Is it Friday yet?
In 1991, Richard Markwell was a young man poised on the brink of fame and fortune as part of the boy band Egg Friday. Despite some early success, with two top ten hits and a nomination for Best New Act at the Brit Awards, their short career was to end in tragedy for one member of the group.
“At the peak of our popularity we were all in our early to mid-twenties. Somebody from the record company told me to lie and say that I was 21. We all had to conform to the back-story that had been written for us. After a club appearance in Grays, which was down the road from where I lived, our manager took me into a back room and instructed me to break up with my girlfriend. When I refused he said: 'Well she can't come to your shows any more and I don't want you mentioning her in interviews.'
“Sean was supposed to pretend to be 19, which was funny because he was already starting to lose his hair. He used to wear a blue paisley bandanna to cover it up. When they exhumed his body in the back garden at Morecombe Avenue...
“...I knew it was him even before he was formally identified. I just had a feeling: That was where he had been all this time... We never stopped looking for him. Nobody ever gave up.
“His sister told me that he had been buried still wearing the bandanna. As it rotted away the blue dye had seeped into his skull and discoloured the bone.”
“From day one Egg Friday was a manufactured band. None of us knew each other beforehand. I answered an advert in the local paper and was called to an audition at a community centre in Tilbury. We were all from dancing/performing arts backgrounds, with the exception of Joe who was a county swimming champion. We nick-named him the 'breaststroker'. Sean and Craig were both credible vocalists so they ended up doing most of the singing. The rest of us just muddled along in the background.
“Our career, if you can call it that, was an eighteen month whirlwind. We were raised to a great height and then dropped without warning. The amount of coverage we were getting in the media, mainly in teen magazines was massively out of proportion to our actual success. We all thought these articles and appearances were driven by fan demand. The truth is that, beavering away behind the scenes, there was a team of people who we never saw attempting to create a buzz for our music. We were being positioned and marketed to a target audience.
“In total we had three singles. The first two were top ten hits. Egg Friday went in at number seven but the following week it was number 33. Tender Lies was number two for a week. We lost out on the top spot to a Luther Vandross remix. Our cover of My Girl went to number 14 and was tagged on to a Christmas re-release of our first album.
“The album did okay. Not as well as everybody hoped;. That should have been a warning to us but we were all quit naïve.
“Our first TV appearance was for a Saturday morning kids show. It was filmed on Mitcham Common in South London. We mimed our debut single inside an inflatable castle, up to our knees in foam. What we didn't know was that some teenage girls had gone around the back. They were blowing up condoms like balloons and writing obscene messages on them with magic marker – 'Fuck me Sean,' 'Eat me out' and so on. They were pitching them over the walls while we were performing.
“Fortunately, given that it was a live broadcast, the wind was blowing the condoms over the top of the castle before they came into shot. After we finished one of the presenters made some comment about 'a swarm of balloons.'
“When we all dived into the foam at the end and started chucking it about, that was the happiest moment for us as a group. If you were making a film and you wanted it to have a happy ending you'd have stopped it right there.
“We all knew that Sean was gay. It was ironic because he was always the girls' favourite. He always got the most fan mail. The incident in the Ipswich hotel was nonsense (Sean Perry was charged with sexually assaulting two under-age girls in his hotel room – the charges were later dropped). The problem for Sean was that he wasn't 'out' and he didn't want to be 'out'. His parents were very old fashioned and Victorian. He didn't want them to know about his sexuality. As tragic and ridiculous as it might sound he was prepared to face the charges rather than tell everyone that he was gay.
“The second album had ridiculous title - I want to go to the Fair - I don't know who came up with that. The cover was a photograph of us swaggering in a row through a fairground at night with sticks of candy-floss. That wasn't staged. It was a picture our PR took of us one evening outside Darlington.
“The record company had given up on the band and were keeping us at arms length. I think they were hoping to recoup some of the money they had already invested, but they weren't prepared to spend much more. We were saddled with a different team of writers who didn't really care about us as a group. Most of what we recorded had already been rejected by other artists.
“We were dropped a month before the album came out. It ended up selling a couple of hundred copies. Suddenly you find yourself in a situation where nobody from your old life wants to talk to you any more. You're not quite famous enough to parlay your celebrity into a career in TV or on stage. You have no job. You have no money. All your friends from school have careers and are in the process of settling down...
“Fortunately I managed to get a job in a bank. I had only been there a few weeks when somebody took a photo of me working behind the counter. It ran as a story in a couple of the tabloids. I think that was the last time I was in the papers.
"Sean's sister, Gill, contacted me six months after the band was dropped. She told me that Sean had been sleeping rough in London. It shook me up a bit. Here was someone who had received fan mail from all over the world. Girls had screamed at him and sent him their underwear. Now some of these same people were probably walking past him in the street. Later, when I think she'd decided that she could trust me, Gill confided that Sean had a drug problem. It shocked me because nobody in the band ever even drank that much. His family got him into rehab but he walked out after a couple of weeks.
“I remember getting a call from Gill in November 1994, asking me if I had had any recent contact with Sean. She sounded concerned. He was sleeping rough again but nobody had seen him for a few weeks. None of the people he associated with seemed to know where he had gone. We reported him missing to the police but they weren't really interested.
“In November, 2005, Graham Nibbs was arrested and charged with multiple murders. He had been picking up homeless men in London, taking them back to his house and strangling them. I saw the photos of some of his victims on the news one evening. They were all boyish-looking and blue-eyed. I think then, deep down I knew what had happened.
“After the police finished searching the house they moved on to the garden. That's where they found Sean.
“Is it Friday Yet? is a charitable trust set up by myself and Gillian Perry. It aims to help homeless young people by providing them with the training and skills that will give them a stable foundation and keep them employed and off the streets. We also do signposting to charities offering support for victims of drug addiction and sexual abuse, and mental health organisations.
“Recently Egg Friday received an offer from a promoter to take part in a 90s revival show. I don't think any of us would consider doing it without Sean. Plus I don't really have the figure for it anymore. I have a pair of teenage daughters who would both be absolutely mortified at the prospect of me whipping my shirt off on-stage.”