Born October 26th 1965
Died October 28th 2010
Andrew Midgley, who has died of a heart attack during a session in a Musselburgh gym aged forty-five, didn’t look like a pop star. Neither did this most garrulously playful of raconteurs particularly enjoy talking about his brief time in the charts during the early 1990s. Yet, while there was far more to this most singular of autodidacts, as one half of club-dance duo Cola Boy, Midgley caught the pop-rave zeitgeist with appearances on Top of the Pops performing the band’s infectiously catchy top ten hit, Seven Ways To Love. Even here, however, just as he would later apply diligence and care behind the scenes as a sub-editor on the Edinburgh Evening News, creating two of the funniest websites on the planet or managing an award-winning comedian, the man nicknamed ‘Boy Naughty’ preferred to stay in the background, allowing former Wham! backing singer turned Radio Two DJ Janey Lee Grace to bask in the day-glo spotlight of the period.
Midgley was born in Stepney in London’s east end before being decamped with his parents and younger brother Michael to one of Peterborough’s new town overspills. Such modern but mundane suburban environments would feed the imaginations of many of Midgley’s generation, including the people behind London-centric trio Saint Etienne, who Midgley’s own musical adventures would crucially intertwine with.
Midgley latched on to music from an early age, entering his teens with a punk rock sensibility laced with a wickedly clever sense of humour and a taste for the then hugely influential music press that would hold him in good stead for all his future endeavours. Punk was an attitude for Midgley, who embraced Postcard Records bands Orange Juice and Josef K, as well as The Associates, the Cocteau Twins, The Pastels and the TV Personalities via forays into hip-hop and electro. Midgley’s comedic influences came from a post-war English picture postcard past drawn up by PG Wodehouse, Evelyn Waugh, Carry On films and Peter Cook and Dudley Moore’s foulmouthed Derek and Clive routines. The only thing Midgley couldn’t stand was Jazz.
While working at Peterborough tax office, Midgley founded a punk-inspired DIY collective to pursue various activities under the umbrella of Blue Veiner. These included fanzine Pop Avalanche, named after an NME headline quoting Postcard Records svengali Alan Horne’s pronouncement blaming the London media on Edinburgh band Josef K splitting up. One of Midgley’s co-conspirators on Pop Avalanche was future music journalist and founder of Saint Etienne, Bob Stanley, with whom Midgley would play with in the band Forever Drone, named after a Josef K song.
Along with Stanley, Midgley developed an interest in sampling, the increasingly accessible use of collaging material from other sources that was infecting club culture. Stanley formed Saint Etienne, whose first single, a version of Neil Young’s Only Love Will Break Your Heart, chimed perfectly with the indie-dance crossover that had begun. Taking note of the records played in the small venues they toured to, Stanley composed Seven Ways To Love, a piano-led Euro-styled bubblegum anthem originally recorded with Saint Etienne vocalist Sarah Cracknell and put out under the name Cola Boy. With commercial crossover imminent and with Cracknell bound to a contract elsewhere, Stanley recruited Midgley and Grace to be the public face of Cola Boy, who duly took the re-recorded version of Seven Ways To Love to number eight in the charts in 1991.
While a follow-up single, He Is Cola, didn’t fare so well, Midgley and his then partner set up a production company in Manchester, providing theme music for Channel 4 programmes before relocating to Dublin. Eventually Midgley moved to Edinburgh, becoming a researcher for Channel 4 while writing for and managing comedian Garth Cruikshank, who, as Harry Ainsworth, won the Perrier Best Newcomer award as part of the 2001 Edinburgh Festival Fringe.
Midgley founded two blogs, The Filthy Pen, which archived humorous graffiti from Edinburgh walls; and Bank Holiday Britain, which documented snapshots of the accidental mundanities of everyday life. An exhibition of the latter was shown at the 2010 Leith Festival, and plans were afoot to take it to Hong Kong.
Midgley’s freelance life stopped following the 2002 Cowgate fire, which wiped out the offices that housed his archive. Midgley had contributed music reviews to the Edinburgh Evening News, and became a full-time sub-editor on the paper. When Boy Naughty surfaced for gigs by old favourites such as Vic Godard and Subway Sect, former Josef K singer Paul Haig or former Felt and Denim frontman Lawrence’s Go-Kart Mozart project, his free-thinking mix of fan-boy enthusiasm and razor-sharp intellect leavened by a mischievous wit were the hallmarks of a unique and consistently amused outlook on an absurd world. Midgley’s parents, Richard and Dorothy, brother Michael and girlfriend Rosalind Gibb survive him.
The Herald, November 2010