Hive Five: Ricky Gervais, Aspiring Musician
"Ricky Gervais"

Ricky Gervais in New York City, November 2011. Photo: Steve Lovekin/WireImage

Sunday night Ricky Gervais — creator of The Office and Extras, comedian, and Guinness World Record holder (for most downloaded podcast) — will once again host the Golden Globe Awards. Few thought he’d be invited back for a return engagement after some thin-skinned celebrity spectators felt his biting jokes last year about gay Scientologists, over-the-hill actresses and substance abuse problems were too mean-spirited. But we guess the Hollywood Foreign Press, the organization responsible for the awards ceremony, wasn’t so overly sensitive. Despite Gervais joking about the HFP accepting bribes on last year’s telecast, they asked the comedian to host again, no doubt to boost ratings and keep things unpredictable (after all, this is the awards show that allows audience members to drink throughout). Gervais’ entire career has been nothing if not unpredictable. And it hasn’t always been about comedy either. So in honor of this weekend’s Globes, Hive presents five of Ricky’s best musical moments. They weren’t always pretty, but they prove that Gervais can do more than make fun others; he’s comfortable opening himself up for ridicule too.

1. Fronting a New Romantic band, Seona Dancing

Before he became a comedian, writer and director, young Ricky Gervais’ dream was to be a pop star. He got surprisingly close with Seona Dancing, a New Romantic duo he formed with a friend during his final year of university. In its brief tenure the group released singles, “More to Lose” and “Bitter Heart,” via London Records. The songs may not have topped the charts, but as the video for “Bitter Heart” proves, the band wasn’t half bad for its era. Skinny (both in body and tie-choice), big-haired and so very young, Gervais looks and sounds more like Thin White Duke-era David Bowie than the “chubby funster” he later became (at least according to one critic). [Watch here.]

2. Managing Suede

When he didn’t make it as a musician, Gervais tried to make it in the music industry by helping other bands to realize their dreams of stardom. While working as the entertainments officer for the University of London’s Students’ Union, one of the bands he worked with eventually became one of the most influential groups of the Britpop era. Suede, which at the time Gervais managed them, featured not only Brett Anderson and songwriting partner/guitarist Bernard Butler (now an in-demand producer), but also Anderson’s then-girlfriend, Justine Frischmann, who would go on to form Elastica. Gervais didn’t stay with Suede long — he left before they got signed — but his lasting contribution was finding them a permanent drummer, Simon Gilbert, who still plays with them today. [Watch here.]

3. Dancing as David Brent

Where Gervais really captured international attention was as the offensive, oblivious manager of the Slough branch of Wernham–Hogg paper company, David Brent, on the BBC show he helped create, write and direct, The Office. Brent claimed to have been a great musician — who can forget his songs like “Spaceman” and “Free Love Freeway” — and he fancied himself quite the dancer, as proven by the memorable moment in the fifth episode of the second season in which he tries to show up disco-dancing new boss Neil with a routine that “fuse[s] Flashdance and MC Hammer shit.” The routine in question actually fuses your drunk uncle’s wedding dances with the white man’s overbite and the robot, but who are we to quibble with The Office boss? [Watch here.]

4. Singing “If You Don’t Know Me By Now”

After he was “made redundant” (Brit-speak for fired), David Brent sued Wenham-Hogg and used his ensuing settlement to — what else? — cut an album and make a video for one of its tracks. Though “If You Don’t Know Me by Now” was originally recorded by Philly soul legends Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes, Brent was clearly more influenced by Simply Red’s ’80s-tinged adult contemporary version.  So in the video, which is shot in a stark, white loft with minimal furniture and billowing curtains, Brent growls come-ons to the camera, sings to a framed picture, lounges about in white pajamas like a mental patient and, at one point, releases a dove from his hands into the loft for no reason. It’s pretty much the most hilarious music video since Billy Squier’s “Rock Me Tonite.” [Watch here.]

5. Inspiring David Bowie

On Ricky Gervais second TV series, Extras, the famous cameos were most likely to be those of thespians not musicians, since his character, Andy Millman, was an aspiring actor. But after years of working as an extra, Millman finally gets his big break on a hacky, catchphrase-riddled sitcom. With commercial (if not critical) success, Millman heads to a VIP celebrity bar to try to enjoy the fruits of his newfound success. What he finds instead is his musical idol David Bowie, whoso  is inspired by Millman’s “pug-nosed face” and his tale of selling out to pen a song on the spot. All of a sudden, the whole pub is singing along to Bowie’s undeniably catchy song about the “pathetic little fat man” that Millman knows he is. [Watch here.]

 

 

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