At Reigate College he also met Paul Heaton and, at 18, he went to the Brighton Polytechnic to study a BA in English, Politics and Sociology. Although he had begun DJing some years before, it was at this time that he began to develop his skills on the thriving Brighton club scene. In 1985 Cook's friend Paul Heaton who lived in Hull had formed a guitar band called The Housemartins. The Housemartins' bassist had just quit on the eve of their first national tour. Cook had lost interest in the rock scene and could barely play a musical instrument, he agreed to move to Hull to join them.
The band soon had a hit single with "Happy Hour". They also reached number one just before Christmas 1986 with a version of "Caravan of Love" originally a hit the year before for Isley Jasper Isley. However, by 1988 they had split up. Heaton and the band's drummer Dave Hemingway went on to form The Beautiful South, while Cook moved back to Brighton to pursue his interest in the style of music he preferred.
It was at this time that he first started working with young studio engineer Simon Thornton, with whom he continues to make records. All Cook's records released from that point onwards have involved both of them to varying degrees (Thornton is credited in 2004 as "Executive Producer" for example). Cook formed Beats International, a loose confederation of studio musicians including vocalists Lindy Layton, Lester Noel, D.J. Baptiste, rapper MC Wildski, and keyboardist Andy Boucher. Their first album, Let Them Eat Bingo, included the number one single, "Dub Be Good to Me".
"Dub Be Good To Me" caused a legal dispute revolving around allegations of infringement of copyright through the liberal use of unauthorised samples: the bassline was a note-for-note lift from The Clash's "The Guns Of Brixton" and the song also borrowed heavily from the S.O.S. Band's "Just Be Good to Me". The 1991 follow-up album Excursion on the Version, an exploration of dub and reggae rhythms, failed to repeat the success of its predecessor. Cook then formed Freakpower, with horn player and singer Ashley Slater. The duo released their debut album, Drive Thru Booty, in 1994, which contained the single "Turn On Tune In Cop Out".
The cut was picked up by the Levi's company for use in a multimillion-dollar advertisement campaign. Freakpower has also done several other releases under the name Fried Funk Food. In 1995, Cook enlisted help from producer friends Tim Jeffery and JC Reid to create a solo house music album under the 'Pizzaman' pseudonym. The Pizzamania album spawned 3 UK Top 40 hits in "Trippin' on Sunshine", "Sex on the Streets" and "Happiness". "Happiness" was picked up by the Del Monte Foods corporation for use in a UK fruit juice ad. Cook is also behind a group The Mighty Dub Katz along with Gareth Hansome (aka GMoney), Cook's former flatmate and the inventor of the name "Big Beat".
Together they started the Boutique Nightclub in Brighton, formerly known as the Big Beat Boutique, evidently imitating the Heavenly Social in London. In 1996, Cook then re-joined Ashley Slater for the second Freakpower album, titled More of Everything for Everybody. The Fatboy Slim album Better Living Through Chemistry (released through Skint Records) marked Cook's emergence into the big time. Filled with retro samples and funk-laden grooves, the album was among the first in the then-new big beat sound.
It also spawned one Top 40 UK hit, "Everybody Needs a 303". After Cook's remix of Cornershop's "Brimful of Asha" topped the charts, such musical heavy hitters as Madonna and U2 asked him to produce for them. Fatboy Slim's next work was the single "The Rockafeller Skank," released prior to the album You've Come a Long Way, Baby, both of which were released in 1998 to rave reviews. This album also produced the single "Praise You", which also became a major dance hit, giving Cook his first UK solo number one. Its video, directed by Spike Jonze, won numerous awards.
Further Fatboy Slim works have appeared in movies, television series, and more ads and started a trend where Norman Cook appeared in each video in some shape or form. In 1999, he was on tour, stopping in San Francisco and New York's Hammerstein Ballroom. It should be noted that the single Rockafeller Skank was based entirely around a Lord Finesse vocal sample; "Right about now, the funk soul brother. Check it out now, the funk soul brother". Halfway Between the Gutter and the Stars was released in 2000 and featured two collaborations with Macy Gray.
