Charlie Simpson is back in Busted. Fightstar’s Charlie Simpson. Rock’s Charlie Simpson. The man who said he would never return to Busted. Charlie Simpson in a pop band again. What a sell out. What a fucking sell out.
How dare a grown man make a decision to do something that will benefit his family, make thousands of fans happy, and which will force him to play catchy songs in arenas while dancing about a bit? What a prick.
It’s probably time to take all those Fightstar records out of your collection (the ones that you didn’t just illegally download) and all his solo records too. We’ll build bonfires at the end of every street, great angry pyres of outrage that we can dance around until the year 3000, chanting for the public humiliation of a musician who once said one thing and has now said something else. Because, of course, no-one is allowed to change their mind: particularly musicians, those bastions of reliability.
When Simpson left Busted, I was the first journalist he told. In December 2004, he invited the brilliant photographer Scarlet Page and I down to a South London rehearsal studio and, alongside Al Westaway, Dan Haigh and Omar Abidi, told me all about Fightstar before playing us three or four excellent songs at full volume. Simpson talked about Busted, but he never slagged them off – he simply said there were other sides to him than the shiny teen pop star on the Saturday morning kid’s shows. Well, Christ, you’d like to think so wouldn’t you?
“The Busted thing happened when I was 16, I saw an opportunity, took it and it was better than being at school,” he told me then. “It was cool, it was a fun job to do.”
Busted, as Fightstar’s bassist Haigh said back then, was his “day job, it’s what he does to pay the bills.” All of which is fair enough, isn’t it? But, aged 19, he had realised that playing in a pop band wasn’t what he wanted to do. Like most people between their 16th and 19th birthdays, he had changed. His eyes had opened to new forms of music and he was tired of singing other people’s songs. He wanted to rock.
Busted had earned him money and given him a leg-up into the music industry. He was grateful for that, but wanted to explore other options – the first of which was Fightstar. But unlike a lot of people, Simpson had earned enough from his day job at 19 that he could afford to chuck it in and do something he really liked. He took a lot of flak for it too, which is odd: most people I know would love to chuck in the day job to do what they really wanted.
Simpson spent 10 years making music with Fightstar and as a solo act and there is no reason to think he will not spend another 10 doing it. In fact, that’s precisely what he said the other day: Fightstar is not going anywhere but will remain a passion project for him. It’s just that he’ll probably do the odd tour with Busted too.
Because here’s the thing: making credible, independent rock music (Fightstar) or credible, independent folk music (his Charlie Simpson solo project) does not earn you very much money. It’s part of the reason Fightstar went on a break five years ago. People don’t buy records anymore: they steal them. People don’t go to as many gigs as they once did – they’re expensive and everyone’s skint. There are some musicians who don’t need a day job to support their musical passion, but they’re the megastars. They’re the ones who sell millions of records. Fightstar were never selling millions of records. The rest of Fightstar work for a living (Haigh and Westaway run a production company, Abidi works as a tour manager), and now Simpson does as well, it’s just that he works for Busted.
So what? He has a baby to support these days, and playing some old, simple songs on an arena tour is a pretty easy way to earn cash to support a young family while allowing him to do what he really loves on the side.
Yes, he said he’d never do it, but how many people keep the promises they made when they were teenagers? To expect a man to hold the same views at 30 as he did at 19 is remarkably small-minded.
Yes, Busted’s music is awful – but how many people here do an awful job every day to pay the bills? And how awful a job is it, really, that puts you onstage in front of four or five thousand happy people each night?
Oh, but what a sell out! Of course he is. Because the Sex Pistols never reformed for the money, or the Pixies, or Rage Against The Machine, or pretty much any broken-up band who got a tax bill.
So good luck Charlie, all the best. And when you’ve cashed that cheque, we’d like another solo record please. And perhaps another Fightstar tour. And all the best to the family too – if singing What I Go To School For keeps the wolf from the door, you’ve got a better job than me.
Busted will tour the UK in May 2016. For tickets and more information, visit their official website.