Ricky Gervais is perhaps best known these days as the crass, unshaven bloke from Britain who makes offensive jokes for a living and created groundbreaking TV shows like The Office and Extras.
But before the politically incorrect gags at the Golden Globes, before The Office, and before that notorious ear-piercing, high-pitched laugh of his, Gervais was a bonafide pop star who rocked glittery eye shadow and no facial hair, had a six-pack instead of a beer gut, and who sung songs about heartbreak instead of tunes about picking up girls while driving across America.
The year was 1982 and Gervais decided to form a New Wave band with his pal, Bill Macrae, called Seona Dancing because that’s what bored uni students did back in the day apparently.
The duo dabbled in the synth-heavy, highly stylised pop sound that was all the rage of that era. Unfortunately for them, Seona Dancing released only two singles, ‘More to Lose’ and ‘Bitter Heart’, both of which failed to be more than footnotes in the history of the New Romance period of pop music in the 80s. Turns out doing the same thing as everyone else isn’t the recipe for success.
Despite the glam, the synths and Gervais’ surprisingly good voice, the best thing critics had to say about Seona Dancing was that they were “an obvious rip-off of David Bowie” and the duo broke up shortly after in 1984.
While Gervais later went on to create The Office, his pop star days weren’t over just yet.
In 1985, a DJ in Manila began playing a song on the radio called ‘Fade’ by Medium and it quickly caught fire among the New Wave-loving Filipino youth. It became a staple at New Wave parties all around Manila and unexpectedly became a source of happiness to all the young people who were disillusioned by the political and economical crises going on in the Philippines at the time.
It was later revealed that ‘Fade’ was actually none other than ‘More to Lose’ by Seona Dancing and the DJ in Manila had given it a made up name in order to prevent rival radio stations from tracking it down and playing it themselves.
So without any effort, Ricky Gervais somehow became a massive pop sensation in the Philippines after he had failed at doing it back home. Talk about failing your way upwards.
Seona Dancing continues to resonate in the Philippines, so much so that the Philippine Daily Inquirer interviewed Gervais in 2014 and all they chatted about was his status as a one-hit wonder in Manila.
Looking back on it, Gervais says he was glad that pop stardom didn’t exactly work out the way he wanted because it meant he could lose the slim bod, grow seedy facial hair, be funny and famous in another field that he excelled at, and live out whatever pop star dreams he once had as David Brent.
“I am living the pretend dream, through David Brent. That’s even more fun. I think rock is quite tongue-in-cheek, anyway. I am almost glad [being a pop star] didn’t quite work out.
“If I was a rock star when I was 20, I would be dead now.”
It’s almost a shame Seona Dancing never took off (other than in the Philippines) but getting shows like The Office and old photos of Ricky Gervais looking like, well, a David Bowie knock-off is a pretty good consolation prize.