It also included "Sunset (Bird of Prey)", a slower tempo piece based around a sample of Jim Morrison from The Doors, and "Weapon of Choice", which also boasted an award-winning video starring Christopher Walken. On 13 July 2002 Fatboy Slim performed the second of his free, open air concerts on Brighton beach. Despite expecting a crowd of around 60,000 people the event instead attracted an estimated 250,000 who crammed the promenade and beach between Brighton's famous piers. Local police forced the event to end early amid safety concerns, overcrowding, and one death. After the music had finished and the crowd began to dissipate, traffic ensued throughout the Brighton area with many caught in traffic jams until the morning. Cook was awarded a star on the city of Brighton's Walk of Fame, next to that of Winston Churchill.
He married TV personality Zoë Ball in 1999; the couple have one son named Woody. Cook is also a 12% shareholder of the football club he has supported since moving to Brighton in the late 1980s, Brighton & Hove Albion. Fatboy has often played to welcoming crowds in the superclubs of Ibiza, where he also met his wife. 2002 saw him make appearances at Space and Privilege. At Space there was a minor altercation when Cook inadvertently faded down the house PA while playing on the Terrace during the marathon 'We Love Sundays' closing party.
With only the booth monitors barely audible the crowd began to shuffle indifferently, in stark contrast to Cook who was having a great time behind the decks. This continued for several minutes until 'We Love' promoter Darren Hughes ran into the booth, grabbed the appropriate control on the mixer and slammed the volume back to full blast. This resulted in a humorous acknowledgement from Cook and euphoria amongst the assembled revellers. Cook went on to complete a memorable set, including a classic Space Terrace moment with John Paul Young's vintage singalong track "Love is in the Air". The following day Cook appeared in the main room at Privilege, officially the world's biggest club, for Manumission.
His set began well but a thunderstorm was raging outside and after a few records the house PA failed, and once again Cook was playing to a huge crowd with only the weak output of the booth monitors. Attempting to make the best of the situation, Cook angled the monitors towards the crowd and continued with his set, at least entertaining those clubbers fortunate enough to be near the booth. In the cavernous space of Privilege this proved futile and after a short while Cook abandoned any attempt to DJ, removed his shoe, placed this on the turntable, then finally admitted defeat and departed the booth with a shrug of the shoulders and a wave to the disappointed crowd. Later the same year Q magazine named Fatboy Slim in their 50 Bands To See Before You Die list. In January 2003, Cook and his wife underwent a very public break-up, but three months later, they were reconciled. In 2004, Cook released two remixes in June and July, based on Max Sedgley's "Happy" and "Follow Me Follow Me (Quem Que Caguetou)" by Black Alien & Speed. The latter, a Hip Hop hit from Brazil, became popular in Europe after having appeared on the Nissan X-Trail advert (portraying a more extreme type of marathon).
Fatboy Slim's remix was then used in the advert itself. His first album in four years, Palookaville, was less successful than previous releases. In the UK, BBC Radio 1 received an exclusive play of the first single "Slash Dot Dash", while in the U.S. "The Joker" (a collaboration with Bootsy Collins) had been exclusively aired. The song was appearing on the radio and was made quickly available on iTunes months ahead of the album release. Palookaville represented a significant shift in style for Cook, from loop and sample based compositions to more conventional song structures and many original recordings of real instruments (Cook himself plays bass on some of the album's tracks, with Simon Thornton playing various other instruments along with guest artists, e.g.
Justin Robertson). This change in style also led to the use of new production techniques and studio technology. Until Palookaville Cook had been using an Atari ST computer for sequencing and composition, a classic production tool favoured by many dance music producers for its stability, simplicity and rock solid timing. For the new album he made use of a Pro Tools rig, a powerful digital audio workstation environment found in most modern recording studios.
This perhaps reluctant move by Cook was ultimately necessary to deliver the polished production style evident in the recordings. The resulting body of work features "traditional" Fatboy Slim tracks such as "Jin Go Lo Ba" alongside full length vocal tracks including a suitably updated rendition of the Steve Miller Band's "The Joker". (The music video for the latter consists entirely of kittens in the lead roles). The album also features many more vocal collaborations including tracks with rapper Lateef, Brighton-based band Johnny Quality and Damon Albarn (Blur, Gorillaz). In 2005, his 2004 hit single "Wonderful Night" was placed on Konami's Dance Dance Revolution Extreme 2 for PlayStation 2. In June 2005 he filled the Friday night headline slot on the 'Other Stage' at the Glastonbury Festival, a booking which actually generated a financial loss for Cook when he decided to stage a spectacular visual show involving banks of display screens at the rear of the stage (with his DJ booth set in the middle) and a sophisticated 3D light show with special glasses supplied to members of the audience.
