Extract From Book Freak Like Me: Confessions of a 90s Pop Groupie
Did you ever used to sit at home on a Friday night as a kid, staring at Top of the Pops on the TV thinking how cool it would be if you were actually in the audience or even got the chance to meet your favourite band? For most of us, reading about them in Smash Hits was as close as we ever got (I was 19 when I did work experience at the BBC and got to watch Top of the Pops being made) but for pop fan, Malcolm McLean, seeing his favourite bands in magazines just wasn’t enough. He actually managed to hang out at Spice Girls’ parents’ houses and sneak onto All Saints’ tour bus. Oh, and have a chat with Cher outside the Live & Kicking studio!
In his book, Freak Like Me, Malcolm Mclean recounts of all his bizarre encounters, meeting the legendary pop stars that made the 90s so sublime and ridiculous as they were. From Beyoncé to B*Witched, Malcolm met them! But it’s not just wall-to-wall celebs, this memoir of Malcolm’s youth also portrays the darker (and duller) side of being a teenager in the days before the Internet. School bullies; struggling with his sexuality and constant squabbling with mates about what so-and-so said or did fill the pages amongst the star spotting.
Freak Like Me is a hilarious and poignant book that will transport you right back to an era that feels like only yesterday yet is somehow a totally different world. We didn’t even have mobile phones back then let alone Instagram. How did we survive?!
Check out Malcolm’s hilarious extract below and enter to win his brilliantly candid and funny book- I have 3 to give away!
Gemma and I arranged to go to Top of the Pops at the end of June. Luckily we managed to blag spare tickets from the arriving audience members again. We stood bored through Blur and Suede, but our mood improved when human Ken doll Adam Rickitt appeared on stage with his pumped-up tits, to – the greatest and gayest late-nineties pop song of them all (quite an accolade) – ‘I Breathe Again’. Oddly, this man, touching his body in a crop top and shiny combats to a soundtrack of heavy moaning and a tinny dance beat, would later be selected by David Cameron as a Conservative MP candidate.
Some new singer from America (and star of the recent highly respected movie Anaconda) named Jennifer Lopez was also there to sing her debut single, ‘If You Had My Love’. Despite being Number 1 in the States that entire month, in a world before YouTube, hardly anyone knew the song over here.
J-Lo was quiet as a mouse that night, barely muttering a word to the staff, let alone the crowd. Wearing what looked like a sparkly bin-bag LBD, she admittedly looked incredible while her less-glam backing dancers sported Croydon facelifts and black pleather netball skirts.
She came back out later that evening to do a pre-record of her hands-in-the-air, bongos-galore future smash, ‘Waiting for Tonight’, so that she wouldn’t have to grace our shores again to do promo for a good while.
For this number, Jen was decked out in pearl necklaces around her collar and armpits, with her dancers stomping around her in sun hats and white versions of the netball skirt.
Most of the journey home that night was spent, phones to ears, calling every airline that flew between London and Dublin. Gemma and I were desperately trying to find out which flights the big name guests would be taking to the wedding of the century that was happening that weekend…
Victoria and David would be tying the knot on giant red and gold thrones in a castle somewhere in the middle of Ireland. The world’s media were desperate for photos of the event and, as a precaution, the future Mr and Mrs Beckham had Ireland’s answer to the Berlin Wall erected. Behind 17-foot barriers, away from the paparazzi’s lenses was an event so lacking in subtlety, it makes Jordan and Peter’s nuptials look decidedly low-key.
Meanwhile, back in London, two other huge events in 1999’s pop calendar were also happening that weekend. Sultry divas All Saints were headlining G-A-Y’s Pride event on the Saturday night, while Geri was performing at Party in the Park on the Sunday with 100,000 screaming teenagers in glorious thirty-four-degree heat. Yes, Geri would be lapping up the attention on Posh and Becks’ wedding day – the shade of it all!
