Huey Lewis said it best:
“Good morning little schoolgirl/Can I come home with you?”
No, sorry. That’s something else entirely. Coincidentally it’s a Huey Lewis lyric too.
No, what i meant was this:
“Hip to be a square”
When I was about 13 I actually thought he meant that it was quite trendy to be a shape that was equal on all four sides. He was of course referring to an outlook that could be construed as being both conventional or conservative in style.
To move this one step further – I’m getting there, cool it at the back – there are many people in the world of entertainment who are just not cool. They have had their moment in the sun, were popular for a while but time has moved on and they have been left looking a little, well, “square” (conventional or conservative in style rather than equal on all four yada yada yada).
But then the wheel turns full circle – and it’s cool to be those people again. It’s hip to be a square!
So just who are the top five most unlikely comeback squares of all time!?
5. Noel Edmonds
I grew up watching Noel Edmonds on childrens TV in the early 80s on “The Multi-Coloured Swap Shop”. I don’t think I actually liked the show much but Edmonds was a recognisable face who had just come off a number of years presenting Top of the Pops. He moved to an evening slot with his light-entertinment fest, “The Late, Late Breakfast Show”. It was eventually cancelled in 1986 following the accidental death of a man bungee jumping in one of the shows regular features.
He also presented the mildly-entertaining and long-running “Telly Addicts” for 13 years but his biggest success was “The Noel Edmonds Saturday Roadshow” – which later became “Noel’s House Party” and ran from 1991 to 1998. Although remembered, perhaps unfairly for giving birth to the atrocious Mr Blobby, the show was hugely successful and surprisingly entertaining. Regular features like Wait Till I Get You Home, Gotcha and NTV were compelling viewing for several seasons. But the joke did wear thin and while the ratings did decline, Noel pulled the plug primarily because he felt it just wasn’t any good anymore.
Edmonds left the limelight and re-appeared as the subject of a 2005 TV documentary called “The Curse of Noel Edmonds” that charted his rise and fall. Edmonds had become something of a punchline for the media and people in general.
But, lo and behold, he made his incredible TV comeback in 2005 with the surprise hit, “Deal or No Deal”. He is now one of the highest-paid celebrities in television, was nominated for a BAFTA and is to return to the BBC to host “The National Lottery” show.
Comeback rating: ***
Verdict: A worthy and charismatic TV personality who deserves his second chance.
It had to be. They thrilled millions of girls – and me – in the 80s before collapsing in a haze of creative struggles, declining sales and seeming apathy for their own music. After notching up four hit albums in five years the band split after a tepid response to the darker “Memorial Beach” in 1993. Morten went off to record the excellent “Wild Seed” – largely ignored outside of Norway although it did sell 500,000 copies worldwide – while Magne (the artist formely known as Mags) forged a career in painting and sculpture. The off-beat guitarist Paul (the one that no one fancied) formed an indie-rock band with his wife called Savoy and released five albums.
The band re-formed in 1998 and released “Minor Earth | Major Sky” in 2000 – selling around 2 million copies of the critically-acclaimed album. Unfortunately the UK still largely laughed at the band – memories of their embarrassing late 80s videos still fresh in their mind, no doubt with their modern-day classic track, “Summer Moved On”, charting at #33 and getting little airplay. Their second “comeback” album, “Lifelines”, was ignored in 2002 despite containing several excellent potential singles.
But something strange happened in 2006. The media, who long enjoyed turning the knife in the band, suddenly realised that they were hot property again. Established acts like Robbie Williams, Coldplay, Oasis, Keane and U2 had spent the last couple of years name-dropping a-ha as an influence and the man in the street started to become aware again.
With a flood of promotion and a loyal fanbase egging them on, a-ha made an astonishing return to the UK Top 10 for the first time since 1988 with the title track of their eighth album, “Analogue”. Since then a second single broke the top 40 (the first time they have managed two top 40 hits from the same album since recording five of them from 1988’s “Stay on These Roads”) and they have completed a successful tour of the UK. Welcome back guys!
Comeback rating: ***1/2
Verdict: Very underrated band who will some day be recognised properly as one of the pop’s most important acts.
3. Chris Tarrant
Chris Tarrant is another TV star who was rescued from oblivion by a surprise TV quiz show hit. He achieved national fame in the 70s and early 80s on the wacky kids show, “Tiswas”. I hated Tiswas. He left the show in 1981 to present an adult version of it called “O.T.T.” but it was cancelled after one series.
Tarrant then moved in to radio, presenting the Capital Radio breakfast show for 17 years while banging out some low-brow TV shows like “Tarrant on TV”, “Man O Man” and various one-off broadcasts.
But he struck gold in 1998 when he was chosen to present “Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?”. The show was a sensation and Tarrant became the most watched man in British television. Tarrant’s pitch-perfect performances won him plaudits from every corner. His ability to come across as affable while subtly building tension for the viewers at home must rank amognst some of the most compelling viewing of recent years. After watching him present dumbed-down shows for years, it was a pleasant surprise to see him in this role. Effectively he went from being Jim Carrey to Patrick Stewart overnight.
