Formed in Great Britain in 1996, BBMak became a bestselling act in Japan and the United States in 2000 before making a similar impact in their native country. Since their inception, BBMak have worked to dispel music industry and public perception that they were Great Britain’s answer to such American “boy band” pop groups as ’N Sync, O-Town, and the Backstreet Boys. Such groups perform songs written by hired songwriters and execute the songs live while performing elaborately choreographed dances. In contrast, BBMak have stressed that the band members write most of their own material and play their own instruments. In addition, the members of BBMak avoid dancing. The band does resemble these pop groups in terms of song style: like their American counterparts, BBMak’s songs deal with romantic love between adolescents and young adults, and they are sung in a style influenced by such R&B singers as Luther Vandross and the vocal harmony group Boyz II Men. Perhaps the most obvious factor that drew the comparisons to American boy bands, however, was the youthful and physically attractive appearance of the band’s three members, a circumstance that heightened the band’s appeal to adolescent female audiences.
Members include Mark Barry (born on October 26, 1978, in Manchester, England), Celtic pipes, vocals; Christian Burns (born on January 18, 1974, in Liverpool, England), vocals, guitar; Ste McNally (born Stephen McNally on July 4, 1978, in Liverpool, England), guitar, vocals.
Group formed in Great Britain, 1996; released Asian version of debut album, Sooner or Later 1999; song “Back Here” became number-one song in Japan, Thailand, and Singapore; toured East Asia, 1999; released Sooner or Later in U.S. and Europe, 2000; named supporting act for Britney Spears, 2000; headlined first American tour, 2000; released Into Your Head, 2002.
Addresses: Record company —Hollywood Records, 170 Fifth Avenue, 9th Floor, New York, New York 10010. Publicity —Katy Krassner, phone: (212) 741-8805, e-mail: [email protected] Website —BBMak at Hollywood Records: http://hollywoodrecords.go.com/bbmak/site.html.
The members of BBMak met in 1996 at an audition for a promoter seeking to form a vocal harmony group similar to ’N Sync and the Backstreet Boys. Each of the members—Mark Barry, Christian Burns, and Ste (born Stephen) McNally—advanced to the final selection process, but the promoter lacked the financial support to take the project further. “The guys who put the auditions together weren’t serious,” said Burns in BBMak: The Official Scrapbook. “They were just thinking about doing something, but they didn’t have any money.” Barry grew up in Manchester. He became adept at Celtic pipes—bagpipes and pennywhistles—and won four national English championships by the time he was 17. He developed an early appreciation for American Motown group the Jackson Five and emulated the vocal style of lead singer Michael Jackson. Prior to BBMak’s success, Barry trained to be a fireman.
Burns was the son of Tony Burns, a member of the Liverpool band the Signs, which performed as an opening act for the Beatles in the band’s hometown venue, the Cavern Club. Tony Burns and his Italian wife, Ines Burns, toured the United Kingdom and Germany as Ines Burns and the Signs, performing songs, impersonations, and comedy sketches. The couple raised their three children in Wigan, a town in northern England, and their son became interested in the music of the Beatles, Electric Light Orchestra, and the Bee Gees, as well as American performers the Eagles, Hall and Oates, Billy Joel, and Stevie Wonder. He began writing songs when he was eight years old and performed in bands while working day jobs as a salesperson.
McNally was born in Liverpool and began playing guitar when he was 14. His father, a former boxer, exposed McNally to the soul and pop Motown groups as well as to the Drifters. McNally’s brother Tommy introduced him to Pink Floyd, the Doors, Jimi Hendrix, and Led Zeppelin. His brother Michael turned him on to the Eagles, the Bee Gees, the Beatles, and Electric Light Orchestra. He joined his first band as a guitarist when he was 15, but he often substituted on drums and bass guitar in a band that covered songs by American rock group Guns N’ Roses. He worked days cleaning a local gymnasium before the success of BBMak.
Following their audition for the aborted boy band, the three men repeatedly met each other by accident as they all frequented night clubs and music venues in Manchester and Liverpool. They eventually agreed to leave their respective bands in order to form their own group. Taking their name from the first initials of the members’ last names, BBMak began composing their own material and crafting the three-part harmonies that would become their musical trademark. They burned the first two songs they completed, “Again” and “Love Is Leaving,” on a compact disc and took them to London. While sleeping on the floor of a friend’s home at night, they spent their days visiting record company offices. According to Barry in BBMak: The Official Scrapbook, “We did attract attention from the female staff at various companies, which didn’t hurt.”
The trio returned to Liverpool without securing a contract. BBMak subsequently played a showcase for record company executives who had gathered to hear promising new acts at a Liverpool venue. Focusing on two acoustic guitars and three voices, the band impressed its audience. “Every single major label came up including someone who flew in from America,” Barry said in BBMak: The Official Scrapbook. “We did five acoustic songs, and it went down fantastic.” Their performance landed them six offers, placing them in the midst of a bidding war between the labels. BBMak eventually signed a contract with Telstar, an independent record label based in the United Kingdom. Telstar later licensed the group’s recording to JVC in Japan and Hollywood Records in North and South America.
In the winter of 1999, BBMak’s debut Telstar album, Sooner or Later, was released in Asia. The band subsequently conducted a successful tour of East Asia. After they returned to England, BBMak were told by their Manáger that their single “Back Here” had become a number-one hit in five Asian countries, including Japan, Thailand, and Singapore. The initial Asian release of Sooner or Later was remastered and expanded for its release in the United States, South America, and Europe. Of the album’s 12 songs, six were written by the band and a seventh was cowritten by the band and outside writers. “Back Here” became a hit in the United States in 2000, after the group landed a spring 2000 opening-act slot on singer Britney Spears’s tour as well as a tour that they headlined in fall 2000. Billboard magazine noted that “Back Here” was the top United States single recorded by a United Kingdom act in 2000, and Sooner or Later became the sixth-top-selling album in the United States by a United Kingdom recording act. The latter accomplishment was made more impressive by the fact that the group topped sales by such venerable British acts as Eric Clapton, Led Zeppelin, Phil Collins, and Radiohead. In conjunction with the Walt Disney corporation, the owner of BBMak’s United States label, the band performed headlining concerts at Disneyland in California and Disneyworld in Florida. The group’s sophomore effort, Into Your Head, was released in August of 2002.
Sooner or Later, Telstar Records/Hollywood, 2000.
Into Your Head, Hollywood, 2002.
BBMak: The Official Scrapbook, Hyperion Paperbacks, 2000.
Billboard, March 3, 2001.
“BBMak,” Hollywood Records, http://hollywoodrecords.go.com/bbmak (June 27, 2002).
BBMak-Online, http://www.bbmak-online.com (April 18, 2002).
Additional information was provided by a BBMak press release, 2000.
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