe: [Deadpan] “Blinding.”

Costa: “It was amazing, especially when he started singing ‘My Cherie Amour’ a cappella. He showed us how a real professional works. I remember we were talking about going to see a movie that night, and I wanted to get him involved in the conversation and asked him if he’d seen any films recently he could recommend. I asked him: ‘Do you want to join us?’. To which he responded: ‘Yeah. How about I drive you?’ [Laughs] Everybody’s mouths dropped, but it wasn’t meant with malice! I’d just forgot he was blind.”

Stevie Wonder wasn’t the only musical titan Blue collaborated with. In 2002, you duetted with Elton John on a version of ‘Sorry Seems to Be the Hardest Word’. Apparently Sir Reg gives people he encounters drag nicknames, such as ‘Britney Shears’ for Scissor Sister Jake Shears. Did any of Blue receive one?

James: “No, but he gave us all necklaces as gifts, though. But we never got a drag name!”

Costa: “He was a nice guy. Professional, knew what he wanted, and only asked for lots of flowers and fruit. He told us: ‘Listen, if you get to my age and you’re still doing what you’re doing, then you’re doing something right’. Hats off to him for being so great with us.”

5
On the ITV children’s show Ministry of Mayhem, Duncan was once ‘hypnotised’ to believe a mop was who?

James:Britney Spears.”

CORRECT.

James: “I was partly acting along to be fair, but they did do the hypnosis thing and it made me relaxed enough to get to the point where, although I didn’t fully believe the mop was Britney, I could go along with it comfortably without feeling like a dickhead. Although if I watch it back now, I cringe: ‘Oh, you are a proper dickhead!’ [Laughs]”

What was the most unusual thing you had to do in the name of promo?

James: “I remember being on SMTV Live where we were in a sketch where Cat Deeley was marrying Dec [of ‘Ant &’ fame], and Mariah Carey was her bridesmaid and we got to know her. I once spent a whole Virgin Atlantic flight from LA to London at the bar with her doing shots of neat vodka, us both giggling like little schoolkids while she’s singing riffs in my ear. It was very rock‘n’roll. She drank me under the table! But then I’m a lightweight, so anyone can drink me under the table!”

6
Antony, you appeared on Never Mind The Buzzcocks twice in 2006 and 2008. Name both of your teammates.

Costa: “Trisha Goddard and er, was Martin Freeman one?”

CORRECT.

Costa: “I’m glad it’s back on Sky, and I prefer its new format with Greg Davis as host, who’s funny and genuinely loves Blue. Back when I did it, I felt like an easy target. But I can take the piss out of myself and I got a few quippy comebacks, and afterwards [its  host] Simon Amstell said to me: ‘Yeah, respect!”

You were subject to a particularly brutal roasting from Amstell. Did any of it get to you?

Costa:Of course it did! ‘Cause off-camera everybody’s really nice and then as soon as it starts, you have a target painted on your back. It felt like a surreal program to do, but I’m glad the format’s changed a bit now.”

7
Which political figure did Lee Ryan allegedly once upset by giving her joke shop chewing gum?

James: “Cherie Blair.”

CORRECT.

James: “He didn’t tell us he was going to do it until afterwards – until her mouth had turned blue and she came back with black teeth. She was a good sport about it and took it as a joke.”

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8
Blue won the Best Newcomer award at the 2002 BRITs. Name any three of the acts you beat.

James:Liberty X? Black Eyed Peas?”

WRONG. You beat: Atomic Kitten, Gorillaz, Elbow, Mis-Teeq, So Solid Crew, Tom McRae, Starsailor, Turin Brakes and Zero 7 to the accolade.

James: “The label told us we definitely hadn’t won that BRIT, so we didn’t even look at who was in our category. All of a sudden, our names were announced and it was a bit of a blur.”

Costa: “Wow! We beat Elbow!”

Webbe: “And Gorillaz as well” [Blue break into an a capella rendition of Gorilliaz’s ‘Clint Eastwood’]

Costa: “That’s tuneage! The BRITs were fun, but we don’t remember them because we were Lego-d. We were blotto.”

Who were the best bands to party with back in the day?

James: “I remember being in Asia with the Black Eyed Peas and partying with them, Gareth Gates and the Pussycat Dolls.”

Costa: “We gave Gareth Gates his first ever tequila. That was funny. He ended up rat-arsed and we threw him in the pool. Our trainer nearly had a fight with the Black Eyed Peas when one of them said he was a Thai Boxer and started doing all these Karate Kid moves towards him.”

9
What score out of 10 did NME award Blue’s debut album ‘All Rise’ in 2002?

Costa: “One and a half out of five?”

Webbe: “It’s out of 10….”

Costa: “One and a half out of 10? [Laughs]”

WRONG. We rated it 5/10 at the time. 

Webbe: “That’s a surprising score from NME! Love that.”

Costa: “It’s weird that we’re at the age now where people are saying: ‘I grew up on your music’. When we met Tom Grennan, he told us: ‘’One Love’ was my jam, mate, when I was growing up!’”

10
In 2019, Popbitch ran a quiz round which listed a series of quotes which players had to identify as being either from Lee Ryan or Bros’ Matt Goss. But how would you fare in it? You need over 50 per cent for the full point.

“I respect sceptics. Do I want Bigfoot to exist? I’d love it if Bigfoot existed. Am I sceptical? Yeah.”

Costa: “Fuck knows! Matt Goss?”

CORRECT. Popbitch readers wrongly thought it was Ryan.

“I have to say I’m probably one of the nicest celebrities I’ve ever met.”

Webbe: “Lee? [Laughs]”

CORRECT.

“It’s a weird thing to say, but how do you know you’re not a planet?”

Webbe: “That’s definitely Lee again.”

WRONG. It’s Matt Goss.

Costa: “That’s never Matt. G’wan Matt!”

“I had a dream a cat came onto me and I had a sexual relationship with a cat. That was a weird one. Not that I’m into fiddling with an animals or anything.”

Costa: “Er… Lee?”

CORRECT.

“When are we going to start using the other two-thirds of our brain? How do we know we can’t levitate?”

Costa: “Lee?”

WRONG. It was Matt.

Webbe: “We should have got that after the planet mistake. Matt’s very spiritual, isn’t he?”

ONE FULL POINT OVERALL. Did you laugh at the many Lee-isms at the time?

Webbe: “Yeah. There’s things in the band we don’t take seriously, and we’re only human. Whether it was negative or good, we’re in the business of being spoken about, so we’d just roll with the punches, didn’t let it get to us too much and hope that the music is powerful enough to overshadow everything else.”

Tell us about your latest album ‘Heart & Soul’…

Costa: “Back in January 2020, we went to a studio in Sweden on a songwriting camp and there the single ‘Haven’t Found You Yet’ was born, which was the catalyst for the new material. We didn’t go there with any plan. We just wanted to write a few tunes and thought, ‘If we get something, great. If we don’t, fuck it, we’ve got nothing to worry about.’”

The verdict: 7/10

Costa: “Anything above average, we’re happy with!”

Blue’s album ‘Heart & Soul’ is available now. The band are currently touring the UK.

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