String

Frazier front
Typical! (7″ mix) / String // Storm (Live Mix) / Typical! (Live mix) (Virgin Records 10″ single, 1989)

I think of paper and I think of string, I think of everything the postman brings. I think of nothing when you think like this, I think of crosses that we mean as kisses.

 

 

Some of the best things in my life have happened to me through the mail,

(and)

sometimes in life it’s what’s on the other side is better.

 

 

I like small details. Like the fact that the band name logo on the cover in the square at the top, and then the seven separate letters and exclamation point below it are in spot gloss, shiny against the matte sheen of the card, and which are also repeated on the back.

I like the fact that Frazier Chorus songs sing of small things too. It’s an undervalued thematic constant. This is important stuff.

The b-side to the band’s second single on Virgin Records is a small wonder, even more so that they made it themselves away from the bigger budget and record company bluster of the hopeful chart pop song. It wasn’t of course, that elusive chart pop hit. They never had one and yet still it resonates with me.

String is about anticipating something good in the post, as they call it in England, the very idea of which has been a significant part of my life. I found my new life in the USA through the post, beginning over thirty years ago, and then again this next life I live now through the very same thing. My whole day can be dashed if I come home from work and twist my key to open an empty mail-box.

Tim Freeman understands this too. He’s a romantic like me. He’s also the singer and songwriter in Frazier Chorus, a band who were once so unpopular and lacking in credibility that even Nigel Blackwell, leader of the magnificent folk-indie outfit Half Man Half Biscuit, had a pop at them in one of his band’s songs; “Inspired by no one, other groups bore us”, he sang. “How can you say we sound like Frazier Chorus?”

I met Tim Freeman once, one night in a venue in Manchester called The Boardwalk, notable for being the place that Oasis used to rehearse in before they got famous. Like most significant locations in my past it isn’t there anymore.

On this one night I’d bought a ticket to the one and only time I saw them live and was excited to see Tim standing in a small circle of admirers after the show. I’d bought the three singles they’d released from their debut album Sue, and was determined to speak to him as he was on Virgin Records, the same label as my band at the time.

(I didn’t want to tell him that I’d got his band’s first album for free from the record company. I wasn’t sure he’d like that very much.)

I politely stuck out my hand and said to him that I was in a band on the same record label. Intrigued, he said; “Oh yeah? What band is that then?” I told him the name of my band – a name I still struggle to tell anyone about even to this day because it’s so stupid – and he says; “Oh, right.” Pause. “I’ve heard of you.”

Well, that was me done right there and then.

(I’d had a good idea that my time on the record label was going to be brief. There was just always something in the air that made me feel it wasn’t going to be that special for us, hence the reason why I was so keen to rack up on the free stuff. I’d even called a representative from Virgin who was going to meet us at a showcase in Blackpool and told her to bring along a couple of LP records if she could. She did, and one of those two records was Sue.)

It sounds trite to say it now but I really didn’t care what happened to me in my band after that. Tim Freeman had heard of us. That would do nicely for me, thank you very much.

You lot reading this blog might well not have the slightest idea what Frazier Chorus sounds like, and probably don’t even care. Tim Freeman? Who is he anyway? But I expect the chances are very strong that you’ve watched a version of Tim performed in an excellent UK TV comedy show called The Office.

That’s because Tim’s younger brother, the actor Martin Freeman, based the character of Tim whom he was playing – and I love it that Martin’s character has the same name – on his brother in the show. That wonderfully understated, regular everyday nice chap Tim, quiet and lovable, who had a seismic skill at knowing the exact point to glance ever so briefly at the camera, and henceforth won all of our hearts, was based on his elder brother, the almost pop star.

There’s a great UK genealogy documentary series called Who Do You Think You Are that recently featured Martin in season six, searching for his paternal grandfather. I watched the show on You Tube and was thrilled to catch a brief glimpse of Tim in it. (I hope that Martin insisted he could be in there.) Tim had very much gone to ground after three Frazier Chorus albums, and I had no idea where he was or what he was doing.

He’d probably retreated back into normal life; making a cup of tea, or falling asleep on the sofa with the TV on, or sitting at the window watching cars pass by, maybe standing at a bus stop and shivering in the cold, all of which are featured in Frazier Chorus songs.

Like Tim’s Virgin Records label-mate Colin Moulding from the mighty XTC, who would have been recording Oranges and Lemons and Nonsuch as Frazier Chorus were working on their two albums for the same label, Colin too sang of the simplicity and joy of normal everyday life, like sitting and waiting for the postman to call.

If you think you might want to know Tim better, or to see if he even looks like his younger and more famous brother, you can squint at my scan up there because that’s Tim in shadow behind the letter ‘C’ on the cover; hiding from the spotlight and barely noticeable, shrinking back into nothingness again.

He’s a wonderfully underrated songwriter is Tim Freeman, and you could do a lot worse than to hear him.

You could start with String.

It’s such a sweet and quiet place to begin.

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3 thoughts on “String

  1. Thanks for another fab read – amazed to read Martin was Tim’s brother, such talent in the family. I’ve been reminded myself of Tim’s lyrical prowess in my discovery of a new band, Diagrams, who ‘tip the wink’ it seems to the great Fraziers (worth a check out methinks). In an alternate universe these bands would get a much richer recognition…

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  2. Forgive the random 2 years late comment but I have to thank you for this! Your post has been passed around among Martin’s fans recently (and I’m a huge fan) but while I was aware of the Tim/Office connection I’d never gone looking for the music. Now I’m hooked! What a great band, sad that their output was so small. You’re right, the lyrics are terrific and I love the way that they are quite melancholy but juxtaposed against the almost bouncy pop and Tim’s smooth, sweet voice. Lovely stuff. Steven Moffat has said of Martin Freeman that he “finds a sort of poetry in the ordinary man” and I’m now wondering to what degree that has been influenced by his big brother, there’s a really similar theme running through here I think.

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    1. No, but thank you, indeed. I truly appreciate your kind words. This is a wonderful surprise to wake up to on a snowbound Sunday morning. I’d been considering recently whether to even continue with the blog or not and you have just answered my question, and I shall try to post something new today. I have a new scanner! To say that Tim and Martin are characteristically hewn from the same cloth would be something of an understatement, and I’ve just watched the scene from Who Do You Think You Are again to confirm it. I’m probably one of a very small cache of folk who were more excited to see Tim on there than Martin. You can see it in Martin’s eyes when he’s with Tim, he is so very proud of his brother alright. No doubt about it. Thanks for your kind words. It makes me think there’s life in the old blog yet ha ha.

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