Comeback rating: ***1/2
Verdict: Although never out of the limelight like Edmonds was, there is no British TV presenter who can boast success like he can.
2. John Travolta
“Perfect”, “The Experts”, “Chains of Gold”, “Shout”, “Eyes of an Angel”. Ever heard of those films? Not surprised. For John Travolta the 80s and early 90s consisted of light dramas and TV movies – a real come down from the glory days of “Carrie”, “Grease” “Saturday Night Fever” and, uh, “Staying Alive”. While his string of flops was punctuated by the surprise hit, “Look Who’s Talking” ($7.5m budget – $297m worldwide gross), he went and spoiled it all by starring in two unnecessary and dismal sequels.
So once again Travolta was damaged goods – a bit of joke – some might say, uncool?
Enter Quentin Tarantino, a young director who had scored an underground hit with “Reservoir Dogs”. His second movie, the ambitious “Pulp Fiction”, featured big names in Harvey Keitel, Christopher Walken, Bruce Willis, rising stars like Samuel L Jackson, Steve Buscemi and Tim Roth, and young credible Hollywood actors like Uma Thurman, Eric Stoltz and Frank Whaley. So who does Tarantino bring in as one of the main characters?
I remember seeing the trailers for “Pulp Fiction” and shaking my head – Travolta? John “Straight to Video” Travolta? In a cool film about gangsters? But Travolta pulled off an extremely well-measured performance as the calm, stoned hitman who is having the strangest day of his life and it was onwards and upwards from there. Studios queued around the block to offer him work and he decided the best approach was to take on all comers and count the money.
He has moved around genres with different levels of success. He struck comedy gold in “Get Shorty” and political satire “Primary Colours”. When he went to the action genre, he found turkeys in “Swordfish” and “Broken Arrow” but was a guilty pleasure in the likes of the excellent “Face/Off” and “The Punisher”, and he starred in one of 1998’s most highly regarded movies, “The Thin Red Line”.
But really most of his films fall somewhere in to the “not bad” category and the likes of “Domestic Disturbance”, “She’s So Lovely”, “The General’s Daughter”, “Lucky Numbers” and “Basic” entertaining audiences, if not the critics. But Travolta is popular with audiences and he is able to wash off a flop as easily as any actor can.
If someone had said to you at the beginning of 1994 that Travolta would be one of the highest paid actors in Hollywood 12 months later, they would have quite possibly hit you very hard with an ashtray. But he was – and still is. And I’m bloody delighted about it.
Comeback rating: ****
Verdict: Can do what he likes and still be loved. As long as it’s not a sequel to “Battlefield Earth”
1. David Hasselhoff
If you were to run a brand recognition test on David Hasselhoff you would probably find that few people between the ages of 16 and 60 wouldn’t know who he is. But everyone knew him for the wrong reasons. His campy performances as Michael Knight in 1980s action series “Knight Rider” was followed by his, uh, campy performance in 1990s action series “Baywatch”.
Hasselhoff always took himself a lot more seriously than anyone else ever did and so it was not a great shock when he decided to move in to music in the mid 80s. While we looked on in amusement central Europe was lapping up the likes of “Looking For Freedom”. As the Berlin Wall came down, the track became a German anthem, reaching #1 for eight weeks. His album was #1 for three months.
Since those great moments in 1989, he has since released six platinum albums in Europe and a string of cheesy videos like “Secret Agent Man”, “Song of the Night” and “Wings of Tenderness”. Looking and listening to the videos it is hard to work out whether Hasselhoff is taking himself seriously or not. Surely he cannot be that self-unaware?
While he built a $100m fortune from his acting and singing successes his personal life has suffered. He filed for divorce from his wife of 16 years and she has levelled accusations of violent behaviour at his door while alcohol abuse allegations have followed him around recently.
But Hasselhoff has the Internet to thank for his re-invention as cult figure, “The Hoff”. He is now the focus of many fan websites that play up his campy image and he has been embraced with a loving respect by the online community. His recent pop video “Jump In My Car”, his stint as a judge on Simon Cowell’s “America’s Got Talent” TV show and his Pipex Internet adverts, have solidified his popularity. In fact Pipex have announced that their broadband connections and brand awareness have increased 50% since they hired Hasselhoff.
Key to his comeback is the fundamental change in attitude towards his own career. Where previously he tried to convince the world that he was a serious performer (he once told Brigitte Nielsen in an interview that his music made him feel like he was an “emotional doctor”) self-parodic appearances in movies like “The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie”, “Dodgeball” and “Eurotrip” showed that he had eased up on that vision.
Now he’s set for a brand new level of popularity with his first ever UK single, “Jump In My Car”, due out on October 2nd. A campaign from Radio 1, The Sun and the “Get Hoff To Number One” website should ensure that he’s in with a fighting chance.
And I think we should all rejoice at that.
Comeback rating: *****
Verdict: Spectacular comeback but let’s just hope that negative headlines about his personal life don’t erase all the great work.
Anyone else think of a great comeback from someone who wasn’t considered cool anymore??