Paul Cattermole found stardom with 90s pop kids S Club 7, but says being in the band brought him only pain and poverty
Paul Cattermole is explaining what its like to be famous. Ive been on stage and seen a bra swirling in the air, coming to land on my head, he says. I tended to duck out of the way. He chuckles at the memory surreal now, 20 years later, as he sits, untroubled by undergarments. Im not saying it happens all the time, because it doesnt. But it has happened.
At the turn of the millennium, Cattermole, 42, was one-seventh of a famous whole. S Club 7 were presented to the world by impresario Simon Fuller looking to repeat his success with the Spice Girls as a fully formed pop package: four girls, three boys, singing, dancing, acting. (The S is rumoured to stand for Simon.)
The public got to know Jo OMeara, Bradley McIntosh, Hannah Spearritt, Jon Lee, Tina Barrett, Rachel Stevens and Cattermole playing versions of themselves on their CBBC series, Miami 7, about a British pop group trying to break America. The Monkees for the next generation was one comparison.
When the shows bouncy theme song, Bring It All Back, was released at the end of the season, it shot to No 1 in the UK. Between 1998 and 2002, the group scored three more No 1s as well as hits in Europe, Australasia and the US and recorded four albums. There were four more TV series and, in 2001, a spin-off group: S Club Juniors.
Promotional press introduced the seven members, aged from 16 to 21: their roles, traits, favourite colours and foods. Bradley was cheeky; Hannah, hyper. Jon was the joker. Jo: raucous. Rachel: fiery. Tina: chatty. Cattermole? Enthusiastic. (And liked guacamole.) They were central to what was being bought and sold often quite literally, as Hasbro dolls or in lyrics namechecking various brands. You might remember the G-funk jam S Club Party, my personal favourite, in which as Tina did her dance and Jon looked for romance Paul was getting down on the floor while Hannah screamed out for more.
Though OMeara and McIntosh shouldered most of the singing, and Stevens seemed to have the most commercial potential, no one member was a standout star their success was symbiotic, dependent on being a gang anyone could join.
I was seven in 1998, and there really was no party like an S Club Party. The style and energy that was portrayed was coming from us, entirely, Cattermole says. There was no management in that. The actual thing that people were buying into came from us. And to see people get hundreds of millions of pounds, and all the credit no. We created that sort of fun energy on our own, despite the pressure they put on us.
Cattermole had very nearly not joined S Club 7. I honestly was very unsure, he says. Ive been asked so many times, Were you sitting by the phone, just waiting? But when they did phone me up and offer it to me Hi, were so pleased to I remember putting the phone down and going: I dont know if I want to do that. I turned to my friends and said: If I do this, my life is never going to be the same again.
As a teenager in St Albans, Hertfordshire, he had dreams of making it with his rock covers band or as a character actor. Performing came naturally, he says.
Other members of S Club 7 had been chosen from thousands of applicants at cattle calls, what we think of today as X Factor-style; Cattermole never even auditioned. Once in the group, he never had to sing. That got me down.
He was told it would be at odds with the alchemy, he says sarcastically, imitating a showbiz suit: We have picked certain people to do certain roles. I can only assume that mine was to answer questions in interviews. I was never asked to show, in the audition process, my singing, my ability to dance my ability for anything, other than talking.