Boyzone, the ‘Phonics and Amended-Object Fandom

I was listening to BBC Radio 2 driving into work this week and they played the new song by the Stereophonics. When it finished Chris Evans, the presenter, said “that’s the news song by the ‘Phonics. That’s what their fans call them” which made me laugh but also made me think about my own fandom in relation to the band (as well as the display of subcultural capital by Chris Evans!).

I live in Aberdare, which is where the Stereophonics are from. I went to the same comprehensive school as they did, my mother worked with Stuart Cable’s wife, I drank in the same local as them, and my dad nearly crashed into Kelly. They’re local boys, and their first couple of albums had local songs. They were songs about places I knew, people I knew and feelings I knew. Plus it was the kind of music I liked. All that added up to me, my sister, my dad, and a lot of my friends being fans of the Phonics. I’ve seen them in concert a couple of times, got a signed birthday card from. My sister (head girl) had her photo taken with Stuart when he came to school and a load of the kids I knew mitched off lessons and went to Aberdare to appear in one of their music videos. For a good few years I was a fan, and I carried that fandom awy to university with me. In 2003 Stuart was sacked by the band. It caused uproar in among fans, especially in Aberdare. I didn’t agree with Stuart being told to leave the band, and for me the Phonics continuing without him just weren’t the Phonics. The last album of theirs I bought was Language. Sex. Violence. Other?, which  was released in March 2005 and was their first album with the new drummer. It is very different to their earlier albums, and I think I’ve listened to it once.

2015-05-15 12.12.36Stuart leaving the band was, for me, the end of my fandom. Although the band continued, they weren’t the same (for me at least) – they weren’t the Stereophonics. Although two of the original band members remained, the name was the same, the sound was broadly the same, something was different. The Stereophonics became an ‘amended-object’, and my fandom stopped.

This contrasts with my Boyzone fandom, which I’m thinking about at the moment for a piece I’m writing with Simone Driessen. Boyzone fundamentally changed following Stephen’s death in 2009 (Stuart Cable died in 2010 and I attended the funeral – something I hadn’t been able to do with Stephen) but my fandom continues. I’ve continued to see the boys in concert, bought programmes and clothing, buy their CDs and have framed t-shirts and tickets up on my wall.

Boyzone’s Brother tour in 2011, featured Stephen prominently, and when I first saw Ronan, Shane, Keith and Mikey on stage without him I immediately looked for Stephen. Of course, he wasn’t there, but that only emphasised the difference, the amended-object status of the band. Stephen was referred to a lot during the evening; his picture featured prominently on the screens backing the stage; fan tributes had been included in the tour programme, and the boys told stories about him. At one point there was a table on the stage, with five chairs around it, five glasses on it and Ronan with a bottle of wine. The boys sat, leaving the chair in the centre, the one facing the audience directly, free. Ro poured five glasses of wine, and the boys toasted Stephen. It reinforced how different the band had to be now that Stephen wasn’t there, but it also cemented the fact that Stephen would always be a part of Boyzone.

My fandom, then, is different but it also isn’t. I’m not a fan of the same thing, but I am. It’s a state of amended-object fandom, where the fan-object is different in a key way, but remains the same in others.

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