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Thursday, August 19, 1999 Published at 16:24 GMT 17:24 UK


Pop music's first couple

Norman Cook and Zoe Ball at Glastonbury this year

The marriage of Zoe Ball and Norman Cook brings together two people who wield huge influence over British pop music at the end of the 1990s.

Zoe Ball, 28, has been hailed as "the nation's number one youth icon" by her boss at BBC Radio 1, who took her on to reverse the flagging fortunes of the station's breakfast show.

Meanwhile 36-year-old Norman Cook, under his Fatboy Slim persona, has become the first club DJ in the country to be known by grandmothers as well as cutting-edge dance music fans.

Scientific fathers

Both have another thing in common - their fathers were both known for their scientific skills.

[ image: Proud father: Johnny Ball in his Think of A Number days]
Proud father: Johnny Ball in his Think of A Number days
Johnny Ball is known to a generation of children from his 1970s and 1980s shows on the BBC. Think Of A Number, Think Again, Think This Way and so on introduced youngsters to science with a mixture of jokes and costumes.

Norman Cook's father made his mark in a more subtle way. An environmental consultant, he was awarded the MBE for introducing bottle banks into the UK.

Zoe Ball's career in television started when she was 19, when she became a runner for Granada Television in Manchester.

Researchers' positions followed, including a job at The Big Breakfast, working alongside the show's original hosts, Chris Evans and Gaby Roslin. She became close friends with Evans, a relationship that endures despite their professional rivalry.

She joined the BBC in 1993, becoming the presenter of the morning children's birthday slot on television, as well as Short Change, a children's consumer show.

Radio star

In 1996 she returned to The Big Breakfast as presenter - but she was not a success and returned to the BBC to front Saturday morning show Live & Kicking with Jamie Theakston.

[ image: Early days: Zoe Ball advertises a soft drink wearing only body paint]
Early days: Zoe Ball advertises a soft drink wearing only body paint
A move into radio put her firmly in the spotlight. BBC Radio 1 originally planned to offer her a Saturday afternoon football and music show, but disastrous ratings for the station's breakfast show prompted controller Matthew Bannister to give Ball and experienced presenter Kevin Greening the job of turning it around.

The show started in a blaze of publicity in October 1997 - intensified by Chris Evans returning to the airwaves to compete with them at Virgin Radio.

Despite some complaints from listeners about Ball frequently talking about her nights out, listening figures rose. A year later, she became the station's first solo breakfast show presenter.

In the summer of 1998 the breakfast show team decamped to Ibiza for an outside broadcast. There Zoe Ball met Norman Cook for the first time, and by the following November, their relationship was all over the tabloids.

Inspired by Donny Osmond

Norman Cook also has a high media profile. Brought up in Reigate, Surrey, he was inspired to make music by seeing Donny Osmond on television, and started a punk fanzine as a teenager.

[ image: Winning team: Zoe Ball with her Sony Gold Award for her breakfast show]
Winning team: Zoe Ball with her Sony Gold Award for her breakfast show
At sixth-form college he met Paul Heaton, who moved to Hull and formed a guitar band called The Housemartins. The original bass player quit - and Cook moved to Hull to join them, changing his Christian name from Quentin to Norman.

They reached number one just before Christmas 1986 with a version of Caravan of Love, and the press were outraged with their often-repeated socialist and republican sentiments.

In 1988, they split up. Heaton and the band's drummer Dave Hemingway returned with the Beautiful South, while Cook moved to Brighton to pursue his new love - dance music.

His new project, Beats International, reached number one with Dub Be Good To Me, but a year later he became depressed. His first wife, a nurse, left him, and his career began to fall apart.

Fatboy a favour

After seeking medical help, he slowly rebuilt his life. He formed a new group, Freakpower, which scored a big hit with Turn On, Tune In, Cop Out, and he released other records under different names such as Pizzaman and Mighty Dub Katz.

[ image: Norman Cook as Fatboy Slim: Big beat sound dominated dancefloors]
Norman Cook as Fatboy Slim: Big beat sound dominated dancefloors
He became Fatboy Slim as a favour for a Brighton friend of his - Damien Harris - who wanted a distinctive sound for his new record label, Skint.

The 'big beat' music of Fatboy Slim, and other acts like the Chemical Brothers, was an almost instant success.

Cook is now one of the the elite band of club DJs who can command thousands of pounds for a night's work, yet he still enjoys great success with his singles too. He also took the US by storm - a rare accolade for any UK dance act.

He still dislikes publicity, and when Skint Records signed a valuable deal with entertainment giant Sony he insisted nobody at Sony was allowed to have his number - and he would still be free to record under any name, for any company.

The couple have declined to sell the rights to their wedding to celebrity magazines, but they are likely to be a fixture in the tabloids for some time to come.

Judging by their track records, their individual careers will keep them in the spotlight, regardless of what newspaper editors make of their wedding.

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Internet Links

Zoe Ball Zone

Zoe Ball Breakfast Show - BBC Radio 1

Skint Records

Fatboy Slim Webring

The Housemartins Web Page

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