We had a tight schedule, but we were pros. Heathrow, Piccadilly Line, Old Compton Street to get G-A-Y tickets, up to the Astoria; no sleep, wander the streets of the West End in the small hours before fourteen hours of solid pop! And to top it all off, going back to Heathrow on Monday for the post-wedding analysis with Sporty, Scary and Baby.
Since my groupie friends had acrimoniously split into two factions, I was spending a lot more time with Gemma. She was an old hand at this stalking malarkey, and co-opted me as her assistant. As I had no job to go to, I agreed to dedicate the rest of the summer to seeing the Spice Girls wherever they happened to be, but by 1999 they were pretty much on hiatus. After Geri left the summer before, the four remaining girls were either forging solo careers, enjoying their millions or going into labour – some were doing all three.
With David and Victoria’s upcoming wedding on all the front pages, we knew the rest of the Spices would be flying to Dublin for the big day and we had to see them before they boarded the Aer Lingus party jet. We perched on the kerb outside Heathrow Terminal 1, me in camouflage combats, Gemma in Buffalo platforms.
Basking in the evening sun, we sat surrounded by black cabs and BMWs, breathing in the sweet smell of kerosene and carbon monoxide. From this prime spot we could see everyone arriving.
First up was Sporty, with spiky bleached hair and gold tooth, looking like a Scouse Long John Silver. We made friendly small talk, keeping one eye out for the other two’s grand arrivals. Then we bade her farewell, as she struggled through the revolving doors with a trolley loaded up with Adidas and confetti.
Minutes later, another taxi turned up and two girls in their early twenties stepped out: one with voluminous curly hair, the other with long blonde locks. As Scary turned round we saw she had a baby over one shoulder, drooling down her Gucci top. ‘A’RIGHHHT, YOU TWO!’ Her thick Yorkshire accent greeted us against a backdrop of clucking luggage trolleys. ‘Double trouble,’ Emma added with a big grin. ‘God, not you two!’ Gemma shouted back. In that moment, we felt like their best mates in the world. Obviously if we were real mates we would have got a wedding invite. Maybe they both got lost in the post.
No PAs with them that evening; we had them ALL to ourselves! They were clearly already in party mode, ready to knock back a couple of Baileys in the First Class Lounge before getting on it at their mate’s wedding. It just happened to be Posh and Becks’, and half the world had been scrambling for details of the event. Here we were, asking them what they were going to wear and guest list gossip.
We helped the struggling Mel and Emma with their luggage, which mainly consisted of breast pumps, a Burberry pram and enough other baby-related crap to set up a branch of Mothercare. It was the first time we’d seen Phoenix, Mel’s four-month-old baby, and, albeit a little cranky, her jet-black hair slicked up on end was ridiculously cute.
We let them check-in in peace (how kind!), but Phoenix immediately started throwing a tantrum, livid that her mum had had the audacity to talk to some Irish woman with a green hat and polyester neckerchief. Mel apologised profusely to the mildly star-struck staff about her screaming tot, then turned to Gemma and I and beckoned us over.
‘EH, you two – can y’entertain ‘er a min while we do this?’
‘Erm… okay?’ we said, having little experience with babies, other than the Bunton kind. I stood there blowing raspberries and giggling, praying she wouldn’t puke down my C&A vest.
‘Ta, guys. Yer the best,’ said Mel after, as we walked them to the security gate. We said our goodbyes and wished them both a fun time.
‘It’s gonna be A-MAZING!’ Emma squealed, as they headed off to their gate, waving back at us. My vest, thankfully, was vomit-free.
‘Big fans?’ the airport woman asked us with a grin. ‘Err, obviously!’ Gemma replied conceitedly, before we skipped off to the Tube station to make our way to All Saints’ G-A-Y performance.
Excitingly, you can win 3 copies of the book (one per winner).
Ends 24th July 2020.
If the winners do not reply within 7 days of the email sent, new winners will be selected at random.