Right Said Fred is comprised of the buff brothers Richard and Fred Fairbrass, and at the time, guitarist Rob Manzoli. The Fairbrass Brothers were managers at a London dance studio called the Dance Attic, where they came across lots of narcissism and posing. As Rich Fairbrass tells it, they had a loop playing on the computer, and inspired by his dance studio experience he spontaneously took his shirt off and started singing, "I'm too sexy for my shirt."
The guys thought it was hilarious and worked up the song around the phrase. A demo found its way to the ears of a music promoter named Guy Holmes, who contacted the band, had them remix the song into a dance track (it was originally a rocker), and shopped it to record labels. Holmes had no takers so he set up his own label, Tug Records, and released the song, which became a huge hit once the BBC started playing it.
Holmes went on to a very successful career as a record mogul, promoting Salt-n-Pepa and bringing Crazy Frog to the masses. Speaking to The Independent about the first time he heard "I'm Too Sexy," Holmes said: "I heard that coming back from a night out with this very cute girl I fancied - who didn't fancy me unfortunately. She was sitting drunk on the back seat and said she managed a band. She put the cassette in and there was 'I'm Too Sexy,' an awful rock demo version. It was clear it would make a great dance record though. Radio 1 loved it but no major would touch it. I thought bollocks to them and put it out myself - it sold six million singles and five million albums."
The guitar riff was interpolated from a 1967 Jimi Hendrix song called "Third Stone From The Sun
." This was the work of the group's guitarist, Rob Manzoli; since the Fairbrass brothers weren't familiar with Hendrix deep cuts, they had no idea the riff came from another song until the Hendrix estate threatened legal action.
The group members wrote this song, which was produced by the British beatmaker TommyD. In a Songfacts interview with the Fairbrass brothers
, Fred cited "a bass line" and "a little bit of marijuana" as creative inspiration. Said Fred: "It was a very, very hot day in a very, very non-air conditioned basement studio. It was those things, that perfect storm. And lyrically, the whole 'supermodel' thing was huge at the time. So lyrically, it's making fun of that whole sort of narcissism that came with that."
The "Supermodel" thing got even bigger in 1992 when RuPaul released the hit single "Supermodel (You Better Work)
This was a #1 hit in 28 countries, but not in Right Said Fred's homeland of England. The song was held off the UK #1 spot for six weeks by (Everything I Do) I Do It For You
's unflinching stranglehold on the summit. At first Right Said Fred's Richard Fairbrass didn't care too much about the stand-off. "The newspapers tried to make it sound as though we hated Bryan Adams," he claimed. "But, by the time Sexy had dropped out of the charts, I started getting really irritated with him."
Right Said Fred, also known as *R*S*F, never had another hit in the US, where their one hit was one of the biggest for any *O*H*W, spending three weeks on top and becoming the first British group since The Beatles to top the chart with their debut single. In the UK, they had three more big hits: "Don't Talk Just Kiss" (#3, with Jocelyn Brown), "Deeply Dippy" (#1), and "Stick It Out."
The group started of as a serious rock act, but when this song took off, the Fairbrass brothers took on the personas of the character in this song, dressing the part and preening appropriately. The group quickly settled in as a dance music act with a humorous bent. Their litmus test for a good song became: Does it make you laugh?
Most UK listeners were in on the joke, but American audiences often perceive the Right Said Fred frontmen as being just as dippy as they appear. The brothers understand why this perception exists ("we took off our shirts"), but feel it is unjustified, as writing clever, simple songs is much harder than it appears and has a great deal of artistic merit - just as comedies do on TV and film.
The group is named after the 1962 novelty song "Right, Said Fred
" by Bernard Cribbins, who was a popular entertainer in England.
The video plays up the campy nature of this song, with the Fairbrass brothers in various modeling scenes being photographed by girls in bikinis. A lot of it takes place outdoors around the Notting Hill area of London. This was because an electrical problem forced them out of their indoor set after a day of shooting.
In America, this song was so pervasive that it may have ultimately hurt their fortunes in that country. When their second single, "Don't Talk Just Kiss," was released it made just #76, since many radio stations were still playing "Sexy" and weren't interested in playing something different from the act. Their third single, "Deeply Dippy," sank like a stone despite topping the UK chart. "In America, I think it got the worst radio reaction of any record in the history of that record label," Richard told us.
Various remixes of this song were released in 2007 (with the Hendrix sample excised), along with a new video, which was directed by Rani Creevey. Around this time, the song was featured in an ad campaign for Daz laundry detergent (a British product), with the tagline "I'm too sexy for my whites." The band appears in one of the spots
, where they realize they can be sexy again thanks to their brilliant whites.
In 2012, this was used in commercials for fruit fusion flavored Pop Tarts.
Several artists have sampled or interpolated "I'm Too Sexy" for their own hit songs. They include Sugababes for "Get Sexy
," Taylor Swift for "Look What You Made Me Do
," and Drake (featuring Future and Young Thug) for "Way 2 Sexy