In a televised post-gig interview Cook revealed how the cost of staging the show had outstripped the famously low appearance fees received by Glastonbury performers. In October of the same year Fatboy Slim and Talking Heads singer David Byrne revealed their plans for a musical about Imelda Marcos, the controversial ex-First Lady of the Philippines. It premiered at Australia's Adelaide Festival of Arts in March 2006. On the New Years Eve 2005, Fatboy Slim performed live on Bondi Beach in Australia. During this all night set, Fatboy Slim reverted to his original style of music production and DJing with an emphasis on Dance music. Why Try Harder is Fatboy Slim's greatest hits album and was released on 19 June 2006. It comprises eighteen tracks, including ten Top 40 singles, a couple of Number Ones and two exclusive new tracks - "Champion Sound" and "That Old Pair of Jeans".
The title comes from the famous UK album cover for You've Come a Long Way Baby, which featured a large man with a T-shirt bearing the legend "I'M #1 SO WHY TRY HARDER". Cook has repeatedly stated in 2006 interviews that the phrase "why try harder" is a statement, not a question. On 24 June 2006, Fatboy Slim headlined The "Rock Ness Festival" at Loch Ness, Scotland. The following month he also filled the Saturday headline slot at the Global Gathering festival, Long Marston Airfield in the English Midlands. He played a two hour set containing most of his classics and also some of his new material.
This is widely regarded as one of the highlights of the festival, perhaps just losing out to Daft Punk's once in a lifetime performance the previous evening. Once again Fatboy appeared in front of an impressive visual stage set comprising video screens and 3D lighting. A spectacular firework display rounded off the show. After being banned by police from playing in Brighton since 2002 after the deaths of two people at his 2002 gig, Fatboy Slim was given permission in 2006 to play again in his home town. It should be noted that the first death was a heart attack brought on by natural causes and the second death was caused by a fall from a wall some time after the gig had finished. The police attributed no blame to Fatboy Slim or the promoter for the deaths.
However the promoter had massively underestimated the numbers that would attend, mainly due to the show being unofficially advertised on a London radio station. As a result the entire towns roads and pavements became grid locked and the emergency services were heavily affected. On 1 January 2007 he played to an audience of over 20,000 fans along Brighton's seafront (along Madeira Drive along the beach east of Brighton Pier). Tickets to the event were made available only to Brighton residents, although inevitably some were sold to others on eBay. He recently performed in Brazil, in its version of the Big Brother reality show. Fatboy Slim's Big Beach Boutique 3 was deemed a stunning success by Sussex Police, Fatboy Slim, and the crowd.
The gathering was named "best party city" by DJ David Guetta, although this was just after both his CD mixers broke down. "Luckily" he said "Fatboy plays vinyl" and so the crowd returned. The Cuban Brothers and David Guetta opened the show. Cook performed mixes of Gorillaz and Fedde Le Grand's "Put Your Hands Up For (Brighton)". Summer 2007 saw Fatboy take a well earned break from the DJ circuit, although he did still return for appearances at Glastonbury and in Ibiza.
Glastonbury saw him headlining the East Dance Tent on Friday night and also playing an intimate Saturday night secret gig in the Lost Vagueness ballroom, sharing the bill with ska legends Madness. Befitting of a Lost Vagueness party, Cook accompanied his DJ set with a protracted costume change, transitioning smoothly from a regular set of casual clothes into what could best be described as a bizarre and somewhat revealing bee outfit, complete with novelty wings. For his return to Ibiza, Cook once again joined up with the Manumission crew, now creating their unique brand of Mayhem in legendary superclub Amnesia. Here he shared the bill with Sheffield indie boys Arctic Monkeys and Radio One DJ Zane Lowe. In summer 2007, "The Rockafeller Skank" was used for season 3 of So You Think You Can Dance.
In September 2007, the song was also featured on Konami's Dance Dance Revolution SuperNova 2 for PlayStation 2. According to Norman's regular "Ask Norm" segment on his MySpace, his untitled fifth studio album has Iggy Pop collaborating with him, and the album is "seven-eighths finished". The recording process has been completed, but the record is yet to be mixed. There are 18 tracks on the record. Recently, the DJ was featured in the Closing Ceremony of the Summer 2012 Olympics, the XXX Olympiad, in London. Read more on Last.fm.
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