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Friday, 19 July, 2002, 14:50 GMT 15:50 UK
Fatboy Slim: Right here, right now
Fatboy Slim aka Norman Cook

Though the occasion was marred by two deaths, Fatboy Slim, alias Norman Cook, managed to attract some 250,000 people to his gig on Brighton Beach. And this for someone brandishing a record deck rather than a guitar.
He borrowed the name Fatboy Slim from a 1940s Louisiana blues singer: a "goofy name that suited my goofy personality".

And this quirky side of Norman Cook's nature has found expression in his music.

The songs he writes and produces are so often a clever cocktail of strident hooklines and abrasive drumbeats mixed with oddball samples and catchy melodies. The effect is very much quality feelgood and it has sold in bucketloads.

Part of the crowd at the Brighton Beach gig
Crowds at the beach exceeded all predictions
"Whereas many DJs are serious and faceless, Fatboy Slim is one of those who is instantly likeable," MixMag's news editor, Gavin Herlihy told Newsmaker. "You could make out his smile from the far end of Brighton Beach."

Brighton's favourite son actually grew up in comfortable Reigate in Surrey. His parents were members of a pacifist Quaker-type group called Kosmons.

Cook describes them as "liberal, bohemian, vegetarian types". Mrs Cook was a headmistress while Mr Cook's claim to fame was introducing the bottle-bank to Britain. It won him an MBE.

The Cooks christened their son Quentin. But sharing the name with Britain's best-known homosexual, Quentin Crisp, didn't make for an easy school life. By 22, he'd become plain Norman.

Much to his parents' bemusement, Norman Cook launched himself into a music career via a punk-style band, the Stomping Frogs, before gaining success as a bass player, in the 1980s, with The Housemartins.

Their lead singer, Paul Heaton, had been a college friend and the group reached number one with their single Caravan of Love. Post Housemartins, Heaton went on to form the highly successful band The Beautiful South.

Fatboy Slim, the DJ
The charismatic DJ in action
Cook, meanwhile, had discovered his own beautiful south, in the form of Brighton, still his home after 20 years.

His work as a club DJ there inspired his own recording career and within a couple of years, he had formed the first in a string of new creations, Beats International, which gave him his second chart-topper with Dub Be Good To Me. His variety of dance music became known as Big Beat.

It wasn't all plain sailing though. Over-indulgence in drugs, drink and work, aided and abetted by a failed marriage, resulted in a nervous breakdown.

Later, he caused controversy by claiming he got rid of his depression by using Ecstasy.

Once up and running again, he was soon churning out dance hits under such aliases as Freakpower and Pizzaman.

The name Fatboy Slim made its initial appearance as his DJ persona through which he was building up a cult following.

"His performances were, and still are, completely unsubtle, full of crescendo but highly exciting," Mike Shallcross, music editor with GQ Magazine told Newsmaker. "He drew people to his brand of dance music who'd normally prefer Oasis or Madonna."

With wife ZoŽ at Glastonbury in 2001
With wife ZoŽ at Glastonbury in 2001
Cook first recorded under the name Fatboy Slim in 1996 with the Better Living Through Chemistry album, that owed a lot to his Brighton neighbours, the Chemical Brothers.

But it was the hugely successful Rockafeller Skank, from his You've Come A Long Way, Baby album, with its "funk soul brother" refrain, that made Fatboy Slim a household name among the clubbing generation.

Since then, songs like Praise You, Right Here Right Now et al have earned Norman Cook an international reputation. He gigs in clubs the world over, commanding huge fees. He has written scores for Hollywood movies such as Baz Luhrmann's Moulin Rouge.

Curiously, his 1999 marriage to former BBC DJ, ZoŽ Ball, seems not to have dented the "ordinary bloke" image that Norman Cook has always projected.

Now he's an ordinary rich bloke. There has been nothing Posh and Becks about this couple: they turned down all offers to sell their wedding pictures to glossy magazines and they have kept their baby, Woody, out of the limelight.

Indeed, Norman Cook himself has never courted publicity. Few people outside his fan base even knew what he looked like before he hitched up with ZoŽ.

With ZoŽ and baby Woody
Fatherhood has calmed him down
There has been the occasional embarrassing revelation - he was caught with handcuffs by customs officers during an overseas trip, and admitted that his wife has a lapdancing pole at home.

But by and large, tabloid stories seem to have focussed on how fatherhood has toned down his wild lifestyle, at least during weekdays.

It is a measure of his imagination and sheer force of personality that, at a time when dance music seems to be in regression, Fatboy Slim can still pull in enormous crowds.

He has also exploited, in a clever way, the creative possibilities of ever-sophisticated technology. In doing so, Fatboy Norman has played a large part in raising the status of the DJ to that of the international rock star.


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